Fly Already



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September 3, 2019 | ISBN 9780593146828

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About the Book

From a "genius" (New York Times) storyteller: a new, subversive, hilarious, heart-breaking collection.

"There is sweetheartedness and wisdom and eloquence and transcendence in his stories because these virtues exist in abundance in Etgar himself... I am very happy that Etgar and his work are in the world, making things better." --George Saunders

There's no one like Etgar Keret. His stories take place at the crossroads of the fantastical, searing, and hilarious. His characters grapple with parenthood and family, war and games, marijuana and cake, memory and love. These stories never go to the expected place, but always surprise, entertain, and move...

In "Arctic Lizard," a young boy narrates a post-apocalyptic version of the world where a youth army wages an unending war, rewarded by collecting prizes. A father tries to shield his son from the inevitable in "Fly Already." In "One Gram Short," a guy just wants to get a joint to impress a girl and ends up down a rabbit hole of chaos and heartache. And in the masterpiece "Pineapple Crush," two unlikely people connect through an evening smoke down by the beach, only to have one of them imagine a much deeper relationship.

The thread that weaves these pieces together is our inability to communicate, to see so little of the world around us and to understand each other even less. Yet somehow, in these pages, through Etgar's deep love for humanity and our hapless existence, a bright light shines through and our universal connection to each other sparks alive.
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Praise for Fly Already

Praise for Fly Already

“Reading Fly Already is like settling down for a ride in a luxurious car with a world-class driver who has an extremely crazy worldview that doesn’t interfere with his amazing driving. Is there any better way to see the world?”
– Elif Batuman

"Etgar Keret, the writer of absurd, sad, funny and very short stories, grows up.... These sardonic and very short fables are the next installment in the series of strange scenarios cooked up in Keret’s brain.... They are absurd stories your stoned friend might unfold while giggling, but the best of them land at some insight into the human condition, all economy and charm. This new collection, though, plumbs darker depths." – Gal Beckerman, The New York Times

"It’s Keret’s particular brand of brilliance that can simultaneously hold tragedy and comedy, and in such compact packages." – Financial Times

“An Israeli writer is making short stories fun again. Etgar Keret doesn’t avoid a punch line. The fiction writer and This American Life regular tackles Big Important Subjects in his work—death, family, war, etc.—but he does so in a way that’s not, well, a bummer . . . By embracing the comic and the absurd, Keret achieves something rare among modern short-story writers: He’s actually worth reading.” – Men's Journal

“These stories—swervy, thrillingly funny, honest, and almost shockingly alert—disarm a reader in abundant ways. Keret will look at any situation and any type of character with an open eye to all defenses, and slowly (or really quickly) peel these away.”
– Aimee Bender

"Read Etgar Keret’s short stories in Fly Already, not only for their brilliant language and imagination, but the depth of Keret’s craft." – Elif Shafak, The Guardian

“As a reader, you’re so immersed in Keretworld, that the twist in the tale is particularly more outrageous and unexpected than usual. Fantastical, heart-breaking, laughter-inducing, fabulist, and sometimes just downright wacky, Keret’s writing is palpably imbued with a distinct element of intimacy, as though the author has just invited you into his local café or pub to chat about the state of the world — of our world — over your drink of choice. Keret’s stories shimmer with an energizing, evocative amalgam of comedy, both dark and light, and a high-level tolerance for the absurd. And always — always — even when it feels as though he’s finessing his pages with a giant shrug about the ridiculous vagaries of the universe, inherent in Keret’s writing is a resolute insistence on adhering to life, as well as to the ineluctable joys of wordplay.... If you’re already familiar with Keret’s work, this is a welcome addition to his canon; if you haven’t read him yet, this collection is a terrific place to start.” – Daneet Steffens, Boston Globe
“When you read an Etgar Keret story, it’s hard not to go straight to ‘genius.’ The stories in this collection are wide-ranging, and many have that fantastical, highly imaginative Keret element. There is dark humor, wry humor, really-fucking-funny humor. There’s depth and sadness. And mostly there’s life: people falling into and out of relationships with themselves and others.” – GOOP

