Below is the sixth segment of ‘The Mysterious Texture of Memory,’ a new short story—based, however, on my award-winning short memoir, the ‘Sweet Life.’
Dani, usually the most ardent tormentor of stray cats among us, was scared out of his wits when that cat suddenly appeared in front of his eyes, blocking his view of the screen.
He cursed loudly first, then reflexively smacked the cat. Who in turn—as if repaying him not only for this time, but also for all those other times—scratched Dani hard on the nose, generating a cry of pain, then gave a terrifying warning cry to his gang of hungry cats. Together, they flew away upon the tin roof like a flock of bats, leaving behind a scene worthy of the one playing on the big screen down below.
“Children go home!” was the dominant shout coming from the arena on the lawn, directed at those on the balcony roof. We could even see someone getting up, his silhouette passing through the screen, obscuring the film momentarily.
This was enough of a threat for Dani and Yair, who knew not what kind of punishment awaited us, but knew very well how severe it would be. Like the cats, they reacted quickly and noisily. They jumped down from the roof, forgetting in an instant The Three Musketeers’ motto—“All for one, one for all”—which the three of us boys had adopted as our own before setting forth on our dangerous mission.
As for me, I was so consumed by the imaginary world playing up on the big screen that I paid no attention to the real world playing down on the ground, oblivious to its dangers and regulations. I understood nothing of the film so far, yet I was completely captivated by its rapidly changing images, the beautiful scenery it depicted, and by the people living in it.
Furthermore, the meaning of the words “La Dolce Vita” was still haunting me, and the mystery of their melodic resonance was yet to be solved. In fact, my curiosity had run so deep that during the planning stages I’d forgotten not only that there were cats on the roof, equally curious, but sprinklers as well.
During the hot summer days in the Jezreel Valley, where there were no air conditioning systems yet in the kibbutz as I was growing up, water was the main cooling source: on the floors and on the roofs, in dirt valley pools and in clear mountain streams, at the fields and orchards and fishing ponds. And it was especially needed on the roof of the sewing-room, where it could get real hot real fast.
I was aware of the sprinklers’ existence, of course I was, but had forgotten about them altogether. Just as I’d forgotten about the man who’d got up from the lawn, and apparently had turned them on exactly when my eyes, about to pop out of their sockets, were glued to the curves of the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. This fairytale blonde, who was dressed in a revealing black evening gown, went straight under this spectacular fountain, showering herself under its waterfall, laughing and having fun, calling on the man who’d brought her there to join her.