[Ready at a Moment’s Notice / Alan Barrera]

Etgar Keret’s “What Do We Have in Our Pockets” clarifies why he carries a collection of rudimentary objects. He details a fraction of the collection, which includes “a cigarette lighter, a cough drop, a postage stamp, a slightly bent cigarette, a tooth pick, a handkerchief, a pen, two five-shekel coins.” To other people the objects bulge in his pocket, but the author states he has carefully chosen each object so he would always be prepared. He explains a hypothetical situation where he would meet a woman standing in the rain, holding a stampless envelope. The narrator elaborates on his plan to offer her the stamp, and if she coughs due to both nervousness and standing in the cold rain he will offer the cough drop. The narrator carries these objects in order to “not screw up” when opportunity shows itself despite the miniscule chance that such an event will occur.

First-person point of view allows the reader to consider the usefulness of every object and the motives of each character present. The first person allows the narrator to detail what’s within his pockets and why he carries it around. He introduces each object separately: a cigarette lighter, a cough drop, a postage stamp, a slightly bent cigarette, a tooth pick, a handkerchief, a pen, two five-shekel coins. Keret details every object to give each item a purpose and the reader understands the usefulness of each object provided. However, the items lingering in his pocket have no defined purpose as they sit in the narrator’s pocket. To those surrounding him he is merely a collector who hoards items. The objects cause the narrator’s pockets to bulge makes other people ask, “what the fuck do you have in your pockets?” The narrator replies with a small smile which offers little to whoever receives it. The narrator would have cleared his image if he was asked to explain why he carries each object, he was willing to explain why each object is needed. The people around him only reply with “an awkward smile” before moving on to the next subject.

Keret offers insight on why he carries these objects in the next paragraph. He elaborates that he carries everything so he won’t be at a disadvantage at the moment of truth. The man categorizes his objects as “everything,” which illustrates the individual’s versatility to any given situation. He offers a hypothetical situation where he finds a girl in the rain holding a stampless envelope. Keret illustrates this event in fine detail which demands a specific item (the stamp) to solve this dilemma. The situation presents itself where an object the carries has usefulness, and the girl accepts the item as a token of appreciation. When she coughs, he reacts by handing her a cough drop. Keret reimages himself from an oddball hoarder of objects to a dependable provider of needs. He encapsulates this image by offering to the woman “everything you’ll ever need.” He offers himself as an object of affection, a reliable individual who will provide for her at any given notices

The final paragraph solidifies his image as a suave and dependable person. The narrator explains that he is not stupid and is prepared for any hypothetical situation offered to him. He removes his foolish image by reshaping himself as a person prepared for any practical situation.

The reader is given a different outlook on random knick-knacks which sit in our pockets. Each object has a key role, a purpose for a particular event which could happen. Keret tells the reader to be prepared when opportunity arises; it is better to look foolish now while waiting for opportunity to appear, rather than be foolish when opportunity shows itself.

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