Thursday, December 29, 2005


So, alive and well--er, sick--in Oklahoma. Yesterday, we went to the zoo and about an hour into the trip I started getting this horrible achiness in my entire body. It was awful. Then, I started running a fever, which finally broke this morning. I feel like hell, but I still feel better than I did yesterday. Let's see...we did some mini-golf. That was fun. The wind was blowing so hard that you couldn't take the time to line up your putt or the ball would blow away.

I had a gross sandwich from room service at the Marriott Southern Hills. Szteve called me and left a completely incomprehensible message--not because he was drunk, which I am privately sure he was--but because whatever phone he was using (his cell) was buzzing. I think I made out the phrase "C'est c,a?" The buzz was so bad I couldn't tell what was going on, and my head was hurting so badly that I didn't really want to try. Sorry, Z.

McKenzie got us massages--that's at one, and we have to go run some sickly, shambling errands first, so, I'm going to sign off in order to have time enough to do everything.

Affectionately yours, etc.,


Sunday, December 18, 2005

Fun time post!

Done with papers required of me for this quarter. I have to translate a comic book by Christmas Eve. I have to get a re-write of my MA paper done soon.

So, instead of those things, I will create a New Rapidly-Abandoned Pons Asinorum Tradition: The Catalog of Frequently Misused Theory Words!

Of course, I use "Theory" to mean "Literary Theory," but that is just a stand in for "English and Comp Lit grad students talking at seminars."

Today's word is "imbricated": as in, I just find it fascinating how [D.A.] Miller manages to's not what I want to say...Somehow the strong paranoid reading that he wants to create somehow imbricates or becomes imbricated with the disappeared social, making the rhetoric the kind of the site of the collapsed social. Is this making sense?

From the OED: 1. (See quot.) Obs.

1704 J. HARRIS Lex. Techn., Imbricated is used by Mr. Tournefort, and some other Botanists, to express the Figure of the Leaves of some Plants, which are hollowed in, like an Imbrex, or Gutter-Tile. 1727-41 CHAMBERS Cycl.
2. Composed of parts (leaves, scales, or the like) which overlap like tiles. Also, covered by overlapping leaves, scales, etc.
1753 CHAMBERS Cycl. Supp., Imbricated shell,..any species of shell-fish, whose shells are elevated into transverse ridges, lying over one another at the base, in the manner of the tiles on a house-top. 1759 B. STILLINGFL. Econ. Nat. in Misc. Tracts (1762) 79 On this earth the imbricated liverworts find a bed to strike their roots in. 1858 GEIKIE Hist. Boulder iv. 46 Imbricated like the cone of the Scotch fir. 1882 Garden 1 Apr. 212/3 Another beautiful variety, having large and finely imbricated flowers.
3. Of leaves, scales, etc.: Arranged so as to overlap each other, after the manner of roof-tiles.
1753 CHAMBERS Cycl. Supp. s.v. Leaf, Imbricated leaf,..leaves placed over one another in the manner of the tiles of a house, or like the scales of fishes. 1777 PENNANT Zool. IV. 101 (Jod.) Pecten with about thirty echinated imbricated rays. 1806 J. GALPINE Brit. Bot. 20 Glumes, imbricated on every side. 1861 HULME tr. Moquin-Tandon II. III. i. 70 The Common Wood-louse... The body is oval..composed of a number of imbricated rings.
4. Resembling in pattern a surface of overlapping tiles: = IMBRICATE a. 3.
1875 FORTNUM Majolica iii. 32 Sometimes ornamented..with chequered, ‘chevroné’ or imbricated patterns.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Driven as a Salmon II: Not for the easily depressed.

So, a big shout-out to Dan E. Tanner, who, I recently was informed, occasionally tunes in. Just so you know, Dad, the link to the zombie game works fine, now.

I am supposed to be writing a paper, but my brain refuses to do anything that anyone might even remotely call work, so I thought, "I know! I'll work on the novella-thingy!" I don't really internally punctuate with exclamation points, people. Calm down.

I'm at this place where I need to flesh out Kennedy, and in a different way than she was presented by Bones, because, obviously, her relationship to Yuriko is hugely important to the plot and of a completely different character than his vision of her would permit her to have. My problem, of course, is that I'm not a girl. And Kennedy needs to be pretty laser-accurate to match the translation from Barnes that is Allison, but I want to take it somewhere else, tonally. So, I decide to do some research. It seemed a little inappropriate to mine info from the females I know of the blogging community--because I know them. That would be strange. Since I need Kennedy to have a writing voice for my current plan, I asked myself, "How do I find out how girls write?" I went to Friendster, and got distracted. Then, I saw the ad for Mate1 dating services, and I did the unthinkable: I clicked on it. In doing this, yes, I am aware, I reinforced the completely unfounded internet marketer belief that people click on ads. But it needed to be done. I was going to go through and find someone exactly like Kennedy, and then steal her writing voice. The following are some unedited text samplings of the search for a woman between 18-35 in the OC, in their own words:

I am 19, so i am a freshman in college. i go to Brooks college, where i am majoring in fashion. i love walking to get coffee from campus, then spending like 20$ on coffee and mints!! hehehe. i love talking to people, but not on the phone. i dont know why! aim is like my other life! my life also revolves around my friends and figure skating. i practially like live at the pepsi center! i am there every saturday! sometimes my life really sucks. i am put under alot of stress to be like my sister, but honey that aint ever gonna happen! so my parents have high expectitations for me!

I'm a single and loving it yes still in hopes of finding my special someone. Right now all I'm looking for in life are the simple things. Food, shelter, and an income to support myself with, lol. I have a wicked sense of humor, and I am brutally honest but that does not mean that I lack respect or consideration for others when it comes to speaking my mind. My requests are pretty basic and I will lay them out for you... No former wife beaters ( I don't care if u hit her only once!), no alcoholics or players, no one that still lives with their mom, and there's also no hope for the unemployed. If you are still interested and DO NOT fit into any of those categories, then please, by all means...BRING ON THE CONVERSATION!!! :))

I am very outspoken but I have a tender side.

Who Am I ? One who is smitten by your beauty eyes. A creature of light wandering a world of shadow. A woman. Nothing more. Nothing less. I have suffered my trials and tribulations, tasting both the sweet nectar of victory and the bitter fruit of defeat. I am wise and strong enough to carry my own cross. Still, I seek the wisdom and strength of others. Possessing a predilection towards the eclectic and the intense, I am drawn as a moth to the flame, driven as a salmon against the current, towards the extraordinary. Possessing a disdain for the half-hearted and the mundane, I am repelled, as identical magnetic poles, from the ordinary. I am the painter whose pallet contains an infinite number of hues, constantly swirling in the kaleidescope of color which is my SOUL. I am the jeweler carefully cutting the countless facets, searching for the optimum balance between brilliance and clarity, in the precious stone which is my SPIRIT. I am the gardener, cultivating the soil, planting the seeds, watering the sprouts, weeding the rows, and savoring each resultant sweet, sweet bloom that is my WORLD.


Hey Bitchesss My name is Savannah and I'm from Lagunaaa Beach itss amazingg! I LOVE TO TAN! obviously cause im reallytann..and I love to shop and model and hang out by the beach.. Im really a beach girl... I like live at the beach. I attended the unviresity of south florida and i loveeed being on the east coast its really nice theree! any way now Im home and im looking to pursue my modeling career! I've been in mutiple magazines, ads, and runway shows but I really want to turn professional.. So now i am taking modeling classes..Other then school in my free time I like to hang out with my gorgeous friends tan go to clubs, party, dance, and shop of course. Im really the typical 22 year old. I swear im not a stupid I.M. me and we can have a little gang bang!


well i am 35 i have made lots of mistsakes in my life..... who has not? i am in a marriage that we both want out of,we went to vegas a month after we met got pregnant and here we are. we live together, play together. but we know that the love we have for eachother is not enough.. we want sparks.. we never fight, we actually get along really well... our friends cant believe were just waiting for the righ time to get the divorce together.. he actually helped me put my photo on this thing.. i am due with this little boy in 3days... i cant wait.. his name is kody james.and at least his parents are really good at being friends. but i am bored and cant wait to get on with life.. i feel like its been on hold for a life time... but atleast my son will be very healthy..

