Governor General's Literary Awards·Moving Forward

Lazer Lederhendler looks ahead to the '23rd winterless year' in this original short story

Something is Missing is an original short story by Lazer Lederhendler, part of CBC Books' Moving Forward series.

Something is Missing is a short story by Lazer Lederhendler, part of CBC Books' Moving Forward series

Something is Missing is an original short story by Lazer Lederhendler, the winner of the 2020 Governor General's Literary Award for translation (Ben Shannon/CBC)

Something is Missing is an original short story by Lazer Lederhendler. It is part of Moving Forward, a special series of new, original writing featuring work by the English-language winners of the 2020 Governor General's Literary Awards, presented in partnership with the Canada Council for the Arts. Read more works from Moving Forward here

The tiny woman in 11037 moves a little slower each day. I'm tidying up after lunch, and there's no one left in the cafeteria but her, excavating her purée in a dusty shaft of light. Madame Geoffrion. The staff call her La petite — except when La grande, her daughter, drops in. Lissisky tells me later, "She's winding down. Soon she'll come to a graceful stop."  Lissisky aka Lissi is in 11039. To the staff he's Levenothreenine. Strike that. Not he. Lissi insists on the pronoun one

"I'm a sucker for the snooty daughter," one confides. "A dead ringer for my Mishou."

"Mishou?"

"My, um, helpmeet." 

Lissi says one's room number was the number tattooed on one's grandfather's left forearm. 

"Okay, not in the exact same order," Lissi admits, "but of equal numerological value. Hmm, something's amiss." The wide-open balcony door lets in the talk-talk of tennis balls far below, the twilight warnings of canaries in the orange trees along the China Canal. A distant electric road hums a faint minor chord. Ricky the OT waltzes in. 

"Time for your CA test, Levenothreenine."

"Dammit, don't you people ever knock?! What if I were, say, enjoying myself?" 

"Who with?" Ricky asks archly, "Your mysterious Mishou?" 

"Careful where you tread, OT. Just get on with your job."

"Right. What day is it?"

"Day 249 of the 23rd winterless year," Lissisky recites.  

Ricky rolls her eyes. "So tell me, wise one, where are we?"

"In a home," Lissi hesitates and wakes one's device. "Hey, Silly." 

"Now what?" the device replies. 

"Where are we?"

"Well, I am here," says the device. "You are in Tio'tia:ke, also known as..." 

Ricky stomps out. 

******

A month on, I find Lissisky by the Turing shrine contemplating a hologram of the Twelfth Algorithm. 

"I know something's missing," one says to me. "But what? Have we met before? At Orgonon, perhaps?  Who are you, anyway?"

A month on, I find Lissisky by the Turing shrine contemplating a hologram of the Twelfth Algorithm.

"Liederhandler," I remind him. "I'm doing..."

"Research!" Lissi interrupts. "Hey, me too. What's your specialty? Mine is sexuality. But don't spread it around, I'm an outlier here as it is. Are you familiar with my work? Hey, Silly, send Leaderhinder my publications list. Correction. Send them — it is them, eh?" Lissi asks me — "just the nonfiction."  

"Done."

I scan the titles: Lyotard and the Triumph of PornographySelf-Penetration: Vonnegut's UtopiaHardcore: The Mirror on the WallAnal PanicAnagrams of ErosThe Genders-of-One RevolutionHelpless in Gaza … 

"Helpless in Gaza?" I read aloud. 

 "Silly, you fool, I said nonfiction," Lissisky growls.

"It's filed under Bio, you old fart," the device shoots back.  

Lissi explains that it started out as a novel, The Missing Scroll, but since no one reads novels anymore, according to Mishou, it was turned into a screenplay. 

"A thriller?" I ask. 

"Depends on how you get your thrills," Lissi says and reels off the pitch. "Montreal, mid-21st century. Middle-aged, middle-class Mo Levi follows Socrates's advice and examines his life. He consequently suffers a nervous breakdown and lands up in the Gaza Strip, determined to atone for the harm he's done. Or enabled. However, having no Arabic, Mo struggles to fit in and succumbs to psychosis. Now he speaks only Yiddish and believes he is a Lamedvavnik, one of the 36 righteous, destined to perform a great deed. The plan is to go to the no-man's land and get blown up in hopes of provoking an earthshaking diplomatic incident. But he makes a wrong turn and ends up wandering in the desert, where he is helped by Bedouins, only to vanish without a trace. The end."

"Fascinating," I said. "Will I get to see it sometime?"

"Not likely. No one's interested."

"How come?"

"You missed it?"

"What?"

"There's no sex."

******

The months roll on. Lissi is standing by the window on the first day without rain since December. "I'm going out," one tells me. 

"Where?" I inquire. 

"Not where — with. With Mishou. Shakespeare in the Park. We're already late. Wouldn't want to miss the last act," one says, black and white golf umbrella in one hand, three-toed aluminum cane in the other. "Care to join us?"


Lazer Lederhendler's inspiration for Something is Missing

"Lissisky, the protagonist of Something is Missing wandered into my imagination a long time ago and appears here late in life in the 23rd Winterless Year, an indeterminate point in the future.  We find Lissisky wondering how the final act of their multifarious life will play out and what is in store for those left behind."

About Lazer Lederhendler

Lazer Lederhendler is a translator and academic from Montreal. (Monique Dykstra)

Lazer Lederhendler is a translator and academic from Montreal. He has been previously nominated for the Governor General's Literary Award for French-to-English translation several times. He won the prize in 2008 for his translation of Nikolski by Nicolas Dickner and again in 2016 for his translation of The Party Wall by Catherine Leroux. Lederhendler won the 2020 Governor General's Literary Award for translation for If You Hear Me by Pasquale Quiviger.

About the series Moving Forward

CBC Books asked the 2020 Governor General's Literary Award winners to contribute an original piece of writing on the theme Moving Forward. Something is Missing was Lazer Lederhendler's contribution to the series. 

Read the rest of the series:

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