Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka


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Page 1

"Oh, God", he thought, "what a strenuous career it is that
I've chosen! Travelling day in and day out. Doing business
like this takes much more effort than doing your own
business at home, and on top of that there's the curse of
travelling, worries about making train connections, bad and
irregular food, contact with different people all the time
so that you can never get to know anyone or become friendly
with them. It can all go to Hell!" He felt a slight itch
up on his belly; pushed himself slowly up on his back
towards the headboard so that he could lift his head better;
found where the itch was, and saw that it was covered with
lots of little white spots which he didn't know what to make
of; and when he tried to feel the place with one of his legs
he drew it quickly back because as soon as he touched it he
was overcome by a cold shudder.

He slid back into his former position. "Getting up early
all the time", he thought, "it makes you stupid. You've got
to get enough sleep. Other travelling salesmen live a life
of luxury. For instance, whenever I go back to the guest
house during the morning to copy out the contract, these
gentlemen are always still sitting there eating their
breakfasts. I ought to just try that with my boss; I'd get
kicked out on the spot. But who knows, maybe that would be
the best thing for me. If I didn't have my parents to think
about I'd have given in my notice a long time ago, I'd have
gone up to the boss and told him just what I think, tell him
everything I would, let him know just what I feel. He'd
fall right off his desk! And it's a funny sort of business
to be sitting up there at your desk, talking down at your
subordinates from up there, especially when you have to go
right up close because the boss is hard of hearing. Well,
there's still some hope; once I've got the money together to
pay off my parents' debt to him - another five or six years
I suppose - that's definitely what I'll do. That's when
I'll make the big change. First of all though, I've got to
get up, my train leaves at five."

And he looked over at the alarm clock, ticking on the chest
of drawers. "God in Heaven!" he thought. It was half past
six and the hands were quietly moving forwards, it was even
later than half past, more like quarter to seven. Had the
alarm clock not rung? He could see from the bed that it had
been set for four o'clock as it should have been; it
certainly must have rung. Yes, but was it possible to
quietly sleep through that furniture-rattling noise? True,
he had not slept peacefully, but probably all the more
deeply because of that. What should he do now? The next
train went at seven; if he were to catch that he would have
to rush like mad and the collection of samples was still not
packed, and he did not at all feel particularly fresh and
lively. And even if he did catch the train he would not
avoid his boss's anger as the office assistant would have
been there to see the five o'clock train go, he would have
put in his report about Gregor's not being there a long time
ago. The office assistant was the boss's man, spineless,
and with no understanding. What about if he reported sick?
But that would be extremely strained and suspicious as in
fifteen years of service Gregor had never once yet been ill.
His boss would certainly come round with the doctor from the
medical insurance company, accuse his parents of having a
lazy son, and accept the doctor's recommendation not to make
any claim as the doctor believed that no-one was ever ill
but that many were workshy. And what's more, would he have
been entirely wrong in this case? Gregor did in fact, apart
from excessive sleepiness after sleeping for so long, feel
completely well and even felt much hungrier than usual.

He was still hurriedly thinking all this through, unable to
decide to get out of the bed, when the clock struck quarter
to seven. There was a cautious knock at the door near his
head. "Gregor", somebody called - it was his mother - "it's
quarter to seven. Didn't you want to go somewhere?" That
gentle voice! Gregor was shocked when he heard his own
voice answering, it could hardly be recognised as the voice
he had had before. As if from deep inside him, there was a
painful and uncontrollable squeaking mixed in with it, the
words could be made out at first but then there was a sort
of echo which made them unclear, leaving the hearer unsure
whether he had heard properly or not. Gregor had wanted to
give a full answer and explain everything, but in the
circumstances contented himself with saying: "Yes, mother,
yes, thank-you, I'm getting up now." The change in Gregor's
voice probably could not be noticed outside through the
wooden door, as his mother was satisfied with this
explanation and shuffled away. But this short conversation
made the other members of the family aware that Gregor,
against their expectations was still at home, and soon his
father came knocking at one of the side doors, gently, but
with his fist. "Gregor, Gregor", he called, "what's wrong?"
And after a short while he called again with a warning
deepness in his voice: "Gregor! Gregor!" At the other side
door his sister came plaintively: "Gregor? Aren't you well?
Do you need anything?"

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Fri 28th Feb 2020, 13:28