At this point, the gulf between writing and life yawned so vast before me that my head actually split apart in its attempts to comprehend this stuff--this is by no means the worst/best of it, simply the most legible of the first three pages-- and formed itself into two heads: good head and bad head. The two heads had an argument as to whether I should mock these poor people or sympathize with them. I chose to present them as unironically as I could manage, factoring in local weather and my rather cruelly sadistic leanings. There's more if you want it.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

On that note...

If you're into shredding cutlass-wielding, molotov-cocktail chucking zombies with a shotgun while death metal thrashes and an urban hellscape thrashes by in time to the music--and if you're reading this, then I bet you fuckin' are--I suggest you check out this little linky-poo.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Zaireeka just gave me 11 full-length, new cds for 65.00, plus tax. Included is shit from bands with singles currently out. Free shipping. Subscribing was perhaps the smartest music decision I made in 2005, and I owe it to Christina. I can't believe it. It's insane.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

To Be Read in a Super Smash Brothers Melee Voice:


I will be finishing this rough draft over the next few weeks/months. I will post it as it comes, rightchya.

Expect a procrastination post from the moments when paralyzing fear of my papers causes me to avoid them until the very last second, possibly by engaging in this act of glorious futility.

Love and failure,

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Part III, Chapterlets 16, 17

The strangest mansion in Texas belonged to Allison’s grandfather. It was hunched like an animal in the midst of a tangled patch of weeds and briars. Before Allison had inherited it, it had been in the family for generations. The whole thing looked as if it had received no maintenance in all that time. In truth, every generation that had lived there had put their own unique architectural flourish on the façade, and every generation had given it one coat of white paint.
The house had its own small plot in the back, where the faded grey and green tombstones stood in the shade of a spreading blackthorn. The whole of the house was protected by ancient withered trees that fended off light, wind, heat, and cold alike, leaving the interior a pale reflection of the season outside. Under Allison’s care it had become somewhat of a poor man’s resort for poets, the occasional radical liberal, artists, or lovers too conspicuous for the tastes of Amarillo. All manner of religious cooks could be found there, too, from Faith Healers to Hoodoo practitioners. They were either out beneath the branches of that ancient blackthorn or one of its sentinel companions, or they were in the sitting room or parlor, causing the whole house to chatter and creak with the shuffling of their shoeless feet and bootless ideas.
Allison divided her time equally between her home in South Tulsa and this rambling structure outside Amarillo, and she could normally be seen in the parlor, one hand on the head of Bernadette, her chocolate brown Labrador, whose eyes never left the face of her mistress, with a fire pushing their shadows high up onto the wall behind them.
Despite all the characters that blew threw the house, Allison was the only one that truly stood out. There was something in the calm, unreserved attention she gave that marked her as the center of a vast wheel of compassion. Her shoulders were broad, and she was above average height for a woman. Her skin was unblemished and unwrinkled despite her middle years having come and gone. But over and above this delicacy of complexion, or perhaps because of it, there was something carved in Allison that was immediately apparent to all that met her—in her gaze and in her posture were the very figure of patience, of abiding time.
She had something vaguely old-timey about her that seemed only to come forward in her West Texas setting, something that shouted about covered wagons and long drives and animals pausing to lap cold water from iron-rich streambeds, something that spoke of terrified children making up stories about Indians in the dark, and the women in the fields as large and hardy as their men, crushing the crops down as they sprung up from the worked ground, something that spoke to a time before the petty religion of her day, when God was so large and palpable in their minds and lands that the people thought they could build the world in his image once again, given equal time.
At these gatherings and discussions, Allison was the silent center. Allison was immune to the fall that other bodies described in space as time accreted upon them. She abided, keeping privately and endlessly at bay a world of fear and frenzy by her refusal to acknowledge it. It was such a world that all these others fled, and it was to be in her presence that they came.
Allison gave relentlessly of herself. And those that came to visit her always took away something vital, something they lacked, something she had and didn’t know was being given. The poverty that Allison was becoming was visible in the house, in the ruinous tangle of thorns and briars, in the faces of those who came to stay with her.
Allison did not have a sense of humor. She had a smile. It was quick and agile, but it never reached her eyes. Her eyes seemed to absorb and refine what went on in front of her without ever really approaching it. She would occasionally laugh at a joke, but it was in a way that seemed more to indicate her acknowledgement that she had noticed a joke being made than to signify any special overflow of delight that it might have caused.
Neither was Allison a cynic. She listened to the thousand little admissions of guilt that those around her flung at her in an attempt to break her equanimity—listened to them without accusation or recrimination. This was the reason people came to her, and it was often the reason that they left. They seemed unable to deal with her inability to recognize injustice in their behavior or evil in their natures. She was always already outside their stories even at her moments of most sublime empathy. She was, therefore, incapable of being embroiled in their quests for redemption or companionship.
Then she met Yuriko. Her agent, whom she kept in her capacity as a published poet, had told her over coffee that the Kanze Noh troupe was going to be performing in Houston. They were performing a program including both Kyogen and Noh pieces, chief among them Aoi no Ue, a piece that Allison was using as a sort of central figure in a novel-length prose work she had supposedly been working on for the last six months. Allison went alone. She arrived early and took her seat in the second row.
The Kyogen went ahead with reserved, masterful comic timing. Kimono and masks in yellow, white, and red flowed by over the hard boards of the stage, with master and servant recriminating each other and bickering as the lights shone sedately down on them. Allison watched it all absently, amused when master and servant both ended up taking advantage of the thunder god.
Then, the kyogen was over. The first clackings of the wooden blocks caused the girl sitting next to Allison to shake in apprehension. She took out a cigarette and fumbled in her purse until Allison put a hand over it and gave a little shake of her head. The girl gave a start and turned to look at her. Allison watched her looking out of the corner of her eye. Eventually, the girl turned her eyes back to the action.
As the wakizure began the slow exposition relating the Lady Aoi’s illness, Allison returned the examination. Every slight gesture of the court official’s fan pointed toward the folded robes of the absent/present Lady Aoi made the girl’s trembling start again.
Before she knew it, the sorceress Teruhi was summoned, and when she approached the center of the stage, she turned and seemed to face the girl directly, song welling up from behind the mask with an implacable cry of the soul. The sheer emotive quality of the performance caused the girl to stand up, visibly shaking from head to foot. Allison took her hand, trying to pull her back to her seat. “Let’s get out of here,” the girl whispered, and, still holding her hand, Allison led her out of the room.
In the lobby, the girl lit her cigarette under a no smoking sign. Allison said, “My name is Allison Meyers,” and she waited.
After a moment, the girl said, “I’m Star.” She gestured with the cigarette. “I don’t want to be here.” But that was all. She didn’t say if there was any place she would rather go.

