A Thousand Shekels A Story(一千谢克尔 一篇稿子)
大耳朵英语  http://www.bigear.cn  2008-01-11 13:02:28  【打印
We weren’t actually at starvation’s door, although even that depends on how you look at it – the house was in ruins, windows missing, the living-room armchair shot to pieces, a crack in the wall, the kitchen a shambles, cupboards falling apart, furniture which had given up the ghost a long time ago – but I could smell it coming.

Apart from which my husband told me: “You’re a wreck.” This being the case, first thing in the morning I phoned and asked to speak to the editor-in- chief in charge of all the editors and chiefs and mentioned my full name – which is so long that it’s ridiculous.

I told him about myself and said that I had an unprecedented offer for which I wanted a four-figure sum, monthly.

I made an appointment with him in an air-conditioned café and pashed my way though crowds of people I didn’t know and who for some reason embarrassed me greatly. When the coffee arrived I explained my proposal to him.

“Listen to me,” I said to him, “and then say whatever you’ve got to say, I’m not listening anyway. I’ll just take in your tone, my feelers will grope for the gist of your reply – yes or no, and afterwards, sir, we’ll say goodbye, either forever or not.”

“I’m all ears,” he said.

“Let me have a car, let me have money, neither a little nor a lot – budget me – let me travel round and about the country. Yes, we’ll begin with round and about the country. Let me see what’s going on. Believe me, I haven’t left the house in years, I’m in urgent need of contact with the outside world. And I’ll pay it back, the outside world, by describing it with amazing accuracy, with flashes of brilliance. Let me travel, let me wander, and I’ll bring you a story a week, a thousand shekels a story.”

“Yes?” his eyebrows rose like two hills.

“Could you concentrate, please?”

“That’s my side of the bargain, and what do I get in return?”

“A story a week, weren’t you listening to me?”

“Certainly I was listening, that’s why I’m asking you what you’re giving me in return.”

“I don’t understand you.”

“That story’s for you – release, therapy, autotherapy, what do you want of me?”

“What kind of talk is that?”

“Sorry,” he said. “We don’t need a weekly story. Every day there are hundreds of stories and parts of stories in the newspapers. I’ve got reporters poking into the pockets of every Minister in the government, I don’t need a literary angle on plain reality.”

I called another newspaper and repeated my offer over the phone. I expanded it. After all, it wasn’t asking much and the rejection stung me. I said: “Let me travel round the world, with my daughter and my husband. I’m Orly, I’m a wreck. But I’ve got eyes, sir. A thousand shekels a story. And not a penny less. That’s my last word.”

He said “Let’s see an example. Go to the refineries on your own account and bring me an example. Or not. Go wherever you like.”

“Tell me, what is this? I’m not prepared for you to give me tests. Either you take me now as I am, or I’ll go to Avigdor from the rival paper, or somewhere else. Either sign me up on a blank contract with no strings attached or else,” and I took out a hammer and a rolling pin and banged on the table.

“Okay, okay,” he sighed,” let’s meet.”

We arranged to meet at a café on the promenade, next to the sea. I repeated my offer and the waiter came and removed the melon rinds and the remains of the salad.

The man sitting opposite me lit a cigarette and thought. In the meantime a few thoughts crossed my mind which I thought were quick-off-the-mark, but today I know they did me no good.

“Listen,” I said, “all I want is a page in your newspaper and a thousand shekels a story. Come on, give.”

He went on looking at the sea in silence. My wrinkles deepened. Five o’clock in the afternoon, the sun was directly opposite my face. I dried my sweat with a paper napkin.

“Well,” I said.

He shrugged his shoulders.

“What do I know.”

My worst fears were realized. I had made the man miserable. I had depressed him. The whole idea from beginning to end suddenly seemed futile to me, I asked him to forget the conversation had ever taken place. But he said that actually he liked my offer, and we should talk about it again in couple of days time.

I walked up the steps to Hayarkon Street, and began going down all the streets perpendicular to the sea in the direction of Ibn Gvirol, the desolate street where the bus s.t.o.p. is situated. I stood at the bus stop and waited for a bus. When I got home I saw my husband watching a five by five video movie.

“Where is our daughter?” I asked.

“Sleeping,” he replied, and demanded a full account of the conversation.

I falsified everything on purpose, because I’d already forgotten what had happened, and immersed myself in the television set. My husband filled me in with regard to the plot and I asked questions and he answered them.

A few days passed and the man didn’t call. I personally wasn’t waiting for a call, but the economic situation was.

The bank clerk came for coffee at six o’clock on Wednesday evening and asked when we intended covering the overdraft.

“Never,” said my husband and stroked his cheek.

“Why don’t you shave?” she asked.

“I don’t like it.”

“You know,” she said to him, “you make awfully good coffee.”

He looked at me, because actually it was me who had made the coffee.

