Killing Franz Kafka
Written by Chelsea Marie Hicks
Every morning I awake and the sound is there. It’s maddening to feel the buzz of a fly near your ear as you’re just beginning the day and this tortuous winged demon has been haunting every one of my waking and dreaming hours for nearly a week now. Today is day seven and despite all prior engagements and responsibilities, this Thursday will be dedicated solely to the capture and gut smearing of this filthy bug.
I couldn’t tell you where it came from or how long it’s been making home in my abode; perhaps it’s been resting in my cupboard all winter long and only chose to become a ceaseless annoyance once the warmth of spring arrived. Regardless of how precisely this thing came to be here, the fly has since refused to leave or go into hiding or simply learn the skills of silence. Instead, the fly takes sick pleasure in taunting me by landing on my knee, forcing me to hit myself and always the tiny winged beast narrowly escapes the smack. The fly has walked all over my evening meals, often landing when I momentarily leave the couch to use the restroom, and was once so adamant about tainting my dinner and would not heed to my arm shooing warning that the fly caused an irremovable stain to appear on my wall, one that came from me launching my burrito plate across the room to the nearby wall. Fortunately, it was just a paper plate packed of Mexican food being flung through the air rather than anything breakable, so the mess that followed remained a still edible disastrous display. Obviously I ate it up, every bite of that meal that touched the wall and the floor–I wouldn’t allow this pest the satisfaction of watching me suffer a night in hunger.
Initially I sought to handle this situation peacefully, though I suppose there really isn’t any “peaceful” way to go about killing anything, not even a fly. The cup of vinegar sat for days free of any black mass and the same goes for those unsightly, sticky, hanging contraptions, supposedly reeking of pheromones irresistible to the senses of a fly, that I placed in six different locations in my one-room apartment. These methods had failed for six days now, but today I was prepared to take any measure necessary–or at least any measure that involved one of or a combination of the following: fly swatter, bug spray, gas mask, hand-held bug zapper, baseball bat (for when I really lost my mind over this) and/or the stray cat that always sat outside my window. Wielding these tools, this fly would soon be suffering and because this thing was my enemy and because this whole scenario could be made more significant and somehow even more valid than it ever really was, I gave my arch-nemesis a name.
Today I would kill Franz Kafka!
I hated this fly, Franz Kafka, almost as much as I despised the writings of the already dead Czech writer. It helped too that the name seemed wildly appropriate and appealed to my younger self that had never more seriously considered suicide than the semester in college that I signed up for a course analyzing the literature and dreadfully beloved literary style of Kafka. Briefly I considered naming the fly Max Brod as when it all came down to it the whole thing with Kafka being famous and praised and all too well-respected and regarded was entirely his fault. I settled on Kafka because the revenge seemed as though it would be much sweeter whenever it came.
My first method of attack involved the stray cat that I believed was named after a misspelled flower, as the coin dangling from its collar read Petuneia. Opening my front door inevitably brought Petuneia to my “WELCOME” mat as he/she seemed desperate everyday for me to call him/her my own. I figured Petuneia would immediately run inside given the go-ahead, but he/she actually required some convincing to break his/her hesitancy and so I brought out an open can of tuna fish and lured her in (Petuneia, I decided, is definitely a girl cat name). She devoured the entire can at an alarming rate and once she sufficiently licked her lips and cleaned around her mouth with her spit-wet paw, she began meowing at a volume and pitch I was not aware cats were capable of making. I tried shooshing her, and even put my pointer-finger to my lips and made the universal sign for “quiet, goddamnit,” but Petuneia would not be silenced or halt following me. I decided phase one of this plan wasn’t going to cut-it and came across the new problem of ridding myself of a stray cat that I just fed. Petuneia hissed and screeched, and tore apart the skin of my right hand as I picked her up and hustled to my front door to toss her out. In the process, her entire fur coat had puffed up in anger and she made certain to take this frustration out on me, which she rather succeeded at by mangling and bloodying my writing hand.
