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Kafka And His Hot Summer Night Of The Dead

franz-kafka-house-golden-lane-prague

Kafka’s House: Number 22

 

In my novel, Kafka In The Castle, I fill in Franz Kafka’s missing diary entries. Every day chosen is a day where he either left no record, or destroyed the pages.

On this night, he meets the woman who was the girlfriend of Kafka’s neighbour on The Alchemist’s Lane, who had killed himself. Kafka found the body. He also found a note addressed to her, which he kindly burned.

*****************************************

25 July 1917

I had not been here long – the newspaper only partially read – when I thought I heard a noise at the door. A woman was framed in the open doorway, her hand still hesitant upon the wood. I rose from my chair, and she stepped back into the lane.

“Yes?” I asked.

“You knew him?” she asked in turn.

She was a slender woman, sallow complexion, and younger in age than Ottla. I walked toward the door, for it seemed apparent she was not about to enter.

“You were his neighbour – the Herr Doktor?”

She did not retreat any further, and I was now standing in the doorway.

“Oh,” I said. “You mean … ” But I had to stop, for I could not remember his name. I finally had to point to the house next door.

“Yes,” she said. “He killed himself.”

“Yes.” I had to agree.

“Did he …” she began, and I could sense her difficulty in having this discussion. “Did he say anything about me. I’m Julie.”

“We can go in, if you like. I do have a key.” I am an expert at stalling for time. “No one has moved in.”

She looked at me in disbelief, her face seeming to age as various expressions moved across it.

“No – that isn’t …” she began, staring at the other door. “I was never here. We didn’t have that type of friendship. But I have not been able to remove him from my mind. If he ever spoke of me, I care to know about it.”

My hope was that she would never ask about an envelope addressed to her.

“So you don’t wish to go in?”

“No. That means nothing to me.” She took a step closer. “Just if he talked.”

“You were his girlfriend?”

“He thought me so – though I told him differently, and offered no encouragement. But perhaps he drank too much to pay attention.”

“You were with another man?”

“He told you that? So – he did speak of me.”

“Yes.”

“What else did he say?”

There are times to tell the truth; times to expand the truth for clarification; and times to compress.

“He said that he saw you together with a man. And that he missed you.”

“Did he say anything the night he killed … the night he died?”

I didn’t pause, because I had stalled just so I could answer this question.

“He asked me if I was going to be in my house over the evening.” Here I did pause, as if in thought. “And he said he didn’t like the other people on the lane.”

“Nothing else?”

“Pleasantries – good evening, etc. He said he liked our talks.”

“He talked a lot?”

“No, not really.”

“Was there a note?”

“You should ask the police about that.” I was very calm. “They searched his house.”

“Yes, perhaps I will. He said nothing further?”

“We did not really have conversations.” I shrugged my shoulders. “He was always drunk.”

“Even that night?”

“Oh yes. The night he hanged himself – most certainly.”

“And you were the one who found…”

“Yes, Miss. And, I contacted the police.”

“He was … was dead when you found him?”

“Yes.” I looked directly into her eyes. “He did a very effective job.”

She was quiet for a moment, staring at his door. She looked along the Lane, then finally at me.

“You have been most kind, Herr Doktor. I’m sorry to have troubled you.” She did not wait for a response, and was turning away when I spoke.

“If I may ask, Miss. This happened three months ago.”

“To the night,” she said.

“Three months. Why have you waited until now?”

“It does not seem long.”  She was conscious of others on the Lane looking in our direction. “His attention – though I never asked for it – was so total and persistent, that I have felt it deserved my interest.”  She shook her head slightly. “But not any more. I wish to put an end to it.” She unexpectedly stepped toward me. “That’s all right, isn’t it, Herr Doktor?”

The question was so intense that I touched her shoulder.

“Yes. Without any doubt – yes. You’ve spent enough time on a ghost within a memory.”

I smiled, and she walked away, quickly down the Lane. Death’s hand released its grip.

 

She Had God In Her Feet And Angels In Her Summer Hair

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I visit wharves and gaze out to sea.

It is a pleasure that took hold some ten years ago. I don’t know why, for I certainly had experience with oceans and coast long before that. For some things it seems its time just comes.

I prefer small working ports, gritty and smelling of fish and lobster and ocean. The scurry and comings and goings (though I also like them in the evening when most work is done). I walk the docking between the boats and peer from the end of the wharf. I ponder distant shores or endless sea and screaming gulls with sometimes seals and whales and archaic Blue Herons.

Last night, when I thought the wharf was my own, a man, woman, toddler and dog arrived. They seemed to do much as I was doing, though they knew the owner of one of the fishing boats. The man was gruffly talkative, the dog was rambunctious, the woman apologized for the toddler’s dirty face and the little girl didn’t quite know what to make of me. Friendly and chatty but she wouldn’t take my hand as I offered to walk her up a gangplank.

