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Alison Alexandra Ponders The Future On International Women’s Day

woman-with-a-wreath-of-oak-leavesMartin Schomgauer (1450-1491) Woman With A Wreath Of Oak Leaves

Alison Alexandra sometimes thinks of turning over a new leaf.

Sometimes at the most traditional of times, like at New Year or her birthday or under a full moon or when the tide is at its highest.

But then she remembers that well into her pre-teen years she thought the expression to turn over a new leaf meant reaching into the branches of a tree and flipping her wrist (somewhat like Amanda does when cutting cards) and when she found out the flip flip flipping concerned paper pages she was so bored she never did it. No, not once.

And anyway, why would she overturn anything in some sort of orderly fashion when she pell-mell turns things over at the very time they seem that they need to be overturned and not a minute or an hour or a full moon or one leaf later.

That now is indeed now is, indeed, now. And, as she daily finds out from her windows or cliffs overlooking the ocean; tide and time await no Alison Alexandra. So she will not wait for them.

Alison Alexandra has often thought – and she also often thinks – that she could happily turn over all her leaves just from her prow-of-a-ship room jutting into the sea or the cliffs that, as yet, do not erode under her feet as she walks them looking out to sea. But that would be unwise and probably as stagnant as a rotting fish that sometimes lodges itself at the base of her cliff and, though she has not travelled as often as those sailors and their spyglasses, she has travelled as far as many of them just to keep those leaves flip flip flipping.

So, today she is going to walk to town.

(image)https: //uploads3.wikiart.org/images/martin-schongauer/woman-with-a-wreath-of-oak-leaves.jpg

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Kafka Walks In A Winter Storm

Tree in snow blizzard

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. 

 

04 December 1917

I imagine the weather experts will howl about today’s storm the way it still howls around our ears.

Their complaints will ring with vindication. Racing unchecked across field and pasture, it strikes with a force I am unaccustomed to in Prague. Ottla was hesitant to let me out into it, but she bundled me into my winter gear, with a scarf just below my eyes.

It was too violent for me to venture far, so I just wandered around the village. I’m sure that if anyone did see me, fingers made circles as they pointed to their heads.

“The Herr Doktor,” they would warn their children. “Do not go after an education like that.”

New Year & Kafka Meet In Prague

40061270

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.

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

31 December 1917

The end of the year. The end of a love. The ebb of a life. Even the Empire can not last much longer.

 

01 January 1918

It is strange how we are expected to wake up on a Tuesday morning – just as any Tuesday morning – and be full of hope because it’s the first day of some arbitrarily appointed year.

I walk the streets and it is still Prague.

(image)https://cloud10.todocoleccion.online/coleccionismo/tc/2013/11/19/12/40061270.jpg

Kafka Writes On New Year’s Eve

happy-new-year-2018_2078851

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. 

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

31 December 1916

The festivities down in the city are certainly subdued, which makes me one with the coming of the year. There were a few shots fired into the air – which is a mockery, considering what is happening in the world. And some dismal fireworks.

Max wanted me at his party, but even he saw little point in celebration, and his entreaties were totally for form.

I understand form quite well – most of my life consists of doing the expected.

Mouthing the proper words.

My letters to Felice have turned to such vehicles of propriety.

In such a way do all our days, and then our lives, acquire the necessary postmarks.

(image)https://images.cdn1.stockunlimited.net/preview1300/happy-new-year-2018_2078851.jpg

Kafka Settles Into December from “Kafka In The Castle”

Franz-Kafka-em-Praga-1922

In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in the missing entries of his actual diaries.  There are many days to fill, as he either did not write during these days, or he destroyed the record.

In these entries, the chill of winter begins to settle over the chill of his life.

10 December 1916

My father is so suspicious, he rarely suspects what is really going on around him. He has no idea that Ottla has rented this house, or that I come here like a thief in the night. He would think that it is another plot against him. And, he is right about the plots – but he’ll never realize they are done solely for defensive purposes. Which is a shame, for he fully appreciates self-preservation.

