I never met a morphosis that Kafka or Jon Tobias didn’t like

Kafka in Retirement

By Jon Tobias

“Today is the first day of your new life.”

The old man stares at the calendar on the wall and reads the note above it. “X off the day.” It is his handwriting but he doesn’t remember being here. All around the house are boxes with labels on them. “Astronaut”, “Contract Killer”, “Ex-Marine”, “Museum Curator”, “Explorer”. Inside each box are notebooks and clothes. Underneath the labels on the boxes, “Go back to the home and go to sleep.”

All he knows is that he woke up in a house full of nurses and other older people. It was almost like they let him sneak out, like they knew exactly where to be at 11 am just so he could walk out the door. All he knows is that he read a notebook where the last page said to come here for the final pickup. What’s worse is thinking you’ve been caught after all these years of drug running. What’s even worse is waking up every morning having to read a notebook to know who you are and who you’ve been.

He picks up a marker and exes out a day. In the square that shows tomorrow’s date says “Family”. On the floor below there is a box labeled “Grandfather”.

The man who thought he was a mafia kingpin opens it, the last page, it says to come here at 11 am. He opens every box and every last page of every last notebook says the same thing.

There is relief in his heart in knowing that he never spent that much time in jail, that every man he killed was never real, that tomorrow he can wake up a better man.

He thinks to himself that he always wanted a family. Being a drug dealing killer for his whole life made him lonely.

In the notebook labeled “Grandfather” the first page reads, “Today your family will visit. The beautiful little girl with the short blonde hair is your granddaughter. You call her Tinkerbell…”

The old man changes into the suit that’s in the box and goes to the home again.

14 thoughts on “I never met a morphosis that Kafka or Jon Tobias didn’t like

  1. Parisianne Modert says:

    “Kafka in Retirement” twirls us about a room of boxes, real and unreal, where we as readers are brought into a story of the allowance of fantasy, the insistence on management and the needed reassurances of a man gone mad with memory loss, mental illness and yet a wish to remain decent in an indecent world of his own creation.

    We see this man through our eyes, but the voice of a narrator who is our tourguide following the subject of the story out the door of an insanisylum back to the man’s home stored in boxes with notes. Neither the boxes nor the man’s memories can be trusted.

    This story, which I am very impressed by, is vivid, compact and well organized without being stale. I thought of a very lonely version of “A Fine Madness” as I read this; although the story in writing style and storyline remain very Kafkaesque.

  2. Diane Cresswell says:

    Jon you’re back with fine writing – again!!! Funny I was thinking as I was reading this that it reminded me of Groundhog’s Day and at the end is the picture. I like the concept and it flowed well taking me into the place of wondering about those boxes and what was accomplished with each one – drug dealing killer or not. Nice.

    • Jon Tobias says:

      Thanks Diane. I was actually thinking of the movie, specifically the part where Bill Murray tries to keep the old man alive but can’t when I wrote this.

  3. Kenneth Weene says:

    Far to benign for Kafka. Much more Ground Hog Day. That said, this piece hits home. Who among us does not have many lives filed in boxes? We call them books or story ideas or whatever but they are boxes. When my senility comes, will I visit and revisit them? If so, I do hope I end up at The Dew Drop Inne more often than the Asylum. I certainly hope that one of those boxes has a Word With You Press inside. That notebook will assuredly include some good moments.

  4. Michael Stang says:

    Good Christ, Alzheimer’s. Better yet, Alzheimer’s happening to a very bad guy. What do we sport in our lives we think we can take with us, something in a box? Every one I know has an attic full of them. A story of interest from your talented pen.

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