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A Gypsy Instructs Kafka About The World And Truth

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In Kafka In The Castle, I fill in the ‘missing’ diary entries from Kafka’s real diary. He either did not fill in these days himself, or he destroyed them. There are some estimates that Kafka destroyed 70% – 80% of everything he wrote. 

08 June 1917

A Gypsy confronted me today, and I was in the mood for a bit of sport. Her age was difficult to tell – certainly a decade older than me. In her swirl of shawls and dangling jewellery, heavy make-up on her face, she could almost have been in disguise. She peered at me with an intense sigh, attempting – I am sure – to penetrate my own disguise.

“You are a Jew,” she said.

“And you a Gypsy,” I replied.

She seemed pleased with my response, for her professional smile became real.

“You state the obvious,” she said. “As becomes a Doktor of Laws,”

I replied. “But to your eyes, do you not state the obvious?”

“Are you going to banter with a poor old Gypsy woman, instead of barter? That would make you suspiciously like one of us.” She said this with a growl in her throat.

“The Gypsy and the Jew,” I said, feeling the challenge which I so miss. “Perhaps an opera – but I think it’s been done to death.”

“They will try to do us all unto death,” she said harshly, and turned away.

I had the fear she was going to leave me without another word, but what she did was to spit fulsomely onto the street.

“They can’t kill us all,” I said, but I knew she heard the doubt in my voice.

She slowly faced me again.

“So. Even a Doktor of Laws can have hope. That is refreshing – but foolish.” She took my hand and felt my palm roughly with her thumb, although all the while her eyes never left my face. “You are going to travel.”

“Travel is a vague word. One can go on many types of voyage.”

“And reach many destinations,” she added, still holding my hand. “If you take away my vagueness, you take away my trade.”

“Then let me pay you for your services right now.”

This transaction would make her loose my hand, which is what I wanted most of all. She had frightened me, for her eyes and face were full of truth. I know the truth. I know it when it presents itself, stark and unobscured. I search out truth endlessly, yet still can flee at its approach. As in her eyes. But she gripped me more fiercely, and pulled my hand up.

“The coin, Herr Doktor.” Her voice was now soft. “The coin can wait.”

She at last lowered her eyes and looked closely at my palm. She rubbed the lines and whorls of my skin. She touched her finger to her lips, and spread the moisture along my hand.

“Your lifeline, Herr Doktor,” she took a quick look in my eyes, “of Laws. You deceive with the youth upon your face. Is that not so?”

“If your eyes stop at the mask, then no, the years have not etched themselves deeply.”

“Not on your face, Herr Doktor of Laws.” Her grip was intense. “But on your palm…” She hissed. “You will soon embark upon that final voyage.”

She released my hand, rubbed her fingers across her sleeve.

“But you will not go in haste. There will be many stops along the way.”

Suddenly her face was full of the most beautiful smile, and her laughter was genuine.

“I see you do not complain of vagueness now.” She held out her hand. “The coin, Herr Doktor of Laws. This time I have truly earned it.”

I dug deeply into my pocket, and feared that I may have overpaid her. But, perhaps, that is not possible.

(image) https://thegraphicsfairy.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Gyspy-Lady-Bird-Hat-Image-GraphicsFairy.jpg

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The Jewish Gal On Vacation To Dachau

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I once received a post card from Auschwitz, saying: “Wish you were here.”  From a friend with a ‘certain’ sense of humour. Yes, I know we choose our friends as opposed to our families, but I probably would have done the same. Irreverent humour is but one response to that which is beyond response.

As it was, the post card took me back to my university days, when I worked on a farm in Germany in lieu of getting into a Goethe Institute. Not particularly taxing farm work. I could relate the painting of apple trees or escaping from the midst of a herd of bulls after breaking my whip on one of their backs – but I won’t. If I ever get to my memoirs however . . .

After the farm I travelled through Germany and parts of Europe,  mostly by train.  One of my stops was Munich where, as often as not, I stayed in a Youth Hostel. And there I met the Jewish gal on her way to Dachau. She was from the US and not on a work experience as was I. Dachau was the specific destination for her.

She either borrowed postage stamps from me, or I from her – I don’t remember, though I know we exchanged them.  We had the part of two days together (no – no nights) and then she was on her way. I don’t remember if she asked me to accompany her to Dachau, but I think not. Although I was going to Britain to visit relatives, I believe I would have taken that extra day.

As it was, we exchanged addresses and, upon our return to North America, we wrote letters. And, as it was, we arranged a visit to my New Brunswick home from her New England home. That was quite a leap for less than twenty-four hours together. I picked her up after dark at the closest airport. During the drive I stopped in the middle of forest for two hitch hikers. She must have been a bit concerned, but she said nothing. I remember the deep smell of pine from their clothes, as they had been working in the woods.