Of course, even I do not fully know Ottla’s reasons for renting this tiny house. I suspect a young man is involved, but I will keep my queries to myself. It is not the place to bring Felice – but is nice enough to set out on new adventures. I’ve had adventures in less suitable surroundings. The shop girls. The hotels with their chilly rooms.

12 December 1916

Max wants me to publish more. He may even wish upon me the horror of his own proliferation. His novels, and stories, and all his comments and reviews about the “arts”. I do not tell him this, for I think he would be greatly offended, but much of the time my opinions do not even interest me.

 

14 December 1916

Overheard a woman talking to Max today – complained of being lonely. But what it sounded like to me was that she was only tired. She had children at home, family in the neighbourhood, and friends (obviously) whom she could talk to. Yet, she chooses to feel lonely. Yes, her husband is in the war, but a partial loss does not make one lonely. Perhaps alone – but that is entirely different. Being lonely is waking from a nightmare, and realizing there is no one to wake you.

A Birthday Day A Century Apart Via Kafka And Me

d8d1d7c5e917ea51cbfddd657ba1ab2f

When I wrote my novel, Kafka In The Castle, filling in all of Kafka’s missing diary entries, I discovered something  interesting a few months into it. The day/month/year I was writing about, mirrored the day/month/year in which I was actually doing the writing.

For example, if the third of July was a Friday in my year, it was also Friday, 03 July in 1917. It was quite an exciting surprise, and made (I think) for more immediate writing.

Alas, my own birthday of 19 September was already filled in by Kafka, and I had nothing to do.

The following is Kafka’s actual entry for 19 September, 1917.

Following it, is the entry I gave him for  his own birthday, 03 July 1917.

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

19 (September 1917)

Instead of telegram: “Very welcome station Michelob is excellent Franz Ottla” I wrote a farewell letter, and once again strongly oppressed agonies.

 

Farewell letter however, is ambiguous, as my opinion.

 

It is the age of the wound, more than its depth and proliferation, which constitutes its painfulness.

 

To be torn up again and again in the same wound canal, the countless wound operated again treated.

 

The fragile moody void essence – a telegram swaying, a letter directs it, animated it, the silence after the letter makes it dull.

 

The game of the cat with the goats. The goats are similar: Polish Jews, Uncle Siegfried, Ernst Weiß, Irma

 

Various but similar strict inaccessibility of the creator Hermann (who has now gone away without a supper and salutation, the question is whether he will come tomorrow), of Fraulein, the Marenka.

 

Basically, they are oppressed on the other side, as in front of the animals in the stable, when they are asked for something and they follow astonishingly.

 

The case is only more difficult here, because they seem so often accessible and quite understandable.

 

It is always inconceivable to me that almost anyone who can write is able to objectify the pain in pain.

 

For example, in misfortune, perhaps with the burning misfortune, and to tell someone in writing: I am unhappy.

 

Yes, I can go beyond it, and in various pranks, depending on the gift, which seems to have nothing to do with the misfortune, simply or antithetically, or with whole orchestras of associations.

 

And it is not a lie at all, and does not nurture the pain; it is simply a graceful excess of the forces at a moment when the pain has visibly exhausted all my powers to the ground of my being, which he scrapes. What is the surplus?

 

Letter to Max. Liar, vain, comedic.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

From: Kafka In The Castle

03 July 1917

The date of my birth. Thirty-four years ago in a month I now dread because of the heat. I’m not much for stock-taking (thus certainly not much my father’s son.) What has been done can’t be changed, so thoughts about it are wasted effort. Lessons to be learned – that’s all. But the dreaded “future” – this is the battlefield. I’m convinced the bulk of my life is over, and any work to be done should not be delayed. Perhaps this is why I abandon things, so anxious am I to get on to the new.

In celebration of today, I did not make it my last.

It Was NOT The Person From Porlock On The Phone

wendys-poutine-0-0

My elevator pitch for my current work, There Was A Time, Oh Pilgrim, When The Rocks Were Not So Smooth is “In Xanadu, did Alison Alexandra / a stately pleasure dome decree”. Stolen whole cloth from Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his Kubla Khan.

So, I was startled awake this morning by a ringing phone. Just rang once. I have been attempting to write a dialogue between three characters in a pub concerning a dish of poutine. Although I did not exactly leap from my supine position to write the following, it was damn close.

