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Kafka and Me
by Barbara Jean Tannert

"So I guess Kafka had a dark side," my husband informed me. He'd just finished flossing his teeth and hadn’t yet noticed I was wearing the new nightgown I'd ordered from The Vermont Country Store, the one with the dramatic, eyelet edged yoke.

"I think," I said gently, "some of us knew that already."

It was like he'd suddenly realized that Dick Cheney had never been a true friend, or that the little bug-eyed mathematician with the mullet made more money than him. It's not like my spouse to be that dense, albeit he does sometimes shuffle around in a pair of pajamas makes him resemble insane mafia don Vincent ‘The Chin’ Gigante.

"No. They found Kafka's secret drawer," he clarified, annoyed. "I guess you've been so consumed by Don Draper recently you missed all that."

"What drawer? Who are 'they'?" I asked. It was all so Kafka already. 

"There was this secret stash of pornography in it," he explained. "Girls on girls, animals on animals. The Germans have been sitting on it for years."

"Who was sitting on whom?" I began slowly. 

So it turns out that Kafka, with whom I have felt a special connection ever since I read The Trial and realized he was telling the story of my life, subscribed to a pornographic journal he kept hidden in a locked desk. The German scholars (I'm half German myself and understand) kept his secret by stashing his porn in a library where they knew it would never be found. But it was (probably by a French scholar) and so there you go: Kafka, the pervert. 

My husband seemed weirdly energized by the whole story. 

"This wasn't just ordinary pornography," he said.

"What do you mean?" I asked him. "What's ordinary pornography?" 

"Not the kind you see every day."

"I don't see pornography every day,” I told him. “I don't even see it once a year."

It was true. The most sinister website I’d visited that month was a consumer forum for Eureka vacuum cleaners in which ‘Minnesota Mamma’ got into a fight with ‘Country Candles Gal’ over the redundancy of the ‘power paw’ attachment.  

I lay in bed that night unable to sleep, haunted by Kafka's dark and sordid pornography. What’s worse, I wasn't able to come up with a mental image any more filthy or disturbing than a cockroach flouncing around in a negligee. So I woke my husband up and began telling him the story of how, back in the 1920s, Kafka had considered opening a restaurant with his lover Dora Diamant, who was apparently an excellent cook. Kafka was going to be the waiter. He would have wandered over and read you the specials.

“Think how different the history of world literature would be,” I yelled, grinning enthusiastically, “if Dora had put some flesh on those dry Czech bones. Hell, we might still have The Castle but maybe “The Kafka Cookbook” too.

My husband blinked at me frantically, as if he’d awakened beside some peculiar insect. “What the hell is that thing you're wearing?” he said, horrified.