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Kafka in Somethingstan – Fiction

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Kafka in Somethingstan

William Reichard

I’m vacationing in a small Eastern European country when my wallet and passport are stolen. I’m told there is no U.S. consulate and when I search, find there’s no consulate from any country. With no passport or ID, I’m nobody, so no border crossing. I meet some people in a bar and am told that most of this country’s current population came here as I did. I’m quickly running out of money because inflation here is outrageous; a wheelbarrow full of cash buys one warm beer. My new friends say there are always openings at the local auto plant, so I get a job drawing the wood grain onto the genuine hardwood dashboards and gearshift boxes. I’ve see these cars at home; they sell for less than any other, and it’s best to lease them for only one year; they fall apart after that. I start to hang out with the locals. We go out for drinks on payday. Between us, we speak twenty-seven languages. We’re a smart bunch. No one can speak the country’s native tongue, and strangely, none of us knows what that language is. We get by with broad gestures and a lot of pointing. I try to find a library but have no luck. When I try to place an international call, I find there’s no code for this country.

sarah-hartman-artist

There’s a curious lack of radio or TV, an absurd dearth of books, so I tend to play the same old records again and again. Italian pop songs. Enough said. On my afternoons off, I explore. There used to be a cathedral, but all that’s left is a ruin filled with feral cats. I get it into my head that I’ll look at a map. I came here because I saw an ad for outrageously cheap airfare and a week’s free hotel stay for every night paid. Now I can’t quite remember where this country is in proximity to any other, but the pictures in the brochure were pretty. I’m told all the maps were in the missing library, all of the globes as well. Someone I know tells me about someone he knows, who knows someone who heard from a friend that she knows where the library used to stand. “Generally east,” my friend says, so off I walk. After many hours I come across a burned building in the middle of an empty lot. There’s not much left and what’s there is soot-covered. Still. I dig around. When I’m about the give up my search, I see something round under a pile of charred wood. I shove aside the burned beams and see a globe! With some spit and the tail ends of my only good shirt, I scrub a layer of filth away. I can see my home country! I can see Switzerland and Canada and Bali! I can see the Arctic! But when I search through Eastern Europe, I find only the usual places. This country, it seems, did not exist when the globe was manufactured. Suddenly, I hear sirens in the distance, growing louder as they approach.


William Reichard is an author, editor, and educator. He  WilliamReichard-writerhas published five collections of poetry, most recently Two Men Rowing Madly Toward Infinity, which will be released on June 29, 2016.

Images by Sarah Elizabeth Hartman. Sarah grew up in the Castro in the early 90s, so she was physically incapable of becoming an accountant. She currently lives in the East Bay, freelancing, petting her cats, and shit disturbing. 

Find her at @ZaychikiRedbubble and Storenvy.

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