What Would Kafka Say? by Ilan Herman

One cloudy morning in early May I woke up after seven good hours of sleep and got up to check my email. I have a well-guarded email folder. I receive about five emails a day, all welcome, no spam. My filters rock. A friend of mine in L.A. has twenty-four thousand emails in his box. “How can you live with such clutter?” I asked. He shrugged. “It’s not like it’s taking up a room in the house.” I wanted to say that he was wrong, that cyber clutter is as bad as boxes of folders tucked away in a dusty attic…but that sounded silly, so I said, “I guess you’re right.”

You’ll never find more than ten emails in my box. I delete them in orderly fashion, a minimalism I adhere to regardless of the medium at hand, be it my fridge, my clothes, or my email folder.

Therefore, I was perturbed to read an email from my publisher: “Why did you send me this?” The reprimand from a stern librarian lurked in her question.

My fingers shook while I quickly typed: “Send you what? I haven’t written you in a week.”

“Here’s the email,” Marcy wrote and forwarded me the email I had allegedly sent her. In it was an unfamiliar link. I opened the link and was directed to a website selling Viagra. My throat dried up. I laughed nervously and typed: “I didn’t send that.”

“Maybe you have a virus,” Marcy wrote.

I don't have a virus,” I emailed back in defense of my vigorous filters, but then cupped my mouth when I became acutely aware that Marcy thought I was taking Viagra, that she assumed my email was part of an unscrupulous if legal promotion I’d been suckered into while in vane pursuit of sexual prowess.

With the speed of light I yelled a new email: I have a virus.

“Maybe you should change your password,” came the dry response.

“I will...” I wrote while a plethora of explanations flooded my mind, and I would’ve expounded to her my hapless predicament were it not for an incoming email from my buddy Danny, a trombone player who lives in Oregon. I sent the email to Marcy and tucked away my shame, though I knew I shouldn’t be ashamed. Even if I did use Viagra….what’s wrong with that? I’d be joining a throng of millions taking pleasure in extending the lifetime of a valid pursuit….but I wasn’t taking Viagra, and within that lay the biased town-square vengeance and Justice void of rationale, the wicked essence of gleeful conviction without trial.

Danny’s email read: You’re sending me to a Viagra store? What’s your point?

“I didn’t,” I typed breathlessly. “Someone hijacked my email address.”

“Someone?” he wrote, and I heard a snicker. “Like you don’t know who?”

“What are you saying,” I typed in record speed. “What’s your point?”

“I don’t have a point,” he wrote and lol’d. “I have a rod.”

I'm not taking viagra.” I couldn’t believe how loud I was typing.

“And the pope’s Jewish,” Danny wrote. “It’s no big deal.”

What I assumed was the truth became clear to me. “You take Viagra,” the territorial male wrote with venom, “but I don’t, so to me it’s still a big deal.”

Moments passed in silence until I realized Danny had left his computer, or had chosen to ignore me, maybe because he was too busy laughing, or perhaps offended, or possibly because his toddler son crapped in his diaper.

Uneasy silence ensued, one layered with the fact I’d been robbed, violated, raped by some devious cyber entity that, somehow, defying the thick firewalls and virus protection I’d labored to construct for a decade, had seized my identity and squeezed my proverbial balls.

Swift action must be taken, I decided, and clenched resolute fists. I entered my email account and changed my password from Emily to Sandbox. Then I highlighted my entire email list—thirty five addresses—friends and family (brother sister nephews nieces ex-wives son and daughters), fellow musicians and writers, publishers and agents, all of whom had made my contact list because they were an essential part of my emotional and creative life, and wrote: “I apologize for the spam. I’ve been hacked. I changed my password. I hope that resolves the issue.” I wanted greatly to insist, “And for anyone who cares to know, I’m not taking Viagra,” but I knew I’d sound like a boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar even though I hadn’t raided any cookie jars in quite some time…so I bit my tongue and let the dry and efficient cyber letter be on its way.

I then resumed my morning routine and exercised in the gym, after which I showered and ate an apple chopped into a bowl with milky cereal. Then I watched CNN. All the while I worried about the witch-hunt taking place in cyber space, the giggling and snickering, juvenile and sophomoric, a nod and a wink while they shrugged and whispered under their breath, “Someone left his sticky underwear to dry in the open.”

“But I didn’t. They’re not my underwear,” I mumbled to myself, and then rolled my eyes with helpless resignation: I was snared in a web impossible to untangle…a veiled impotent I’d become….I bowed my head and, ready for the continued public flogging, returned to check my email.

Only one message graced my box, from Vanessa, a masseuse who’d helped me out greatly a year before, when my left calve muscle seized. I’d found her to be a sexy woman but hadn’t mentioned as much to her. Our two massages were professional, draped and friendly.

Vanessa wrote, “Sorry to hear that. Then again, maybe not. lol.”

I growled. “Sorry to hear what?”

“You know…”

“No I don’t. I don’t take Viagra,” I wrote, and then, spreading my middle-aged feathers: “I don’t need Viagra.”

Her email smiled. “Really? Can I check?"

I blushed with nervous lust. “Anytime.”

“I’m visiting my mom,” Vanessa wrote. “I’ll be back Friday. I’ll come at eight and give you a massage, lol, and you can give me one too.”

Surprised and flattered by her honest and passionate advance, I swallowed with a parched throat when I wrote, “See you then. Champagne on me.”


The date was on. I had three days to contemplate my tremendously good fortune when it occurred to me that I hadn’t entertained a woman’s comforting touch in quite a while, possibly a long while (depending on one’s definition of long). What if I got nervous and suffered performance anxiety and, like a snail withdrawing into its shell, withered away when the moment was upon me…. My masculine fire hydrant glowed in red…I quickly opened the link that sent me to the Viagra online store.

Ilan Herman is the author of The Gravedigger (Casperian Books), Chan Kim (Savant Books & Publications) and Lord of the Cats (self-published), all of which can be purchased on his Amazon.com page.