Whether you’re lovelorn, loveless, or in-love-and-rubbing-it-in, anyone can appreciate this Oscar-nominated short. The film combines computer graphics with hand-drawn animations, and the story focuses on two young folks brought together by another anachronism: paper.
The sentence: “Every movie is a pyramid, stuffed tight with mummies.”
Single Sentence Animations are creative collaborations. The writer selects a favorite sentence from his or her work and the animator creates a short film in response.
Head to Recommended Reading to read “White Dialogues,” available online or as an eBook.
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.
Excerpted from LOLA, CALIFORNIA: A Novel by Edie Meidav, to be published in July 2011 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. Copyright © 2011 by Edie Meidav. All rights reserved.
Rose crossing a square in Spain, could be Valencia or Granada or any of the places where two girls stay the summer after high school, sleeping under rowboats or in flowerbeds, in hostels or pensions with balustrades and mites made venerable and happy by tourists, but it happens to be a less trafficked area of Barcelona, not far from where Senegalese vendors pray, and Rose is all chrysalis, bruisable and diffident, aware of contours, thrilled by the people she will meet, the ones who will reveal all her possible faces, still hidden in magic invisible cloak sleeves.
She is crossing a newly washed square toward Lana in a white T-shirt called a wifebeater, and does it matter whether she holds aloft two drinks and one straw, or one drink with two straws, and whether the drink is horchata or limonata and that in a shaded patio Lana sits awaiting Rose with some dark- browed man they have just met? The man doesn’t matter: he just spells the name of some new adventure together. Rose’s tongue inches forward, all is potential. The surface of her skin could be a plum’s, ripe and ready for anything, because someone just granted her new sap: at that point, Rose is still included in Lana.
All that matters is crossing toward her friend, their bubble mostly unburst, Rose no longer an observer, now someone deserving to take breath and live, every footfall commuting what had been one long and lonely life sentence.
What goads her on could be as happenstance as the single brush of an arm as they stride along a railway platform, enough to act as a million fireflies of encouragement in the dark of all they leave unsaid. Rose, crossing toward Lana, shivers. They will never be lovers. They have been newly set loose on the world, fairly oblivious to everyone else. Masters or meteors: two girls at seventeen.
In fact, it was God’s tactful nature that led to the Fall. Hearing Adam and Eve wax delusional about snakes and apples and even conversations he was supposed to have had with them, though he had obviously been far too busy at the time, he realized that the surfeit of leisure in Heaven had been a mistake. Not wanting to embarrass them, he sent them to their expected destination, Earth, that other prototypical place, hoping that there they might do better. An important side effect of all this, incidentally, was God’s hitting upon the idea for both apples and snakes.
The Popular Clone
The geneticist hated that there wasn’t time enough in life, and decided to clone himself – that way he would be able to keep working and go to the party, or on the same day off both see friends and fritter the day away in heavenly solitude. The idea was that he and the clone would later catch up and enjoy a feeling of wholeness, of not having missed out on anything. A certain and surprisingly lengthy amount of time passed, as the clone was made, educated, groomed. At his first party he was very much a hit on account of his novel origins: he told amusing stories about his master, was invited to things, made several acquaintances and found a lover. Pretty soon there were too many plans to keep track of, so the geneticist had no choice but to clone himself over and over, the result being that everyone was busy and he didn’t see much of any one of them, and more opportunities than ever were slipping away.
It’s Sunday morning. A dog wakes me up. I hear it barking under the window, I open the window and yell at it. The lady who owns the dog is gardening. She shouts at me to quit yelling at her dog. I shout at her, so knock off the noise!, and slam down the window.
I go downstairs later, it’s quiet, she is sitting in her kitchen. She’s crying. Her breasts are exposed. I feel guilty (because I actually like the dog) and lustful too, at the way she sits there, bent so intimately over a cup of tea. Inspired, I get down on all fours and bounce into her kitchen, barking “Bow wow! Bow wow!” The lady keeps on crying, she doesn’t want to smile but I can see the corners of her mouth begin to turn up. I crawl under her chair and turn over on my back and wag my tail. That does it, she’s really grinning now, and I get up behind her and slide my hands down over her breasts, they have the dark, spongy feel of soil.
“I’m sorry,” she sniffles, about her tears, “it’s all because—”
“Don’t worry,” I tell her, understanding everything. “I’ll help you repot them this afternoon.”
