Ten Timely and Absolutely True Tales


This is an absolutely true tale of a man who wants to be a writer, but what with everything else he wants in life -- a secure job, a happy family, a house with a dog in the garden -- the only time he has to write is during his bus ride to and from work.

He decides to make the best of it by writing only absolutely short stories in the short time he has on the bus each day. Although he only has 15 minutes, inspiration comes fast. The passengers stimulate his creativity. He observes: a priest, an ancient man, a pregnant woman, a bickering couple, a man and woman kissing passionately, a worried soldier, a lesbian couple, a child throwing a tantrum.

Then, one day things go wrong. His muse doesn't come. The man sits chewing a breakfast bagel frantically while at the same time writing in a notebook on his lap.

Finally, at the stop by the hospital, the ugliest nurse in the universe enters the bus, and the germ of a story idea enters the man's head.

But before he can get to his pen, the bus driver slams on the brakes, the nurse slams into the man, and the bagel is rammed down his throat. He can't breathe.

"I'm choking to death," the man thinks. "Now, I'll never get to finish my collection of absolutely short stories."


This is an absolutely true tale of a man who goes to visit his priest.

"Well, I don't know if you're aware, Father," the man says in a trembling voice, "but you see, I have Alzheimer's."

"I'm sorry," says the priest.

"I feel like I'm eternally damned," the man chokes on his words.

"Why do you say that?" says the priest, taken aback at the man's choice of words.

"You see, Father, all my life I've been racing with time. And I thought I was winning. I thought I was ahead. I had a great job, a house, a beautiful family. But now, time is winning after all by playing this cruel joke on me. I have periods when I'm clear, but then I forget everything, and I have to keep starting all over."

"I'm so sorry."

"Father," the man sobs, "I want to end it all, while I'm clear, while I still have time."

"Suicide is a mortal sin no matter what. I can't tell you otherwise, but is there anything else I can do for you?" asks the priest.

"Well, I don't know if you're aware, Father," the man says in a trembling voice, "but you see, I have Alzheimer's."


This is an absolutely true tale of a man who is interviewed on TV at the occasion of his 105th birthday.

"What's your secret?" asks the interviewer. "What keeps you going?"

"Well I'll tell you, I want to write the perfect song, and I'm afraid I won't have time," says the old-timer. "I don't even know if the perfect song exists, but every day when I wake up, I tell myself it does. It's just waiting for me to write it."

"I see," says the interviewer, "and do you feel you've come close to writing the perfect song?"

"Well hold on now," says the old man. "Land sakes, I only started music lessons last month."


This is an absolutely true tale of a woman who gets pregnant, despite the fact that her husband is constantly away on business. He never has time for her. In fact, he has been away so much lately that he wonders if he could possibly be the father. The last time he was home, they went to party, and he'd gotten pretty drunk. But as far as he can remember, they hadn't had sex.

She bats her eyelashes and convinces him that it is so.

When the baby comes, the man is proud that he didn't make an issue of it. The baby looks at him from the crib with big, round brown eyes, which could have been his own.

Or his brother's.


This is an absolutely true tale of a couple that are always bickering about their time schedules.

One day, they find out they have meetings booked for the same evening, and it starts.

"Look, I can't miss this meeting," he says.

"Neither can I," she counters. "And I told you about it last week. It's right there on the calendar."

"Do you want me to lose my job?" the man demands.

"Do you want me to lose mine?"

"Of course not. But let's be honest here. We could survive if you lost your job, but not if I lost mine. Besides, you'd have more time to -- "

"To what? To cook and clean and to wash your laundry?"

"I was gonna say to be with the kids."

"Oh my God, the kids," she says. "Who was supposed to pick them up today?"


This is an absolutely true tale of a couple who can never seem to find the time and place to be alone and are always in a rush to have sex. They decide to get married.

After they get married, however, the leisure time actually takes the excitement out of sex, and they find that -- they're really not all that crazy about each other. They get divorced.

Ten years later, they're both remarried, and they meet in the train station. They know immediately that they can have great sex again and begin an affair without hesitation.

When their spouses ask them if anything's changed, they say, "No, I need you more than ever."


This is an absolutely true tale of a man who gets drafted in the army.

"Any health problems," asks the army clerk.

"Yes, we have multiple personalities," says the man.

"No, we don't," he corrects himself in a high-pitched voice.

