Zygmunt Frankel

SHORT STORIES


THE FILTER

A filter strains out impurities from the desirable stuff. On the car engine alone, there are three of them: for fuel, air, and engine oil. I also have a built-in filter, for separating the harmful truth from inoffensive truth which can and should be told.

No, it's not political, it's private life; censorship not from above but from below, for occasional and limited use. I have always been curious about all the ills of this world. You only live once, and I was always curious what sort of world this is. But I had soon discovered that most people, including some very close to me - my mother, wife, friends, and children while young - prefer not to know everything about it, and that it is inconsiderate to force the truth on them. So I have become a miser with the ills of this world; a self-appointed censor and guardian angel to the weak, the halt, the lame, the blind, and the delicate around me: wives, mothers, children, and friends.

I once wrote a story called "The Angel of Truth", where the title character describes his daily work - making people aware of the truth - and how badly it hurts them, and what a suspect, supervised, censored, and distrusted angel he is. It was almost an autobiography, though I operate on a smaller scale. For example when our children undress for their bath I do not tell my wife how it reminds me of the photographs of similar children undressing for the gas chambers of Treblinka. Or, during her pregnancy, a magazine we subscribe to arrives with the story of an incomplete Siamese twin born to the wife of a Mexican farm labourer. Attached to the lower abdomen of the otherwise healthy baby was a round protuberance with a partially developed extra pair of legs. (The article does not say anything about an extra penis between them.) Superstitious neighbours threw rocks at the house, and a travelling circus offered to buy the child. After extensive X-ray examinations and tests, an operation was performed which left the baby "normal in every way, with only two scars to show for what might have been." In the doctors' opinion, the appendage would have grown in proportion to the rest of the body. I mislay the magazine, and do my best to prevent my wife from seeing another copy elsewhere.

I also take care not to tell my mother or wife of someone my age suddenly dropping dead of a heart attack, or a young woman having to have her breast amputated, and so on. I try to pass on only good news, happy tidings, and the latest joke. I see myself as the strong man, facing the ills of this world, and sheltering, with his broad back, dear weaklings; a sort of filter, straining out the dirt, the pollution, and the puss of this world.

Only sometimes one gets so tired of being a filter. On the cars, you can replace them with new ones when they clog up; here, no. The stuff keeps accumulating inside, with no drain valve, no possibility of coughing it up, no way to flush the system. If, after I die, they will, for some reason, do an autopsy on me, they will find so much of the black stuff gumming up the works that they will call the students to take a look at an interesting case.

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1997 Zygmunt Frankel - All Rights Reserved.
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