Late last Friday, we announced a New Yorker fiction parody contest– inspired by the magazine’s publication of a short story told from the standpoint of an Israeli soldier saying that Palestinians were begging soldiers to shoot them so that they could get into the headlines and manipulate world opinion.
The contest to outdo the New Yorker in its own genre — blame the victim– has been a hit already, to judge from the many entries contained in the Comments section. But the contest closes on Friday evening, and we wanted to remind other creative folks out there about it lest you missed the earlier post. The rules are pretty simple. Keep it short (under 4 paragraphs or so). Make it a work of the imagination, but use a recognizable historical struggle. And one of your characters must be a soldier or officer of the law.
Here are a couple of the pieces we’ve received so far:
What We Talk About When We Talk About Birthright
Miriam was sitting at an outdoor bar with her other American friends on Ben Yehuda Street. The fifth day of the Birthright trip underway, she felt as though she had been in Israel for years. In fact, according to her Hebrew teacher, rabbis, and Hillel coordinator in the U.S., she had been. She remembered fondly the poster in her Hebrew class at Brandeis that said, “Your soul is here. Bring your body here too.” The four friends sat drinking beer. They were people-watching. She saw an unshaven soldier in his olive shaded uniform. He was cute. He was protecting her. She looked at him, determined to make eye contact. With his M-16 slung over his shoulder, he looked back. “Yes,” she said to herself, “Israel is awesome.” This was their first of two free nights during Birthright. “No rest for the weary,” their guides told them as they schlepped around Jerusalem. And, really, they were tired. Visiting the Western Wall, ancient ruins, Yad Vashem, David’s Citadel, the Israel Museum, and shopping in the shuk, was a lot for one day.
They ordered a second round of drinks. It was hot and they were all feeling the exhaustion of the day mixed with the alcohol they were drinking. Looking out at the buildings, she saw the sunlight hit the limestone in a way that made the stone look rose colored. She reflected on the walks in the ancient ruins earlier in the day. She felt connected to the land and aware of her past, in these ancient ruins, where clearly people had once lived. After all, it was this connection to her past that led her to come on the Birthright trip. Suddenly, she remembered another important part of her past. “Hey, you guys,” she said to the others at the table, “let’s play the Anne Frank game.” Zack squinted at her as he lit a cigarette. The others stared into their phones and scrolled. Through the haze of alcohol, she wasn’t sure if anyone knew what she was talking about. Only Zack seemed to care, smoking and staring. ”You know,” she continued, “We go around and think of people in our lives and then we decide if they would have hidden us during the Holocaust.”
Miriam started. She thought of her friend Jackie and decided that she was too passive. “No, Jackie wouldn’t have saved me.” Zach went next. “I know my girlfriend would’ve,” he said. “I don’t know about that,” said Miriam, “I mean, Zach, we’re talking about the Holocaust. She won’t even make you dinner.” Zach looked sullen and depressed and ordered another drink. This was getting intense. Miriam looked again over at the soldier. “I know who would save me,” she said to the others, making eye contact again with the soldier.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the soldier making his way over to her. She knew it wouldn’t be long before they took a walk and did the Birthright hookup. Her friends had given hand jobs to soldiers in Bedouin tents. Why couldn’t she? After all, it was her birthright.
50 Years later
By Ira Glunts
Westy, the American officer, had stopped feeling his own body since the acid took effect four hours ago. He lay on top of his cheap tattered Chinese beach chair, holding an old copy of the New York Times, blocking the sun. He had to stretch out his arms to hold the wide page above his head.
“Oh, shit, he said.
“The fuckin’ ARVN didn’t do it,” Van said. He flicked his joint carelessly near a gasoline can. He was talking about Kim, the little Vietnamese girl on the road. The picture in the newspaper showed her running, screaming and naked, amid a group of other hysterical little ragamuffins in various stages of undress.
“I know,” Westy said, “This is a manipulation.”
The world said they were hit by napalm when the South Vietnamese Army pilots mistook them for enemy soldiers. But the American Army knew that this was a staged event by the Vietcong to garner international sympathy for its flagging cause. Westy looked at Van. The orange yellow glare of the sun and the acid made Van look like a demon-warrior. Westy wondered if his countrymen would appreciate the hardships his troops had suffered here amid this faceless inscrutable enemy 50 years from now.
Dershy, grown up
Gone were the sour playground days of his youth when jolly apes would snicker and make fun of him and his name. “No one kicks Alan Dershowitz around anymore” Mr. Dershowitz said out loud with a great deal of satisfaction. Mr. Dershowitz smiled as he reflected on how far he had travelled, how high he had climbed: a Harvard chair, a made-for-hollywood profile on the legal defense team of a black football star, and invitations to the White House.
The White House visits were the best of it, and Mr. Dershowitz prided himself in always remembering why he was there. He was there to remind the President, Mr. President whatever-your-name-is, that it is Mr. Alan Dershowitz who speaks for the Jewish people. As long as he made this point crystal clear he could say, “mission acomplished”, and rest easy on the eve of his visit. Mr. Dershowitz was intent on making this point clear this afternoon when he travelled to the White House to meet with President Bush. He brought a signed copy of his book, The Case For Israel, with the intention of personally presenting it to the President.
“How’s it hangin’, Dershy?’” said President Bush, slapping Mr. Dershowitz on the back. It was out of character for Mr. Dershowitz to feel nervous, even in the presence of the Commander in Chief, but when the time came Mr. Dershowitz’s hands trembled a little. His book felt heavy and Mr. Dershowitz understood this to mean that it wasn’t just a book. It was Yaweh’s design for the President’s ME foreign policy. It was written for powerful lawmakers who need to be reminded constantly of the exalted role that the Chosen People play in in our own universe and beyond. Mr. Dershowitz presented his book with both hands. His eyes were moist. “Thanks, Dershy!, that’ll be a great prop for election season!” said the President, slapping him on the back. The President never touched The Case For Israel. A White House staffer snatched the book out of Mr. Dershowitz’s hands, and briskly left the Oval office with The Case For Israel teetering on a tall stack of note cards and pizza boxes. “Now let’s talk business, Dershy.” said the President. “Do you have a check for me and can you deliver Pennsylvania?”
IDF Spokesman’s Unit — Fiction Department
Col. Arik Klein sat in his office on the third floor of the IDF Spokesman’s Unit headquarters on Kaplan Street, overlooking Victor Gate. He had just been appointed head of the Unit’s new Fiction Department, brainchild of Information Minister Yoni Edelman, and was awaiting the arrival of his staff: a major on loan from the IDF Journal and four recruits fresh from basic training–a secretary and three writers. The first to arrive was Private Shira Bejerano. According to her file, she had won first prize in the Ministry-sponsored “My Country Right or Wrong” essay contest, and had already published a couple of short stories in Bamahane.
“At ease, Shira. You don’t have to salute me; we’re not that kind of unit. Make yourself a cup of coffee and pull up a chair.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“I like your writing. I think we can do some really good work here, but it will take you some time to mature as a writer. The way I see it, your service in this department is just the beginning. Your real service to the country will come later, after the army, at university, maybe abroad, and after graduation. Press releases, reports and even documentaries can only go so far in getting our side of the story across. Fiction is the key to winning hearts and minds. I think Uris proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt.”
“Leon Uris. Your first assignment is to read Exodus. You’ll have to find your own voice and style of course, but it’s important that you understand Uris’ achievement. Learn your lesson well and, who knows, you may even be featured in the New Yorker some day.”
“Where, sir … I mean Arik?”
“Never mind. Just read the book, for now.”