When I was a kid, my parents took me to Europe. The high point of the trip wasn't Big Ben or the Eiffel Tower but the f light from Israel to London—specifically, the meal. There on the tray were a tiny can of Coca-Cola and, next to it, a box of cornflakes not much bigger than a pack of cigarettes.
My surprise at the miniature packages didn't turn into genuine excitement until I opened them and discovered that the Coke tasted like the Coke in regular-size cans and the corn flakes were real, too. It's hard to explain where that excitement actually came from. All we're talking about is a soft drink and a breakfast cereal in much smaller packages, but when I was seven, I was sure I was witnessing a miracle.
Today, thirty years later, sitting in my living room in Tel Aviv and looking at my two-week-old son, I have exactly the same feeling: Here's a man who weighs no more than ten pounds—but inside he's angry, bored, frightened, and serene, just like any other man on this planet. Put a three-piece suit and a Rolex on him, stick a tiny attaché case in his hand, and send him out into the world, and he'll negotiate, do battle, and close deals without even blinking. He doesn't talk, that's true. And he soils himself as if there were no tomorrow. I'm the first to admit he has a thing or two to learn before he can be shot into space or allowed to fly an F-16. But in principle, he's a complete person wrapped in a nineteen-inch package, and not just any person, but one who's very extreme, an eccentric, a character. The kind you respect but may not completely understand. Because, like all complex peo ple, regardless of their height or weight, he has many sides.
My son, the enlightened one: As someone who has read a lot about Buddhism and has listened to two or three lectures given by gurus and even once had diarrhea in India, I have to say that my baby son is the first enlightened person I have ever met. He truly lives in the present: He never bears a grudge, never fears the future. He's totally ego-free. He never tries to defend his honor or take credit. His grandparents, by the way, have already opened a savings account for him, and every time they rock him in his cradle, Grandpa tells him about the excellent interest rate he managed to get for him and how much money, at an anticipated single-digit average inflation rate, he'll have in twenty-one years, when the account comes due. The little one makes no reply. But then Grandpa calculates the percentages against the prime interest rate, and I notice a few wrinkles appearing on my son's forehead—the first cracks in the wall of his nirvana.
My son, the junkie: I'd like to apologize to all the addicts and reformed addicts reading this, but with all due respect to them and their suffering, nobody's jones can touch my son's. Like every true addict, he doesn't have the same options others do when it comes to spending leisure time—those familiar choices of a good book, an evening stroll, or the NBA play-offs. For him, there are only two possibilities: a breast or hell. "Soon you'll discover the world—girls, alcohol, illegal online gambling," I say, trying to soothe him. But until that happens, we both know that only the breast will exist. Lucky for him, and for us, he has a mother equipped with two. In the worst-case scenario, if one breaks down, there's always a spare.
My son, the psychopath: Sometimes when I wake up at night and see his little figure shaking next to me in the bed like a toy burning through its batteries, producing strange guttural noises, I can't help comparing him in my imagination to Chucky in the horror movie Child's Play. They're the same height, they have the same temperament, and neither holds anything sacred. That's the truly unnerving thing about my two-week-old son: he doesn't have a drop of morality, not an ounce. Racism, inequality, insensitivity, globalization—he couldn't care less. He has no interest in anything beyond his immediate drives and desires. As far as he's concerned, other people can go to hell or join Greenpeace. All he wants now is some fresh milk or relief for his diaper rash, and if the world has to be destroyed for him to get it, just show him the button. He'll press it without a second thought.
"Don't you think that's enough?" my wife says, cutting in. "Instead of dreaming up hysterical accusations against your adorable son, maybe you could do something useful and change him?"
"OK," I tell her. "OK, I was just finishing up."
From The Seven Good Years by Etgar Keret. Copyright 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 by Edgar Keret. Excerpted by permission of Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House.