By ETGAR KERET is proud to publish the following short story, by Israeli writer Etgar Keret. “Atonement,” which concerns both the High Holidays and domestic violence, was translated by Miriam  Shlesinger. This is its premier appearance in English.

Right to his face she said it, on the front steps of the synagogue. Soon as they'd walked out, even before he'd had a chance to put the yarmulke back in his pocket. She made him let go of her hand and told him that he was an animal, that he'd better never dare talk to her that way again, dragging her out like she was some piece of goods. And she said it out loud too, people could hear it. People who worked with him, even the rabbi, but that didn't stop her from raising her voice. He should've slapped her right then and there, should've shoved her right down the stairs. But like an idiot, he waited till they got home. And then, when he beat her, she seemed so taken aback. Like a dog that you hit for shitting on the carpet when so much time has passed that the shit is all dry. He kept at it, smacking her across the face, and she shouted, "Menachem, Menachem!" as if the person beating her was some stranger and she was crying out for him to come and save her. "Menachem, Menachem!" she cringed in the corner. "Menachem, Menachem," and he gave her a kick in the ribs.

As he moved away from her to light a cigarette, he noticed the spot of blood on his Yom Kippur shoes, and he looked at her again and saw a red crescent on the dress he'd bought her for the holidays. The crescent kept growing fuller. She must have been bleeding from the nose. He pulled up a dining-room chair and sat down with his back to her, facing the electric clock. Behind him he could hear her crying. He could hear the moans as she kept trying to get back on her feet, the thump as she slipped back into her corner. The hands of the electric clock were moving at an alarming speed, and he loosened his belt, gave up the back of the chair and tilted his body forward.

"I'm sorry," he heard her whimper from the corner. "I'm sorry, Menachem. I didn't mean it, really, forgive me." And he forgave her and so did God, and the timing was truly perfect, with only thirty seconds to go till it's too late to offer forgiveness.