The Girl on the Fridge

By ETGAR KERET

The successful short-short story, also called “flash fiction,” operates like an elite military commando team: get in, get out, take no prisoners. But how do you reduce a universe of meaning to something smaller than of a breadbox? Etgar Keret makes it look easy. In his previous collection, The Nimrod Flipout, and now with The Girl on the Fridge, the Israeli writer hits us with one flash-bang surprise after another. These little gems range far and wide across the human experience; and, while some are strange and off-kilter, Keret never leaves us with head-scratching bewilderment. The short-shorts take us to places we recognize but then throw us detours in the space of a single word. A soldier tyrannized by his sergeant literally seals himself into a protective cocoon; a bickering couple?s love is renewed with the assistance of Crazy Glue; and a magician?s hat tricks suddenly have gory finales (bunny lovers, avert your eyes). The Girl on the Fridge is 176 pages long and contains 46 stories — that should give some idea of how effectively Keret distills language. The opening story, “Asthma Attack,” clocks in at only 115 words but speaks volumes — not just about the subject of romance but about Keret?s way with words. It concludes with these lines: “When an asthmatic says ‘I love you,’ and when an asthmatic says ‘I love you madly,’ there’s a difference. The difference of a word. A word’s a lot. It could be stop, or inhaler. It could even be ambulance. ” Keret chooses his words carefully and always leaves us gasping for breath.