I look upon the incident as a gift from the Backward Gods of writing.

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

Excerpt from: There Was A Time, Oh Pilgrim, When The Rocks Were Not So Smooth

“I’ve not had that,” says Bridget. “What is it?”

“A heart stopper.” says Amanda.

“Pretty well,” agrees Alison Alexandra.

“They start with a big effing pile of French fries.”

“Excuse her French,” says Alison Alexandra.

“And then they pile on cheese curds and smother that with gravy.”

“Smother,” agrees Alison Alexandra.

“Then they check your pulse and let you go at it.”

“They don’t really do that,” says Alison Alexandra.

“Maybe not,” says Amanda. “But I bet they have a defibrillator handy.”

“Probably,” says Alison Alexandra.

“Well,” Bridget smiles. “It sounds as if a pitcher of draft will go real good with that.”

 

(image)https: //cdn0.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/6uyEgzZ9ByVTIyKBCsu3gSNZaKM=/4×0:996×558/1600×900/cdn0.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/39119842/wendys-poutine.0.0.jpg

 

An Attack Dog Makes An Attack from “The Bonner Prediction”

cane-corso-6

In my NATO thriller, The Bonner Prediction, one of my main characters is Louie-the-dog, a Cane Corso trained for both attack and defence.  Here he is in action, and it ain’t for defence.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~     

“Hey! Old man! Stop the fuck there!”

The voice comes from behind General Bonner. He does as he is told, reasoning that if his fate was solely to be shot, it would have happened by now. He also assumes he would have been shot if the voice had seen his machine pistol. He can’t remove the strap from around his neck, but he does shove the weapon under his jacket. He pulls up the zipper then lets his hands swing by his side.

“Are you one of the army guys?” The General does not turn, does not provoke.

“Holy Jesus Invincible.” The earpiece snaps immediately into authority. “Everyone quiet down out there. General, give us clues.”

“They’re swarming all over the ship.” The General makes no motion.

“Never mind me” The voice does not come closer. “Who the fuck are you?”

“Ship’s pilot.” General Bonner guesses the voice is in one of the few pockets of darkness. “They’ve called me to take this ship out of the harbour.”

“Who called you?”

“NATO.”

“But it’s leaving tomorrow.”

“Not any more.”

“Where’s your uniform?”

“They got me getting ready for bed.” General Bonner turns around, putting a hand up to shield his eyes. “With a beer in my hand. Said there was an emergency.”

“Where’s it going?”

“What?”

“The ship. Where are they sending it?”

“I don’t know.” General Bonner sees a form on the far side of the second tier of containers. “I’m just getting it out of the harbour. I disembark at Herring Cove.”

“Why aren’t you in the Wheelhouse?”

“I always pace out the size of the deck.” General Bonner laughs. “I call it walking the dog.”

“Bess!” The earpiece knows that she has heard but what if there is that one in a thousand chance she has not.

“Louie can never get down the stairways fast enough.”

“Then a diversion.” The earpiece wonders how quickly he can get a sharpshooter in place.

“I was just going to the Wheelhouse.” General Bonner touches one of his legs. “Thank God they have an elevator, or this bum knee would be going through hell.”

“Is there an elevator?” Bess takes Louie’s leash from her pocket.

“Yes!” Major Kennett pinpoints it on the Wheelhouse schematic. “It’s on the dock side, at the rear of the central core.”

“Who’s up there?” The voice in the shadows steps closer, but does not come into the light.

“Some ship crew and a dozen army.” General Bonner keeps rubbing his leg. “With more coming, if what I heard is true.”

“Can you get me off the ship?”

“I stand in the Wheelhouse for an hour.” General Bonner chuckles. “I don’t know the rest of the ship.”

“I’ll take you hostage.”

“Good luck with that.” General Bonner speaks for his audience. “They are not going to negotiate with you, son. They want this ship out of here.” He raises his voice. “I can be replaced.”

“Louie and I are in the elevator.”

“Can you get him into the light?” Colonel Bonner has already positioned the best sharpshooter among the commandos. He is in a corner window of the wheelhouse. However, he has expressed concern about the thickness of the glass. It might interfere with the trajectory.

