grete | mutti | papa |the servant girl | the chief clerk

serialized excerpt 2 of 5 from Lance Olsen’s Anxious Pleasures :

an unwriting of Kafka’s Metamorphosis that will be published spring 2007 by Shoemaker & Hoard.


What in the world did he — couldn’t understand a word — if he doesn’t get up soon he’s going to miss his train — and then where will we all be — but the doctor — he told me have yourself a bit of a lie-down — think of somewhere nice he said — easy for him I shouldn’t wonder — standing there in that fancy coat of his — can’t think of a single thing — except how my lungs are hardening — when did this old bag of bones — when did it begin pulling such applesauce — but he used to watch out for us didn’t he — hair so blond it was white — vanilla scent when he sweat — my shortbread boy — and now — locking his door from the inside — refusing to answer his own father — when did it come down to this — the way he used to huddle beneath the dining table for hours — playing dominos by himself — sherry-brown eyes looking right into your secrets — children used to put on those one-acts — for my birthday — miniature kings and queens and paper castles — we had such times together — Sunday afternoons in the park — white light blinking through the branches — Gregor and Georg and Grete holding hands — Papa’s face flushed with sunshine — we followed them down the gravel path — our hearts big red balloons of pride — this is what we have done — we wanted to tell everyone — this is what we’ve accomplished — what mother could wish for more — a handful of moments like those in her life — no use gritching is it — that plus a handful of pfennigs — they’ll get you a nice pig’s knuckle from the butcher boy — Gregor Papa saying from the living room — enough of this nonsense — open the door this instant — and how in the beginning I used to ask him — me only seventeen — I used to ask him — tell me what it was like over there — and he’d just look at me across the table — as though I hadn’t said a thing — wouldn’t frown mind you — wouldn’t make me feel queer for the asking — just looked at me — as though he didn’t know I’d been sitting there all along — and then start talking about something else entirely — did you have a chance to speak to Mrs. Marsten today he’d say — about extending our credit — the worlds he has seen — I shouldn’t wonder — girl needs a man like that — China for goodness sakes — rickshaws — and me all marmalade and six kinds of bad lungs inside — give it half an hour — no more — and Gregor will be on his way to work — I’m sure of it — the rest of us sitting around the breakfast table — I’ll ask the cook to fry us up some eggs — eggs and toast — sausages as well — because after the rains set in — autumn doesn’t do much for people with an appetite for color does it — that’s why the Lord created spring — gives you something to look forward to — the extra sleep will do him good — fighting off a bit of a cold — happens to us all — barely hangs up his bowler in the foyer — before he’s kissing Grete and me goodbye again — because — and what’s that now — what’s that he’s doing — ?


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grete | mutti | papa |the servant girl | the chief clerk

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