Yuriko had stayed with Allison in Amarillo until mid-winter. Allison felt that there were two principle aspects to the girl. Love and terror. They were so bound up with each other that neither would ever get out.
Allison closed up the house when she found out that they both had reasons to go to Tulsa. Yuriko related only parts of her life, but she kept saying again and again that she wished she could find a place where she felt like she belonged. She mentioned and uncle in Tulsa, and it seemed to Allison like a good opportunity to help the girl find some sort of way to get stable. Allison was chilled at the thought that the constant repetition made it seem as though the girl was saying that she belonged to Allison, with Allison, wherever that happened to be.
Allison let Yuriko stay with her until she managed to make contact with her relatives. Looking out into the garden, you could see the carved granite figure in the little shady area that adjoined her neighbors property, a woman bending forward with one hand extended as if to offer it to someone below.
As they lived their lives together, every object in the house, every syllable that graced the air between them gave proof to the growing sentiments of love and attachment between them. Allison’s house was decorated as only a poet could get away with, with broken animals from carousels exchanging pride of place with Indonesian Buddha heads and Mongolian cabinets of strangely grained wood, eaten by worms. There were small candles on every conceivable surface, and the floor was littered with cushions and books.
When it happened that Allison was alone most of the time, she felt very strongly the presence of this house, their house, and she admitted that this must in some way be part of the punishment meted out to those with the hubris to think that they could build lives together when they had been given lives apart. She would go around, trying not to disturb anything, unaware that her caution was driven by a fear that if she disturbed the smallest thing that Yuriko would be unable to find her way back.
Love was what remained at the end of the day—all the scattered furniture and discarded clothing—the overwhelming by-catch resulting from trawling their lives together. The image of Yuriko standing in the second row cast a permanent shadow onto Allison’s mind. Yuriko was the solid center of Allison’s being, and around her moved the limbs and body, moved the heart and bowels of a great machine whose only purpose was to maintain that center. Yuriko, inasmuch as she was now become a part of Allison, was now beyond time, as Allison was untouched by time’s relentless flow. All that remained to touch upon Yuriko was incident—the appalling possibility of Yuriko’s path coinciding with a truck or a stray bullet was the constant obsession of Allison’s lonely hours. This possibility had such psychic weight that Yuriko became enormous, a gravitic body swirling objects and disasters equally toward her yawning event horizon. Crying out, Allison would wake in the middle of the night and try to sift through the dreams of a broken Yuriko to find some prophetic fragment, some truth about Yuriko as she was then, and the weight of her anxiety would carry her back down into nightmare.
Sometimes the little ghosts of Yuriko’s undisclosed past would flit about the house in Yuriko’s wake as she moved. Little snatches of song in Japanese or Mandarin. Little refrains of rhymes unknown to Allison that would stop as suddenly as they began, pieces of a past working their way to the surface like pieces of glass pushing out of an old scar.
And sometimes, walking about the house, Yuriko would come upon Allison engaged in writing and would throw her arms around her in a terrible embrace, and they would stare at each other’s pupils, their eyes quaking back and forth as the objects of their gaze also fluttered from place to place, looking for somewhere to land, two heads in four hands, pushed so close together that the space between them was the only thing keeping them apart, keeping them from crushing into the same space at the same time in defiance of the laws of physics and the discretion of their bodies.
And sometimes, in moments like these, Yuriko would be borne up on a rogue wave of grief that rose for miles, and, in her distraction, she would slip. The slip would be a slip of tongue or gesture that revealed a wholly alien dialect, making Allison even more conscious that Yuriko had come from a life to which she would have to return. The inevitable call from the desperate uncle must one day see to that. “In order to keep her,” these moments seemed to say, “there is no way but death.” It was only somewhat true, Allison reflected, that in death Yuriko would belong to her. Death went along with each of the living, in company and alone. If death took Yuriko, she would belong as much to memory, to death, and to time as she belonged to Allison. The idea of this loss made her shudder.
Deliberately staring out at the sun to have an excuse for eyes so full of liquid, Allison would track Yuriko by the sounds of her dressing the progress of her leaving. The low grating of the closet opening and the shrieking shove of hangars pushed to one side for the selection of the outfit. The woody rumble of the underwear drawer opening. The satisfied slap of the elastic of her thong hitting one pale hip one room away—probably black, most of them were. The almost imperceptible snip of the bra being clasped. And here—Allison knew Yuriko always put her bra on backwards before turning it around and mashing her breasts into their cups and sliding on the straps—the halting slide of fabric on skin as the bra was adjusted. She saw in her mind Yuriko’s hair being pulled through the hole in her blouse by the handful, rising up along the slope of her shoulders to form a bridge with the nape of her neck and up to the back of her head. Half paralyzed by the sounds and their signaling of departure, Allison would say a little prayer: “In the day of judgment, when our bones come up looking backward for our spirits, I will know only you of all the host of sinners assembled before heaven’s seat. My ears will know only your voice of all the voices lost in the hymns sung before the name. My eyes will scan that ashy expanse and they will not stir until they light upon your face. My feet will stand by the side of your grave until Gabriel is red in the face and his horn drops from his exhausted hands.”
In the doorway, Yuriko would stand. “Don’t wait up,” she’d say.
In the years that they lived together on and off, Yuriko’s leavetakings became persistently closer together. In the beginning, Allison went out when Yuriko did, to watch her back, but it grew difficult. Watching Yuriko move from table to table, drink to drink, man to man, Allison learned that it was important that Yuriko have her somewhere to go back to. Yuriko’s absence became difficult to bear—she was a phantom limb.
Eventually, when Yuriko’s absences became absences of weeks and months rather than days and hours, Allison took to wandering. The doctor, seeing her out alone one night, said to himself, as the tall broad woman passed ahead of him under the streetlights, “There goes the dethroned—Love has fallen off the wall, and not all the king’s horses nor all the king’s men…A religious woman without the joy and safety of the Catholics. Take that safety from a woman,” he said, moving faster to keep her in sight, “and love gets out and into everything. She sees that girl everywhere. Out looking for what she’s too scared to find. Fuck, but it seems strange to see the mother of mischief running around with her head cut off, trying to get the world back and into bed before curfew.”
Allison was looking, it was true. But not for Yuriko. She was looking in parked cars and squats for traces of the things that influenced their lives. Sometimes, knowing that sooner or later Yuriko’s oscillation would snap the tether and that they would be strangers forever after, Allison would sit down on a stair or on a curb or a bench in a park and put her hands in her lap and cry out to god, expecting nothing in return.
One night, after waking from a dream of her grandmother, Allison was drawn by a whimpering sound to the picture window above her desk in the study. She rose and put her dressing gown over her nakedness and went to see what the sound was. Looking into the garden by the obscuring totality of the floodlight, Allison saw a double shadow falling from the granite statue in the corner. Thinking that it might be Yuriko, she opened the window and called out. But there was no answer. She peered into the overdetermined black of the shadow under the statue and saw the gleam of Yuriko’s eyes there, looking back at her. They gazed at each other. As if the floodlight and their gaze could have lightened even the shadow that cloaked Yuriko, Allison saw the body of another woman come into focus in the obscurity. The woman was kneeling in front of Yuriko with her face in yet another pocket of darkness created by Yuriko’s skirt, while she leaned against the statue, one leg over the shoulder of her attendant.
Incapable of looking away, Allison’s vocal chords withered and dead, experiencing the blackest feeling of hatred and foreboding, the shadows of her study seemed to swell up around her and pierce her with a profound despair so thoroughly that she, too, dropped to her knees. Her eyes, then, were torn from the scene not by any act of will, but by the simple motion of a body falling through space. She knelt with her chin on the desk, and thought that if she turned her mind away from what Yuriko was doing, the whole illusion would shatter and leave Yuriko standing alone underneath the statue. Allison shut her eyes tight and felt a fierce happiness. Yuriko was protected. The succession of bodies that clasped against her was protection, but even as she shut her eyes, Allison said, “Ah!” with the unutterable finality of the “Ah!” of a body stabbed through with a knife, a body struck at the moment of the last breath by the weight of the world leaving it. “Ah!”

