The main character is a self-proclaimed misanthropic, remorseless pedophile. Yet Dear Reader is compelled by his story, so strange and vulgar, as he recounts how his life intertwined with the wicked girl of the title, Elsie, the girl he cannot forget. She’s one of those girls that brings out the desire in others to care for her and make her their own, frustrating John immensely in his attempts to analyze her. Dear Reader will also work on determining who are the puppets and who are the masters in this twisting tale of control and deceit. Olokita’s sparse writing style serves this story well, as the characters interact and relate in odd ways, each with a tenuous grasp on reality, and a skewed idea of truth. The punchline will send Dear Reader back to the beginning of the book to wrap up everything. Olokita is a unique voice whose works catapult readers through stories without investing them too deeply in the chaos. One wonders how the tone has changed in the translation from Hebrew. His novels are always interesting. I was given a digital copy of this story translated into English by the author for an honest review.
“So this is why you’ve moved to the guest room?”
“Yes.” He had the audacity to look me in the eye, no flinching.
“Why? Is your life with me so hard to bear?”
“I just don’t feel a part of the world anymore.”
“Husbands don’t do this. For God’s sake, why not simply become a Buddhist? I could handle that.”
“Religion isn’t the answer. I’ve tried. There’s a deep need in me to give back to my community.”
This pushed me to the wall. Literally. I couldn’t move, or I would slide down the wall to the floor.
“Someone in OUR community? Anyone I know?”
He shuffled to the window. I noted that he was breathing heavily. After five ads, no doubt he was suffering. Yet I dare not dredge up sympathy for this man I thought I knew.
“No one you know. I don’t think anyone in our actual community. No one in our neighborhood, for sure. I can’t say I even know any of them.”
“So just random strangers?”
“Yeah, sure. They’re all deserving.”
“Am I not deserving?”
“This is not about you.”
“How long did you think you could do this before I found out?”
“I think not much longer. I’m already weak.”
“It would be obvious soon.”
“Listen, the recipients are much better off. There’s no need to consider them any longer.”
“Recipients? I don’t even know what to say.”
He sat down with a “humpf” in the big corner chair in the guest room and pulled up his pants leg. Instead of his athletic calf with golden hair, I saw a prosthetic leg. I continued to hold up the wall.
“Two weeks ago.”
He took a long, shallow breath and leaned back, whispering, “A kidney. A lung.”
We stared at each other in silence for seven of his shallow breaths.
“Tell me the truth. I do deserve that. I deserve the truth. Craigslist?”
“Yes, well, it had to be anonymous. I truly thought I wouldn’t be taken seriously. Did you know there was a black market on Craigslist? I wrote the ad as a last desperate measure.”
“I don’t believe you. I don’t believe that you wanted to give back to your community.”
He nodded and whispered, “You’re right.”
“I’ve failed you. The money is gone. I lost my job.”
“What? When? Where have you been going?”
“Six months ago. I’ve been going to doctors, hospitals, once to Costa Rica.”
I gasped, “The business trip last March?”
“Yes. You have to understand. People will pay ungodly amounts for body parts.”
“I want you to stop.”
“It’s too late. My eyes are scheduled to go to some guy’s kid this summer.”
“This summer surgery is enough for your retirement. You don’t ever have to work.”
“I love you.”