–Barry Yourgrau’s books of stories include Wearing Dad’s Head and The Sadness of Sex (in whose movie version he starred). “Sunday Morning” is from “I-mode” Cellphone Stories, minitales written as keitai shosetsu, first published over Japanese cellphone Internet. Website: www.yourgrau.com
The Smiling People
Wadi’ al-Mantuf was arrested after having been caught in the act of looking at the leader’s picture without smiling. The secret police administered punches and kicks to him, as did most of the passersby. Even the children didn’t miss a chance to express their strong hatred for him, sticking out their tongues and spitting on him. He was then taken to the police station where he remained a long time under arrest. Finally he was brought to court. He was sentenced to smile at the leader’s image for life. To prevent the recurrence of such an embarrassing situation countless numbers of smiling masks were manufactured and distributed to the entire population, from nursing babies to the oldest people. Smiles became generalized and sadness fell into oblivion . . .and the tourist trade became bustling.
The bird, what was left of it, looked like it might have been a blue jay or possible a baby crow. The carcass was swarming with flies. Part of its breast had been eaten away, by a feral cat I suspected. Feathers were everywhere, and the wound in the bird’s chest was crawling with maggots. I scooped my granddaughter up. “Look at all the pretty flowers,” I said, moving us toward a patch of weeds.
She was four going on five. She held my neck, looking backward.
“Did you see the bird, Bubba?”
She called me Bubba instead of grandpa. She had always called me Bubba.
“Yes,” I said. “I saw it.” I hefted her higher, until her head was above my own. She extended her arms like wings. Her chest bumped against my ear as we walked.
“Are you going to die, Bubba?”
“Yes,” I said, “Yes, I am. But not today I do not think.”
I wanted to make her fly, like I used to, by holding her horizontally, straight out; but she weighed too much now, and at fifty-six I no longer had the strength in my back or my arms.
“Though hopefully not for a very long time,” I said, swinging her outward and down.
“When,” she said, as her feet touched the ground.
“Look at those,” I said, pointing to a patch of flowering mustard weeds. “We should pick some of those.”
“When,” she said.
“Right now,” I said. “We should pick a hundred of them.” I gripped my knees and leaned, pulling breath. “No,” I said. “A hundred thousand. We can bring ‘em back to the house.”
“Bubba,” she said. “When will you die?”
I pinched the base of a stem and plucked a bunch. “I don’t know,” I said. “You never know when something like that might happen. I’m going to eat these,” I said, pretending to gobble.
“No!” she shrieked. “You’ll get sick.”
“Oh,” I said. “Okay.”
“You can’t eat flowers, Bubba.”
I made a sad face, a heavy pout that was deliriously happy.
“But it’s okay to smell them,” she said, leaning forward.
I straightened up and stood beside her. There were bumble bees bouncing among the orchids, and ticks to guard against, and the family of feral cats to watch out for. The sun was behind us and our shadows were long. Hers was about the size of a full grown woman, and mine… well, mine went on forever.
* * *
–Bob Thurber is the author of Paperboy: A Dysfunctional Novel (Casperian Books, 2011) and the recipient of numerous literary awards, including The Barry Hannah Fiction Prize. He lives in Massachusetts. Visit his website at www.BobThurber.net
This is the winning story from the Electric Literature and Selected Shorts contest.
She threw skins down it and flesh down it, a bite of an apple and a chunk of core. There were meats sliced thin and a crust for ends. She sucked balls of gum. Poppy seeds. A tongue. She poured liquid chocolate and crackers in, chips and rice and wet fruit pies. She slid painkillers through, tablets through, for day and mid-day and the nights she did not sleep. At the age of five, she slotted a dime right in, wanted to see how silver could melt. Her mother had rubbed it against a bar of soap. Acid green suds climbed up like mud. Her mother’s mother had ruined her own, spoke throttled with smoky moans that could only mean no. She’d fill her own with the same sick smoke, later, when other things would not fit. There were throat-taming teas that honeyed the scratch. Items to beckon the excess spit. There were hairs caught there that she could not reach, and the noises she’d make, touches with sound.
She’d open it wide to let snow snow in. It closed for heat and warmed down things.
The town drunk’s living room was remarkably orderly. In fact, it kind of emanated a mid-century charm, what with its Danish couch, art deco coffee table, and asbestos crackers.
“Living rooms,” said the town drunk, taking a seat across from me, “are incapable of emanating.” He was wearing a tuxedo with an orange bow tie; his face so freshly shaven I wanted to run a pen across its cheek.
“Can you read my mind?” I asked.
“State your purpose!”
“There is someone,” I offered, my throat beginning to quiver slightly, “I want . . . dead . . . someone very close to me.”