K. Goes to the Lecture

It was during this time, while rumors of the Bank’s imminent closing filled the air, that K. met his friend the police-woman while wandering the streets.

“You gave me a fright,” K. told her, looking at her bunched-up red hair and wondering whether or not she had an ivory comb.

“Terror can take many forms,” she replied. “Why, for instance, it struck us oddly down at the station that you were never terrified during the whole month-and-a-half when I visited you nightly and told you a completely fabricated story of my father’s protracted death from cancer. Each night I came down, having spent hours being coached by the Leaders in just how I was to lead the conversation, and we all thought that we had done a bad job of it… we thought you had begun to suspect, that you had found us out, that you knew we were testing you, and why, and what the result would be.”

K. pulled at a forelock and smiled. “I never suspected until recently,” he said. “But really, does it matter?”

She gestured to her massive German shepherd. “Oh, yes. Let me explain. If you knew that everyone you knew was plotting against you, it would throw an X factor into our calculations. You might conclude that you were going crazy, and seek professional help, at which point you might be drugged or admitted to a hospital, and all our work would have been in vain. Or you might realize the whole truth, and refuse to cooperate, or kill yourself. If you knew that we were trying to drive you crazy in a carefully planned way, you might go crazy in the wrong way. To actually see the extent of our power might have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

K. grew pensive, frustrated at the gabby girl. Couldn’t she get to the point? “Look,” he told her, “It was obvious to me that you were prostrating yourself, making yourself available to me, and that events had contrived to make you emotionally vulnerable, alone, unhappy, and burdened with bills. You had no man to help you out, and here I was. But the best laid plans… “ he drifted off, began mumbling.

His friend the police-woman had to leave and go to police some more places, so K. was left standing, still frustrated. Why couldn’t he explain? Just then an acquaintance of K.’s, the revolutionary burgher, hailed him from the other side of the street, in the doorway of a corner beer-hall.

“K.! K.!” he called, interrupting K.’s thoughts. “Come on over, have a beer with me “’

Inside the beer-hall were about five impeccably dressed young men with impassive expressions, each of whom turned to gaze as K. entered. “Funny,” thought K., “I haven’t seen them around here before. Probably just some more intelligence agents on a little R & R.”

“Over here,” called K.’s friend the revolutionary burgher. “You must hear about the latest development in revolutionary theory!”

The barmaid brought K. a beer, and the revolutionary burgher began to speak.

“Well,” he said, “we both know that conditions are intolerable, right?” He paused. “Right?”

“Yes, oh yes,” K. said distractedly.

“Good!” cried one of the impeccably dressed young men. “Get him saying ‘yes’ right off the bat!”

“And we both know that there’s no organized way of taking matters into hand, right? Well, then it’s clear that the only thing to do is… ” and the burgher drifted off, waiting expectantly for K. to fill in the gaps.

K. speculated for a while in silence, and spoke on a few of the various options available, pointing out that most of them were poor.

“But isn’t wanton murder and wholesale slaughter and violence the only thing left to us?” the burgher asked, petulantly.

“Oh, you tire me so!” K. exploded. “Of course it isn’t. You’ve made it so obvious that only a fool could disagree! Why don’t you just hire your patsies? Is it because of the budget cutbacks?”

Originally appeared in Inside Joke #17

archive: minifictions

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