In the same way, the same pathology, the imminence of the diagnosis is translated into a torrent of ideas that he writes down in his notebook, in a delirious fever out of which bursts the possibly last but revealing words of a dying man. In storylines closer to something—a kind of oriental and exotic writing—he read once called biji than to the western and exceedingly played-out short story. Contained yet open plot capsules that, for once, more closely resemble Chekov and Munro than his typical hurricane stories, blowing from all directions at once, as if everyone in them were talking at the same time and not raising their hand to ask permission first.
In “Loss,” a father fights against the death of his son. And, of course, he loses. Now that father—suddenly an ex-father—knows how to respond when people ask him what’s the worst thing that’s happened to you in your life. Now, in addition, he knows how to respond when people ask what’s the worst thing that will happen to you in your life—because it already happened. There’s nothing more horrible than having all the answers, there’s nothing worse than knowing nobody has the answer to his question and that that question is “why?” It’s not fair to have to live through the death of a child. His son won’t see him grow old and he won’t see the beginning of his son’s old age. Suddenly, everything is going against the natural order of things. The natural order that determines that, when a father dies, his son—beyond the pain he might end up feeling—also feels somewhat liberated, knowing that his father is no longer thinking of him. On the other hand, when the son is the one dying, the fact that he no longer thinks of him is, for the father, a biblical punishment, a private plague. And his son has died even before his grandparents, the father’s own parents, whom, presumably, he will also see die. And nobody will see his death. Nobody, yes, will live to tell it. Nobody will survive to tell him about it. Now, that man is outside all logic of time and space, the normal course of the story has been altered. So, he decides, anything is possible, anything can happen. Because the worst thing that can happen to someone has already happened to him. Which means that now nothing can happen to him but the expansive wave of what keeps on happening, what expands, what occupies more space all the time inside and outside of him and what will soon contain and devour everything, down to the last beam of light, until everything is void and black and hole. Last rights pronounced, the first displays of affection from acquaintances, and that’s it, the father decides that the only way he’ll be able to overcome the pain will be to eliminate all traces of his son. Delete. Erase him as if he’d never existed to the point where he’d even forget that he’d erased him. Demolish from his memory the shared palace of his son’s memory. So, first, the father burns all his drawings, gives away the tiny clothes, puts toys in bags and takes them to hospitals and orphanages, calls a charity organization to have them come take away his son’s rocket-shaped bed. But soon he discovers that it’s not working, that it’s not enough: the pain is still there, he can’t forget him, his son is more present than ever in the increasingly full void he’s left behind. The next step, it’s clear, is to end things with his wife, with the mother—because it all began with her, it was her he entered so his son would come out. He cuts her into pieces, buries her in the garden; but the relief doesn’t last long. Just passing in front of his son’s school; or approaching that cinema where they went to see Toy Story, all three of them, for the first of many times; or the place where they ate their favorite hamburgers; or . . . What follows is a hurricane of death and destruction transmitted live and direct from helicopter-mounted cameras. Flames, explosions, screams. Neither the police nor the army are able to stop him; and the father feels he’s the chosen one, invulnerable, an unstoppable force of nature, a Shiva dancing her last dance. At sunrise, almost nothing remains of the small city and our hero—a man on a mission—departs for the rest of the planet; because his son loved geography and knew so much about other countries and told him that, when he grew up, he wanted to be “the person who chooses the colors of the countries on maps.”
[. . .]
In “And That’s When the Trouble Started,” an adolescent boy tells his father again the same thing he’s been telling him all his life: that when he grows up—not long now—he’s going to be what he already is even though he hasn’t published anything yet: a writer. His father tells him that it’d be better to pursue a career where he could make a living from writing. Writing ad copy, for example. And, since the boy ignores him, the father tells him he’ll send his stories to a writer friend of his who runs a magazine, to put him in his place. So he does, and the writer friend invites the son to write for the magazine. And the son does that for a living while writing his first book, which doesn’t go at all badly for him. From that point on, the father never stops asking and forbidding him to “put him in one of his little stories” but always wishing he would.
At the end of “Correction,” a mother asks her daughter—while at the same time she answers herself; because it’s one of those questions that are actually a statement with just a solitary and final word catching the question mark—“You don’t have any reason to resent me, right?” To which the daughter responds: “I resent you for nothing; which is not the same thing.”
In “With Childish Handwriting,” only a few words are written: “Daddy Dearest: for your information, starting today, I’ll be sleeping with a big knife under my pillow. Your daughter, M.”