When Did Franz Kafka Start Writing My Life’s Story?
One morning, when Bill Schmalfeldt woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a deranged cyberstalker. He lay on his achingly stiff back, and if he lifted his head a little he could see his two dogs staring at him with queer expressions on their faces. It was as if they knew their beloved owner and master was now – suddenly – a deranged cyberstalker. The bedding had been kicked off during the fitful night and his legs, pitifully thin compared with the size of the rest of him, cramped painfully as he looked.
“What’s happened to me?” he thought. It wasn’t a dream. His room, a proper human room although a little too small, lay peacefully between its four familiar walls. His iMac and printer were on the table on the other side of his bed’s sidebar, which he used as a necessity to enable himself to turn over – Schmalfeldt had Parkinson’s disease and was retired – and on the other side of his computer was his wife’s bed. She was up already, grinding the morning’s espresso.
Bill grabbed the sidebar, pulled himself into a sitting position then turned to look out the window at the dull weather. There were marks on the glass from where a German shepherd’s moist nose left smears. Drops of rain could be heard hitting the pane, which made him feel quite sad. “How about if I sleep a little bit longer and forget all this nonsense”, he thought, but that was something he was unable to do because once he was awake, he knew he would remain awake no matter how he tried to get back to sleep.
“Oh, God”, he thought, “what a strenuous hobby it is that I’ve chosen! Writing about politics day in and day out. Doing writing like this takes much more effort than writing about cats or grocery shopping and on top of that there’s the curse of infuriating idiots who stalk you while calling you a stalker, sending themselves bizarre blog comments and saying they came from me, and then the being charged as a criminal for having dared to use an “@mention” Twitter to someone who successfully filed a Peace Order against me demanding that you cease using @mentions about him on Twitter, only to then request to follow me on Twitter which would be tantamount to every Tweet I write having an @hisname on the front of it. It can all go to Hell!”
He slid back into his former position. “Getting up early all the time”, he thought, “it makes you stupid. You’ve got to get enough sleep. Other writers live a life of luxury. For instance, whenever I go back to the computer during the morning to write out my thoughts, these right winger morons are always sitting staring at their computer screens, waiting for me to write something so they can hop onto it like dung beetles. I ought to just give up and let them put me in jail. Who knows, maybe that would be the best thing for me. If I didn’t have my wife to think about I’d have given up a long time ago, I’d have gone to my computer and written the most foul, vile, inhuman things and told these right wing idiots just what I think, tell them everything I would, let them know just what I feel. Their heads would explode!”
And he looked over at the alarm clock, ticking on the chest of drawers. “God in Heaven!” he thought. It was half past six and the hands were quietly moving forwards, it was even later than half past, more like quarter to seven. Had the alarm clock not rung? He could see from the bed that it had been set for four o’clock as it should have been; it certainly must have rung. Yes, but was it possible to quietly sleep through that furniture-rattling noise? True, he had not slept peacefully, but probably all the more deeply because of that. What should he do now? He was still hurriedly thinking all this through, unable to decide to get out of the bed, when the clock struck quarter to seven. There was a cautious knock at the door at the other side of the room.
“Bill”, somebody called – it was his wife – “it’s quarter to seven. Are you going to stay in bed all day?” That gentle voice! Bill was shocked when he heard his own voice answering, it could hardly be recognized as the voice he had had before. As if from deep inside him, there was a painful and uncontrollable squeaking mixed in with it, the words could be made out at first but then there was a sort of echo which made them unclear, leaving the hearer unsure whether he had heard properly or not. Bill had wanted to give a full answer and explain everything, but in the circumstances contented himself with saying: “Yes, honey, yes, thank-you, I’m getting up now.” The change in Bill’s voice probably could not be noticed outside through the wooden door, as his wife was satisfied with this explanation and shuffled away.
A short time later, she returned. “Bill, Bill”, she called, “what’s wrong?” And after a short while she called again with a warning deepness in her voice: “Bill! Bill!” At the side of his bed, the dogs stared apprehensively: “Daddy? Aren’t you well? Do you need anything?” they seemed to be asking. Bill answered to both sides: “I’m getting up now”, making an effort to remove all the strangeness from his voice by enunciating very carefully and putting long pauses between each, individual word.
The first thing he wanted to do was to get up in peace without being disturbed, to get dressed, and most of all to take his pills and have his espresso. Only then would he consider what to do next, as he was well aware that he would not bring his thoughts to any sensible conclusions by lying in bed. He remembered that he had often felt a slight pain in bed, perhaps caused by lying awkwardly, but that had always turned out to be pure imagination and he wondered how his imaginings would slowly resolve themselves today. He did not have the slightest doubt that the change in his voice was nothing more than the a sign of dysphagia, a difficulty in swallowing that causes secretions to gather in the larynx. It is a common malady among Parkinson’s patients..
His covers were on the floor around the bed. So he leaned forward to where his roller walker was parked, grasped it and rose to his feet.
“Seven o’clock, already”, he said to himself when the clock struck again, “seven o’clock, and there’s still a fog like this.” And he stood there quietly a while longer, breathing lightly as if he perhaps expected the total stillness to bring things back to their real and natural state.
But then he said to himself: “Before it strikes quarter past seven I’ll definitely have to have got properly out of bed. And by then my wife will come in and see that I have somehow turned into a deranged cyberstalker and this will cause her dismay.”
(FOR MORE, READ FRANZ KAFKA’s “METAMORPHOSIS — THE WINGNUT VERSION” available at right wing booksellers everywhere.)