Mischka Blank channels Franz Kafka, entry #20


First, an update:  We have about 20 unpublished stories or responses to our prompt, and they are selected at random.  I will go through the backlog, however, and will try to post those of you who submitted earlier in the contest. This contest is an invitation to dialog, and if you have not yet submitted a story, I would ask that you simply relate your experience, and let it stand on its own, or write a fictional account. You are free to use this

prompt to write an editorial, but if you do, know that the responses may be combative. And, if you respond with comments, this is your opportunity to demonstrate the civility that seems to be lacking in public discourse. I am an editor, not a censor.  We are all adults. Let’s act accordingly.

Having said all that, I am pleased to post a story by my good friend Mischka Blank here in Prague. He writes of a metamorphosis–how appropriate in the ancient city where Kafka himself wrote of a transformation!  Here is



by Mischka Blank

He didn’t notice the moment he woke up. Lazy light trickled through the blinds on fresh black skin.  Just his palms and soles remained white, as if he had been stood against a wall, as he made suspects stand for frisking, and somebody had given him a lick of paint instead of the customary beating.

Paint? Hang on a second!

He rushed to the garage and scrubbed himself with turpentine, then bleach, then despair. He lowered the blinds so darkness swallowed him, while the world outside woke up to another loud sunny Texan day.  Standing in front of a mirror he switched on the light, switched it back off in horror, then faded it back in and looked at himself. His brown eyes, normally grey and cold like steel, saw a face more familiar than any other – just the colour, the colour!  He shouted, and his voice was still familiar too. His driving license and police badge showed a different man: Tom Tillerson, aged 55, sheriff in Amarillo. Credit cards showed the same name. In his wardrobe a police uniform hung next to a KKK costume. Was this a prank? An illusion? Punishment?
Tom called in sick at work, feigning a contagious skin disease.

Three days hiding changed nothing for his colour but depleted the fridge. He had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Some neighbour had already knocked on his door; it would be a matter of days, if not hours, for suspicion to rise far enough to get his colleagues involved. The only escape was to depart to the Klan meeting that night, but arrive in Mexico instead.

After darkness set in, after packing a few essentials, he looked around the living room one last time. Through the eyes of a black man, from behind the KKK mask, it looked so finite now, already a part of his personal history.

The garage door opened automatically, then closed again after he backed his Bronco out the driveway. Nobody on the street, all curtains were drawn, splendid. If nothing went wrong he’d be in Ciudad Juarez the next morning.

Somewhere on Route 66, at safe distance from Potter County, he ditched the KKK costume and fueled up.  The cashier glanced at him suspiciously. Was it because he was black?

With a bit of luck he could do another 250 miles till he had to fuel up again.  It took less than 20 for his rear-view mirror to fill up with blues and twos.

Let’s play Tom & Sheriff, he thought, I know the tricks.
Tom turned down a dirt road and stopped.  A cop shone a flashlight in his face and demanded identification.

“You stopped the wrong motherfucker!”

A shot rang out in the vast empty desert, then two more. The flashlight fell to the ground.

Tom gunned the Bronco down the dark dirt road. He knew how this would end, and so did they, but now he was on the other side. Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.


But, all you need is…


8 thoughts on “Mischka Blank channels Franz Kafka, entry #20

  1. Lady Pafia Marigold says:

    ‘Blackout’,’Kafkaesque Shootout Near El Paso’, ‘Black Like Me Unhooded’, but also call this story 100% excellent. Your karma served cold, 21st century western on the border, put me behind the sheriff’s eyes facing myself in a mirror living his helpless horror. Mischka, your story & therefore you not only belong in the finals, but to date, is my favourite. It took my breath away start to finish with a police-state ending, repeating throughout today’s America. If your story could be read aloud at every US police precinct, it could lessen today’s injustices of officers’, shooting before proper cause, saving black male lives that do matter.

  2. Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

    I see very apparent gifts in some of this author’s phrasing but feel the story did not live up to that promise.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar says:

      PS: In what alternative universe is empathy achieved and injustice rectified by choosing to murder another human being without even the excuse of self-defense, even if that person has previously been guilty of oppression himself?

      There’s a false equivalence here that’s very dangerous and I think has been ignored, or perhaps there has been a choice not to confront it.

  3. Shawna S. says:

    A thoughtful savory entry, redolent of ‘another man’s shoes’. The sense of unreality and disenfranchisement, the surreal quality of the experience, the forced experience of wearing an enemy skin.
    How provocative.

    Thank you for sharing. I enjoyed the read.

  4. David Jenkins says:

    Good story.

    I enjoy good poetry and good writing. It’s what moves me that counts with me. If a poem, a story or a piece of music doesn’t move me. It ain’t happening for me. That said, with poetry and jazz, I sometimes need more than that first read or listen. Let it grow in me, then I come to an understanding and appreciation—or not.
    Think about the first time you read Traci Brimhall or listened to Coltrane or Monk—you get the idea–hopefully.
    Too much analysis, for me, can turn a work of art into a confusing mess. That’s probably why I could never qualify for an MFA. Sticking with my PfFA: Passion for Fine Arts. Good enough.

  5. Derek Thompson says:

    A short, sharp shock of a tale and deftly told. No comfortable endings (for how could there be?) and a fractured justice served.

  6. Miryam Howard says:

    Welcome Mischka!
    The art of a good writer permeates this piece. Imagination, ethical realism, and brutal unfairness, have been artfully scribed…. I appreciate your gifting. Thanks for submitting. Don’t stop!

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