Part III, Chapterlets 12-15

As the days of their strange engagement went by, they spent many hours together, in museums, parks, coffee shops. Yuriko could tell that this pleased Reason more than words. She was surprised at his taste, sometimes. How he would turn from something truly beautiful to something kitschy and cheap—and still be moved by it. When he touched something, his hands seemed to do his eyes’ work. She thought to herself that he had the touch of a blind man. His fingers would move through space quickly and then hesitate an inch from the surface of something, shaking. Afraid to touch whatever might be there in the imagined dark. When his hand stopped shaking it would close, like he was muffling a shout made by his palm, or like he was that old, drunk television Superman, unsteadily pantomiming catching a bullet. At this point he would turn away, and she would ask him what he had felt. Often he would say, “Nothing,” and stride away. But sometimes he would smile. The grace of his hands frightened her.
His clothes were from a season she could not place. He wore sturdy, dark fabrics of the kind her adopted mother had worn, but of more elegant cut. His pants were molded to his hips and fell down loosely without pleats, sagging a touch at the crotch, but his shirts and waistcoats were always formfitting. She had owned a book of costumes in college—pictures of military uniforms from different ages to use as patterns when putting on a play. Sometimes, reason looked like a somber version of one of the bright, painted soldiers of the steppe. He seemed new and ancient.
As time went on, she found that, if she loved Reason, her love for him was not one that she had chosen. It seemed as if the weight of him was such that she had been pulled in his wake, a body in space orbiting a distant star—sometimes spending years in darkness, sometimes passing near enough that it could be seen against the backdrop of other bodies, other spaces. The relief of the thought was immense. If she was being pulled along, then she could be betraying no one.
If she confessed to herself her motive for pursuing the relationship was pragmatic. She had often dreamt of making a life for herself without relying on her family’s old money—which meant a return to an old way. She had visions of making herself comfortable through hard work and sacrifice. When she looked at Reason, she could see comfort and more standing in front of her, without any effort required. When he had asked to marry her, she had been taken aback. What was more shocking was the eagerness with which she anticipated the formalization of their contract.
When they were married, Reason took her first to Vienna. To reassure himself that he tried to satisfy the curiosity about the old world that she had confessed during their museum visits. She kept saying to herself, in this garden or that palace, I will feel something that will transform me; I will suddenly become as easy with Reason and this marriage as he is; I will feel Allison sheared off of me by the grandeur of these old buildings, and the weight of her will no longer be mine to carry. If Reason sensed any of the anguish that she felt moving through the haze and confusion of such an old place, she could not see it. He seemed as much the sightseer as the guide. With a mechanical efficiency he took her through the city, sometimes smiling and saying, “You are a member of the Destry family, now.” Like that would make her feel something other than twice a foreigner in that foreign place.
He said things to her in German, which she forced herself to memorize. When Reason wasn’t around, she asked their driver their meanings. The driver treated it like a flirtation game. This saddened Yuriko, though she understood it. “Das Leben ist ewig, darin liegt seine Schönheit,” he translated to her in his brashly inelegant English as “The life is eternal. In it lies its alreadyness.” This had confused her more than ignorance. Only once had the driver stomped off without replying.
One night, when they were discussing books over heavy schnitzel and dumplings, she told Reason she hated the Romantics. He laughed and said that by that he supposed she meant the English Romantics. She asked if there was any other kind. He was quiet for a while, squeezing those hands around the handle and body of a beer mug, then he said, shaking his head, “Yes. But it is not fair to speak of them as if they are in the past in any case. Die Romantische Dichtart ist noch im Werden. Ja das ist ihr eigentliches Wesen, daβ sie ewig nur warden, nie vollendet sein kann. How does it go? Eine Philosophie der Poesie überhaupt…” He moved off toward the bar of their suite still muttering in German. When she related what she remembered to the driver, he was unwilling or unable to translate.
They walked along together in front of the Imperial palace in an unseasonably hot sun that pounded down all around the clipped hedges and tinted the statues brilliant white and gold. They went to the Kammergarten and talked, into the Gloriette, still talking, moving from bench to bench, Yuriko realizing in a moment of profound horror and cheesiness that they had a great deal to learn from each other. They looked at every tree and statue from at least two angles, confused by the sun into a kind of permanent awe and restlessness.
Back at the hotel, Yuriko went to the window and pulled aside the velvet hangings, and opened the window despite the night’s cold. He talked to her of the history of Vienna, of Emperor Francis Joseph, of Charles the First, on and on. Yuriko could hear a certain strain in his voice. His words were heavy as if they were supporting the combined weight of their new life and their old hotel. Looking around after this inexhaustible flow of information had begun to ebb, she noticed Reason sitting with one leg thrust out, his head pressed back against the cushion of his chair, just falling asleep, one arm dangling down—his hand somehow more awake and alert than the rest of his being. She realized somehow that she was not entirely what he had hoped she was. This realization was a happy one. Here was something else to distinguish Allison from this man. This man had expectations of her—however small—and she could break them. The different quality of Allison’s feeling for her grew large in that moment and threatened to crush her. She retreated to the bedroom and closed the door on Reason’s silent sleep.
Two days later, they were in Paris. She made him take her into church after church, where she lit candles and murmured her little prayers. In the months that followed, she took comfort in the fact that he did not prevent her from doing this small penance at every church that they passed. He didn’t even comment on it. Just waited, content to study the paintings over each altar and breathe in the stony air. Yuriko could tell that he had resigned himself to her seeming faith as someone might resign themselves to the eventual discovery of a secret too large to glimpse all at once.
As far as she could tell, Reason was looking for the way to be with her, as if being in her presence was clumsy. He was constantly listening with his head to one side as they walked, as if he could hear the echo of her, and that a precise knowledge of echoes would lead him to a manner of being with her in the world that would make all the facts and secrets the new nearness and the irretrievable distances between them somehow less important. As if he was looking for a different foundation to base their new, permanent intimacy on than the removal of loneliness. There was something admirable in it that had Yuriko looking for little churches with an eagerness that almost scared her.
Their eventual return to Oklahoma was marked with Yuriko’s strange premonition of bearing a child. She believed herself to be on the verge of pregnancy, somehow, and she related this bizarre feeling to Reason while they were seated in the library, looking at a late spring fire. He did not seem to hear. He responded, “A child? Yes. A child,” and leaned in to give her an expert kiss before returning to his book. Yuriko had become aware of an entire land inside her mind that was unfolding beneath this new pressure of an expectant husband. She started going out into the country in her car or by cab.
She wandered through the small towns and stared through small, streaked windows onto dusty bits of wood and crumbling furniture labeled antique, alone and wrapped up in this new interior landscape. Once, not having returned for three days, she walked in to find Reason standing, immobile at the window in the master bedroom. When he saw her, he seemed to melt, collapsing onto the hardwood floor in a thumping tumble of sweating flesh. She moved halfway across the room toward him, filled with a terrified pain. He looked up, asking where she had been. She said that she had been all the way to Omaha.
Soon after that, she went to the Boston Avenue Methodist Church and demanded baptism by immersion. She entered the presence of the man performing the ceremony quietly, and the few who were scattered amongst the pews did not cease their prayers or look up. Then, as if some wish for salvation, something even more hideously impossible to fulfill than those wishes that had burdened them throughout their lives had somehow crashed upon them, like a wave breaking over their heads—as if the shadows in the pews had thrown themselves at their bent backs with palpable weight—they looked up and saw her, saw her body moving resolutely down into the water and back up, nude beneath a clinging white baptismal robe, a tall woman with the body of a courtesan.
Despite the quiet protests of the staff, she wandered, dripping to the middle of the aisle where she knelt, conspicuous and alone at the center of every gaze. When a puddle had formed around her, she rose, found her clothes, changed and left.

When Reason came home that night, Yuriko was curled up on a windowseat, one hand supporting her head and one hand on her immense belly. A book was open on the seat next to her. The book was Le Secret, and a whole paragraph had been underlined. The page was stained with tears. As Reason read the sentence, “L’étrange sollicitude des adultes à l’égard des enfants est cruauté pure: obliger quelqu’un qui depend d’eux comme ils ont dépendu eux-mêmes de leurs parents, à refaire le chemin d’obstacles, à se cogner aux mêmes barrières, à peiner sur les memes problèmes, le tout, évidemment, par amour,” he came to the conclusion that something was wrong.
She opened her eyes but did not move. He tried to take her by the arm and lift her toward him, but she resisted with one hand against his chest. She appeared frightened, her mouth opening and closing in silence. He released her and stepped back, trying to articulate something of the concern he was feeling, but they moved away from each other with nothing said.
That night, the contractions came. She began to swear loudly. He tried to make her comfortable.
“Fuck off!” she yelled. She moved unsteadily, leaning away from their mutual center of gravity as he held her up. She was drunk—her hair was swinging behind her and her grey eyes were livid.

Yuriko was delivered of twin boys amidst identical roars of affirmation and despair. Trembling in rage and pain, she rose up in her hospital bed and looked about her, the orbits of her eyes dancing as she searched the faces in the room. She cried, “Allison, Allison!” her eyes wide like a lost child in a darkened room.
A week after the delivery, she was desperate, convinced of the irreparability of her crimes. This act of birth had evoked long shuttered feelings of betrayal and anxiety that flooded over her and seized her attention with a force that nothing could pry loose.
One night, Reason came home to find the thick nurse restraining her with the nanny looking on sadly. Her arms were behind her head in a classic full-Nelson. The nanny calmly said that they had entered to find the missus holding one of the boys over her head as if about to smash it on the side of the crib. They had taken the child and restrained the mother, who even now writhed quietly, not looking about her as Reason watched.
Reason looked in on his sons in their crib. They were healthy, fat, squat, and pink. Unconcerned. They gave a simultaneous mewling cry. He instructed the nurse to release his wife. She drifted over and latched on to him. He walked her up the stairs and put her to bed.
Yuriko began wandering again. Little trips, from which she would return days or hours later, with no account of where she had been or what she had seen. The staff grew uneasy around her. They avoided mentioning her name when they spoke with Reason. Something was coming. The shadows that Reason had felt since Sifu Chang had left were growing denser. They were obscuring everything in a dim mist. It nearly blinded him in the mornings, but most often he could see by the time he returned from work, late at night.
On one such occasion, coming home around four in the morning, she was standing in the dark with her back toward the window, most of her lost within the half-circle of the curtain. He could tell from the line of her posture that she was angry. As he came toward her, she yelled, “I didn’t want them!” and punched him in the eye. He allowed her to hit him three times before he took control of her arms.
Once she was still, he waited to a long count of ten before he said, “You didn’t want them? What am I supposed to say to that? You had a number of options at your disposal. Why have them if that was the case?” Reason loosed her arms and stepped away.
“Why does everyone have to talk about them all the time? Does the whole world know?”
“Not even a significant percentage of it.” Reason waited. When she said nothing further, he asked, “Who’s Allison?”
“I’m leaving,” responded Yuriko. She grabbed a jacket off the bed and left.
For a few months, Yuriko’s acquaintances called the house looking for her. No one knew where she had gone. When she was seen in Tulsa again, it was with one Allison Meyers. She did not tell anyone where she had been. She seemed vague on the details when her friends called her. And when she seemed vague they called him to express their concern. The vagueness was no impediment to some.
“She’s been in Amarillo. That’s where Allison’s family is. I delivered her, so I ought to know,” the doctor had said when Reason had wondered aloud in front of him. “Now, buy me a drink.”

