Kafka and the doll
It was a bright afternoon in the city, so much so that an esteemed writer, who for the duration of the previous day was in an inconsolable mood, decided to take a leisurely stroll around the park. With every step he took, tiny dust clouds formed from under his shoes, which he noted to his dismay, had browned and dirtied the black leather. He was of middling age, but his mind was old, and he saw not the beauty of the park. This author, though not by any means alleviated in spirits by his surroundings, decided to finish his walk and return home when he spotted a little girl on a park bench.
This little girl sat cradling her legs with her head hidden. A young governess was seated by her, comforting her, but all the pats and head rubs she gave out freely could not coax the little girl. The curious writer approached the governess and in a low voice, asked what was happening. The young woman looked up at him, and whispered that the little girl was distressed, and would not return home. “She dropped her doll somewhere in our walk to the stores without noticing. I looked for it, but I think it was disposed of. If I move her, she kicks and screams,” the distressed governess whispered back. The author furrowed his brows and sat down. For a few more minutes, the three of them stayed in that formation, until eventually, the little girl raised her head.
“Why do you cry, little one?” the writer asked in a gentle voice.
“My doll is gone,” the girl sniffled. “Pirates took her, she ran away, she hates me.” the little girl hiccupped and dragged her sleeve across her face as her nose started to drip. The author looked at the little girl’s face, twisted and colored by a passionate love for a cloth toy.
“That is simply not true at all,” the writer said as he turned to face away from her. His gaze affixed on a shop full of leather suitcases. “She went on a trip.” Already he felt the wheels and cogs turn in his head. The writer could see that the little girl was processing the idea in her head, disbelief and hope wrestling for dominance.
“How do you know?” the little girl replied almost accusingly.
“Do you know what a postman does?” the writer asked. The girl looked at her governess, and then looked back at the author, nodding her head. “I have a letter from your doll, she told me to give it to you, and then she bought a train ticket.” the writer continued.
“Please give me!” the girl cried with hands outstretched, eyes wide with wonder.
“My apologies, I did not think I would find you so soon,” the writer said as he lowered the little girl’s hands. “I left it in my office, and have closed up for the day.” The girl looked down and swung her feet, deep in her childish thoughts. The writer then gave the governess, who had been listening quietly, a meaningful look. “I think it is time for you to go home, your mother will be worried. I promise to give the letter to you tomorrow,” he promised. The little girl was all smiles as she fastened her coat. To the governess, the writer added, “I will be here in the afternoon if the girl is still troubled by her toy.” As he saw the two walking away, the little girl now with a bounce to her step, the writer then turned and went home himself.
At home, the writer seated himself at his desk and started to draft a timeline. An adventure, logical, yet fanciful enough to hold the attention of the girl had formed in his head. His home companion, upon opening his room door, found him slouched over with a pen in his hand and the paper bin to the side full to overflowing from discarded paper.
“Franz, will you not sleep?” she asked. She watched the writer stand up and stretch his back. He turned to face his companion, who was surprised to see an expression on his face that he had on when working on important literary projects.
“Not until I finish this letter,” he said.
“And to whom is this letter addressed to?” she continued as she sat down on the easy chair across the desk.
“A little girl I met in the park,” Franz replied.
This piqued her interest, and she sat in silence as Franz took the paper he had been writing on. After a few rereads, he crumpled the paper and threw it at the paper bin, taking a new sheet of paper from the ream. “A letter for a little girl?” she wondered aloud.
“Yes,” he replied shortly, sitting once again in his desk, his back to her.
“Did you ask for her name?” she ventured to ask.
“Does it matter?” he asked back in reply, not turning his head around.
His companion smiled. She knew that once he was in his state he would not give long answers, and if forced to talk, his mood would sour. She left the room and quietly closed his door. He’ll tell me later when this story is over, she thought.