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It is a whirlwind in here

Month

November 2022

One Small Step For . . .

In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in **missing** diary entries from Kafka’s real diary. He either did not fill in these days himself, or he destroyed them. It is estimated Kafka destroyed 70% – 80% of everything he wrote

March 1917

               A trail of wet footprints across one of the court yards. Tiny footprints. A child’s. Perhaps a woman’s. Starting and stopping as if out of nothing and into nowhere. She must have walked through a puddle, or some melting snow. This little waltz by an invisible dancer. I held out my arms, a partner at last.

Is it Putin, Is It Trump, Is It Musk Knock Knock Knocking On The Door?

he first claw was so faint upon the door he barely raised an eye from the page.

It could have been the wind – it sounded almost like the wind.

Wind at other times. and in other places, might blow such a sound – but not this night.

As his thoughts returned to what lay before him, the tiny scrabble, hesitant at floor level, moved slightly to the right, aligning itself more closely to the doorknob.

The noise skittered up the wood, making a metallic sound. His head swivelled toward the door.  The first thought he had was for the paint.

He could sense, by the sound alone, the movement was groping in the dark  It was unsure where it was. He closed the book on his lap, still keeping his place with a finger.

His eyes remained fixed on the door. He thought he saw the light of his lamp glint off something through the keyhole.

The doorknob twitched – a slight movement counterclockwise.  Then a brief turn clockwise. He let the book slide down the side of his chair as he put his hand into a pocket. He felt the key between his fingers. He held it tightly.

There was fumbling with the knob, muffled sounds as if a grip was hard to get. The knob turned once more, and then the pressure on the outside was released. He could hear shuffling against the wood. Then he saw, through the keyhole, light reflecting off a muddy iris.

He stared back through the keyhole, only to see the eye blink and move slowly away. He started to rise from his chair, but was stopped by a thump near the floor, as if a clumsy foot had bumped the wood by mistake.

He realised all the sounds he  heard seemed uncoordinated. The doorknob was once again twisted, but the motion seemed to lack an ability to grasp.

He was wondering whether to turn out the lamp, when a hesitant, hollow knock came upon the door.

~ DE

Is it Putin, Is It Trump, Is It Musk, Knock Knock Knocking On The Door?

The first claw was so faint upon the door he barely raised an eye from the page.

It could have been the wind – it sounded almost like the wind.

Wind at other times. and in other places, might blow such a sound – but not this night.

As his thoughts returned to what lay before him, the tiny scrabble, hesitant at floor level, moved slightly to the right, aligning itself more closely to the doorknob.

The noise skittered up the wood, making a metallic sound. His head swivelled toward the door.  The first thought he had was for the paint.

He could sense, by the sound alone, the movement was groping in the dark  It was unsure where it was. He closed the book on his lap, still keeping his place with a finger.

His eyes remained fixed on the door. He thought he saw the light of his lamp glint off something through the keyhole.

The doorknob twitched – a slight movement counterclockwise.  Then a brief turn clockwise. He let the book slide down the side of his chair as he put his hand into a pocket. He felt the key between his fingers. He held it tightly.

There was fumbling with the knob, muffled sounds as if a grip was hard to get. The knob turned once more, and then the pressure on the outside was released. He could hear shuffling against the wood. Then he saw, through the keyhole, light reflecting off a muddy iris.

He stared back through the keyhole, only to see the eye blink and move slowly away. He started to rise from his chair, but was stopped by a thump near the floor, as if a clumsy foot had bumped the wood by mistake.

He realised all the sounds he  heard seemed uncoordinated. The doorknob was once again twisted, but the motion seemed to lack an ability to grasp.

He was wondering whether to turn out the lamp, when a hesitant, hollow knock came upon the door.

~ Dale Estey

History As It’s Known In The Writing World

While reading some literary site about Amazon,, I came across the fact that “Harriet Klausner, an esteemed Amazon reviewer who wrote more than 31,000 book reviews, died”. All power to her – that is quite a feat. However, I took more note of her last name, one I had not thought of for a long time.

In my tenure as an author in the world, I have had four or five agents. And I am currently looking anew. At the far beginning of my time, before I was published, I had the New York agent Bertha Klausner – at the start of my career and near the end of hers. She started her agency before I was born and was working two months before she died in 1998 at the age of 96.

Back in those over the transom days, one stuffed typed pages into an envelope, sent them off with return postage on another envelope, and waited up to three months for a reply. And when it came back, you sent it out again. One of my envelopes went to the Bertha Klausner Agency.

However, when it came back, it had other people’s manuscripts in it, and (to my memory)  little handwritten notes politely saying no. Mistakes happen even at revered agencies, so I sent it all back explaining what had happened. She replied, with neither apology or thanks, annoyed that mistakes do happen and adding, “Say, you must have something. Do you want to send it to me?” Which I did.