I left them on the docking between the moored boats and started to walk on the wharf itself.  The fishing boats and the docking were parallel to the wharf.  I was half way along when I heard a shout. I heard the dog. I looked over and this is where life becomes art becomes life. It was a Kodak moment. It was a Motorola moment. It was a ‘freeze frame/real time/fast forward’ moment. It was a composition/edited moment. It was all these things which came to my visual mind. All this and the knowledge that there was no way I could get there if I was needed.

The little girl was going for the gold. She had God in her feet and Angels in her streaming hair as she raced between the moored boats. Her dirty face was wide with excitement and it is probably the happiest she has been in her life. The man was restraining the dog and the woman was in athletic pursuit. They raced between the boats and the mooring lines and the tools of the fishing trade. The dock swayed in the movement of the waves.  I could not believe the swiftness of the child. The woman finally took what seemed to me a runner’s stance and eventually grabbed the exuberant child. I heard, over the water, admonishments of what could happen if she had “gone under a boat.” All – of course – true.

But the dog understood.

The Summer Solstice Could Be Bad For Virgins

Thousands Gather To Celebrate Summer Solstice At Stonehenge
I have an odd connection to the Summer Solstice, and it is via Stonehenge. My father guarded the structure, and did so on Midsummer Day.

During the Second World War, it was feared that Germany would invade England. Many of the Canadian soldiers stationed in England were spread in a wide circle around London. An outright invasion would be a do-or-die situation, and Canadian soldiers had it been known to them – without direct orders – that no prisoners were to be taken.

One of the areas put under guard was Stonehenge. Though less so now, at that time Stonehenge was surrounded by vast planes. It was feared the Germans might use these open areas for paratroopers, and also gliders full of troops. Thus the area was defended.

My father was part of this protection, and it so happened that he stood guard duty near Stonehenge itself on Midsummer Day, and watched the sun rise over the monument.

He was aware of the significance of both time and place, as many of his comrades might not be.

Indeed, when he informed them that the Celts, at one time, sacrificed virgins on altars at Stonehenge, they expressed – in more earthy soldier language than I am going to use – “What a waste.”

(Image)https://timedotcom.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/summer-solstice.jpeg

Summer Heat And Lost Love In Montréal

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A story told to me which I have (it must be admitted) embellished.

“I don’t mean to stare – I apologize. I’m not in the habit of doing this, but you remind me of someone. That has to sound like a line – the look on your face. But I’m not after ….

 

“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 connection.

 

“No, thanks. I don’t want another.

 

“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 – that’s the main reason I’ve been staring – 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.

 

“I guess I’ll have another of the same, after all.

 

“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. It can make my hands shake, seeing someone like you, and with too much drink in me.”

When Beavers Fall In Summer Love – Stand Aside

beavers

Some summers ago, I was walking along a river, and heard the strangest noise. It was one of those noises which, when I found out what It was, sounded exactly as it should.

A beaver was chewing at a branch on the bank of the river. First there were small rolling noises as the branch went through its hands, and then the ‘gnaw gnaw gnaw’, and then the turning noise and the cycles were repeated.

This went on fifteen minutes or so, then the beaver and I both heard noises in the water. We both saw another beaver approaching.

The beaver-at-gnaw quickly went in her direction (though I can only guess which sex was which).

They swam toward each other, then rubbed faces. The approaching beaver made small bawling noises like a young calf. They rubbed bodies and seemed to sniff each other, then they swam in different directions.

This performance – the swimming away, the languid circling, the approaches – went on for twenty minutes. A couple of times the ‘gnawing’ beaver clambered over the over beaver’s back, but this lasted just a few seconds. The beaver which had approached rubbed noses once again, and made the bawling sounds one more time.

I never appreciated how large beavers are until one of them came up on the bank. The water was clear enough to see their feet and tail move underwater (I wonder if the portion out of the water might have the 1/10 proportion of an iceberg).

The sun was setting and they became difficult to see. However they decided to part anyway. One began to go down river toward the harbour, and one headed to the other shore.

I was left to ponder what they might have in plan after a good night’s sleep.

(image)4.bp.blogspot.com/-08yw2sDiLAQ/URpBmKAAdDI/AAAAAAAAAM8/A8vw56FM22A/s1600/beavers.JPG

TWO BEAVERS ON THE LEFT BANK

b9316892033z-1_20150407140501_000_gqhaejp35-1-0

I was walking along the river and heard the strangest noise. It was one of those noises which, when I found out what It was, sounded exactly as it should. A beaver was chewing at a branch on the bank of the river. First there were small rolling noises as the branch went through its hands, and then the ‘gnaw gnaw gnaw’, and then the turning noise and the cycles were repeated.