“I am in awe of Keret's ability to simultaneously make me laugh while crying, explore the joy and horror of every day life with precision, brevity and great psychological depth. His recognition of and engagement with the absurd is profound and he never loses his humanity, his heart long the way.”
– A. M. Homes

"[R]azor-sharp, satiric wit and genre-shifting style." – BBC

"Keret at his best — tender and inventive, not giving too much away.... Keret shines when he's gentle and when he gives himself room to explore his characters.... ['Pineapple Crush' is] a lovely, understated story about the human need for connection, and Keret approaches it subtly, portraying the narrator's loneliness without resorting to pity. He doesn't overplay his hand or feel the need to wax whimsical; he's content to consider the human condition in a compassionate, unshowy way. The story is nearly perfect.” - Michael Schaub, NPR

“Like Lydia Davis, Etgar Keret has written stories of such singular diminutive style it took the culture a few years to realize: this is not a novelty act. This is the work of a genius, and he can pack more comedy and heartache into a single tale than just about any writer alive. A new book is cause for celebration.” – John Freeman, LitHub

“Keret continues his streak of writing short stories that are mordantly funny and bizarre in his latest collection . . . Threaded through his sense of humor, you feel a little less lonely, a little more light.” – Tomi Obaro, Buzzfeed

“Sly and subversive collection . . . full of modern-day fables about family, angels, UFOs, cloning and other weirdness.” – Chicago Tribune

“[O]nce again displays his knack for comic, absurd, occasionally dystopian observations... Saunders-esque speculative stories... Every piece demonstrates Keret's admirable effort to play with structure and gleefully refuse to be polite about family, faith, and country. An irreverent storyteller who has yet to run out of social norms to skewer.” – Kirkus

“It’s difficult to characterize the work of a writer as prodigiously talented as Keret... for whom nothing seems off limits.... [S]mart, strange, completely enthralling.... [R]eaders new to Keret will be dazzled.” – Booklist

“[Q]uirky, funny, touching, immensely readable, pure pleasure—and though most [stories] are very short, they are tightly scripted and satisfyingly complete. Originally written in Hebrew, the pieces in this fine collection lose nothing in translation; the wit and humanity of each tale survive intact. Ideal reading for short bursts of time or short attention spans.” – Library Journal

Praise for Etgar Keret

"If I could get you to read one writer, it would be Etgar Keret. His impossible blend of humor and tragedy, cynicism and empathy as well as big-hearted narratives that occupy the tiniest of page counts make him one of my favorites. Maybe one of yours." --Carolyn Kellogg, The Los Angeles Times

"A brilliant writer...completely unlike any writer I know. The voice of the next generation." --Salman Rushdie

"Read him, and the world will never look the same again." --Claire Messud

"One of my favorite Israeli writers." --John Green

"Etgar Keret's stories are funny, with tons of feeling, driving towards destinations you never see coming. They're written in the most unpretentious, chatty voice possible, but they're also weirdly poetic. They stick in your gut. You think about them for days." --Ira Glass, host and producer of This American Life

"Etgar Keret possesses an imagination not easily slotted into conventional literary categories. His very short stories might be described as Kafkaesque parables, magic-realist knock-knock jokes or sad kernels of cracked cosmic wisdom." --A.O. Scott, New York Times

"[Keret's writing] testifies to the power of the surreal, the concise and the fantastic... [O]blique, breezy, seriocomic fantasies that defy encapsulation, categorization and even summary." --Washington Post

