May is Short Story Month, and we at FSG are damn proud of the short stories we publish—so there’s no way we’d miss out on the fun. Our short story collections run the gamut. We’ve got classics like Bernard Malamud’s The Magic Barrel...
By Andrés Neuman
Translated from the Spanish by Richard Gwyn
This story first appeared in The Coffin Factory, issue 3
I entered the hospital dying of hatred and wanting to give thanks. How fragile is rage. We might shout, hit, spit at a stranger. The same person to whom – depending on their verdict, depending on whether they tell us what we are anxious to hear – we might suddenly express our admiration, or hug, or swear an oath of loyalty. And it would be genuine, that love.
I entered without thinking anything, thinking about not thinking. I knew that my mother’s present, my future, depended on the toss of a coin. And that that coin was not in my hands and maybe not in the hands of anyone else either, not even those of the doctor. I have always thought that the absence of god liberated us from an unbearable weight. But more than once, I have missed the idea of divine mercy when entering or leaving a hospital. Filled with seats, corridors, hierarchies and ceremonies of hope, silent on their upper floors, hospitals are the closest thing to a cathedral in which we unbelievers may tread.
I entered trying to avoid this kind of reasoning, because I was afraid that I would end up praying like a cynic. I lent an arm to my mother, who so many times had given me hers when the world was enormous and my legs very short. Is it possible to shrink overnight? Can someone’s body turn into a sponge that has soaked up so many fears that it gains in density, while losing volume? My mother seemed shorter, thinner, but nevertheless more laden down than before, as if earthbound. Her porous hand closed over mine. I imagined a child in a bathtub, naked, expectant, squeezing a sponge. And I wanted to say something to my mother, and I didn’t know how to speak.