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Why Kafka Would Like FEMA

Meanwhile, you had meet with an insurance adjuster. You had come to a rough agreement about the extent of the damage. A check, a first installment, would be sent out immediately. That was three weeks ago. Meanwhile your contractor had spent tens of thousands of dollars ripping things apart and cleaning and dehumidifying your house. It was then you discovered that the check, when it came (it would come, wouldn’t it?), would be made out to you--and your mortgage company. Oh. They, of course (of course!), would only dole out the funds in dribs and drabs, in checks made out to you and your contractor, and of course (of course!) only after their inspectors (what a lot of inspectors there are in the world) had ascertained that the work was done in a way that satisfied your mortgage company. It was unclear whether that would be before or after the town’s building inspectors had decided whether the work was up to code. If, that is, any work could be done, because a building permit could only be issued after the Planning and Zoning board certified that any work could be done on the house in the first place. But hadn’t the insurance company insisted that you must immediately take steps to prevent more damage by removing anything exposed to salt water (floors, walls, wiring, etc.)? Yes. But no one spoke of Planning and Zoning then. At that time—only a few weeks ago, but how distant it seems—everyone was urging you to push ahead quickly, quickly, maybe you’d be back in the house by Thanksgiving. Or Christmas. Or New Year’s. Certainly by the end of January, or February at the latest. Unless, of course (of course!)—well, let’s just say that there are still more chapters to come.

I used to think that Franz Kafka exaggerated things. I see now that he was not so much a novelist or fantasist as he was a documentary artist. I can’t say I am happy about the discovery.