For Franz Kafka

The old woman sat, softly singing, on a blue wooden chair in the middle of the vast cobbled square, rippling a carpet of birds with each cast of her hand.

Tall jagged buildings loomed on all four sides around her — blocky and black-windowed, granite-yellow in the light of the dying sun, their shadows not quite lengthened to cover her frail red-shawled form. The air was cold and redd’d her cheeks as the birds fought for dried corn and cracker crumbs.

A tall man strode toward her — dark blue and broadshouldered, a cap visor shading all but a dour mouth.



She rolled with the blow which sent her sprawling.



Fluttering clucks roared the birds swept round and round him. He raised his arms, alarmed; they were wings and he dwindled, his voice a querulous chirp among hundreds.

She felt herself, sighed, and satisfied, arose. She shifted her shawl and sat, singing softly and scattering seeds.

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