"It's astonishing what he can do in just two pages: go from funny to bizarre to touching to satiric to meta to surprising and surreal... [A] master storyteller, creating deep, tragic, funny, painful tales with scarcely more words than you've read in this review." --Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times
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Fly Already

fly already


P.T. sees him first. We're on our way to the park to play ball when he suddenly says, "Daddy, look!" His head is tilted back and he's squinting hard to see something far above me, and before I can even begin to imagine an alien spaceship or a piano about to fall on our heads, my gut tells me that something really bad is happening here. But when I turn to see what P.T. is looking at, all I notice is an ugly, four-story building covered in plaster and air conditioners, as if it has some kind of skin disease. The sun is sitting directly on it, slightly blinding me, and as I'm trying to get a better angle, I hear P.T. say, "He wants to fly." Now I can see a guy in a white button-down shirt standing on the roof railing looking straight at me, and behind me, P.T. whispers, "Is he a superhero?" But instead of answering him, I shout at the guy, "Don't do it!"


The guy stares at me and doesn't answer. I shout at him again, "Don't do it, please! Whatever brought you up there must seem like something you'll never get over, but believe me, you will. If you jump now, you'll leave this world with that dead-end feeling. That'll be your last memory of life. Not family, not love-only defeat. But if you stay, I swear to you by everything I hold dear that your pain will start to fade, and in a few years, the only thing left will be a weird story you tell people over a beer. A story about how you once wanted to jump off a roof and some guy standing below shouted at you . . ."


"What?" the guy on the roof yells back at me, pointing at his ear. He probably can't hear me because of the noise coming from the road. Or maybe it isn't the noise, because I heard his "What?" perfectly well. Maybe he's just hard of hearing. P.T., who's hugging my thighs without being able to encircle them completely, as if I were some kind of giant baobab tree, yells at the guy, "Do you have superpowers?" but the guy points at his ear again as if to say he can't hear, and shouts, "I'm sick of it! Enough! How much can I take?" P.T. shouts back at him, as if they were having the most ordinary conversation in the world, "Come on, fly already!" And I'm starting to feel that stress, the stress that comes with knowing that it's all on you.


I have it a lot at work. With the family too, but not as much. Like what happened on the way to Lake Kinneret, when I tried to brake and the tires locked. The car started to skid along the road and I said to myself, "Either you fix this or it's all over." That time, driving to the Dead Sea, I didn't fix it, and Liat, the only one not buckled in, died, and I was left alone with the kids. P.T. was two and barely knew how to speak, but Amit never stopped asking me, "When is Mommy coming back? When is Mommy coming back?" and I'm talking about after the funeral. He was eight then, an age when you're supposed to understand what it means when someone dies, but he kept asking. And even without the constant, annoying questions, I knew that everything was my fault and wanted to end it all. Just like the guy on the roof. But here I am today, walking without crutches, living with Simona, a good dad. I want to tell the guy on the roof all about it, I want to tell him that I know exactly how he feels right now, and that if he doesn't flatten himself like a pizza on the sidewalk, it'll pass. I know what I'm talking about, because no one on this blue planet was as miserable as I was. He just has to get down from there and give himself a week. A month. Even a year, if necessary.


But how can you say all that to a guy who's half deaf? Meanwhile, P.T. pulls my hand and says, "He's not going to fly today anyway, Daddy, let's go to the park before it gets dark." But I stay where I am and shout as loudly as I can, "People die like flies all the time, even without killing themselves. Don't do it! Please don't do it!" The guy on the roof nods-it looks like this time, he heard something-and shouts back at me, "How did you know? How did you know she died?" Someone always dies, I want to yell back at him. Always. If not her, then someone else. But that won't get him down from there, so instead I shout, "There's a kid here," and point at P.T., "he doesn't need to see this." Then P.T. yells, "Yes I do! Yes I do! Come on and fly already, before it gets dark!" It's December, and it really does get dark early.


If he jumps, that'll be on my conscience, too. Irena the psychologist at the clinic will give me that "after you I'm going home" look of hers and say, "You're not responsible for everyone. You have to get that into your head." And I'll nod, because I know that the session ends in two minutes and she has to pick up her daughter from day care, but it won't change anything because I'll have to carry that half-deaf guy on my back, along with Liat and Amit's glass eye. I have to save him. "Wait there for me!" I scream as loudly as I can. "I'm coming up to talk to you!"