This went on fifteen minutes or so, then the beaver and I both heard noises in the water. We both saw another beaver approaching. The beaver-at-gnaw quickly went in her direction (though I can only guess which sex was which). They swam toward each other, then rubbed faces. The approaching beaver made small bawling noises like a young calf. They rubbed bodies and seemed to sniff each other, then they swam in different directions. This performance – the swimming away, the languid circling, the approaches – went on for twenty minutes. A couple of times the ‘gnawing’ beaver clambered over the over beaver’s back, but this lasted just a few seconds. The beaver which approached rubbed noses once again, and made the bawling sounds one more time.

I never appreciated how large beavers are until one of them came up on the bank. The water was clear enough to see their feet and tail move underwater (I wonder if the portion out of the water might have the 1/10 proportion of an iceberg). The sun was setting and they became difficult to see. However they decided to part anyway. One began to go down river toward the harbour and one headed to the other shore.

But I bet they were going to meet the next day.

(image)https://www.gannett-cdn.com/-mm-/4830728e976abc86eb61c42be56b80bf12a60879/c=0-75-3000-2325&r=x408&c=540×405/local/-/media/Salem/2015/04/07/B9316892033Z.1_20150407140501_000_GQHAEJP35.1-0.jpg

She Had God In Her Feet And Angels In Her Summer Hair

99294741

I visit wharves and gaze out to sea.

It is a pleasure that took hold some ten years ago. I don’t know why, for I certainly had experience with oceans and coast long before that. For some things it seems its time just comes.

I prefer small working ports, gritty and smelling of fish and lobster and ocean. The scurry and comings and goings (though I also like them in the evening when most work is done). I walk the docking between the boats and peer from the end of the wharf. I ponder distant shores or endless sea and screaming gulls with sometimes seals and whales and archaic Blue Herons.

Last night, when I thought the wharf was my own, a man, woman, toddler and dog arrived. They seemed to do much as I was doing, though they knew the owner of one of the fishing boats. The man was gruffly talkative, the dog was rambunctious, the woman apologized for the toddler’s dirty face and the little girl didn’t quite know what to make of me. Friendly and chatty but she wouldn’t take my hand as I offered to walk her up a gangplank.

I left them on the docking between the moored boats and started to walk on the wharf itself.  The fishing boats and the docking were parallel to the wharf.  I was half way along when I heard a shout. I heard the dog. I looked over and this is where life becomes art becomes life. It was a Kodak moment. It was a Motorola moment. It was a ‘freeze frame/real time/fast forward’ moment. It was a composition/edited moment. It was all these things which came to my visual mind. All this and the knowledge that there was no way I could get there if I was needed.

The little girl was going for the gold. She had God in her feet and Angels in her streaming hair as she raced between the moored boats. Her dirty face was wide with excitement and it is probably the happiest she has been in her life. The man was restraining the dog and the woman was in athletic pursuit. They raced between the boats and the mooring lines and the tools of the fishing trade. The dock swayed in the movement of the waves.  I could not believe the swiftness of the child. The woman finally took what seemed to me a runner’s stance and eventually grabbed the exuberant child. I heard, over the water, admonishments of what could happen if she had “gone under a boat.” All – of course – true.

But the dog understood.

My Father And The Summer Solstice

telemmglpict000132550612-large_trans_nvbqzqnjv4bqek9vkm18v_rkiph9w2gmnogxyspv9m1jbe0fc3bi1fk

Not that I post this every first day of summer, but I do find it neat to have such a connection to the Celts, about whom I have written three novels.

During World War Two, my father had the unique experience of guarding Stonehenge. Not by himself, of course, there were other members of the Canadian Army with him.
The vast plains around Stonehenge were utilised by the military in both world wars. During the First War, the area was a training ground for troops from various countries. There were many encampments for recruits, with both basic training and preparations to train for the trench warfare awaiting on the continent. There were thousands and thousands of men, and huge amounts of supplies.
During the Second War, the area was used as staging ground for the D-Day invasion. There was great security, and as much secrecy as possible. Soldiers were in place to guard the perimeter.
So, my father found himself not only guarding Stonehenge, but doing so on Midsummer Morn, when the sun rose over the monument. He was a learned man – a school teacher – and versed in the history of the place. He knew of the Celts and the Druids and some of the mythology. He knew this was sacred ground and that Midsummer Morn was especially important. He might have paused and tried to look into the past, and see more in the morning mist than was actually there. I do not know.
He did, however, when their watch was over and they got to eat, tell the other soldiers of the history of the place. He mentioned that, during such celebrations by the Celts, the Druids might have a virgin killed to appease the gods. They were aghast.
“What a waste,” said one.

DE

(image)http://www.telegraph.co.uk/content/dam/news/2017/06/21/TELEMMGLPICT000132550612-large_trans_NvBQzQNjv4Bqek9vKm18v_rkIPH9w2GMNoGXySPv9M1Jbe0Fc3Bi1Fk.jpeg

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