Poseidon

Franz Kafka

Poseidon was sitting at his desk working. The administration of all the waters was a huge task. He could have had as many assistants as he wanted, and in fact he did have a large staff, but since he took his job very seriously and went through all the calculations himself anyway, assistants were of little use to him. One couldn’t say that the work made him happy either; he only did it because it was his to do. Yes, he had often requested happier work, as he put it, but whenever they came back to him with suggestions, it turned out that nothing appealed to him as much as what he was doing. It was actually very difficult to find anything else for him. It was hardly possible to put him in charge of a particular sea, quite apart from the fact that the calculations involved were no less onerous, just more trivial, since great Poseidon was only ever in line for an executive post. And if he was offered a job in a different department, the very thought of it was enough to turn his stomach, his divine breath became restless, his bronze thorax quaked. Not that they took his complaints all that seriously: if a great power kicks up, then you have to be seen to give into him, even in the most hopeless cause; no one seriously thought of having Poseidon removed from office, he had been god of the seas from the beginning of time, and would have to remain such.

The thing that most angered him—and this was the principal cause of his unhappiness in his job—was when he got to hear what people thought it involved, that is, forever parting the waves with his trident. And when all the time he was sitting at the bottom of the ocean up to his ears in figures, the occasional visit to Jupiter was really the only break in the monotony; a visit, moreover, from which he usually returned in a towering bad temper. He hardly ever clapped eyes on the seas, only fleetingly on his hurried way up to Olympus, and he had never sailed them as such. He tended to say he was waiting for the world to end first, because there was bound to be a quiet moment just before the end when he had signed off on his last calculation and would be able to take himself on a little cruise somewhere.