I’m taking a fabulous “show and tell” class that demands thoughtful imitation and analysis of a range of prose, ancient to post-modern. This week, I wrote a short-short in response to Franz Kafka’s “A Hunger Artist” and thought I’d share it here.
Some Hunger Artists Go to Coney Island
Every July 4, across the street from Nathan’s on Neptune Avenue, three emaciated demonstrators sat on the corner in protest of the annual hot dog eating competition. They held hand-painted signs that read “wasteful”, “capitalist sludge”, “cruel”. But they were only three and they sat silently with grim expressions, so it was easy for the boisterous crowd to dismiss them or simply overlook them as the contestants dipped buns into water for ease of swallowing and gobbled them down with dog upon dog.
As their protests were unsuccessful, the competition continuing each year, the demonstrators thought of other ways to show the crowd that their lauding of excess was morally repugnant. They agreed upon an action for the next year’s demonstration that went beyond the previous year’s silent hunger strikes.
“Something spectacular, because the crowd only understands spectacle,” said one.
“Something that also shows our true devotion to the cause, an ultimate self-sacrifice,” said the second. The third, devoted to silence, said nothing. They hoped to permanently mar the spectacle of excess with their spectacle of sacrifice.
The next year, they each arrived on Neptune Avenue with a freshly sharpened cleaver and set up their old hand-painted signs beside them. They’d agreed with one another to be as swift as possible. Shock would be their friend (on a number of levels). At the start of the competition, as the contestants began their gorging, the protesters stood and swiftly lopped off of one another those limbs they’d previously agreed would be sacrificed to the cause. Taking turns, they hurled at the gulping contestants their severed limbs.
Nearby police, who’d always stood guard in case of such displays, whisked away the protesters. And the crowd, though at first aghast, thought it some outrageous joke and clamored for more.