Search

kafkaestblog

It is a whirlwind in here

Tag

past

Who Gets The Free Booze At The High School Reunion?

When they reach the food tables, there is not the curiosity from others concerning who is who. Most are intent about filling plates and returning to their tables.

Everyone at their table is getting steak except for Betty, who has opted for the salmon. She also opts to carry Allan’s plate as she sends him on to the bar to get another round of drinks. She looks at Ed and Lee.

“Are you two satisfied with tea and coffee?  Those drinks they are going to bring to the table, carried by sadly inexperienced students.”

“That’s fine with us,” says Lee. “And we can always snag some bottled water.”

Plate in hand they return to their table. In their absence a plate of rolls and butter has been deposited in the middle. There is also a bottle of red wine, with a bow and a note attached.

“Well, well,” says Betty, wanting to immediately open the unaddressed envelope. “I’ve never seen the like of this.”

“A modest but decent bottle,” says Alison Alexandra.

“Maybe you have a secret admirer,” says Betty.

“Maybe you do,” says Alison Alexandra.

Betty Dragger is taken by surprise at the idea and snorts. She then sees Big Stakes Gamble approaching, and clears some space for the drinks he is carrying. He is fast at a sip of his beer before he speaks.

“Who got the wine?”

“We don’t know,” says Betty.

“Then someone should open the card.” He picks up the bottle and hands it to Ed.  “And that sounds like a job for an officer of the law.”

Ed is not sure if a joke is being played, and if it is being played on him. He is as curious as not, so he takes the knife beside his plate and slits open the envelope. He reads the card and laughs.

“Well?” asks his wife.

“’For the long service of our respected teacher’.” Ed hands the bottle back to Allan. “’With thanks’.”

There is not a lot of conversation as they eat. Each of them is adequately hungry, and the food is appreciated. Allan offers to open the bottle of wine, but Betty and Alison Alexandra are content to keep with what they’re drinking. They suggest he take it home. When he suggests another round, they are happy to let him get it. Servers come to collect their dishes. They ponder whether to go and get dessert. Betty says ‘in for a penny / in for a pound’, so they, en masse, swoop down on the apple pie and ice cream. Then they are well and truly sated.

It Was Friday 13th Two Years Ago And COVID Was In The Air

In my manuscript, There Was A Time, Oh Pilgrim, When The Stones Were Not So Smooth  I finished a chapter about the ‘elderly Dutchmen party with Alison Alexandra’ on Friday 13th. I took a trip and, on 19th March, began what turned out to be nearly a full year of Pandemic writing.The next chapter of the novel begins “In times of Pandemic, one of Alison Alexandra’s greatest worries is being bored.”

I started planning to write about the Pandemic the day after I heard that China was constructing hospitals solely devoted to COVID patients. I knew then the world was going to be in a lot of trouble. I was proved right.

 This is how that chapter began.

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

In times of Pandemic, one of Alison Alexandra’s greatest worries is being bored. And though she doesn’t want to test the theory, she believes she would rather be ill than bored.

“I’d step lightly there,” says R/Jane-the-Ghost.

“You would?”

“I would,” says R/Jane-the-Ghost. “And I know what I’m talking about. Yes – I do.”

Within the week of Wuhan City in China being shut down, and the building of emergency hospitals to house the sick, Alison Alexandra knew this would inevitably become the fate of the world. It might have intruded a bit more quickly than she has anticipated, but not by much.

Alison Alexandra of course thinks about the Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times”. But she also knows that this is a phrase in English that has no Chinese equivalent. The closest curse in Chinese is “Better to be a dog in peacetime than a human in time of war”.

“I won’t argue with that,” says R/Jane-the-Ghost.

And she doesn’t.

So, it was at the beginning of the Chinese curse that Alison Alexandra sets her plan into motion. It is simple, though dependent on circumstance.

Alison Alexandra arranges to get those with whom she’d like to share the End Times – if End Times they prove to be – to join her at her house and wait out the famine with a feast or two. Or three.

“I don’t think the End Times are supposed to be good times,” says R/Jane-the-Ghost/

“Not to put too fine a point on it,” says Alison Alexandra. “But aren’t you supposed to know?”

“Point taken,” says R/Jane-the-Ghost.

