“I simply won’t put up with your good-for-nothing existence any longer. I’m an old man. I hoped you would be the comfort of my old age, instead you are worse than all my illnesses. Shame on such a son, who through laziness, extravagance, wickedness, and -why shouldn’t I say so to your face – stupidity, drives his old father to his grave!’ Here the father fell silent, but moved his face as though he were still speaking.

‘Dear Father,’ said Oscar, and cautiously approached the table, ‘calm yourself, everything will be all right. Today I have had an idea that will make an industrious person out of me, beyond all your expectations.’

‘How is that?’ the father asked, and gazed towards a corner of the room.

‘Just trust me, I’ll explain everything to you at supper. Inwardly I was always a good son, but the fact that I could not show it outwardly embittered me so, that I preferred to vex you if I couldn’t make you happy. But now let me go for another short walk so that my thoughts may unfold more clearly.’

The father, who, becoming attentive at first, had sat down on the edge of the table, stood up. ‘I do not believe that what you just said makes much sense, I consider it only idle talk. But after all you are my son. Come back early, we will have supper at home and you can tell me all about this matter then.’

‘This small confidence is enough for me, I am grateful to you from my heart for it. But isn’t it evident in my very appearance that I am completely occupied with a serious matter?’

‘At the moment, no, I can’t see a thing,’ said the father. ‘But that could be my fault too, for I have got out of the habit of looking at you at all.’ With this, as was his custom, he called attention to the passage of time by regularly tapping on the surface of the table. ‘The chief thing, however, is that I no longer have any confidence at all in you, Oscar. If I sometimes yell at you – when you came in I really did yell at you, didn’t I? – then I do it not in the hope that it will improve you, I do it only for the sake of your poor, good mother who perhaps doesn’t yet feel any immediate sorrow on your account, but is already slowly going to pieces under the strain of keep off such sorrow, for she thinks she can help you in some way by this. But after all, these are really things which you know very well, and out of consideration for myself alone I should not have mentioned them again if you had not provoked me into it by your promises.’

During these last words the maid entered to look after the fire in the stove. She had barely left the room when Oscar cried out, ‘But Father! I would never have expected that. If in the past I had had only one little idea, an idea for my dissertation, let’s say, which has been lying in my trunk now for ten years and needs ideas like salt, then it is possible, even if not probable, that, as happened today, I would have come running from my walk and said: “Father, by good fortune I have such-and-such an idea.” If with your venerable voice you had then thrown into my face the reproaches you did, my idea would simply have been blown away and I should have had to march off at once with some sort of apology or without one. Now just the contrary! Everything you say against me helps my ideas, they do not stop, becoming stronger, they fill my head. I’ll go, because only when I am alone can I bring them into order.’ He gulped his breath in the warm room.

‘It may be only a piece of rascality that you have in your head,’ said the father with his eyes opened wide in surprise. ‘In that case I am ready to believe that it has got hold of you. But if something good has lost its way into you, it will make its escape overnight. I know you.’

Oscar turned his head as though someone had him by the throat. ‘Leave me alone now. You are worrying me more than is necessary. The bare possibility that you can correctly predict my end should really not induce you to disturb me in my reflections. Perhaps my past gives you the right to do so, but you should not make use of it.’

‘There you see best how great your uncertainty must be when it forces you to speak to me so.’

‘Nothing forces me,’ said Oscar, and his neck twitched. He also stepped up very close to the table so that one could no longer tell to whom it belonged. ‘What I said, I said with respect and even out of love for you, as you will see later, too, for consideration for you and Mama plays the greatest part in my decisions.’

‘Then I must thank you right now,’ the father said, ‘as it is indeed very improbable that your mother and I will still be capable of it when the time comes.’

‘Please, Father, just let tomorrow sleep on as it deserves. If you awaken it before its time, then you will have a sleepy day. But that your son must say this to you! Besides, I really didn’t intend to convince you yet, but only to break the news to you. And in that, at least, as you yourself must admit, I have succeeded.’

‘Now, Oscar, there is only one thing more that really makes me wonder: why haven’t you been coming to me often with something like this business of today. It corresponds so well with your character up to now. No, really, I am being serious.’

‘Yes, wouldn’t you have thrashed me, then, instead of listening to me? I ran home, God knows, in a hurry to give you a little pleasure. But I can’t tell you a thing as long as my plan is not complete. Then why do you punish me for my good intentions and demand explanations from me that at this time might still injure the execution of my plan?’

‘Keep quiet, I don’t want to know a thing. But I have to answer you very quickly because you are retreating towards the door and apparently have something very urgent in hand: You have calmed my first anger with your trick, but now I am even sadder in spirit than before and therefore I beg you – if you insist, I can even fold my hands – at least say nothing to your mother of your ideas.” – A story from Kafka’s Diaries http://ift.tt/1K26F4w


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