“You think I’m fucked?” The voice is both frightened and angry.

“There’s always over the side.” General Bonner points.

“It will probably kill me.”
“Yup.” General Bonner takes a few steps forward. He stops and spreads his hands. “There is always surrender.”

“They’ll execute me.”

“Not in this country.” General Bonner takes a further few slow steps before stopping. “What have you done, son? Have you rigged the ship to sink?”

“To blow up.”

“Jesus – when?” General Bonner makes some forced laughter. “I’ll get off with you.”

“There’s no where to go with this bomb.” The anger flashes. “Fucking CURACA.”

“What?” General Bonner has found a spot where the deck lights are not directly in his eyes. “We get off and run like hell.”

“It’s an A bomb.” The voice is strident. “Fucking Atomic. There’s no place to run.”

“Calm down, son.” General Bonner puts his hands up in front of him, palm out, as if stopping a car. “If it’s true, that’s what I’m here for. Get the ship out to sea. But you better give yourself up.”

“CURACA is on this ship.” The voice moves forward. “He’ll figure some way to stop these soldiers.” His words race. “That’s why I stayed behind. He’s fucking crazy.” The figure steps into the light. “You’re my only chance to get off here.”

“Then your chance of escape is a dog’s dinner.”

“Louie is loosed!”

Bess’s voice is overtaken by the opening of the metal door. General Bonner goes to the zipper of his jacket as the shooter turns toward the sound of a growling dog. The shooter raises a hand to again shield his eyes as he raises his weapon. General Bonner frees his machine pistol just as Louie barrels past. The shooter manages a scream as he both open fires and turns to flee. General Bonner has the shooter’s wide back as a target when Louie leaps for the man’s weapon arm and hauls him down. General Bonner lowers his pistol as Bess runs past, her own revolver drawn.

“Stand down.” Colonel Bonner says this directly into the marksman’s ear.

Louie has the shooter’s arm impaled as Bess runs forward. She kicks the man’s weapon out of the way. The shooter is screaming and rolling and trying to cover his head. General Bonner strides forward and kicks the man in the face.

“I told you to jump.”

(image)1.bp.blogspot.com/-hdxw8i4YrLI/UTus8tCBsjI/AAAAAAAAITA/BeyS7-885hY/s1600/Cane-Corso-6.jpg

When The Government And Country Fell, from “Kafka In The Castle”

10

Excerpt from Kafka In The Castle

I agreed only to answer questions – that way I could not be accused of fermenting treason.

15 January 1918

This war. They wanted my opinions about this endless war. These earnest, honest men, awaiting the words from the Herr Doktor of Prague.

I agreed only to answer questions – that way I could not be accused of fermenting treason. Even in these troubled times, the law allows a man to answer questions. Assuming that the law prevails.

The law was present in the form of the policeman, attending this questionable gathering while still in uniform. He doffed his hat as he shook my hand. I would rather have him in our midst, than lurking in the hall. We have nothing to fear from him.

“Will the empire last?” This was first from their lips. And they must have needed to hear the words, for even the Emperor must know that all is lost. The Old Order, having fallen into the hands of dull and witless men, must succumb. The complacency of the age must be purged – but that has not yet happened. That awaits the next generation – and the destruction will be furious. But I do not tell them this.

I am skillful in what I do not tell them, for the truth is beyond their power to persuade or control. (Their next questions would have been more difficult had I not curbed the truth further still.) “What will happen to Zurau? What will happen to us?” And they have every right to worry. To suspect. When a society crumbles, it is those at the bottom who get crushed. But I told them that Amerika seemed a just power – not bent on retribution.

I did not tell them that a victor can do as he wants.

And I told them that we live in a secondary part of a secondary empire – the powers of destruction will be concentrated on Vienna and Berlin. I did not tell them that during the death of a snake, the spasms of the tail can be lethal.

And I told them something which could really be of help. I told them, in this coming year, to grow more food: fatten more beasts: prepare, preserve and put away. Fill their cellars and barns to bursting with food and fuel. Buy some things now, which they can use for barter later if the currency becomes worthless. Look after their families and lands.

Look after each other.

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