March 07

Three Short Stories

Reuven Miran

Translated by Translated by Adriana X. Tatum

A Note from the Editor

Zeek is proud to present these three stories from noted author Reuven Miran’s Memories of a Dead Season. First published in 1996, this collection was reprinted in 2006 and edited by Israeli scholar Shahar Bram. Bram writes in his afterward, “Miran wonderfully exposes the fragility of the emotional experience without falling into the traps of cliché or sentimentality, and without succumbing to nostalgia. The emotional is never divorced from the intellectual in these short narratives. What is fascinating in these stories, and every reader can sense this, is that these tales, these remembrances, somehow build another world, another season – one that is difficult to describe but immediately recognizable. And thanks to this cumulative effect, Miran’s dead season comes to life.”

Translator Adriana X. Tatum adds: “I approached my translation of Reuven Miran's spare, poetic texts as I would a poem, carefully weighing each word and its possibilities. But there were many instances which required a direct, literal rendering so as not to compromise important details of the stories being told. The idea, expressed in the story "Meteor," that a meteor is only fully perceived at the moment of its death – when it bursts into flames through the Earth's atmosphere – could apply to the work of translation. The meaning and spirit of a text are most vulnerable when the original and target language come into contact, but this instant also offers a tremendous opportunity for understanding the text in new and productive ways.”

Adam Rovner, Hebrew Translations Editor


A meteor is a small star that can spin around in space for tens of thousands of years without anyone noticing, until the day when it begins to lose its height.

Without anyone noticing, not even the star itself, the meteor gains speed and falls and falls and falls through space toward planet Earth. At the end of its descent, it crashes into the transparent shield of the atmosphere. Only then, in the split second it ignites and burns due to friction with the compressed wall of air that blankets the Earth, a rapid, strong flame suddenly rends the sky’s black sheet. This spectacle lasts for two – maybe three – seconds, and then the black sky closes in again. But the meteor has already been revealed to the naked eyes of those who have lifted their gaze on that very night in their yearning for the stars. Many people, many more than one could imagine, raise their eyes to the heavens with this particular yearning.

But what I really wanted to say was that if it had not fallen through space and – thanks to that unavoidable friction – burned against the atmosphere, the meteor would have continued to spin through endless space for tens of thousands of years more, perhaps even forever. And with the exception of astronomers, astrologers and astrophysicists, few people would have been aware of its existence. In other words, in order to really penetrate the minds of others and flood them with light, the meteor must die.

On the Line
On that day when human beings turned into angels on a city bus, an Arabian mixed breed puppy was run over in Tel Aviv. This occurred on the street directly in front of the café, right before my eyes. The dog had been tied by a leather leash to the leg of a chair on which a young girl sat drinking her coffee. Suddenly the phone rang; I was expecting a call and rose from my seat. The waiter noticed me but signaled to the young woman that the call was for her. I sat back down. When the girl got up, she pushed the chair away from under her and the leash slipped off, freeing the dog to run like a maniac out into the street where empty buses continually passed by. One of these buses, which coincidentally or not was empty, ran over the elusive dog, whose leather leash got tangled in his legs. The young woman sprang to her feet in pursuit and just barely managed to scream, “Bonny, come back!” But the dog lay limp on the road.

The empty bus stopped in the middle of the street but no one honked. Everyone waited to see what would happen. But nothing happened. The driver of the empty bus opened the door, got off, and walked towards the girl, who hid her eyes from the sight of the dead dog with the palms of her hands. “I’m sorry, really, but I didn’t see him,” he said.

The girl wiped away her tears and replied, “I didn’t think that you had seen him.”

“Honestly, even if I’d seen him I wouldn’t have been able to stop,” the driver said. “I’m really sorry.”

The girl walked away crying and returned to the café.

The bus driver lifted the dead dog in his arms, wrapped the leather leash around his neck and carefully placed him into an empty cardboard box of Coca Cola or mineral water, which the afternoon wind had dragged into the middle of the street. The driver carried the box in his arms and placed it on the sidewalk across from the café. He gave it one final glance and went back to the bus, started the engine, and went on his way. Back at the café, the waiter, who had been following everything, motioned to the girl to approach the phone. The receiver was still lying on the counter.

The girl lifted the receiver, said “Hello,” and slammed it down. “There’s no one there,” she said.

The waiter handed her a glass of cold water and leaned against the counter. The girl took the glass and brought it to her lips. As soon as her lips touched the glass the phone rang. The girl glanced at it for a moment and took a sip. The waiter lifted the receiver and shrugged his shoulders. “Wrong number,” he said.