A House of Dreams Becomes a House of Ghosts

A photo which floated past on the internet this morning, also made this segment of one of my novels float past.

From “He Lives In The City / He Drives To The Country”

It had been a house of dreams, it was now a house of ghosts.

   Ghosts tranquil and benign peered through the dusty upper windows, stood in wait behind the boarded doors. The dreams of long ago, which had tumbled down the stairs, and frolicked through the rooms, were now memories in the minds of ghosts.     

   The ghosts were themselves memories, destined to further fade with each new birth. But there would be no births in this house, as it slid inexorably toward decay. The lackluster brown shingles would be more smudged, the remaining panes of old glass would break, the floors would warp and collapse, the unkept roof would succumb to the years of harsh weather. 

     Even the `No Trespass’ sign was barely legible. Then where would the ghosts go?

     Blaine left his car and walked toward the house. 

     If he had eyes to see, who would be there to greet him?  Would children’s dreams, fair-haired and boisterous, burst through the front door and surround him in games of tag and laughter?  Would he get caught by their enthusiasm (would he become a child himself), and race behind the trees, burrow into the hay, hide between the bins of potato and turnip, intent not to be `it’. 

     Or would he meet the ghosts, quiet and tentative at the top of the steps, moving slowly with their uncertain smiles. Would they greet him with a wave, invite him into their warm-smelling kitchens, offer him fresh tea, and squares right out of the pan?  Would he sit in the stream of fall sunlight flowing across the well-oiled floor, and talk about childhood?

     Blaine walked part way up the drive before he stopped.

     He knew what lay beyond the boarded windows, and the sagging door upon its rusty hinges. Wallpaper would be water-stained, and curling off the plaster walls. There would be lumps of refuse in the corners of the rooms, with one inevitable rusty bedframe lying on its side. There would be gaps in the ceiling, where beams of sunlight shimmered through motes of dust. There would be holes in the baseboards, where earnest rodents made comfortable homes.

     There would be musty smells offering a hint of long-ago meals, and something gone bad in the pantry. There would be one upper window (at the back) which still had a tattered lace  curtain, half obscuring what had once been totally private. At night he would hear bats.

     It was not this house he had come to see, of course. Of course, not this derelict house, which he knew could never be restored, and which was so beyond help even death slept while visiting. 

Alison Alexandra Wonders Whether To Change Her Future As The Past Becomes Distant

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 traveled as often as those sailors and their spyglasses, she has traveled as far as many of them just to keep those leaves flip flip flipping.

So, today she is going to walk to town.

Franz Kafka Ponders Friday 13th

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.

I do give him a brief recognition of Friday 13th. In reality, the Swiss Girl haunted him (pleasantly) all his life.

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

13 April 1917

I almost wrote down the year as 1913. That was the year I met the Swiss girl. And I remember her joking about Friday the thirteenth, and how we had missed it by just a day. She was superstitious – Christians seem to be. I wonder what precautions she is taking today. It will be three years and seven months since I saw her. Yet some of the things we did could have happened last week. I think that memory must be made of rubber.  You can sometimes pull it toward yourself – and sometimes it snaps away like a shot. Causing as much pain.

Kafka Aims For The New Year

gettyimages-2662796-1

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.

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

26 December 1916

The saints and the sinners can sometimes sing together.

 

27 December 1916

Ottla says I am staying here too late into the night. But she is implying more. I am certain she is soon to tell me that I should stay in her tiny house all night. Sleep here. Have things prepared and ready so I could go directly to the office in the morning. But the office must be more than just distance from this place.

 

28 December 1916

Another wretched letter to F. A response to anguish and accusation. Perhaps Ottla is only half right. Perhaps I should shut myself up into this hovel from morning to night and then night to morning. Let the snow pile to the rooftops, and become as hidden and secure as any mouse in its burrow. And if I dare push my snout through the snow to snuff at the air, they can all be standing with shovels at the ready to pile me in deeper. That would be best.

I can not take love, and I certainly can not give love. Not what is expected, and certainly not what is needed. To express what I feel is indeed like yelling through a mountain of snow. It is absorbed. It is deflected. It is diffused. By the time my love reaches the real world, it is a ghost which – although it can not be seen – can still cause a person to shiver. If I did not know that for a couple of times – especially with the Swiss girl in Italy – my love had possessed a body, I would bar the door forever.

