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Authors: Meir Shalev

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BOOK: Two She-Bears
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4

That winter was a very rainy winter. Thunders thundered, lightning streaked, chilly winds blew. The wagtail heralded the rain, the redbreast danced between the drops.

Rain fell in sheets and formed little ponds, hail pummeled the roofs. It was a winter that earned the name “that winter.”

And when that winter ended and we went on our first spring hike without Grandpa Ze'ev to his wadi, we were greeted by a surprise he would have appreciated: under the carob tree, in a spot where nothing had ever grown, a little family had flowered, a riot of poppies and lupines and blue thistles, and little leaves of buttercups and cyclamens.

Dalia said, “How symbolic, this is his true gravestone.”

“One more line like that, Dalia,” I told her, “and I'll bash your head with a rock.”

Dovik laughed and Dalia said, “So how do you explain that in the very place he died the flowers he loved are now blooming? What is that, if not symbolism?”

Dovik said, “It's because he fell here, and when he fell so did the seeds he gathered, and that's how they planted themselves here.”

“I love it, Dovik, how you explain things to me,” said Dalia, and took his hand.

FORTY
THE SUMMER THAT CAME AFTER THAT WINTER
(Draft)

I write:

That summer was very hot. Burning winds blew. Days dragged on, months dried out, like an empty reservoir.

Cicadas and jaybirds sang along, one by one and in noisy bands: came when summer came, stayed when it stayed, went when it went. That summer ended slowly.

Only a few words were spoken. Not about the time that had passed, not about that snake, not about what I imagined that Eitan did in the wadi, near the big carob tree. Words that could make things better, not to explain and cover up.

I tell:

In that summer my first husband came back to me. Returned as a baby born of itself. Born, and grew, and as with babies, every day another good thing: a first smile, first word, already sitting, standing, walking, talking. Lighting a fire. Trying to be funny. Smiling. Did he remember all these? Did he invent them from scratch? Whatever. He is with me, here.

I see:

He lost weight, soon he'll be back to his old shape. One day I took him to Dovik's pond, not so secret anymore. We got undressed in front of each other. From a certain angle of the eye and the sun I saw his skin was getting golden. This is good. When we got back we went together to the cemetery.

I sleep:

With him.

Only him.

I talk:

With my brother. His name is Dovik. Named for Uncle Dov, who in his wagon brought us a rifle and a cow and a black rock, and the mulberry tree and Grandma Ruth.

“Nothing has changed in this family,” I said to him. “We were and still are like the basalt in the wall of Grandpa Ze'ev's house. He and Eitan and you, and I'm that way too. But we won't take it out the way we demolished the shed because if we take it out the whole house will crumble.”

Dovik didn't answer. He stuck a spoon in the stewpot where he mixed his
limoncello,
tasted it, and offered it to me for a taste and an opinion.

I shook my head no.

“But what do I care?” I went on. “The main thing is that Eitan is back. Back home to me. At least him, if not our son.”

Dovik didn't answer.

“And what's funny in this whole unfunny story,” I said, “is that he wasn't saved by my love or healed by my patience, but by virtue of Grandpa Ze'ev. By virtue of the work he made him do, by virtue of his last will—to avenge his blood.”

Dovik didn't answer. Like Grandpa Ze'ev, he also doesn't like it when people talk too much about certain acts and certain times. I shut up. I remembered: I'm also that way.

About the Author

One of Israel's most celebrated novelists, Meir Shalev was born in 1948 on Nahalal, Israel's first moshav. His books have been translated into more than twenty-five languages and have been best sellers in Israel, Holland, and Germany. His honors include the National Jewish Book Award and the Brenner Prize, one of Israel's top literary awards, for
A Pigeon and a Boy.
He has been named a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Art et des Lettres by the French government. Shalev lives in Jerusalem and in the north of Israel.

About the Translator

Stuart Schoffman worked as a journalist at
Time
and a screenwriter in Hollywood before moving to Israel in 1988. He has written about Jewish and Israeli culture and politics for many publications including the
Jerusalem Report
and the
Jewish Review of Books.
His translations from Hebrew include
Beginnings
by Meir Shalev,
Lion's Honey
by David Grossman, and three novels by A. B. Yehoshua:
Friendly Fire, The Retrospective,
and
The Extra.

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BOOK: Two She-Bears
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