For a moment I worried about rabies and infection, but then I heard the buzz in my left ear and spotted Franz Kafka on my shoulder and my focus was regained. With my wounded hand, I reached for the bug spray and began spraying all of the air around me with its toxins. I didn’t even think to grab the gas-mask I made sure to purchase; all I cared about was defeating this vile Kafka. With my arm outstretched and waving harmful chemicals into the air, I chased Franz Kafka around my room spraying without taking anytime to consider the pollutants filling my lungs and the slime that would layer my book piles and papers ruthlessly spread about my room. Not even a minute after launching my air-raid, I began coughing and hacking, and generally feeling overwhelmed by the seeming lack of oxygen in the room. I found the gas-mask and shoved my face into it. I never realized how hot and uncomfortable gas masks can be.
Franz Kafka appeared to have been weakened by my bug spray hazing and sensing my missions impending accomplishment, I took the fly swatter into my hand and frantically swatted the air and in my passion I even knocked over the glass of now undrinkable, toxin soaked water that was resting on my coffee table when I bumped into with my shin in my disorienting hand waving dance. Made frustrated by how dizzy I was rapidly becoming, I hunched over, resting my hands on my knees, and allowed myself a moment to catch my breath, hoping that in this time Franz Kafka would settle on the wall and with reflexes slowed from the debilitating air, I would swat him to his death. Breathing heavily and creating a fog in the lenses of my gas-mask, I suddenly stood erect at the sound of a knocking at the door and in walked Lilia.
“What’s going on in here?” She asked, covering her mouth and nose with the sleeve of her bright red cardigan.
“Today I am murdering Franz Kafka!” I announced triumphantly before adding, “The fly! It’s been pestering me for days and you should probably just go. Things could get ugly in here.” I was clearly taking this much more seriously than any rational, normally operating and functioning human-being would ever take the killing of a fly.
“I rather think I’ll stay and watch this fiasco unfold. This is too hilarious,” Lilia laughed as she spoke this and despite the time still being well-before noon, she uncorked the bottle on my counter and poured herself a glass of red wine, preparing to truly make the most of the spectacle I was certainly putting on.
Fanning her hand near her face to fight off the fumes of the bug-spray, Lilia moved to sit near the window which she opened in hopes of breathing air. Sitting on the window ledge with her glass in hand, she breathed in deeply and it was then that I noticed Franz Kafka smoothly gliding towards her. He landed on her bare knee and was as always buzzing loudly when Lilia felt him touching her and that’s when, in one quick motion, she smacked him dead with the palm of her hand.
“How did you do that?!” I asked in a mixture of shock and panic.
“What do you mean? It landed on my knee and I hit it dead!” was her so matter-of-fact reply.
“That’s, that’s unbelievable. Do you realize I’ve been trying to kill that thing for a week now? It’s been torturing me constantly!”
“This is disgusting. This thing is huge!” Lilia scraped Franz Kafka’s body and innards into her hand and threw what she could out the window and then walked to the kitchen to find something to clean herself off with. I was still stunned and processing the whole unfolding of events when I finally removed the gas-mask form my face.
“I mean, thank you for killing it, but you kind of stole my victory.”
“Oh Graham please! Don’t turn this into something. You had a fly in your apartment and now you don’t.”
I wouldn’t call what I felt in that moment anger, because more than anything I felt relief, but some very large part of me could not believe that it wasn’t me that brought about Franz Kafka’s end, but rather it was Lilia who had only been around his incessant noise for a mere few minutes. She didn’t understand what it meant to be teased and tortured by him and yet she was the one that figured out so naturally and truly without any forethought how to take him out. It amazed me and was so irrationally infuriating. Still dizzy from a lack of oxygen and over-exposure to unpronounceable chemicals, I spilled what remained of the bottle of wine into an empty coffee cup and considered chugging the whole glass and creating a dramatic scene with red-wine spilling down the creases of my mouth and onto my chest, but instead I took a few careful sips and sat next to the window, starring at my knee wondering how much I had weakened Franz Kafka with my methods making it so easy for Lilia to hit him with the smack.