“She made it,” he said.

“So what?” she said.

“What?” I said.

“If there’s anything you want here,” said my husband with a smile, “take it – don’t be shy.”

“Really?” said the bank clerk.

“Take whatever you want.”

“Have you got a few crates?” she asked.

“Maybe the neighbours have,” I said.

“Why don’t you put your salary in the bank every month like everybody else?” she asked.

“I’ll tell you,” my husband began telling her, and hinted to me that I should make myself scarce. I took my daughter and went down to the woods. From there I went on with her to a café, and from there to the pub. The drink warmed my heart and I stopped wishing I was dead. My distress faded, I calmed down and hugged and kissed her and explained a few things to her from an objective point of view. She looked at me and I kept saying to myself that there was no other way, what other way could there be? My heart was like the skin of a camel, flat as a rug.

When we went home I saw the bank clerk’s ’86 Fiat Uno driving off in the direction of the main road.

“Salamaat,” I said to her.

Salamaat,” I said to her again.

“Tislam, peace be with you, lady.”

I went inside, and I saw my husband standing there with his three brothers, all playing snooker.

“I got an extension of eight years,” said my husband. “In the meantime the interest will rocket, but who cares. In eight years time we’ll leave the country.”

His brothers looked daggers at me. They accused me of hypocrisy, of self-righteousness, of bad literature, of perversity.

I told them I agreed with every word they said, and I made tehina with lots of parsley. They all ate well, they finished the lot, they polished their plates clean, I didn’t even have to wash the dishes, I put them straight into the cupboard, and to hell with them.

It was a long night. I looked at the stars scattered over the sky like salt on my wounds. I prayed for redemption, for the Messiah to come. What’s going on here – I wondered. I’m not a woman, my husband’s not a man. Soon I’ll turn into a picture. Everyone will forget me and I’ll forget them.

I’ll go away, I’ll disappear, I’ll vamoose, I’ll die. That’s it. Au revoir and goodbye. No more. When. Finito la comedia. Twenty years from now. I’ll die. I won’t exist. I love moments of fellowship between people, they move me to tears. But open moments, like my sitting here on the balcony, send me way off. I love these open moments, when the dome of the heavens really functions like a dome, they’re terrific.

我们其实还没到挨饿的边缘,虽然这要看你怎么看了——房子是很破旧,窗子没了,客厅的椅子折了,墙裂缝了,厨房要倒了,橱柜散架了,家具也早没法用了——但我还是感觉到饥饿的逼近。

此外,丈夫还告诉我,“你已是条破船了。”既然如此,早上起来,我第一件事就是打电话找能管着所有编辑和主任的主编,我报上自己的全名――名字太长,长得有点滑稽。

我把自己的情况说了说,并告诉他,我有个空前的点子,但我的开价是一个月要有4位数。

我们约好在一家有空调的咖啡店见面。我挤过一大堆人群,这些人我不认识,但不知为什么,却让我很尴尬。咖啡上来时,我开始跟他解释自己的计划。

“你先听我说,”我对他说,“然后你要说什么就说什么,不过我是不会听的,我只在意你的语气,我的触角只捕捉你回答的真谛,是同意还是不同意。然后,先生,我们就说再见。也就是说,要么永远不见,要么还可能再见。”

“我洗耳恭听,”他说。

“给我一辆车和一些钱,不是一点点钱,也不需要很多钱――把我编入预算----让我走遍全国。是的,我们要从全国各地开始。我要看到处到底在发生什么。相信我,我已很多年不曾离开家了。我急需与外面的世界接触。当然我不会让你白花钱,我会准确、精彩地描述外面的世界。你让我旅行、游走,我一个星期给你写一篇稿子,一篇稿子1千谢克尔。”

“是吗?”他皱起的眉头像两座小山。

“请你认真一点,行吗?”

“我的好处在哪里,我有什么回报?”

“一星期一篇稿子呀,你没在听我说话?”

“我当然在听,这也就是我为什么要问你我的回报在哪里的原因?”

“我不明白你的意思。”

“你的稿子是为自己写的――放松、治疗、休养,你想从我这弄什么?”