The Shark Whose Heart Grew Soft
As far as sharks go, I’m pretty average, neither big nor small, and I’m just trying to survive like everyone else in these deep waters. For the past two weeks, I’ve been running around from island to island, gulf to gulf, and I’ve barely found a single thing to eat. Here a fish wanders, there an orphaned baby dolphin drifts by. Poor things that I wouldn’t have touched under normal circumstances. But there’s no such thing as “normal circumstances.” Because every day you need to look for something to eat all over again. Every day you have to fill your belly anew, because it’s hard to have a clear head on an empty stomach. And without a clear head, at least some of the time, what’s the point of living? The ocean is so deep, and the sky above is limitless. You’d have to be stupid to think you can know what will be. And no one is stupid. What happened yesterday, for example, even I couldn’t have predicted.

The sea was calm. I roamed restlessly under the water – sharks breathe only when they are moving and restless sharks breathe even better. I was hungry. I lurked behind a coral reef, concealed by the dense foliage. At night, I studied the habits and movements of the fish in the coral. There was a large school of small fry, but I managed to control myself. Restraint is a shark’s greatest asset. I could have filled my belly and put everything out of my mind until tomorrow, but I decided to wait. I’ve lived long enough in the sea and learned enough about fish to know that soon the female fish would release their eggs amid the branching coral and carpet of seaweed. The males will sniff around a bit and then all be on their way. I know of no finer delicacy than these eggs. They taste like nothing else. How does one describe a flavor? Perhaps like this: if those sweet moments of time that never return have a taste, that’s how they’d taste. The taste of one instant frozen in the flow of time. Anyway, the eggs will soon become fish and from that moment on their days are numbered.

I staked them out. Impatience is a shark’s greatest enemy. I followed closely behind the female fish that congregated within the reef’s dim radiance. Their white, gleaming skin was smooth. Their movements were calm and circular. Had they sensed me, they would have run off and laid their eggs in another place. I held my breath and floated without moving. Without a sound. How I would have liked to impregnate my own female! I felt my heart soften. And what is more wretched than a shark whose heart has grown soft?

And then a great thunder erupted, and the females laying their eggs scattered in all directions and vanished. The thunderous sound began and ended like a low wail stifled by the water. Afterward, a piercing whistle and the muffled sounds of impact echoed through the water. Jagged panels of bright metal and crushed seats with torn seatbelts slowly sank around me. Human beings curled and compressed inward like fetuses with their hands folded protectively over their heads. They entered the water with a blast, but then sank softly toward the ocean floor. When they touched the sandy bottom their bodies opened like water lilies, their arms and legs spread out in all directions in total resignation.

I glanced at these dead beings. It had been days since I had eaten anything. But what could I do? They were dead, completely dead, and I couldn’t even touch them. I lost my breath and nausea overcame me. With difficulty I managed to move my tail and stabilizing fins and swim away.

I descended further beneath the surface, into depths so desolate that no fish dared venture that far. Only there could I be completely alone. Along the way, swarms of eggs caressed my shaking body. Their touch was soothing, but my sense of taste was gone.

They were dead, completely dead, and I couldn’t even touch them.


Zeek’s translations of Hebrew literature are made possible with a grant from the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses, supported by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency. Please direct submissions and queries to arovner[at]

Images above and at bottom by Michael Dickel


Reuven Miran is an award-winning writer, translator, and publisher who lives and works in Israel. He was born in 1944 and began publishing fiction in his teens. He later studied philosophy at the Sorbonne. His many publications include novels, short stories, literary criticism, screenplays, poetry, and translation. These short stories appear in his collection Memories of a Dead Season [Zikhronot Me-onah Metah]: Nahar Books, 2006.

Adriana X. Tatum is a graduate student in Comparative Literature at Princeton University. She is writing her dissertation on multilingualism and translation in Modern Hebrew poetry and can be found on line at Stingy Kids.

Shahar Bram is a professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at the University of Haifa. His latest book is The Backward Look: The Poetry of Israel Pinkas, Harold Schimmel and Aharon Shabtai (Hebrew). He is also the author of Charles Olson, Alfred North Whitehead and the Long Poem: An Essay on Poetry and two collections of poems in Hebrew: The Blooming of Memory [Prikhat HaZikaron] (Am Oved, 2005) and City of Love [Ir Ahava] (Carmel, 1999).