by Etgar Keret
Translated from Hebrew by Miriam Shlesinger
There was no sound from the engines of the plane. There were no sounds at all. Except perhaps the soft crying of the flight attendants a few rows behind him. Through the elliptical window, Shkedi looked at the cloud hovering just below him. He could imagine the plane dropping through it like a stone, punching an enormous hole that would be sealed again quickly with the first breeze, leaving not so much as a scar. “Just don’t crash,” Shkedi said. “Just don’t crash.”
Forty seconds before Shkedi expired, an angel appeared, all dressed in white, and told him he’d been awarded a last wish. Shkedi tried to find out what “awarded” implied. Was it an award like winning the lottery or was it something a bit more flattering: Awarded in the sense of an achievement, in recognition of his good deeds? The angel shrugged. “Beats me,” he said with pure angelic sincerity. “They told me to come and fulfill, on the double. They didn’t say why.” “That’s a shame,” Shkedi said. “Because it’s absolutely fascinating. Especially now when I’m about to leave this world and all, I’d really like to know if I’m leaving it as just another lucky guy or if I’m leaving it with a pat on the back. “Forty seconds and you kick off,” the angel droned. “If you want to spend those forty seconds yapping, that’s fine with me. No problem. Just consider that your window of opportunity is about to close.” Shkedi considered, and quickly made his wish. But not before taking the trouble to point out to the angel that he had a strange way of talking. For an angel, that is. The angel was hurt. “What do you mean, for an angel? Have you ever heard an angel talk, that you dump a thing like that on me?” “Never,” Shkedi admitted. Suddenly, the angel looked much less angelic and much less pleasant, but that was nothing compared to what he looked like after he heard the wish.
“Peace on earth?” he screamed. “Peace on earth? You’re kidding me!”
And then Shkedi died.
Shkedi was dead and the angel was left behind. Left behind with the most bothersome and complicated wish he’d ever been asked to fulfill. Mostly, people ask for a new car for the wife, an apartment for the kid. Reasonable stuff. Specific stuff. But peace on earth is one hell of a job. First, the guy bugs him with questions like he’s the AT&T Directory, then he has the audacity to put down the way he talks, and to top it off, he lands him with peace on earth. If Shkedi hadn’t kicked off, the angel would have stuck to him like herpes, and wouldn’t have let go till he changed his wish. But the guy’s soul was in Seventh Heaven by now, and who knows how he’d ever find it.
The angel took a deep breath. “Peace on earth, that’s all,” he mumbled. “Just peace on earth, that’s all.”
And while all this was going on, Shkedi’s soul completely forgot it had ever belonged to a person called Shkedi, and was reincarnated, pure and untainted, secondhand but good as new, as a piece of fruit. Yes, a piece of fruit. A guava.
The new soul had no thoughts. Guavas don’t have thoughts. But it had feelings. It felt an overwhelming fear. It was afraid of falling off the tree. Not that it had the words to describe this fear. But if it had, it would have been something like “Oh my God, just don’t crash!” And while it was hanging there, on the tree, petrified, peace began to reign on earth. People beat their swords into ploughshares and nuclear reactors soon began to be used for peaceful purposes. But none of this was of any comfort to the guava. Because the tree was tall and the ground seemed distant and painful. Just don’t let me drop, the guava shuddered wordlessly, just don’t crash.
Born in Tel Aviv in 1967, Etgar Keret is the most popular writer among Israel`s young generation and has also received international acclaim. In 2007, Keret and Shira Gefen won the Cannes Film Festival`s “Camera d`Or” Award for their movie Jellyfish. In 2010, Keret was honored in France with the decoration of Chevalier de l`Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. His books have been published abroad in more than thirty languages. Keret’s latest collection of stories “Suddenly a Knock on the Door” will be published by FSG next March. For more, visit etgarkeret.com
Give six issues of Electric Literature: Electric Literature vol. 1 is discounted until New Year’s. Just $20 for digital and $35 for paperback. Or get it for free by winning Electric Literature’s Holiday Restraint Short Short Contest, judged by Mike Edison, author of Dirty! Dirt! Dirty! Submission guidelines, a full list of prizes, and contest regulations can be found on the blog.