Saturday, April 14, 2007

If I...

If I awoke on New Year's Day as the Lord God--no, wait, that wouldn't work, the Lord God doesn't sleep--then if I awoke on New Year's Day as St. Peter, I would say: "What should I do this year for those irascible Czechoslovaks? They are such heretics, and sometimes--blast them--entirely ungrateful; but there must be some good in them. I think that their weather is too extreme; maybe that is why they are so cantankerous and stubborn. It is hot and stormy in the summer, so they grumble irritably; in the winter it's so freezing that everyone thinks only of themselves, acting like icicles to others. The climate does that. And so they don't like anything; winter is too cold and summer too hot; if something is black, it is too black for them, and if something is white, it is too white for them; never in their life is anything just right. They are accustomed to this from this weather of theirs. Wait just a moment, you tricksters, I'll show you; I'll grant you a nice bit of summer, like by the seaside; I'll give you mild winters, with snow, naturally, a little bit of snow is a good thing, and comfortable summers with sun and plenty of moisture--it would be deviltry if I didn't alter it for you. If you were milder to yourselves, your weather would be nicer; but if you don't want to start yourselves, I will do it for you. Let the Lord God help you in the New Year!

If I awoke on New Year's Day as prime minister, I would wonder greatly at that and stoke my chin, at a loss. (Aha, I would say, I have to shave.) When after a while I got used to the miraculous change in my existence, I would stay in bed for a few more minutes, as I had done hitherto as an ordinary citizen, but I wouldn't go back to sleep. I would ponder. "My word, we have the anniversary of the republic to do this year. I know what; I'll call the ministries together and say: "Boys, last year we presided over the monument to Austria; this year we have to preside over the monument to the Republic. Look, we have to put things together somehow; left and right camps, it's for the birds; the republic, it's like--a circle; how can there be a left and right wing of a circle?" Then a number of other arguments would occur to me, but I would put those off until the ministries arrive; then I would get up, making sure--for luck in the new year--that I got up on the right foot.

If I awoke on New Year's Day as the Lord Mayor of the city of Prague, I would gaze a while into the far future and then I would say: "It seems to me that that that Čapek is right; they really should have started in with that green ring around Prague. When I imagine those beautiful lanes...and the clearings for the children...and little groves here and there...well then, let's get to it."

If I awoke on New Year's Day as a millionaire and a man of the ruling class, I would say: "It's already 'twenty-eight? God, how time flies! Ah well, this year I've got to do something with my money, got to set something up in memory of or establish something, as long as it's worthwhile. It's worth some thought, but the money will be there; we will take care of that.

If I awoke on New Year's Day as a twenty year-old, I'd turn over to the other side and keep sleeping; I'd have lots to think about after New Year's Eve.

If I awoke on New Year's Eve as my puppy, I would scratch myself a bit with my back leg (having some disorderly flea on the nape of my neck) and then I would say: "This year I won't anger my master any more, I will go outside nicely, I won't scatter bones on the stairs, I will keep clean, I won't sleep on the couch, I won't run through every row in the garden. For that I would receive a cube of sugar and be immeasurably overjoyed with life.


Karel Čapek, Almanac (posthumous collection of short writings)


Nathanael said...

lookin' good.

The Earthtopus said...

I don't like the "that that Capek," but I don't see a way around it right now at the end of a night of work. Also, I should have used "hind leg." Maybe in draft 2.