Sunday, December 7, 2014
Swirl, by Siljie Bekeng
Hmm. You need to sue a spoiler warning if you reveal the plot, but do you need one if you reveal there is no plot?
This story is so light on the plot side that it could pass for mainstream, but there is crime in it, and excellent writing, which is how it happened to end up being my best-of-the-week.
When I read a story on my tablet I mark interesting passages that I might want to quote on this page. In this story I marked seven which is a record, I think. But we will get to that.
The narrator describes herself as an expat. Her husband is an executive of an international corporation and they live on Rothschild Boulevard in downtown Tel Aviv. She is isolated in many ways, including having no knowledge of Hebrew. But worse, there are protests going on in the city and the corporation keeps urging employees to avoid a certain area -- the place where she lives.
But that's not the scary part. When she does go out she sometimes comes back to find evidence that someone has been in the apartment. Apparently Shin Bet, the Israeli security service, has a habit of leaving these little reminders for expats: we are watching you. But our narrator suspects that this is more personal, that the watcher has taken a particular interest in her.
If this were a straight crime story you know how it would go, but as I said already, it isn't. And the ending, well, it descends into mainstream coyness, but the rest is very good. And here are a few of those lines I highlighted:
Those single socks that never return from the washing machine? Shin Bet has a storage room full of socks lifted from diplomats, lobbyists, and international aid workers. On casual Fridays the Shin Bet people wear the mismatched socks themselves, for fun.
There is something embarrassing about listening in to someone else's social protest, like getting stuck at the table during someone else's family argument.
We are the kind of people they send in helicopters for.