"Are you faking this?" the clerk asks incredulously.

"Yes," the man admits in a normal tone of voice.

The clerk shakes his head thinking about it. He should really send him for a psychological evaluation, but they're desperate for new recruits. There's no time. He stamps the papers saying, "Very well, report here tomorrow for a routine health examination, and be prepared to ship off Monday morning."

"We'll be ready," says the man on his way out.


This is an absolutely true tale of a man who is walking along minding his own business, when he sees a good-looking woman standing in the middle of the sidewalk waving at him.

"Robert?" she asks.

He starts to shake his head, but now she has a big smile on her face, and he can see that she really is a stunning beauty.

"Come on," she says, "and thanks for doing this. We really appreciate it."

"No problem," says the man.

She takes his hand, and leads him into a building and up the stairs to an apartment door, which she opens. Then, she takes his hand again and leads him straight into the bedroom where she begins to get undressed. The man just stands there.

"What's the matter? Are you embarrassed?" the woman asks. She comes over to him and begins unbuttoning his shirt, her naked breasts right in front of his face "I'm sorry, but we borrowed the apartment, and I have to catch a flight. Besides, you know that I have no interest in men. Although," she adds, "your eyes are as deep blue as your sister's, and you know how I feel about her."

Just then, the woman's mobile phone rings, and she leans over him to pick it up from the night table, her breasts grazing against his cheek. She continues to unbutton his shirt with one hand as she talks on the phone. But her expression changes.

"I understand, no problem," she says turning the phone off and narrowing her eyes in on the man.

"You're not Robert."

"I tried to tell you."

"Did you?"

"Well, I'll just be going," he mumbles, hoping to get out without a scene.

"Sit down," the woman commands. "Robert's late. I don't have time to wait for him, and you're not going anywhere.


This is an absolutely true tale of a mother trying to get out of the supermarket in time to see her daughter's school show.

"Come on," she says to her three-year-old son, who toddles along leisurely behind her. "We don't have time. We'll be late." She pulls the boy forward by his arm.

At this, the child throws himself on the floor blocking the way to the counter. His face turns tomato-red, and he begins a wailing cry that makes hairs rise. The mother has to pick him up and restrain him with one hand, while she puts groceries on the counter with the other. The dozen or so people in line stare at her in varying degrees of disbelief and disdain.

Then a middle-aged woman steps forward. She has short silver hair, stands a head taller than everyone, and has a voice that sounds like a boom mike.

"C'mon, what's with you people?" she bellows. "As if you've never seen this before. You've either been through it with your own kids, or with your nephews and nieces, or else you've been down there screaming on the floor yourselves. Every one of you. Now let's give her a hand," she commands pointing at three or four people. They immediately begin putting the mother's groceries on the counter for her.

She picks her son up. He stops crying. Ten minutes later, she's putting the groceries in her car.

The gray-haired lady walks by smiling at her.

"Wouldn't it be nice if everyone behaved like that all the time?" says the older woman.

"Yes," says the young mother. "You know, I was so rushed and now I have plenty of time. Thanks Mom."


This is an absolutely true tale of a man who is writing fiction on the bus. As the bus pulls to its stop by the hospital, the man pauses, gazing through the window admiringly at the young nurses in their white uniforms.

He turns his head the other way and winces at the sight of an inordinately large redheaded nurse with hair on her chin moving towards him on the bus. He thinks that she's got to be the ugliest nurse in the universe. She notices his reaction.

The bus pulls into traffic. A ball rolls into the road. The bus swerves left. A child springs after the ball. The bus swerves right. The redhead stumbles forward with rapid baby steps and slams straight into the man's head.

His breakfast bagel is lodged in his throat. The man is gagging. The man is gasping.

Will the nurse save him? Will he live? Will he die?

Will he have time to finish his collection of ten absolutely short stories?

I think that the answer to that question is patently clear.

Don't you?

About the author:

Oren Shafir is an American-Israeli living near Copenhagen with his two beautiful wives, Scottish Terrier children and lovely dog. (Oops, that is, his lovely wife, two beautiful children and Scottish Terrier dog.) His stories and poems have appeared in the Absinthe Literary Review, The Akkadian, The Blue Moon Review, Udsyn (in Danish translation), Eitan (in Hebrew translation) and Eclectica. A collection of his short stories entitled Small Truths and Other Lies was recently published by Litera Press.