“你这样我们就没法谈了。”

“对不起,”他说,“我们不需要每周一篇稿子。报上成天都有数以百计的报道和报道连载。我已经让记者盯住政府每个部长的口袋了,我不需用文学来展示平凡的现实。”

我又给另一家报社打电话,向他们兜售我的提议。这回我把提议扩展了,这毕竟要不了多少资助,遭拒绝实在让我伤心。我说:“让我跟丈夫和女儿游走世界。我叫奥莉,现在已是一条破船,可是我有眼力,先生。我给你们写稿,一千谢克尔一篇,一个子儿也不能少,不还价。”

他说:“我们得先看看你的样稿。你先自己花钱去提炼厂,然后把写出的稿子拿来给我看看。或者,如果不去提炼厂,你可以去任何你喜欢的地方,比如,约旦谷地、马塞达、阿拉德、死海, 哪都行。”

“这算什么?我可没想让你们考我。你要么接受我,否则我就去你们对立派报纸《阿维格多尔》,或者其他别的地方。你要么接受我,要么拉倒,”我拿起一个锤子和图钉,砰地一声敲在桌子上。

“好,好,”他叹了口气,“我们面谈吧。”

我们约好在海边海滨大道上的一间咖啡馆见面。我又说了一遍我的提议,服务员过来收拾掉瓜皮和吃剩的色拉。

这人坐在我的对面,他点了一支烟,思忖着。我的脑子里这时又闪过一系列想法,但我知道它们跟眼前的事没关系,今天对我没什么用处。

“听着”,我说:“我只要你们报纸的一页版面和一千谢克尔一篇稿子的酬金,行吧,答应了。”

他看着大海没吱声,我的皱纹可加深了。这会儿正是下午五点,太阳直射在我的脸上。我用纸巾擦了擦汗。

“怎么样?”我问。

他耸耸肩说,“我拿不准。”

我最担心的事发生了,我让他为难。这时我突然觉得,这事从头到尾对我都毫无益处。我让他忘掉我们的谈话,就当什么也没发生。可他说他其实很喜欢我的主意,说我们应该过几天再谈一次。

我走上台阶,来到哈亚康街,开始沿一条条通往大海的街道朝伊本?加比罗尔特走去,那是一条偏僻的大街,那儿设有公共汽车站,我在公共汽车站下等车。到家时,丈夫正在看电影录像。

“女儿呢?”我问。

“睡了”,他说,并要我详细谈说说今天的会面。

我故意胡乱说了一通,因为我已把它抛到脑后,立即沉浸在电视之中。丈夫给我介绍前面的剧情,我问到什么他便告诉我。

日子一天天过去了,那人没来电话,我自己也没在等那电话,可经济状况在等那电话。

星期三晚上6点,那位银行职员来我们家喝咖啡,问我们打算什么时候还清透支。

“没打算”我丈夫摸着脸颊说。

“为什么不刮胡子?”她问。

“不喜欢刮”。

“知道吗,你泡的咖啡很棒。”她对我丈夫说。

丈夫看着我,因为咖啡其实是我泡的。

“她泡的”我丈夫说。

“那我们现在怎么办?”她问。

“什么怎么办?”我反问。

“如果这有什么你看上的东西,尽管拿好了,甭不好意思。”丈夫笑着说。

“真的吗?”她说。

“想拿什么就拿什么。”

“有没有空纸箱?”她不客气地问。

“邻居可能有。”我说。

“为什么不像大家一样,每月把工资存在银行里?”她问。

“我跟你说,”丈夫开始跟她慢慢道来,并示意我走开。我于是带女儿去了树林,又从树林到咖啡馆,最后去了酒吧。喝了点东西后,我心里感到暖和了些,再也不想不如一死了之了。烦恼退去,我平静下来,搂着女儿,亲她,静心静气地回答她的问话。她看着我,我不断对自己说,没别的办法,哪还有别的办法呢?我的心就像骆驼的皮肤,平如地毯。

回家时,我看到那职员86年的菲亚特?乌诺正要向大马路驶去。

“你好 ”我对她说。

“你好 ”我再次朝她说。

“托你的福, 祝你平安,太太。”

我进屋,看见丈夫和他的三个兄弟站在那打桌球。

“我争取到了8年的延期。”丈夫说。“那时利息肯定飞涨,但管它呢,8年后我们肯定离开这个国家走人了。”

他的兄弟们看我的目光像刀子一样。他们谴责我虚伪、自负,没有修养,自以为是。

我告诉他们,他们说的每一句话我都同意。我开始用芝麻酱 拌了很多荷兰芹,他们都爱吃,吃了许多,连盘子都舔得干干净净,我甚至不用洗了,我把它们直接放进橱柜,管它呢!

那一夜好漫长啊,我望着天上零星散布的星星,它们就像撒在我伤口上的盐粒,我乞求赎救,祈祷弥赛亚 降临。这到底是怎么了?我不知道。我不是女人了,我丈夫也变得不是男人了。我要死了,变成画了,大家都会把我忘了,我也会忘掉大家。

我要走了,要消失了,蒸发了,完蛋了,死掉了。就这么回事。再见 ,拜拜。别无他路。什么时候呢?喜剧收场了。 25年以后。我要死了。我将不复存在。我喜欢人间亲密的瞬间,它让我感动涕零。可此刻我坐在门厅,这无所事事的时刻让我没有着落。我喜欢那样的时刻,当天空真如苍穹时,那才令人心颤呢。

[注]谢克尔,以色列货币单位。

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