Kafka’s Metamorphosis Didn’t Describe This, Part I

As I prepared to develop this article today, I wracked my brain for a couple of hours, trying to find just the right title, and the words simply failed me. It happens. Sometimes, I start the article and let the title evolve from there. Other times, I start with the title that seems to weave the threads of the story together. But as I wrote this title, I realized it was the perfect description of what I was going to cover today: Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis,” which I’ve read several times since I was 15, was never like this. Even he couldn’t have begun to describe what I’m about to share here, and that’s exactly why I’ve written the title as I have. I think Kafka would approve.

Metamorphosis” begins, “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from a troubled dream, he found himself changed in his bed to some monstrous kind of vermin.” He ends the short story with completely different imagery: “And it seemed to them that their daughter’s gestures were a confirmation of these new dreams of theirs, an encouragement for their good intentions, when, at the end of the journey, the girl rose before them and stretched her young body.”

Yes, I know this is the right title, as you’ll see.

No matter where you look across the mainland of the original 48 United States, the landscape is often dotted with white or red farmhouses or little cottages with traditional white picket fences neatly marking off the boundaries some call “home sweet home.” Many of the folks who live in these dwellings work hard and live simply, building their lives around family and close friends, Sunday dinners, summer barbecues, and the swing hanging from the apple tree in the side yard. Not all of the places. You might exchange an orange or lemon tree in the Southeast or Southwest, but the general idea is there.

Quechee Gorge

Quechee Gorge, Vermont

Vermont is nestled among the original 13 colonies (states) of the United States, and the landscape is warm and inviting to anyone who finds pastoral scenes a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of America’s larger cities. While I don’t know the populations of Burlington and Montpelier, Vermont’s two major cities that come to mind, I’ve been to both, and they’re just as inviting as the rolling hills and quieter surroundings I’ve found to be home to what I call God’s country–Quechee Gorge. Vermont itself is one of those places you might have seen in Norman Rockwell’s Americana paintings.

The news from Vermont on Saturday was far from that stereotypical scene I just painted, but the description near one of the photos in the story was similar–from the white farmhouse in central Vermont to the “two folding chairs–one red, one blue–on the porch.” But that’s where the similarities stop.

It’s also a far cry from what we normally think of as crime scenes where yellow tape and white chalk mark off buildings and bodies in the aftermath of the maze of police cars. Not that crime never happens in Vermont. It does. But it’s not common like it is in large cities from New York to Chicago or Los Angeles–or Houston.

Houston is far from that Vermont farmhouse where a 23-year-old woman found her mother, her aunt and her grandmother shot to death on Saturday apparently the day before by Jody Herring, a female cousin, who then drove 40 miles to what I presume is the county seat, Barre, where she–in full view of witnesses–used a “fairly high caliber hunting rifle” to shoot and kill a state caseworker at close range.

In Houston, the news reporter stood in front of a neat brick home with white trim and nicely kept grounds as she described the police scene behind her. Frankly, I don’t know how she stopped from shaking–if she did–when she spoke of the scene where a man with a long criminal history had been arrested on eight counts of murder. Once romantically involved with one of the victims, David Ray Conley III apparently had entered the home through an unlocked window after discovering the door locks had been changed. The scene inside was so horrific, I can’t get the image out of my head: He systematically handcuffed every victim inside–eight in all–and then, one by one, shot them in the head. The adults were his 40-year-old ex-girlfriend, her 50-year-old husband, and six children ranging in age from 6 to 13.

It’s believed at least one of the children had been fathered by Conley who has a July 8 warrant against him for at least two “felony family assault” charges related to domestic violence against the woman noted above. But his record dates back to 1988 and includes felony and misdemeanor charges of family member assault, a felony retaliation charge, felony possession of crack cocaine, felony robbery charges, felony auto theft, evading arrest, and criminal trespass. The warrant listed his address as the home where this bloody massacre had taken place Saturday night.

In Vermont, Herring is now charged with the Friday killing of a Department for Children and Families caseworker who apparently was the catalyst for the July 10 decision to remove Herring’s custody of a 9-year-old daughter. Apparently, however, her having shot and killed the three family members took place on Friday before she killed the caseworker. There is no time for the actual killings, only for the 911 call on Saturday morning. Since the caseworker’s death and 911 call are confirmed, the charts will be analyzed based on these two times.

Because of the length of this, I’ll cut this article at part I and start Kafka’s Metamorphosis Didn’t Describe This, Part II here.

©2015 Michelle Young

Kafka’s Metamorphosis Didn’t Describe This, Part III