Aka, despite his sadness, had felt real rage at his brother’s abandonment of their home. As he watched the waves, day after day, he grew resentful. His brother had been lonely, even the birds that bathed in his spring could attest to that, but, in the end, his brother had been selfish, too.
It felt to Aka as if his brother had lightened his burden by increasing that of another. Ao had been lonely, but now Aka was alone, without the comfort that Ao must have found for himself out in the world. Aka thought that perhaps his brother and he were not so alike as they once thought.
Aka climbed to the peak of the blue mountain and sat with his brow furrowed. He sat there, seeking stillness, but it would not come. He grew more and more resentful of his brother. He decided that his brother must come back to their home. He had sought his solace in the world. Now, it was time to be home.
Aka reached up and grabbed a handful of the storm cloud rolling by overhead. He hefted himself up and over the side of it. Once he was settled on its broad back, he whispered to it. It ponderously turned in the direction he had indicated, the direction Ao had taken when he left. The storm cloud began to carry Aka out to sea. As he moved over the surface of the water, whitecaps bunching beneath him and lightnings trailing in his wake, he thought how best to convince his brother to come home.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Part III, Chapterlets 9,10,11

It was perhaps fortuitous that Reason was looking out the window for once as they turned down Lewis. He signaled the driver to pull over. Reason hopped out and crossed the street dodging cars and holding the front of his coat closed with one hand. He reached the sidewalk on the other side in time to step in front of Miss Ashikaga.
She was walking with her head down, and she was nearly engulfed by the sweater, overcoat, and scarf that protected her from the northerly wind, but Reason had not doubted it was her for a moment. Her head down against the cold, and her arms dragging down to her sides under the weight of the paper shopping bags depending from the plastic handles cutting into her bare, clenched hands, Miss Ashikaga almost hit Reason in the chest before he could muster a greeting.
As it happened, she stopped short, but the pale daylight shadow of her breath plumed out and broke against the four black buttons of his coat like the ghost of that aborted impact. She looked up, and her eyes were a shocking grey. Reason realized that he had never seen them open before at the same moment that the lack of decorum in his approach occurred to him as a monstrous affront. The greeting he had been on the cusp of articulating receded again and he was left struggling for words. She spared him with a simple, “I remember you.”
Reason was taken unawares by this pronouncement, but it was quickly forgotten as she handed him one of her burdens and began walking again. Reason took it and fell into stride next to her, waving away the driver, who instantly signaled and accelerated smoothly into the burgeoning mid afternoon stream of traffic.
Reason gathered his thoughts and managed a weak, “I hoped you might.”
Miss Ashikaga did not even turn her head at this. She kept walking—she was moving a little faster now that she was divested of half of the weight of her purchases. As Reason noticed this, a little moment of synchronicity occurred, and she sped up, shifting the remaining bag to the other hand and clenching and unclenching her recently freed hand, pale from the cold and livid where the plastic handle had impressed itself into her flesh. As they walked, he watched her face.
The line of her profile had something very resolute about it. Her expression in wakefulness was altogether different than it had been in the demi-consciousness in which he had first encountered her. Reason was surprised to notice that though this wakefulness seemed weary and was almost quantitatively less attractive, it seemed to fit her so well that it rather enhanced the features he had previously admired. There was no doubt that Miss Ashikaga lived her body fully. She wore it comfortably and loosely, taking in her own beauty with no more or less concentration than she seemed to put into walking.
As they rounded the corner to the left, the hotel came into view, and she spoke again. “Why do you keep sending me those cards? What do those mean?” Reason turned slightly away, affecting to study the sign on a business offering adult toys, uncertain how to proceed. She filled the silence: “I remembered your…I remembered you from the security tapes Dave showed me. The cards are sad. Just your name. No telephone number. Just my name, written in. Like the cards had no purpose at all. And the Doctor said you were there, before. At New Year’s. That you met Henry. What do you want?”
Reason was prepared for this question: “I would like to buy you dinner.” She shrugged at this. They walked the rest of the way to the hotel. She took her bag back in front of the sliding automatic door. She stood there, looking at him. Her face was unreadable. “I’m pretty much stuck in the hotel for the next week or so. But if you come to the front desk, they’ll let me know. We could get a drink in one of the lounges. Or there’re a couple of restaurants in-house. They’re overpriced. Room service isn’t much better.” She shrugged again and turned toward the doors. They hissed open. Warm air rushed out and over Reason.
He turned, wondering how long it would take the driver to pick him up, but the car was waiting in front of him. He reached out and grabbed the handle, already thinking about calling Henry Lee about that job offer. He reflected, not for the first time, that Mr. Lee might have liked to meet Sifu Chang. As he sat, pulling his coat out of the way of the closing door, the heated seat came to life with a soft purr. As they pulled away, he resolved to see if the offer still stood.

Yuriko handed her bags to Steve. He had given her the little mock salute that he usually did. Apparently, some of the younger staff believed her to be the owner of the hotel. Yuriko considered that it might be worth buying, if she could convince her grandfather to give her a start-up advance on her trust. As Steve slipped the embossed black key card into the slot, Yuriko imagined how the old man was getting along. She got her own key card out of her pocket. When the elevator stopped, Steve tried to help her out, just as he always did. Yuriko dismissed the effort with an impatient wave. She took her bags back, thanked him, and turned away.
When she heard the doors slide closed behind her, she walked to her room and put the card in the lock. When the light blipped, she turned and levered down the handle with a practiced move of her hip. The door bounced off her shoulder as she rolled in.
She moved her elbow up to bump the rocker panel for the The wall had been repaired from the damage that had been done to it, but the paint was a subtly different color. Yuriko had half a mind to switch rooms again. She put her bags down side by side on the bedstand and removed her hat, scarf, and coat. She walked to the closet and put them away. A small corner of fabric hung down from the shelf above. She tucked it back up absently, but her fingers lingered on it. It was Allison’s. Had been Allison’s. As she moved back toward the bed, the fingers on her right hand caught the lip of the door and pulled it noiselessly closed behind her.
As she pulled out the individually wrapped candles she had purchased and arranged them around the room, she became aware of the memory of the scent of her pushing forward. She turned out the overhead light and struck a match. The ache was coming back. She lit the candles, reciting the little, childish prayers her mother had taught her as the flame caught each one. She used the same match until it burned her thumb. Each match could only light two or three new wicks. She burned her thumb again and again, giving body to her little rhymes.
The pale flesh of her orisons was illuminated in her mind by the light of the candles and the burns on her thumb, and, just as it always had, the combination of the ritual and the odor of cheaply perfumed candles pushed Allison—the inexhaustible expanses of skin, the tight curls, the wild honey, the cedar shavings and scotch the smell of her—back into the dark.