As I said, communications were through slow mails (slow on her side, as with literary agents to this day).  I assume she was initially, both being polite though seeing some promise in what I wrote.

But after a year or so she said – in effect – ‘thanks but no thanks’, and I sent things to other agents and eventually sold my first novel by, indeed, sending it directly to an editor in New York over the transom,.

I don’t think I knew that Bertha Klausner had such a stellar career until I looked her up. An agent for decades, she had famous names like Upton Sinclair, Israel J Singer, Eleanor Roosevelt and Fidel Castro. She even represented actor Basil Rathbone.

I imagine I would have become a lost tale.

Dale Estey

Once A Soldier, Always … My Father And Remembrance Day

My father, Bombardier Byron C Estey, Service Number G4094: Units: 1st Anti Tank Regiment: 90th Anti-Tank Battery, served in the Canadian Army for the entirety of the Second World War.

He was 31 when he signed up, and was a decade or more older than most of the soldiers he served with. At the end of the war, he was offered an instant promotion from Corporal to Sergeant Major. He declined. He had had enough.

He was with the 90th Anti-Tank Battery. He was the member of the crew who calculated the coordinates to aim the gun and destroy targets. He did this up through Sicily and Italy, except for those times when he grabbed his rifle to shoot at soldiers shooting at him.

I imagine I could write pages repeating the anecdotes he told – and maybe, some day, I will. He didn’t talk  much about the war and, when he did, I’d guess 80% of his stories were humorous. The other 20% were not.

I regret not discussing his war experiences more with him, but he did not encourage it. I once asked how close he got to the German soldiers. He said, close enough to kill them.

He hated Germans and Japanese all of his life. I understand that this is not the way of most soldiers. They mellow. They come to understand that soldiers on the other side were doing a job, just as they were. My father was not one of these. Those 20% of his stories explained his attitude to me.

He fought in – arguably – the most horrific and bloodiest battle in the war, the Battle of Ortona over Christmas week of 1943. He marched over piles of bodies, and crawled over piles of bodies. Such were the details he would tell. He didn’t speak of his feelings, or use words like “horror”.

On Remembrance Day he would march in the community parade. He rarely lingered for a meal or beer or camaraderie at The Legion. He did not seem affected by the memorial event, and did not talk any more or less about his experiences just because it was 11 November.

Because his tales were more funny than not, I’ll close on what might have been his last funny story.

At his death, the Royal Canadian Legion wanted to conduct a small ceremony at the funeral parlour. They requested that his medals be pinned to his chest. But, the medals could not be found. This was odd, because they were important to him, and he always wore them for the Remembrance Day parade.

It is excessive to say that the whole house was searched – but not by much. Drawers, shelves, boxes, closets, clothes, were repeatedly searched. Nothing. The Last Post was played over a Veteran with no medals.

Months later, when the house was being sold and possessions were being removed, his clothes were searched before being given away. In the side pocket of a jacket he never wore were the medals, all spiff and shiny.

He would have smiled at that.

Kafka Changes His Life By Leaving His Old Life Behind

Kafka did not really live in this tiny house on this narrow lane – his sister did.

And she did not really live in this tiny house on this narrow lane – she rented it so she could have a place to meet her lover in secret.

The secret was necessary because her lover was a Christian.

So the house was vacant most of the time.

Enter Kafka. He  started to go there (at the suggestion of his sister) so he could have a place to be alone. Otherwise he would be with his parents, which was not conducive to either his (or his sister’s) desires.

He never stayed the night, but was there most evenings for months. He wrote a whole book of short stories in his book The Country Doctor  while there.

I set a third of my novel about Kafka in this tiny house.
I’ve visited it.
Peered from the windows.
Looked up the stairs.
Ducked in the doorway.
When I was there while the country was still under Communist control, it was a book store.
But – Kafka being Kafkaesque long after death – none of his books were displayed.From Kafka In The Castle

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

02 November 1917

               I walked to Alchemist Lane this afternoon. It is not really a part of Prague – high and removed by its ninety-eight steps. A cold, clear day – much like the day a year ago when I accompanied Ottla on her mad little quest to see it. But not (as I had thought) for the first time. In fact, she had already rented it – something I’ve only learned these past few weeks. She had wished my approval, but she didn’t need my approval. I am glad of that.

     It was strange entering the courtyards, and passing beneath the spires of the cathedral. But stranger still was to stand at the mouth of the Lane itself, and look along its length. I could have been away for years, or returning to resume yesterday’s thoughts. I felt both. It was if I were at the station, but not knowing if I were arriving on one train, or departing upon another.

     The narrow lane was deserted, so I walked along its length slowly. There were new curtains on the windows of my little house. When I returned, I did pause before my old door, and glanced between the curtains to see that all of my furniture had been removed. Much as their owner.

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