Shades of Kafka

An uncommonly ugly beetle clings to the outside of the window screen in our TV room. I’ve watched for days as it creeps upward and discovered this morning it had reached the halfway mark. This insect conjures thoughts of Gregor in Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis,” that complex tale of failed family relationships, poor self-esteem and exaggerated self-sacrifice. At the book’s onset, Gregor wakes from “unsettling dreams” and finds himself “changed into a monstrous vermin.” My notion of vermin is in the rodent category, though Kafka’s description of Gregor is that of giant insect.

My Gregor may be related to Kafka’s, but I doubt his life is similarly dysfunctional. Neither is he as large as Kakfa’s fellow, being an inch and a half in length and the color of drab tree bark. No doubt he’s invisible when frolicking in the forest, not so while clinging to our front window screen. At any time an eagle-eyed bird might snap him up. Gregor’s right hind leg has been injured, perhaps an on-the-job accident. I suspect he aimlessly climbs to fill idle time while collecting worker’s comp. As in Kafka’s story, no family members give a hoot.

Three days later . . .
My Gregor has given up the ghost. One set of legs curls upward in prayer-like posture. He dangles horizontally from the window screen, no last attempt to reach further heights, and looks at peace. I shall sweep him from his precarious perch and into a leafy flower bed below. There he will rest, hidden from avian attack, comfortable in natural surroundings and his spirit well-entrenched on the other side.

Though my Gregor’s passing lacks Kafkaesque intensity, I shall miss the valiant beetle. At the very least, workman’s comp has one less claim to process.

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