Yuriko stared across the table at him. He was fidgeting. She reflected that ‘Reason’ was no kind of a name for anyone to have. She sipped her vodka seven. It was better than ‘Star.’ He had started calling her that when she asked that he quit with all the “Miss Ashikaga” formality. He had just said it again. She interrupted him, “You can call me Yuriko. This isn’t work.” He looked at her and gave a small nod. Something in his face made her pay closer attention.
“I guess what I’ve been circumlocuting, Yuriko, Yuriko, is simply a proposition that I have been wanting to make to you ever since we…became acquainted.” As he finished, he looked up from his own drink. He was waiting.
“What sort of proposition is that?” asked Yuriko. His awkwardness was somewhat charming.
“Well, I suppose it is a sort of contract.”
“I’m not following you, Reason. Do I have to call you that? Seems silly.”
“You may call me what you like.” As Reason said this, he seemed to grow brighter in the dimness of the lounge. Yuriko looked at the polished grain of the two-top they were at.
“I’ll call you Mannfred, then,” she said, trying to make him smile.
“As you like,” he responded. She waited. He sat there. Looking.
“What kind of a contract, Mannfred?”
“A marriage contract,” he replied. She cast her glance around to see who might be watching, waiting to jump out, pointing and laughing.
“That’s not a very good joke, Manny. And in any case, it’s not very romantic. Putting the cart before the horse a little bit. I don’t know you.”
“You know me as well as anyone does. As to romance, you’ll have to forgive me, but my understanding was that love at first sight was the height of romance.” He said this with a dismissive air, reaching into his coat pocket. “Yuriko, will you marry me?” He brought out a small velvet box. He pushed it across the table to her with a gravity that took all the mocking things she had lined up right out of her head.
She looked around the room again. Zouhair, the night guy on weekends, was watching Behind the Music with his back to them. There was nothing to give her a sign.
“Okay,” she said, without opening the box. She left it sitting on the table between them. Reason, seeing nothing odd about any of this, began to question her about her family, friends, past, future, and she found that she had finished her drink. She rattled her drink at Zouhair’s back and began telling Reason everything he wanted to know, a growing sense of unreality pushing at her thoughts. She never once thought about Allison.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Part III, Chapterlet 8

When the demon arrived at the center of the village and stood with the soles of his feet on the baked clay of the square which was still hot from the sun’s day-long embrace, he found it deserted. Everywhere, torches and paper lanterns were lit, and the shaking of the flames in the light caused his various shadows to writhe all around him. His throat tight with fear, the demon rushed into the nearest hut, but he found it empty of people. Little wooden bowls and palm leaf mats were strewn about, as if the owners expected to come back, but the demon, looking around the village by fire light, could see that all the fishing nets were gone, and all the boats missing. They had left the island, sealing him in with the child’s corpse.
Tears making everything stretch and shift before him, the demon ran to the beach on the far side of the island with a terrifying speed. He moved over obstacles and open stretches with equal ease, his steps growing farther and farther apart. He dove into the water and swam against the shore-bound current’s push until he felt it change, pulling him out into the night. When he was no longer in sight of the beach, or any of the lights that burned on the island, he sank.
He sat upon the black, coarse sea bottom, feeling his fur pushed back and forth with the large, invisible motion of the water that had disappeared around him into only the barest sense of being surrounded by a dimness beyond night and the salt sting on his face—the natal taste of the water making memory and gorge rise equally in a sickening symmetry.
Whole segments of time opened up to him in the roar and silence of the water, and he sank through them to previous moments, moments before the loneliness had come upon him, and he was almost peaceful. He knew that he did not have much time remaining before he needed to return to the surface or his lungs would force him to take a saline breath. He waited. A seemingly endless succession of moments passed, filling him with more recollections and experienced objects than he would have believed that he contained, and the pain in his lungs increased all the time. Still, the demon sat on the ocean floor without moving. One of the little crabs he preferred could be felt moving over the horny contours of his feet, somewhere very far from the pain in his chest and head. Still, he waited.
Eventually, his stomach began to heave, and his lungs forced him to draw in a breath. In addition to the horror and bodily disgust the inrushing water evoked in him, he felt a sense of relief that was beyond his ability to understand in those terrible moments, his whole chest spasming and his lungs dying to stillness in water that seemed as thick as blood.
As his mind’s light dimmed to something like the darkness in which he was now suspended, he experienced one final agony. A pain pushed its way in behind his ears, and another pale memory of his brother rose before him in an instant. He was swimming in a mountain pool that seemed without bottom.
Carp swam below him, the largest ones barely shadows, their distance below him apparent despite the translucency of the water. His brother stood on the beach, warning him not to dive too deep. When he asked his brother why, the answer came that diving too far was as deadly as staying under too long. When he asked his brother how he knew, his brother said that a fisherbird had told him. When he asked his brother what distance was too deep, his brother replied that he had no answers. The demon had later sought the counsel of a fisherbird, who, mocking his ignorance of facts that every new-hatched fledgling knew, smugly told him that pain in the head was the sign that you had gone beyond your depth. The greater the pain, the greater the danger.
At that moment, with the black salt water blending with the coruscating surfaces of the mountain pool, the demon came to the conclusion that he had gone beyond his depth. Abruptly, he realized that the pain in his head was dissipating. Amazed that a doorway to his mother’s domain, the pure, painless realms of the West, could be found in so unlikely a place, the demon took stock of his situation.
Clearly, he had come to the lands of death, for no being could die and fail to proceed thither. His father had told them that much when they were children. And yet, the water around him, the sand beneath him, everything was the same. There was no directionless light, no mountain, no ubiquitous lotus. Most of all, his mother’s face was not smiling upon him. No, everything was the same in death except the pain.
Reaching up to touch the spot where the pain had entered his head, the demon received a shock: a warmer jet of water moved over his fingers and cooled as it swirled in the depths around him. He touched the formerly tender spot and found a quivering opening. He was not dead. He had grown gills. The demon was amazed and heartsickened with this new development, the reality of the storm, the deserted island, and the gruesome offering of the corpse crowding back amongst his thoughts in a great confusion of bitterness, grief, and surging up through it all was a frustration that the surcease he might have had in death was denied him.
Cursing the proud wisdom of the fisherbird, the demon began walking slowly along the bottom toward the place where the underwater mouth of the grottoes must have been, his every step buffeted by the waves that rolled overhead. On his walk, he considered what he knew. Everything he knew, he knew from others. His brother had told him not to stay under too long or he would die, the fisherbird had mocked him and told him not to dive too deep. Certainly, his brother was old and wise—but how much older and wiser could he be?
The demon considered that his thoughts were not properly humble, and this concerned him until he remembered what humility had brought him so far. Out of humility, and the desire to free his brother of his burdensome grief, he had fled the island of his home. He was in a strange land when he had sought consolation. He was alone when he had sought companionship. He was filled with grief when he wished an end to grief. He was accounted a monster where he brought only compassion. And how could the villagers have judged him any differently, when he had waited with humility in the shadows to be invited among them?
His father had taught them to shun the carrion birds that picked the bones of dead creatures and kept their distance from the living. He must have seemed kin with such, wretchedly slinking from shadow to shadow and sleeping so uncouthly in a cave. To imagine that he had been eating with his hands and sleeping on bare rock simply because he had not dared to shape wood or work stone for fear that his own arts would surpass his father’s. Humility had, in this respect, made him live like an animal, when he was descended from gods.
Was not his father the smith born of the sun, the smith who shaped the sword that killed the world serpent? He batted away a fish that nibbled at his cheek. And was his mother not the daughter of the moon, that held court both in the mirthless realms and the valleys beneath the moon? And why consider his parentage? Surely, his own strength was not to be denied. It had been, after all, sufficient to swim across the ocean from his former home to this, his current one.
Surely, a being that could not drown, who, when drowned grew gills and lived still, surely such a being deserved the carvings and lanterns they had placed outside his door. They had meant it as a warding, but the demon now thought that it seemed only to be his due. He laughed as he moved through the dark beneath the waves.
As the demon walked, his passage through the water grew easier, but he did not notice, caught up, as he was, in the snarl of his own thoughts. The water around the demon began to roil and surge with his passing. By the time he reached the entrance to the grotto, the steam rose above the surface of the water over him in a pillar that reached half way to the stars. When he climbed out of the waters, the rocks under his feet began first to hiss and crack, and then to run.
Hot streams of rock flowed from his footprints to pool in low places, and the glow from the caverns around him seemed to reflect his resentment from the thousand faceted teeth that depended from the caverns, thrusting their jeweled lengths into the heat that blazed from him. The parlors and secret pockets of stone warped around him as he seethed, but he did not notice.
He noticed nothing until he came once more to his sheltering cave. He noticed the wall. Snarling, he breathed and pushed the wall out into the night. Bright streamers of molten rock exploded outward to land in the sea, and clouds of mist billowed in on the perpetual breeze. Something caught fire at his feet. Looking down, the demon’s pain and anger faded in the flush of grief that overcame him. The body of the little boy was burning candle bright in the yellow-orange wash, the semi-darkness of the cooling stone.
The demon gave a pitiful yell, and, scooping the fickly burning body up, he rushed out amidst the tumbled remains of the wall and the crude statue to wade into the breaking waves and douse the flames. The demon cried out again as he realized that the water had extinguished the flames but that he was binding the broken thing’s skin to his own simply by touching him.
The demon was almost overcome when he saw the skin coming off in sticky sheets as the boy’s body moved and shifted in his grip, with clumps of his own fur sticking to the burnt and pitted surfaces. The demon knew that the boy would never wander in his mother’s halls; the rites that had ensured his passage had been disturbed and the body defiled by fire and water and salt. The body was desecrated beyond any hope of redemption.
A different kind of anger grew in him then, one textured with grief and loneliness and pity. The feeling rose in him until it seemed the sky broke and crashed upon them both like the waves around them, and when, after it felt as if the world was going to heave them up or crush them into a point, the demon finally looked down, the boy was feebly prying at his hands and desperately trying to raise his head above the choking water, his yellow eyes gleaming palely in the night. The demon seemed to shrink then, and grow tender. He carried the boy out of the surf, his body falling limp as soon as the danger of drowning was past. He placed him on a slab of still-warm stone and knelt down to watch him sleep. Kneeling there, while the world wheeled on toward day, the demon decided that no harm would come to the child through inaction on his part, and he resolved to keep the boy close until one of them died or the stars went out.

