Yes, I was wearing my Kafka Tshirt . I am, indeed, a Kafka fanatic. That the world press and internet are awash about new Kafka manuscripts being discovered is just gravy.
My Kafka Tshirt has a caricature of Kafka (complete with big ears) and a text from one of his letters on the front. I have warn it since it was purchased in Prague last summer. Worn it without commentary from anyone. Now I wonder if his image might begin to rival the rich and infamous.
It was a hot summer afternoon. I was headed to the harbour in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to sit on a bench, cool off, and watch some shipping. Halifax is the second largest port in the world.
On a street of commercial businesses, a man sitting on some steps eyed me. He had a hand-lettered piece of cardboard which proclaimed "Short stories for sale." He had some file folders stuffed with papers, a box of—perhaps—personal possessions, and a pop bottle containing some non-pop coloured liquid. He wondered if I might be interested in a story or two. They consisted of typed pages, stapled together. I demurred. He also had a small, framed photo of a raven which someone for some reason gave to him. You could almost make out the raven (he pointed) right there. He would also help high school students with their essays.
He may have found me a lost cause as a patron of the arts, but he appreciated that I listened. He moved closer on the step and revealed that he was something of a neighbourhood watch for the "cops". He keeps his eyes open and looks at the buildings and notes the type of people on the street. The cops come to him regularly to get his reports. Sometimes he has to tell the cops to move on because "They are bad for business." It was then I decided to move on myself.
The heat of the day encouraged me to go through the Public Gardens. The Halifax Public Gardens consist of sixteen acres and are unrivaled in North America as an example of Victorian gardens. There are lots and lots of shady trees. I took my time.
As I approached the area of the bandstand and its many benches, a female voice shouted out: "I recognize that author." I thought it to be someone I knew, but when I turned, it was not the case. The black-haired beauty, dressed in flowing black, was a complete stranger. And it was not me (alas) she was commenting upon, but my friend Mr. Kafka. "And some of his writing." She pointed to the text on the shirt.
Whether she actually recognized his handwriting or not I do not know (it is distinctive), but she did know her Kafka. She queried whether I had got my shirt in Prague. She was interested that I was such a fan (though I wisely—I have found it wise— did not mention I have written a novel about Kafka). As she began to talk about some of his books (his Meditation, in particular), the woman who was with her said that she had to leave. I did apologize for interrupting them, but also went on about Meditation (perhaps in too much detail). The black-haired beauty (holding some tome which was the size of a phone book) stood, and together we walked through the Gardens. It was many a month since I had talked to a stranger about Kafka, particularly with headline news to add to the mix. And she did reciprocate in kind. However, across an intersection and two blocks later, she (as Kafka would say) took her leave and entered a shop.
So, on I went toward the harbour without further interruption. Sat upon a bench and watched tugboats manoeuvre a container vessel. Cooled in the ocean breezes. Kafka whispered ( with amusement, I'm sure) into my ear: "Welcome to my world."
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