this thing's incredible

A Short Story About a Lock, by Etgar Keret

Photo: Courtesy of retailer

Author Etgar Keret’s book Fly Already is available September 3.

Okay, I’ll begin with an honest disclosure:

The men in my family don’t buy things. Or at least the right things. Our mom bought us diapers and shorts when we were born, and we practically wear them until we croak. We are interested in people, love animals, are kind of indifferent to vegetation, and all the rest of it bores us to death. Although it isn’t as if we don’t buy things, we do, but always for the wrong reason.

My late father would buy tons of stuff from telemarketing people. He had such little interest in what he bought that often, when the package arrived, he couldn’t remember what was in it, but he could always remember in great detail the telemarketer’s voice or something she’d said about her favorite food or a good movie she’d seen lately. Buying an unwieldy Tunturi exercise bike from a telemarketer with a soft, friendly voice who was a great fan of Leonard Cohen was the closest he ever got to cheating on my mom. And in the end, she was able to forgive him.

For my dad, buying things was a strange and wonderful way to speak with people, and the fact that each conversation ended with his having to find a place for yet another not-useful object in my parents’ apartment was a small price to pay.

Some space in exchange for human connection sounds like a fair deal, but I don’t even fall for that. And that’s what makes the Master Lock 5-key combination safe so special to me. My family discovered it while using an Airbnb in Brussels. The owner had left us the apartment’s key in a lockbox in the hallway of the building, and unlocking the little safe was such great fun that our son immediately wanted us to have one of our own. It was only a few weeks ago, but since we’ve gotten home, our life has changed. We now have a new tiny piece of real estate in our building. It is only two inches wide, but still, it is ours only and we can leave stuff in it for each other: a note, some strawberry-flavored chewing gum, and once in a while even a key.

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A Short Story About a Lock, by Etgar Keret