Arts & Culture

Read an Exclusive Excerpt of ‘Witz’ Author Joshua Cohen’s New Story, ‘Fat’

The latest in Tablet’s original fiction series comes from the 2010 Big Jewcy Read More

By / December 7, 2012

The latest in Tablet’s original fiction series is from Joshua Cohen, one of the best young writers around (and a 2010 Big Jewcy). Here’s an exclusive excerpt from “Fat:”

“Tomorrow”—six months ago now—Sruly wanted to come pick me up but since I didn’t want him to know where I lived, knowing how close we had to live, with only a freshly planted organic grocery or a block of warehouses/factories turned installationist studios/DJ rehearsal halls between us. I suggested Atlantic Avenue and he agreed—but only to its terminus, the permafrost gird, the onramps.

But when a beaten crummy magnetic gray Nissan hacked up, it was my turn not to recognize—a different Sruly was behind the wheel. He’d trimmed his beard— trimmed his chin into a gash—and he wasn’t wearing a suit but shivered, in baggy jeans each leg like an unfurled umbrella, and a plain white T whose short sleeves were long on him, no yarmulke but a black baseball cap for no team or even sport I recognized, the mascot this unidentifiable lycanthrope that might’ve been ferocious had its stitching been intact, counterfeit Nikes.

Two women were jammed in back—Russians.

In the mirrors their faces were opposites, reversals. The one he kept pressing into convo with me—“Jon, Nastya’s a massager,” “Nastya, Jon’s into finance”—was wreckingball demolished. His, the one he’d claimed as his, was booming.

I realized this only once we’d reached Long Island, dereclined our seats to check them out. They were a before and after photo come to life, his—the after—in icepick heels, a crowded highrise of augmentation, breasts and butt lifted, into tits and ass, face stretched back like a trowel spread of budget stucco, mine—before, Nastya—basically unremodeled, no balconies or even fire escapes sticking out of her, rather she was a fire escape, a 2×4. They weren’t even Russians but pretending. Sleep with a Russian, wake with a Central Asian. A Tatar. Mongoloidal. Sheepshawled beneath the heaters. Our banquet sprawled between neon sky, caged bay. Russian fare for Russian girls, nothing could’ve been crasser, the same menu they could’ve gotten at home but here so much better because more expensive and not prepared by their mothers, their grandmothers, the mottled dyejobs and artificial clawers they’d become. His, I suspected that even her makeup was tattooed. Nothing can shock a permanent blush. She had a snake writhed around her neck, or I guessed it was a snake because no hood had been inked yet and any rattle slithered only in her cleavage. Her nose was pierced with a metal femur. Nastya was only mildly retarded.

Sruly’s was a lingerie whisper: letting slip about a motorboat (an Atlantis), a plane (an Eclipse), a property he was considering purchasing, a three bed/two bath on Park with garage nursery down below, sports utility vehicles cloyed with booster seats and toys. When the bill came he shuffled his creditcards under the table, cut, slapped one down and when it came back declined, shrugged, settled the meal in cash. He turned to the Mongols, “let’s go back to my friend’s place” (which I was against, but he put a hand to my cheek, spoke Yiddish).

It was his mother’s place, my grandmother’s—the dead woman’s muumuus clumped like lipstick at the corners, her porcelain inventoried on the floor, strewn with manuals of poker lore, $$$$ for gold and silver brochures, a gasmask bong, digiscale.

Sruly slushed his lady down the hall. Nastya had learned enough English to ask which room was mine. Which room was Mom’s, her closet. I tried a door, cleared sponges off a divan—where she kinked herself and was immediately dreaming.

Read the rest here.