She stayed with my parents and I for four days (no nights there, either). She told me that when her mother was talking to her grandmother on the phone about the trip, she heard her grandmother bellow across the room “IS HE JEWISH?”

Thus does memory flow from a post card.

I don’t, alas, remember her last name (this being decades ago). At the time she was studying to be an air traffic controller. Whether she  became one, and whither she went, I do not know. When I last communicated with her she was attending Brown University. She did not discuss Dachau with me.

(image) https://www.telegraph.co.uk/content/dam/news/2017/01/26/JS118941505_PA_Holocaust-Memorial-Day-xlarge_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqnjcgOEmjComRJj7yhDPbodY_2WJtD5buqqdscmZo4bI.jpg

In The Heat On The Way To Dachau

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This heat (which seems to be a stubborn fixture) takes me back to my university days, when I worked on a farm in Germany in lieu of getting into a Goethe Institute. It was a particularly hot summer, and much was made of it. I am very glad I am not working there this summer. It was not particularly taxing farm work. I could describe how I painted apple trees with a chemical compound to keep foraging sheep at bay. Or how I escaped from the midst of a herd of bulls after breaking my whip on one of their backs – but I won’t.  However, if ever I  get to my memoirs . . .

After the farm I travelled through Germany and parts of Europe,  mostly by train.  One of my stops was Munich where, as often as not, I stayed in a Youth Hostel. And there I met the Jewish gal on her way to Dachau. She was from the US and not on a work experience as was I. Dachau was a specific destination. She either borrowed postage stamps from me, or I from her – I don’t remember though I know we exchanged them.  We had the part of two days together (no – no night) and then she was on her way. I don’t remember if she asked me to accompany her to Dachau, but I think not. Although I was on my way to Britain to visit relatives, I believe I could have taken that extra day.

As it was, we exchanged addresses and upon our return home we wrote letters. And, as it was, we arranged a visit to my New Brunswick home from her New England home.  That was quite a leap for less than twenty-four hours together. And, she must have been a bit concerned when, as I drove her through thick New Brunswick woods after sunset  after picking her up at the airport, I stopped in the middle of nowhere for two hitch hikers. I remember the deep smell of pine from their clothes, as they had been working in the woods.

She stayed with my parents and I four days (no nights there, either – though there were a couple of parked car intervals). She told me that when her mother was talking to her grandmother on the phone about the trip, she heard her grandmother bellow across the room “IS HE JEWISH?”

Thus does memory flow from a post card.

I don’t, alas, remember her last name (this being some years ago). At the time she was studying to be an air traffic controller. Whether she  became one and whither she went I do not know. When I last communicated with her she was attending Brown University. She did not discuss Dachau with me.

Jewish Humour – Crying ‘Till You Laugh

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Decades ago I spent two years writing nothing but short stories. It was one of the happiest writing experiences of my life.

In the midst of all this, I used this ‘short story’ that I adapted from memory from something read years before that. I have no idea where I originally read it. A Google search finds four results, all citing the original story but not saying where it originated.

It actually (to my memory) originated in the Concentration Camps during the Holocaust. Perhaps nobody knows its direct source.

However – here is the way I expanded and presented it.

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

In 1935, the Chancellor of Die Dritte Reich, Adolf Hitler, invited his friend, Benito Mussolini, and his adversary, Neville Chamberlain, for a quiet meeting in southern Bavaria. An old castle was put at their disposal, complete with acres of woodland and a small lake. During a break in the talks, Hitler invited his two guests to go fishing with him. It was a warm day, not too hot, but enough to make one feel drowsy. Chamberlain proposed a fishing contest to liven the occasion. They would see who could catch the most fish in a given half hour.

     The others agreed, and the British Prime Minister went first. He sat calmly beneath a tree, fishing line trailing in the water. When his half hour was through, he had a respectable pile of fish beside him.

     The next half hour was Mussolini’s, and he took full advantage of it. He dove headlong into the water, his arms outstretched, and started grabbing frantically at anything which swam past. After a hectic and wet half hour, he came out of the water and stood by his large pile of fish, grinning happily at Chamberlain.

     The final half hour was for Hitler. He spoke into a telephone, and immediately bulldozers, heavy trucks, loads of pipe, and numerous pieces of equipment arrived. Hitler had the lake drained. Within twenty minutes there was nothing left but a muddy hole, filled with flopping fish. Hitler stood on the rim and looked down.

     “Well?” asked Chamberlain. “Aren’t you going to get them?”

     Hitler looked over to the Prime Minister with a cold, condescending glare in his eyes.

     They have to beg me first.”

(image)https://cdn.drawception.com/images/panels/2013/12-27/Rx8mfOnaDg-12.png

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