I, Etgar Keret
Bezalel Stern

Last night, I dreamed I was in a coffee shop in Tel Aviv with Etgar Keret. We were discussing his new novel, which was entitled "Night Dreams." He had some interesting things to say.

"You know, Bezalel," he said to me, "although I am not a novelist, the ideas rampant through this novel would not have worked in a short story. Therefore, I wrote a novel."

"What ideas?" I asked Etgar Keret, in my dream. "What ideas could you possibly have, that could not work in a short story?"

"In a story," Etgar Keret said, sipping his cappuccino between verbal outbursts, "everything is clear. There is a man, or a dolphin, or a man who turns into a dolphin. No such clarity can be used in a novel. A novel must build the man into a dolphin."

I didn't understand, but, then again, I never understand much, especially not in dreams, especially not in dreams in which I am visited by Etgar Keret in the coffee shop I frequent in my dreams.

Unfortunately, this is happening more and more often.

Etgar Keret is becoming a bit of a nuisance.

Last night was the three hundredth consecutive night in which Etgar Keret visited me in my dreams. I work behind the counter of the coffee shop in Tel Aviv in my dreams—often for eight hours straight.

I just want some peace and quiet.

Is that too much to ask?

For Etgar Keret, it seems that it is.

Every night, he comes into my coffee shop and chats my ear off about his new novel.

"Night Dreams," he said to me, the other night, "will be the greatest best seller in the history of Israel, if not the world entire."

He talks like that, sometimes.

The worst part about it is, he only ever orders the single cappuccino. He lets it sit there, growing cold on the counter, while he talks to me about his ridiculous novel.

How much can one man say about a single book?

I'm beginning to think the book is more in his head than on the page, anyway. I'm beginning to think all Etgar Keret can do is write short stories. That, and chat my ear off. I'm beginning to think that's all he's good for.

Last night, in my dream, in the coffee shop in Tel Aviv, Etgar Keret called me over to his table. This was unusual, but only because he usually sat at the counter where I worked. Usually I didn't even have the semblance of a choice, as to whether I could listen to him talk about "Night Dreams" again.

Last night, though, when Etgar Keret took a table by the window, where he could watch the late-night taxis and the revelers coming home from parties at three or four in the morning, I was relieved.

Maybe I could get through one night in the coffee shop of my dreams in Tel Aviv without having to listen to Etgar Keret go on and on again about "Night Dreams." Maybe I could simply do what I always wanted to do in my dreams, but had not yet been able to—Etgar Keret was already frequenting the coffee shop of my dreams to tell me about his book when I started working there, almost a year ago. Maybe I could simply wash the cups, watch the patrons, and think of stories for the book I was writing during my waking hours.

But no.

Of course, it was not to be.

After only three or four minutes, Etgar Keret waved me over.

"Bezalel," he said—in Hebrew, of course, although he knew I had only a passing knowledge of the language. He was such a jerk. "Bring me my cappuccino."

"Sure thing, Etgar Keret," I said, responding in English, just to gall him, calling to him over the expanse of the coffee shop. It was okay, though. Aside from the two of us, the whole of the place was empty.

A few minutes later, I brought Etgar Keret his cappuccino.

"Just the way you like it," I said, placing it, virtually dropping it before him so I could rush back to my place behind the counter.

But it was too late.

Etgar Keret raised a hand.

"Come," he said. "Come Bezalel. Sit a while. Let me tell you about an idea I've had for Night Dreams. I would like to speak with you a bit about the novel.

"You know," Etgar Keret said, as I unwillingly sat down, "novels are nothing like short stories. Novels must go on and on, until the point, once so fresh, so unspoken, becomes wearied and lost among the ruins of time and hundreds of pages. Short stories, though, beautiful creatures that they are, slight she-devils of the night, they can simply end."

Bezalel Stern has stuff in or coming from The Jerusalem Post, The New Yorker, The Rumpus and others. He's the recepient of a writing fellowship from the Yiddish Book Center, and he was recently shortlisted for a Center for Fiction Emerging Writer Fellowship.

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