(

What Goes Up Does Not Necessarily Come Down

This is a story told to me by a lawyer who seemed to be pondering his future. I do admit I have embellished what, originally, had barer bones. And – perhaps – I assumed too much

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

retro-style-escalator-4759569

“Have you ever been in the train station at Place Ville Marie in Montreal? The escalators that come up by the Queen Elizabeth Hotel.  I had a lot of travel to get to work when I lived in Montreal, and made train and bus connections.

“One morning – a Thursday – as I was going up the escalator, I saw a girl coming down from the street. She had short red hair, and a green skirt with a white blouse. Coming down that escalator, with that wide space between us. She was looking at me the way I was looking at her – interest and excitement and whatever potential that leads to. We stared into each others eyes as we came level, and craned to look back as we passed.

“That was stupid enough. I should have jumped that barrier, or at least gone down after her. But I had a job, and was young, and things like that just don’t happen.

“Next morning, even though I was looking for her, and hoping so much, I couldn’t have been more shocked by a ghost. when I saw that red hair. She had that same look – of shock.

“God, to be so unsure of what to do, and stupid to the ways of the world, and even to have that stabbing thought that it can happen again tomorrow. We stared and stared, you could almost feel electricity between us. At the top I waited as long as I dared, hoping she would come up. I had to get my bus. I just jumped it as it was pulling away.

“That was a Friday. I sweated through the weekend, full of grand plans about telling her to wait, or to come up to me, or yelling my phone number. She wasn’t there, of course – on Monday or any other day. I looked the rest of the summer, then it was back to university.

“I mean, to be given one chance like that and waste it. But two. I’ve never forgotten, even now with a wife and kids, I wonder what might have been.

[Image] https://thumbs.dreamstime.com/b/retro-style-escalator-4759569.jpg

Kafka Ponders The Past And The Ghosts

 

prag-cz-3

In Kafka In The Castle I fill in Kafka’s missing diary entries. It is believed that many of the gaps in his real diaries, he removed and destroyed.

14 March 1918

The past.

 And again the past.

Why can we not be rid of that which – moreso than practically anything else in life – is gone?

I am not even sure what I get from memories. Why do I stroll along the road, reach some humble heights, and imagine (by glancing in a particular direction) I can be closer to a person or event? For even if I reached that place, there would be nothing to recapture.

I am not the me of then.

Swimming in the lake; living in a shack by the shore; climbing the mountain. None of these would mean the same to me as they did.

Even if the Swiss girl were present, and had a new song. The new me – the new she – the new us, would be swamped by our old ghosts, making comparisons no two humans could defeat.

I think the ghosts are such, she could right now walk up beside me – yes, even singing her lively song – and remain unnoticed.

Like An Ice Moon Of Jupiter

callistoplus_gal

He is not a man for grand gestures.  

The gift came as a surprise, the kiss a shock. He was embarrassed by the first and aroused by the second. Time, always a constant worry – not the futile minutes, hours, days, the whirlwind passage of months, but the disappearance of the now into the past -had again taken a bite out of his life before he had realized it was gone.

 “I thought you would like it.” she said, a gift somehow made more important because it was not planned, an obvious display of spontaneity. A chance meeting in a store on a Saturday afternoon. “I’m leaving soon, in two weeks I’ll be in France.” Eyes taking in his every reaction, her voice tinged with reproach. “Do you like it?”


And of course he did, but there were too many memories laced with half smiles jamming into his head, not painful in themselves but adding now to finality. The party where he met her, surely that was just last week, at the most a month ago. Surely it did not stretch back to soft Autumn nights.

“Well, here,” she writes something. “It’s for you, you know.”

A look of puzzlement crosses her face as the gift changes hands, the too brief touch of her fingers. he clutches it carefully, looks back to her eyes and imagines he sees a twinge of that nonexistent past. or does she only reflect what is in his own face?


 And then the kiss. So unexpected that he almost jumps back.


The touch of lips and warm breath, the smell of fresh, soft hair against his cheek. His own mouth open in surprise, her farewell brush of lips turned partially into passion. And then she is out the door, onto the street, and he is standing by a counter feeling very old, his heart an icy moon of Jupiter.

Ah, Christiane. Salut.

 

(image) https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/image/9805/callistoplus_gal.jpg

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