Someone to Run Withby Grossman, Maya Gurantz (Translator), Vered Almog (Translator)
The story of a lost dog, and the discovery of first love on the streets of Jerusalem are portrayed here with a gritty realism that is as fresh as it is compelling.
When awkward and painfully shy sixteen-year-old Assaf is asked to find the owner of a stray yellow lab, he begins a quest that will bring him into contact with street kids and criminals, and a talented
The story of a lost dog, and the discovery of first love on the streets of Jerusalem are portrayed here with a gritty realism that is as fresh as it is compelling.
When awkward and painfully shy sixteen-year-old Assaf is asked to find the owner of a stray yellow lab, he begins a quest that will bring him into contact with street kids and criminals, and a talented young singer, Tamar, engaged on her own mission: to rescue a teenage drug addict.
A runaway bestseller in Israel, in the words of the Christian Science Monitor: “It’s time for Americans to fall in love with Someone to Run With.”
- Farrar, Straus and Giroux
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.16(w) x 9.42(h) x 1.14(d)
Read an Excerpt
SOMEONE TO RUN WITH
By DAVID GROSSMAN
FARRAR, STRAUS AND GIROUXCopyright © 2000 David Grossman
All right reserved.
Chapter OneA dog runs through the streets, a boy runs after it. A long rope connects the two and gets tangled in the legs of the passersby, who grumble and gripe, and the boy mutters "Sorry, sorry" again and again. In between mumbled sorries he yells "Stop! Halt!"-and to his shame a "Whoa-ah!" escapes from his lips. And the dog keeps running.
It flies on, crossing busy streets, running red lights. Its golden coat disappears before the boy's very eyes and reappears between people's legs, like a secret code. "Slower!" the boy yells, and thinks that if only he knew the dog's name, he could call it and perhaps the dog would stop, or at least slow down. But deep in his heart he knows the dog would keep running, even then. Even if the rope chokes its neck, it'll run until it gets where it's galloping to-and don't I wish we were already there and I was rid of him!
All this is happening at a bad time. Assaf, the boy, continues to run ahead while his thoughts remain tangled far behind him. He doesn't want to think them, he needs to concentrate completely on his race after the dog, but he feels them clanging behind him like tin cans. His parents' trip-that's one can. They're flying over the ocean right now, flying for the first time in their lives-why, why did they have to leave so suddenly, anyway? His older sister-there's another can-and he's simply afraid to think about that one, only trouble can come of it. More cans, little ones and big ones, are clanging, they bang against each other in his mind-and at the end of the string drags one that's been following him for two weeks now, and the tinny noise is driving him out of his mind, insisting, shrilly, that he has to fall madly in love with Dafi now-because how long are you going to try to put it off? And Assaf knows he has to stop for a minute, has to call these maddening tin followers to order, but the dog has other plans.
Assaf sighs-"Hell!"-because only a minute before the door opened and he was called in to see the dog, he was so close to identifying the part of himself in which he could fall in love with her, with Dafi. He could actually, finally, feel that spot in himself; he could feel himself suppressing it, refusing it in the depths of his stomach, where a slow, silent voice kept whispering. She's not for you, Dafi, she spends all her time looking for ways to sting and mock everyone, especially you: why do you need to keep up this stupid show, night after night? Then, when he had almost succeeded in silencing that quarrelsome voice, the door of the room in which he had been sitting every day for the last week, from eight to four, opened. There stood Avraham Danokh, skinny and dark and bitter, the assistant manager of the City Sanitation Department. (He was sort of a friend of his father's and got Assaf the job for August.) Danokh told him to get off his ass and come down to the kennels with him, now, because there was finally work for him to do.
Danokh paced the room and started explaining something about a dog. Assaf didn't listen. It usually took him a few seconds to transfer his attention from one situation to another. Now he was dragging after Danokh along the corridors of City Hall, past people who came to pay their bills or their taxes or snitch on the neighbors who built a porch without a license. Following Danokh down the fire stairs, then into the courtyard in back, he tried to decide whether he had already managed to defeat his own last stand against Dafi, whether he knew yet how he would respond today when Roi told him to quit stalling and start acting like a man. Already, in the distance, Assaf heard one strong, persistent bark and wondered why it sounded like that: usually the dogs all barked together-sometimes their chorus would disturb his daydreams on the third floor-and now only one was barking. Danokh opened a chain-link gate and, turning to tell Assaf something he couldn't make out over the barks, opened the other gate, and, with a flick of his hand, motioned Assaf down the narrow walkway between the cages.
The sound was unmistakable. It was impossible to think that Danokh had brought Assaf down here for just one dog; eight or nine were penned in separate cages. But only one dog was animated; it was as if it had absorbed the others into its own body, leaving them silent and a bit stunned. The dog wasn't very big, but it was full of strength and savagery and, mainly, despair. Assaf had never seen such despair in a dog; it threw itself against the chain links of its cage again and again, making the entire row shake and rattle-then it would produce a horrifying high wail, a strange cross between a whine and a roar. The other dogs stood, or lay down, watching in silence, in amazement, even respect. Assaf had the strange feeling that if he ever saw a human being behave that way, he would feel compelled to rush up and offer his help-or else leave, so the person could be alone with his sorrow.