Part III, Chapterlets 5,6,7

For the first few moments of waking after the night of the storm, the demon believed that light had gone out of the world. Then, he realized that the sound of the surf had grown distant. Pushing himself up, he walked toward the cave mouth, stumbling over unseen things as he went.
He reached the entrance to the cave, reached out a hand and was shocked to feel stone through the calluses on his hand—stone and not sand. He had expected sand, believing that the storm’s fury had made a little hill of it and placed it between his sleeping and the sea. He slowly ran his hand over the stone in wonder. The wonder did not last long. There were little cracks in the stone that he could push his fingernails into. The villagers had bricked him in.
More dismayed than angry, the demon put his back to his home’s new wall. As his eyes adjusted to the gloom inside the cave, he thought that the villagers must have been planning this wall for a long time. Whence the stone? Where the knowledge of how to cut it and place it? After all, did not the villagers still weave their homes from reeds around tall posts cut from trees on other islands and floated there alongside their little reed boats? Did they not stamp their earthen floors flat with their feet? How came they to place it without waking the sleeping demon? Or place it so swiftly?
The demon had watched his father build the house that became their home, and the stone foundation that it sat upon had taken the greatest part of the labor. The answers to those questions did not trouble him as much as wondering why they might have sealed him in that night of all nights. It was then that he noticed the smell.
Under the smell of salt and rock and decomposing fish, the demon could smell the faintest hint of more profound decay. His eyes fully adjusted, he looked for the source and quickly found it. The dead boy was there, on the floor, with a fishing net and a little reed basket filled with hard bread. One of his arms seemed disarrayed compared to the order of his other limbs. The demon realized that he must have stumbled upon the boy on his way to the cave mouth. For some reason, this filled him with anger and sadness. Then, it came to him. They had chosen this night because they felt that he had brought the storm and with it the wind that had killed this child.
Sadly, he turned from the body and walked deeper into the caves, turning from gallery to gallery in the warrens under the island, feeling his way deeper into darkness. Eventually, even his adjusted vision could not pierce the shadows that pooled in the low parts of the earth. When his sight failed, he proceeded with touch, deeper and deeper, until his feet encountered salt water. He waded into the black water to his waist, then took three ponderous breaths and dove.
He emerged back into air, spluttering, out past the tide line. When he turned back toward the shore, the demon could see torches and paper lanterns hanging on the new wall, framing a large statue that in his likeness. The demon was astounded. Not only had they learned to work stone--but carve it, too. Turning slantwise to the pull of the tide, the demon stroked silently for the shore. Determined to let the villagers know that he was not an enemy, the demon waded onto the beach, shook himself off, and made for the center of the village.

Reason made sure that Star was as comfortable as possible under the doctor’s care before exiting the bathroom to see the source of the commotion. A large, square man in a business suit pulled the remains of the broken door out of his way with massive, gnarled hands and stepped into the room, moving through the doorway sideways, his shoulders being to broad to allow passage had they been square to the threshold. The night manager, seemingly enraged or frightened beyond his ability to control himself, stepped around the corner of the bed and began shouting at the large man. The large man looked around the room, apparently unconcerned by the night manager’s proximity and volubility. Not seeing what he was looking for—Reason’s guess was that he was looking for Star—he attempted to move around the night manager as another man stepped through the door.
The second man was wearing a brown linen suit with a white silk cravat. His bowler hat was chocolate brown. He carried a walking stick tipped in silver in one hand. The second man appeared to be extremely old, but he walked upright. The stick did not touch the ground. He carried it more like a scepter or seal of state than he did like an aid to locomotion. The large man had turned toward Reason. He began to walk forward, but the night manager had interposed himself. The large man backhanded the night manager so hard that the night manager left his feet and landed on the other side of the bed, groaning. The large man was quick, Reason decided. He was also explosively powerful. Reason subtly shifted his stance to an open attitude and smiled.
The large man approached him. Reason took off his glasses. Without moving his eyes, Reason watched the second man over the huge shoulder of the one who faced him. The old man was leaning against the door frame with one hand in his pocket and a strange expression on his face. Reason felt as though they knew each other somehow. The large man moved his lips slightly and suddenly Reason’s attention was all on him.
“Do I have to hurt you?” asked the large man in a very hoarse voice.
“That would depend on a number of psychological and physiological questions that I am afraid I am, at present, unqualified to answer,” responded Reason as glibly as he could. The large man’s brows came down slowly. He shifted his weight slightly. Reason said, “I wouldn’t.” His tone laughing, Reason subtly bent his knees and stretched his neck to his full height, nostrils very slightly flared—he concentrated all his energy in his hairline. The large man turned to look at the second man.
“Do I hurt him, Mr. Lee?” he asked. His hoarse voice never changed tone. The one addressed as Mr. Lee’s face registered the smallest flash of surprise so quickly that Reason almost missed it.
Then, the night manager staggered to his feet. He put his head down and slammed into the back of the large man in what seemed to Reason a clear example of a perfect football tackle. Not being a sports fan, Reason could still imagine that the only thing lacking was protection for the night manager’s head and neck. The method looked painful to all involved. The large man grunted as he was pushed face first into the drywall with a dull boom that shook the mirror behind Reason and rattled the objects sealed to the secret rites of Star’s toiletries couched in their hidden spaces.
The large man pushed off the wall and reached behind him, trying to get a grip on the night manager, but the latter backed up, lowered his head further, and speared the large man again with the top of his skull right in the kidney. The large man was quick to spin around when the night manager backed up to do the same thing again. He opened and closed his enormous hands with an audible creak as the night manager moved forward.
The large man was pushed into the wall again, back first, this time causing plaster to shower down over them both and a roughly circular section of the wall to cave in around him, but by pushing against the night manager’s shoulders, he managed to absorb most of the impact into his arms. The night manager snapped his head up, then, catching the large man on the chin and driving his head back against the wall with a resounding crack.
The large man released the night manager’s shoulders. The night manager delivered three quick punches then, one with his right fist into the large man’s crotch, one his left fist into the large man’s short ribs, and one to the large man’s exposed neck, again with the right fist curled and blurring. The large man gave a soft, rattling sigh and went to sleep, sliding down the wall in a sitting position with one hand on his groin and one on his throat. A fat ribbon of blood slipped over the front of the large man’s right ear and crawled quickly into the collar of his blued Oxford button-down shirt and out of sight.
Reason gave a quick glance back into the bathroom. The doctor now seemed to be actively talking to Star in muted tones. When he looked back, the night manager, blood dripping from scalp, nose, and both lips to make little flowers on the white carpet, was advancing on Mr. Lee.
“Excuse me, sir,” Reason said, “but this gentleman has not provoked you in anyway. I imagine that his intentions are entirely appropriate with respect to the lady. Am I right?”
Mr. Lee coughed and said, “That’s quite true. I have only miss Ashikaga’s welfare in mind. If I can be assured of her condition, I will be on my way.”
The night manager, who seemed to miss the exchange entirely, took a wobbly step toward Mr. Lee. Reason stretched out and put a tentative hand on his shoulder. The night manager spun and charged, yelling. Reason stabbed out with his right hand grabbed the night manager’s lower jaw. Simultaneously yanking down and turning his body into the path of the assault, Reason dropped to one knee, and, using the night manager’s sternum as a stable point for the fulcrum Reason had made of his own elbow, threw the night manager by his jaw headfirst into the mirror, spiderwebbing it and causing the can lights above the sink to blink on and off for a moment.
Reason watched, but he could tell by the way the night manager bounced off the marble countertop and landed with his full weight on the arm behind him that he was unconscious. More plaster dust fell from the ceiling, reminding Reason of the cold promise of snow outside. Reason examined his thumb. There was a small cut on the back of it where the night manager had clamped down. He would have to ask the doctor for some disinfectant, for the human bite was a filthy thing and dangerous to leave untreated.
Behind him, Mr. Lee was saying, “To what do I owe the pleasure of that particular intervention?”
Reason felt foolish saying that he felt Lee to be a kindred spirit, familiar to him in some way. Instead he responded with, “There was no particular cause for my intercession beyond my feeling that any justification for violence ended when he,” here, Reason gestured to the large man in the corner, “became unconscious.”
“I see,” said Mr. Lee.
The doctor chose to step out and give a report just then. “Star’s over the worst of it, now. I think the EMTs should be able to handle it without having to know I was ever involved.” Zweistein patted his jacket pocket.
“How were you involved, exactly?” Lee asked.
“I might ask the same of you,” said Zweistein, “but since the answer to that question seems obvious in your case,” Zweistein looked meaningfully at Lee’s walking stick and around the recently disarrayed room, finishing with the unconscious form of the large man, “then I should tell you that Star asked me for a prescription, and I was imprudent enough to write it for her. Good night, fellows. Destry, I’ll expect you for lunch on Tuesday.” With that, the doctor left.
Mr. Lee strode rapidly to the sleeping figure of the large man. He slapped him lightly a few times. When he groaned, Mr. Lee leaned in close and said, “Mr. Papatoa, I regret our relationship has come to an end. I will no longer require your services.”
As Mr. Lee turned, straightened and walked for the door, Mr. Papatoa shook himself and stood. He croaked, “I’ll hurt you, Lee.”
Mr. Lee turned and said, “I rather doubt it. It was a pleasure doing business, Mr. Papatoa. All things come to an end.”
“Then I’ll hurt the girl,” said Mr. Papatoa, smiling.
“You won’t,” said Reason. Mr. Papatoa opened his hands. Reason smiled. Mr. Papatoa looked at the leg of the night manager protruding from the alcove to his right. Reason said, “There will be no more violence. Too many have been hurt already. Go home and get some sleep.” Reason said this last with the air of dismissing one of his household staff, hoping that the man was so accustomed to taking orders that he might just take one or two more before he resumed thinking for himself. Mr. Papatoa brushed the white powder from his shoulders and left, his blank face looking straight ahead.
Mr. Lee walked to the bathroom. He said some words to Star that Reason couldn’t quite make out. She laughed weakly. Then Mr. Lee approached Reason. “Do me the pleasure of walking me out,” said Mr. Lee, “I think I hear sirens.”
As they walked down the hall, Mr. Lee slipped his arm through Reason’s, and, as he did so, leaned heavily on him. He became, in short, an old man. Reason said, “Star’s family name is Ashikaga?” asked Reason.
“Yes. Poor thing. My niece, you know.”
“I wasn’t aware that you were related,” said Reason.
“We’re not,” said Mr. Lee, “and I imagine that there is quite a lot about Miss Ashikaga of which you are ignorant.” After a slight pause, he continued with, “I’ve never seen anyone get Mr. Papatoa to talk when he is on the job.”
“Oh?” said Reason.
“I’ve never seen him question whether or not he should apply force, either,” said Lee. “He certainly never looked to me to make that decision before meeting you.”
“The Kensei once wrote that if you can beat one man with your hands, then you should strive until you can beat ten with your spirit.” Reason pressed the button for the elevator.
“So you beat him with your spirit?” asked Mr. Lee, smiling.
“No,” said Reason. “But I tried. He went the rest of the way by himself.”
Mr. Lee chuckled. As the doors to the elevator closed, he turned to Reason and said, “A position recently became available in my organization. I was wondering if I might convince you to fill it.”
“I would take any offer of employment seriously. What would be my title?”
“Executive Assistant to Henry Lee, panderer, importer of exotic goods, and narcotics trafficker,” said Mr. Lee.
“I will think on it,” said Reason as the elevator car lurched downward, but Reason knew that all thought had become impossible when he entered the fight.

