They say that from the minute you have children, everything else suddenly becomes less important. And it’s true. But what no one bothers to tell you is that those things, which suddenly seem less important to you, don’t begin to feel, even for a minute, less important to themselves.
“Someone from the editing room called to say that the light on the wide shot doesn’t match the rest of the scene,” my wife tells me while little Lev and I are sitting in the bath playing my favorite game, Daddy Desert Island. “And the Korean Embassy called. The Ambassador invited you and several other Israeli writers to his home for dinner to discuss the future of Korean literature in Hebrew.”
I nod. I have an answer slightly more complicated than a nod, but if I choose to say it now, I’ll be forced to give away the fact that Daddy isn’t really a desert island. True, I can always claim later that Daddy’s a Talking Desert Island. But I’m not sure that, even at the tender age of five months, little Lev will buy that.
At midnight, I go to put my email to sleep. Sixteen new emails are waiting for me, and of the twelve that don’t think I have to enlarge my penis, three are excited invitations to literary events that I cannot, simply cannot, afford to miss. Two others are from the university about a research proposal I forgot to hand in, and another polite email reminds me gently of the long-elapsed deadline for sending in my column to a Jewish book site that shall remain nameless. The last email I open before going to sleep starts like this:
The State Alumni website invites you to participate in an online Q&A live web chat with Expedition 13 Commander, Pavel Vinogradov, and Flight Engineer and NASA Science Officer, Jeffrey Williams, onboard the International Space Station. They will join State Alumni live to answer alumni questions Tuesday, June 6, 2006 at 1:15 pm EDT (17:15 GMT).
I turn off the computer and go to bed. Before I fall asleep for my usual four hours, I imagine myself and Expedition 13 Commander Pavel Vinogradov chatting. In my mind, I ask him how he manages his time with a full staff to worry about, how many times a day he checks his email out there in space, and whether he sends form letters to people or whether each and every email he sends is personal and authentic. Also present in my fantasy is Flight Engineer and NASA Science Officer, Jeffrey Williams, who’s trying to get into the conversation, but for some uncertain reason, Commander Pavel Vinogradov and I insist on ignoring him, and when I show Pavel Lev’s picture on my cell, I don’t pass it on to the Flight Engineer and NASA Science Officer. That’s more or less the point in the dream when Jeffrey starts crying. I get up and go to little Lev’s crib. He has a fever. I’m worried, but at the same time, I feel slightly relieved that I haven’t actually taken part in the planned humiliation of a Flight Engineer and NASA Science Officer, who never did anything to me.
By morning, Lev’s temperature reaches 103. They’re calling from the editing room every ten minutes. “The movie’s also a kind of baby,” Etti, the postproduction manager, philosophizes, “and it needs you too.”
The doctor says that Lev has a virus. His temperature should be normal in another three days, exactly by the date I have to screen a version of my other—and at the moment—less developed baby for the movie’s producers, and there are still quite a few problems with it. For a moment, I try to get into the postproduction manager’s slightly manipulative image. If there’s anything that Lev and my metaphoric movie baby have in common, it’s that both of them love to crap on Daddy.
In a minute, I’ll leave the computer and get into the bath with Lev. A lukewarm bath, the doctor said, is very good for lowering a temperature. Later, when he falls asleep, I’ll go to the editing room. The editor has agreed to work with me till six in the morning. “Are you coming?” my wife asks, entering my workroom. “In a minute,” I tell her. “We have to get him into the bath fast,” she says. “He’s starting to lose patience.”
I try to type another few sentences quickly before Lev bursts into his famous, heartrending tears.
“Did you write and tell them that you won’t be doing the column for a while?” she asks, undressing the baby. “Now,” I tell her, “I’m just doing it now.”
Etgar Keret is a Tel Aviv-based filmmaker and fiction writer. He writes a regular column from Israel for Tablet.
Etgar Keret is a Tel Aviv-based filmmaker and fiction writer.