Money

Translated by Sondra Silverston. Etgar Keret's latest book Kneller's Happy Campers (Chatto & Windus) was adapted for film as Wristcutters: A Love Story, now out on DVD.

etgarkeret.com

Mob riots put halt to nice Indian summer

When the crash came, NiceDay was the first to go. They'd always been a luxury brand, but after the Chicago riots even the wealthiest clients cut off their service. Some did it because of the unstable economic situation, but most of them just couldn't face the neighbours. The shares lay on the world trading floors, bleeding point after point, and so NiceDay became a cautionary tale of the depression. The Wall Street Journal headline ran "September Gone Bad". This, of course, was a play on their "September For Good" campaign, in which a swimwear-clad family stood around on a sunny fall day decorating a Christmas tree. The ad had worked, big time. One week post-launch they were moving three thousand units per day. Affluent Americans bought. So did the less affluent, if they could fake it. NiceDay became a status symbol, the official stamp of a millionaire. What executive jets were to the '90s and into 2000, NiceDay was to now. NiceDay: weather for the wealthy. Say you're based in Greenland, say all the snow and gloom is driving you batshit, one swipe of your credit card and, with a satellite or two, they'd set you up with a perfect fall day in Cannes, delivered direct to your own balcony, every day of the year.

Yakov "Yaki" Brayk was one of NiceDay's earliest adopters. He truly loved his money and had a hard time parting with it, but even more than he loved the millions he made selling weapons and generic drugs to Zimbabwe, he loathed those humid New York summers and that gross feeling you get when your sweaty undershirt sticks to your back. He bought a system, not just for himself, but for the whole block. Some people mistook this for generosity, but the truth is he did it just to keep the great weather with him all the way to the bodega on the corner. That bodega wasn't just where he got the unfiltered Noblesses they imported from Israel especially for him. No, more than anything, it marked for Yaki the boundary of his personal space. And the minute Yaki signed the cheque, that block turned into a weather paradise. No more grey rain, no more dog days. Just September, twelve months a year. And not, God forbid, one of those off-and-on, partly sunny, partly cloudy New York Septembers, but the dependable kind, the kind he grew up with in Haifa. And then out of the blue came the Chicago riots, and suddenly here were the neighbours telling him to cease-and-desist with the gorgeous fall post-haste. At first he didn't give them the time of day, but then came those lawyers' letters and someone left a slaughtered peacock on his windshield. That's when his wife asked him to turn it off. It was January. Yaki turned off the fall and instantly the day turned short and sad. All because of one dead peacock and an anorexic wife with an anxiety disorder who, as always, was able to control him through her weakness.

The recession went from bad to worse. On Wall Street, NiceDay hit rock bottom. So did shares in Yaki's company. Then they drilled a hole in the rock and went down a little further. It's funny, you'd think weapons and drugs would be strong during a worldwide recession, but that's not how it worked out. People were too broke to buy medicine, and they very quickly rediscovered an old forgotten truth: that weapons with chips are a luxury, just like electric car windows, and sometimes all you need is a stone you found in the yard if you want to smash in somebody's skull. They very quickly learned to manage without Yaki's rifles, much more quickly than Yaki could get used to the unseasonably cold and wet mid-March. And Yaki Brayk, or Lucky, as the tabloids liked to call him, lost his shirt.

He kept the apartment, the company accountant managed to retroactively put it in the anorexic wife's name, but all the rest was gone. They even took the furniture. Four days later, a NiceDay technician came to disconnect the system. When Yaki opened the door, he was standing there drenched with rain. Yaki made a pot of coffee and they talked for a while. He told the technician how, not long after the riots, he'd turned the system off. The technician said a lot of customers had done the same. They talked about the riots, when a furious mob from the slums had stormed the Indian-summery homes of the city's wealthier residents. "All that sun of theirs, it was driving us crazy," one of the rioters said on a news commentary show a few days later. "Here you are freezing your ass off, just trying to make your next gas bill, while those bastards, those bastards..." At that point, he burst into tears. The camera blurred his face to hide his identity, so you couldn't actually see the tears, but you could hear him wailing like an animal hit by a car. The technician, who was black, said he was born in that same neighbourhood in Chicago, but today he was ashamed to admit it. "That money," he said, "all that fucking money fucked up the whole fucking world."

After they'd finished their coffee, when the technician was about to disconnect the system, Yaki asked if he could turn it on just one last time. The technician shrugged and Yaki took that as a yes. He pushed a couple of buttons on the remote and out came the sun from behind a cloud.
"That's not real sun, you know," the technician said proudly. "What they do is image it, with lasers."

Yaki winked and said, "Don't spoil it. For me, it's the sun."

"A great sun," The technician nodded. "Too bad you can't keep it out till I get back to the car. I'm sick of this rain."

Yaki didn't answer. He just closed his eyes and let the sun wash over his face.

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