One Afternoon in August

By Henry Stimpson

I was having a beer at Daly’s when he walked in. That face and those eyes, hypnotic eyes glowing in a cave, disturbed me.

It was Kafka.

He stared back at me with a hot look. I blushed and turned away, but he walked over and sat down on the next stool.

“I thought no one in here would recognize me. Franz, at your service.” He bowed slightly. I held his hand a bit too long, gaping at him like a fool. “But how? You’ve been dead almost a hundred years. Are you really him?” I said.

He assured me he was Franz Kafka. He would explain everything later. Meanwhile, he wanted a beer.

I ordered a nice German pils draft for each of us. Franz spoke good English with only a slight accent. “Good beer,” he said, and clanked his mug to mine. I told him I was a huge fan. We had another round.

Meeting Kafka in a bar! I couldn’t wait to tell Elaine. Would she believe it?  Did I? But he was sitting there as real as the polyurethaned oak our beer mugs sweated on.

 “Something that’s always bothered me….what is The Metamorphosis really about?” I said. “I absolutely love it, but what does it mean? If you don’t mind me asking, Franz.” “Beats me,” he said with a stern look. My heart sank. But then a tight smile broke through his poker face. “That’s a good one!” I said. We both convulsed with laughter, howling like jackals.

I went to use the john. When I came back, his stool was empty. On the bar, along with a $5 bill, was a note in tidy old-fashioned handwriting. “Sorry, Mike, had to run. I feel a bit like the hero of A Country Doctor! Good luck with your writing.” Below it was a deft sketch of a hard-shelled insect with lots of little legs and the initials FK.

Darn. I wanted to get his phone number. I think we could have become friends. And I was dying to find out how he pulled off his Lazarus act.

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Henry Stimpson’s writings have appeared in Cream City Review, Rolling Stone, Muddy River Poetry Review, The Auroean, Common Ground Review, Vol1Brooklyn, Poets & Writers, The Boston Globe, Yankee, New England Ancestors, New England Monthly, Bostonia, Boston Phoenix, Beauty/Truth, Embodied Effigies, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and Ovunque Siamo.

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