In the pauses between barks and slams against the cage, Danokh spoke quietly and quickly: one of the inspectors had found the dog the day before yesterday, running through the center of town near Tziyyon Square. At first the vet thought it was in the early stage of rabies, but there were no further signs of disease: apart from the dirt and a few minor injuries, the dog was in perfect health. Assaf noticed that Danokh spoke out of the corner of his mouth, as if he were trying to keep the dog from knowing it was being talked about. "He's been like that for forty-eight hours now," Danokh whispered, "and still not out of batteries. Some animal, huh?" he added, stretching nervously as the dog stared at him. "It's not just a street dog." "But whose is it?" Assaf asked, stepping back as the dog threw itself against the metal mesh, rocking the cage. "That's it, exactly," Danokh responded nasally, scratching his head, "that's what you have to find out." "Me? How me?" Assaf quavered. "Where will I find him?" Danokh said that as soon as this kalb-he called it a kalb, using Arabic-calms down a little, we'll ask him. Assaf looked at him, puzzled, and Danokh said, "We'll simply do what we always do in such cases: we tie a rope to the dog and let it walk for a while, an hour or two, and it will lead you itself, straight and steady, to its owner."
Assaf thought he was joking-who had ever heard of such a thing? But Danokh took a folded piece of paper out of his shirt pocket and said it was very important, before he gave the dog back, for the owners to sign the form. Form 76. Put it in your pocket-and don't lose it (because, to tell the truth, you seem a little out to lunch). And most important, you have to explain to the esteemed master of this dog that a fine is included. A settlement of one hundred and fifty shekels or a trial-and he'd better pay up. First of all, he neglected to watch his dog, and maybe that will teach him a lesson to be more careful next time, and second, as a minimal compensation (Danokh enjoyed sucking, mockingly, on every syllable) for the headache and hassle he had caused City Hall, not to mention the waste of time of such superb human resources! With that, he tapped Assaf on the shoulder a little too hard and said that after he found the dog's owners, he could return to his room in the Water Department and continue to scratch his head at the taxpayers' expense until the end of his summer vacation.
"But how am I ..." Assaf objected. "Look at it ... It's like, crazy ..."
But then it happened: the dog heard Assaf's voice and stood still. It stopped running back and forth in the cage, approached the wire mesh, and looked at Assaf. Its ribs were still heaving, but it moved more slowly. Its eyes were dark and seemed to focus intensely on him. It cocked its head to the side, as if to get a better look at him, and Assaf thought that the dog was about to open its mouth right then and say in a completely human voice, Oh yeah? You're not exactly a model of sanity yourself.
It lay on its stomach, the dog; it lowered its head, and its front legs slipped under the metal grid, begging with a digging motion, and out of its throat a new voice emerged, thin and delicate like the cry of a puppy, or a little boy.
Assaf bent in front of it, from the other side of the cage. He didn't notice what he was doing-even Danokh, a hard man, who had arranged the job for Assaf without much enthusiasm, smiled a thin smile when he saw the way Assaf got down on his knees at the blink of an eye. Assaf looked at the dog and spoke quietly to it. "Who do you belong to?" he asked. "What happened to you? Why are you going so crazy?" He spoke slowly, leaving room for answers, not embarrassing the dog by looking into its eyes for too long. He knew-his sister Reli's boyfriend had taught him-the difference between talking at a dog and talking with a dog. The dog was breathing fast, lying down. Now, for the first time, it seemed tired, exhausted, and it looked a lot smaller than before. The kennels finally fell silent, and the other dogs began moving again, as if coming back to life. Assaf put his finger through one of the holes and touched the dog's head. It didn't move. Assaf scratched its head, the matted, dirty fur. The dog began to whine, frightened, persistent, as if it had to unburden itself to someone right away, as if it could no longer keep silent. Its red tongue trembled. Its eyes grew large and expressive.
Assaf didn't argue with Danokh after that. Danokh took advantage of the dog's momentary calm: he entered the cage and tied a long rope to the orange collar hidden in its thick fur.
"Go on, take it," Danokh ordered. "Now it'll go with you like a doll." Danokh jumped back when the dog leaped up and out of the cage, instantly shaking off its fatigue and silent surrender. It looked right and left with fresh nervousness and sniffed the air as if it were listening for a distant voice. "See? You guys already get along great," Danokh said, trying to convince Assaf and himself. "You just watch out for yourself in the city-I promised your dad." The last words were thick in his throat.