"I can't go on without her. I can't!" he shouts. "Wait a minute," I yell, and say to P.T., "Come on, sweetie, let's go up to the roof." P.T. gives an adorable shake of his head, the way he always does right before he sticks the knife in, and says, "If he flies, we can see better from here."


"He won't fly," I say, "not today. Let's go up there just for a minute. Daddy has to tell the man something." But P.T. persists. "So yell from here." His arm slips out of my grasp and he throws himself down on the ground, the way he likes to do to Simona and me at the mall. "Let's race to the roof," I say. "If we get there without stopping, P.T. and Daddy get ice cream as a prize."


"Ice cream now," P.T. wails, rolling around on the sidewalk, "ice cream now!" I have no time for this crap. I pick him up. He squirms and screams, but I ignore it and start running toward the building.


"What happened to the kid?" I hear the guy shout from the roof. I don't answer and race into the building. Maybe his curiosity will stop him for now. Maybe it'll keep him from jumping long enough for me to get up to the roof.


The kid is heavy. It's hard to climb all those stairs when you're holding a five-and-a-half-year-old kid in your arms, especially one who doesn't want to go up the stairs. By the third floor, I'm completely out of breath. A fat redhead who must have heard P.T.'s screams opens her door a crack and asks who I'm looking for, but I ignore her and keep climbing. Even if I want to say something to her, I don't have enough air in my lungs.


"No one lives upstairs," she shouts after me, "it's just the roof." When she says "roof," her shrill voice breaks and P.T. yells back at her in a tear-filled voice, "Ice cream now! Now!" I don't have a free hand to push open the door that should lead outside-my arms are full of P.T., who doesn't stop flailing-so I kick it as hard as I can. The roof is empty. The guy who was on the railing a minute ago isn't there anymore. He didn't wait for us. Didn't wait to find out why the kid was screaming.


"He flew," P.T. sobs, "he flew and because of you we didn't see anything!" I start walking toward the railing. Maybe he changed his mind and went back into the building, I try to tell myself. But I don't believe it. I know he's down there, his body sprawled on the sidewalk at an unnatural angle. I know it, and I have a kid in my arms who absolutely should not see that because it'll traumatize him for the rest of his life, and he's already been through enough. But my legs take me to the edge of the roof. It's like scratching a wound, like ordering another shot of Chivas when you know you've already had too much to drink, like driving a car when you know you're tired, so tired.


Now that we're right at the railing, we start to feel the height. P.T. stops crying and I can hear both of us panting and the ambulance siren in the distance. It seems to be asking me, "Why? Why do you need to see it? You think it'll change anything? Make anyone feel better?" Suddenly, the redhead's shrill voice commands me from behind, "Put him down!" I turn around, not really understanding what she wants. "Put me down," P.T. shouts, too. It always gets him going when a stranger butts in.


"He's just a kid," the redhead keeps saying, but her voice is suddenly cracked and soft. She's on the verge of tears. The sound of the siren is getting closer and the redhead starts walking toward me. "I know you're suffering," she says, "I know that everything is so hard. I know, believe me." There's so much pain in her voice that even P.T. stops flailing and stares at her, mesmerized. "Look at me," she whispers, "fat, alone. I had a child once, too. You know what it is to lose a child? Do you have any idea of what you're about to do?" Still in my arms, P.T. hugs me tight. "Look at what a sweet child he is," she says, already close to us, her thick hand stroking P.T.'s hair.


"There was a man here," P.T. says, fixing his huge green eyes, Liat's eyes, on her. "There was a man here, but now he flew away. And because of Daddy, we didn't see him." The siren stops right under us and I take another step toward the railing, but the redhead's sweaty hand grabs mine-"Don't do it," she says, "please, don't do it."



