"Free Fruit for Young Widows" by Nathan Englander Originally published in the May 17, 2010 issue of The New Yorker. Click here to read the story in its entirety on The New Yorker webpage.
I actually read this story last Wednesday (it is now Monday). My delay in posting comments is the direct result of my not caring at all about this story. My actually posting comments has everything to do with my care for this forum.
The basic premise: a Jewish father, Shimmy Gezer, is trying to explain his war-riddled past to his young son, Etgar. As the years go by, he finds he can explain more, finally relating a story about one of their family acquaintances, the respected Professor Tendler. Of course, this was before he was a professor — before he had a high school degree, in fact. After Egypt took control of the Suez Canal, the French to pull their support from Egypt to join Israel. However, in the confusion, each side ended up having French issued, identical uniforms. One day, when Shimmy sat down for lunch with two commandos, Tendler came over, put down his teacup and shot the two commandos in the head. It turned out they were Egyptians who had, seeing the identical uniforms, joined the wrong side for lunch.
That is the first few paragraphs. The remainder of the story is Shimmy and Etgar’s discussions of Tendler’s conduct. How could he do it? Why does Shimmy respect Tendler so much? It just didn’t work for me.