The dog was now focused and tense. Its face sharpened, for a moment it was almost wolflike. "Listen," Danokh mumbled with misgiving, "is it okay to send you out like this?" Assaf didn't answer, only stared in astonishment at the change in the dog once it was free. Danokh tapped his shoulder again. "You're a strong kid. Look at you. You're taller than me and your father. You can control it, right?" Assaf wanted to ask what he should do if the dog refused to lead him to its owners, how long he should walk after it (the three lunchtime sandwiches were waiting for him in his desk drawer). What if, for instance, the dog had had a fight with the owners and had no intention of going back to its home-
Assaf did not ask those questions at the time, or at any other time. He did not return to meet Danokh that day, nor would he return over the next few days. Sometimes it is so easy to determine the exact moment when something-Assaf's life, for instance-starts to change, irreversibly, forever.
The moment Assaf's hand clutched the rope, the dog uprooted itself with an amplified leap and pulled Assaf with it. Danokh raised his hand in fright, managed to take a step or two after his hijacked employee, even started running after him. It was useless. Assaf was already being tugged outside City Hall, forced to stumble down the stairs. He broke into the streets, later smashed into a parked car, a garbage can, the people passing by. He ran ...
The big hairy tail wags energetically before his eyes, sweeping aside people and cars, and Assaf follows after it, hypnotized. Sometimes the dog stops for a minute, raises its head, sniffing, then turns down a side street, sweeping along its way, running. It looks as if it knows exactly where it's going, in which case this race will end very soon. The dog will find its home and Assaf will turn it over to its owners, and good riddance. But while it runs, Assaf starts to think about what he will do if the dog's owner doesn't agree to pay the fine. Assaf will say, "Mister, my job doesn't allow me any flexibility in this matter. Either you pay or you go to court!" The man will start to argue, and Assaf is already answering him with convincing responses, running and mumbling in his heart, pursing his lips decisively, and knowing all too well it will never work. Arguing has never been his strong suit. Eventually, it always becomes more convenient for him to give in and not make a fuss. This is exactly why he gives in to Roi, night after night, in the matter of Dafi Kaplan-just to keep from making a fuss. He thinks about it and sees Dafi in front of him, long and lean, and hates himself for his weakness, and notices that a tall man with bushy eyebrows and a white chef's hat is asking him a question.
Assaf appears confused-Dafi's face, very pale, with a permanent mocking gaze and transparent lizard eyelids, is morphing into a different face, fat and grumpy. Assaf quickly focuses his eyes and sees a narrow room in front of him, dug into the wall, a searing oven in its depths. Apparently the dog has decided, for some reason, to make a stop at a small pizzeria, and the pizza man bends over the counter and asks Assaf again, for the second, or perhaps the third, time, about a young lady. "Where is she?" he asks. "She disappeared on us-we haven't seen her for a month now." Assaf glances around, perhaps the pizza man is talking to someone standing behind him-but no, the pizza man is talking to him, inquiring as to whether she is his sister or his girlfriend, and Assaf nods in embarrassment. From his first week of working at City Hall, he's already learned that people who work in the center of town sometimes have their own habits and manner of speaking-and a weird sense of humor, too. Perhaps it was because they worked for odd customers and tourists from faraway countries; they got used to speaking as if they were in a sort of theater-as if there were always an invisible crowd watching the dialogue. He wants to get away and keep racing after the dog, but the dog decides to sit and looks at the pizza man hopefully, wagging its tail. The man gives it a friendly whistle, as if they're old acquaintances, and with one quick flick, like a basketball player-his hand behind his back and around his waist-throws a thick slice of cheese, and the dog catches it in the air and swallows it.
And the slice that follows it. And another one. And more.
The pizza man has pearly white eyebrows that look like two wild bushes, and they make Assaf feel scolded and uneasy. The man says he never saw her so hungry. Her? Assaf asks silently, baffled. It never occurred to him until now that the dog was a bitch. He only thought of it as a dog with a dog's speed and strength and decisiveness of motion.
Excerpted from SOMEONE TO RUN WITH by DAVID GROSSMAN Copyright © 2000 by David Grossman. Excerpted by permission.
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Meet the Author
David Grossman is the author of six novels and three works of nonfiction. He lives in Jerusalem.
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David Grossman creates a story that reveals both the darker side of Jerusalem streets and the power love can hold. This love is apparent in Assaf's search for Tamar, a girl he has never met but knows he must save, and in Tamar's search for Shai, her brother whom she must pull out of a tempting underworld. Their paths cross as they deal with the disenfranchised lives of street children while at the same time finding themselves and who they really are. The time frames may be confusing; the two characters' stories are based a few weeks apart. The technique, however, provides more suspense and allows the reader to put the pieces together in the end. Grossman spends a lot of time on characterization. Throughout the novel he gives insight to the emotions and thoughts of each main character, making the reader completely aware of the trials and tribulations each one goes through. This is a story of struggle, sadness, joy, and the overcoming of obstacles. It is highly recommended, especially for anyone who has ever longed to be a part of something or someone. That means you!
The story of Tamar and Assaf is a gripping and fascinating story. The book is beautifully written and is Grossman's best work yet. The characters develop as the story goes and the reader gets to 'run with' Assaf and Tamar as they discover themselves, as well as each other. The story is so touching; I seem to have to read it over and over again.