P.T. has a scoop of vanilla in a plastic cup. I order pistachio and chocolate chip in a cone. The redhead asks for a chocolate milk shake. All the tables in the ice cream parlor are filthy, so I clean one for us. P.T. insists on tasting the milkshake and she lets him. SheÕs called Liat, too. ItÕs a common name. She doesnÕt know about our Liat, about the accident; she doesnÕt know anything about us. And I donÕt know anything about her. Except that she lost her kid. When we left the building, they were putting the guyÕs body into the ambulance. Luckily, it was covered with a white sheet. One less image of a corpse in my mind. The ice cream is too sweet for me, but P.T. and the redhead look happy. With his cone in one hand, he reaches out for her milkshake with the other. I donÕt know why he always does that; after all, heÕs still eating his ice cream, why does he need more? I open my mouth to say something to him, but the redhead signals that itÕs okay and gives him her almost empty cup. Her sonÕs dead, my wifeÕs dead, the guy on the roof is dead. ÒHeÕs so cute,Ó she whispers as P.T. strains to suck up the last drop of milkshake in the paper cup. He really is cute.


one gram short


There's an adorable waitress at the coffee shop next to my house. Benny, who works in the kitchen, told me that she doesn't have a boyfriend, that her name is Shikma, and that she is a fan of recreational drugs. Before she started working there, I'd never been in the place-not even once. But now you can find me perched at a table every morning. Drinking espresso. Talking to her a little. About things I read in the paper, about the other people sitting in the shop, about cookies. Sometimes, I even manage to make her laugh. And when she laughs, it does me good. I've already almost invited her to a movie a bunch of times. But a movie is just too in-your-face. A movie is one step before dinner in a restaurant or asking her to fly off for a weekend in Sinai. A movie isn't something you can interpret in a number of ways. It's just like saying, "I want you." And if she isn't interested and says no, the whole thing ends in unpleasantness. Because of that, I thought asking her to smoke a joint would be better. At most she'll say, "I don't smoke," and I'll make some joke about stoners, and, like it's nothing, order another short espresso and move on.


Because of that, I call Avri. Avri is maybe the only one from my high school class who was a super-heavy smoker. It's been more than two years since the last time we spoke. I run through small talk in my head as I dial, hunting for something I can talk to him about before I ask about the weed. But just as I'm asking him how he's doing, Avri immediately says, "Dry. They closed the Lebanese border on us because of the trouble in Syria, and the one with Egypt because of all that al-Qaeda shit. There's nothing to smoke, my brother. I'm climbing the walls." I ask him what else is going on, and he answers me, even though we both know I'm not interested. He tells me his girlfriend is pregnant, and that they both want the kid, and that his girlfriend's mother is a widow and not only is pressuring them to get married but wants a religious ceremony-because that's what his girlfriend's father would have wanted if he were still alive. I mean, go try and stand up to an argument like that! What can you do? Dig up the father with a backhoe and ask him? And all this time that Avri's talking, I'm trying to get him to relax, telling him it's no big deal. Because for me, it really isn't so terrible whether Avri gets married in front of a rabbi or not. Even if he decides he's going to leave the country for good or have a sex change, I'm going to take it in stride. But of all things, it's that bud for Shikma that's important to me. So I throw this out there, "Dude, someone somewhere has some product, right? It's not for the high, it's for a girl. Someone special I want to impress." "Dry," Avri says again. "I swear to you, I've even started smoking Spice like some kind of junkie." "I can't bring her that synthetic shit," I tell him. "It won't look good." "I know," he mumbles from the other end of the line, "I know, but right now, weed-there just isn't any."

About the Author

Etgar Keret
Etgar Keret was born in Ramat Gan and now lives in Tel Aviv. A recipient of the French Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres, the Charles Bronfman Prize, and the Caméra d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, he is the author of the memoir The Seven Good Years and story collections including The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God. His work has been translated into forty-five languages and has appeared in The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, WiredThe Paris Review, and The New York Times, among many other publications, and on This American Life, where he is a regular contributor. More by Etgar Keret
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