It was through Mr. Lee that Reason learned the superficities of Yuriko Ashikaga, but he did his wooing in his own way, and in person. Every day for the entire month of January, Reason left a card at the concierge’s desk at the Southern Hills Marriott, addressed to Miss Ashikaga, but he received no response. Calls for her from an outside line were always turned away with a “I’m sorry, but we have no guests registered under that name.” Reason’s plans came very close to ending in frustration.
He expressed his feelings on the matter at a luncheon in early February with the doctor. The doctor listened for about a minute before interrupting to say something like: “The sadness of a man runs away from him, ever away; it is a verifiable truth that it is hard, very hard to bear up under it, but it is also hard to keep it in sight. As a practitioner of medicine, I know in what parcel of the human meat a man keeps his heart in, or rather say ‘soul,’ and this knowledge also allows me a glimpse of what a confusion of those parts—a sudden spike in serotonin or a general flooding of endorphins—what the growing shape of a conditioning based on the chemical signature of a woman or a boy can do to find that parcel secreted in the blood dark recesses of the body to push it into the day. There is no transcendent sadness. Fuck no, there isn’t. Why? Physical response proceeds emotional response, that’s why. A smile makes one happy more than being happy makes one smile. To say you are sad is to say nothing but that you have the impression that a certain bundle of nerve fibers in your brain has been stimulated. A simple confusion of parts. You think your soul has been moved, but I tell you it’s just your cock and your serotonin reuptake inhibitors that are affected. It’s a pretty pickle, with those of us trained to be attuned to the highest strata of human feeling also most aware of the pitfalls, snares, tripwires—you get the general thrust of the image, no?—of the same sentiments. You task yourself with keeping your eyes on the heights. Well, be careful where you put your feet. That girl is quicksand, one way or another. Make no mistake.”
“What do you mean?” asked Reason.
“Did I tell you that I was in the oil field fires during Kuwait? Hell on Earth—” and, then, the doctor was off on another tangent. Reason knew that the doctor had said everything he was going to say on the topic of Miss Ashikaga. The luncheon finished in its usual way, with the doctor rushing off on an imaginary page and leaving Reason alone in the little café to pick up the bill. This time, as he waited for his car to be brought around, Reason decided to persist in his efforts until he had received a clear dismissal. He had not heard anything positive to encourage the pursuit, that was true, but he had heard nothing to the negative, either, notwithstanding the reference to quicksand in the doctor’s diatribe—the doctor not being the most impartial or reliable of character witnesses. Reflecting that he was faced with his own version of Pascal’s wager, with nothing to lose and everything to gain, he stepped into the back seat and slid across the leather, instructing the driver to take him once more to her hotel.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Correction, Updated Word Count and Self-deprecatory aside, Surgery

I noticed that the third to last post contained an error in the title...It was actually Part III, Chapterlets 2 and 3, in case some of you skipped it because you thought it was a compromise second draft...

Of course, that assumes that anyone is still reading after 46 pages and 12,533 words.

I have my--hopefully--last wisdom tooth surgery tomorrow at three in the afternoon. This will either really help the third section or really hurt it. Those of you who know the overall schema will recognize that the promise of yugen is greater when I am on painkillers, but you also know that there is no promise of plot. I must find a balance.

Part III, Chapterlet 4

Reason’s decision on a partner was almost exactly coincident with his acceptance of a job. He was familiar with seduction rituals and contractual exchanges with women, but he was uncertain how to actively seek a permanent relationship of what was considered the conventional sort, having never been in one where some form of commodity or currency was not exchanged. He was convinced that the most logical course of action was to announce his matrimonial intentions in the Tulsa World. A full-page add or a series of classifieds. David Branch, his lawyer, advised him against calling out “the crazies” or posting any personal information that would make him more of a target to social climbers than he already was, but, “just in case”, assured him that he would be preparing an iron-clad pre-nuptial agreement.
The public announcement method having been frowned upon by his advisors, Reason could not, however, bring himself to go to bars—the method his household staff assured him was common practice in Tulsa. “It’s either the bar or the prayer meeting,” Lucas had said late one night in his sitting room in what Reason was sure was a beleaguered tone, “and I think you would prefer the bars, or what passes for them around here.” Unconvinced, Reason sought information from the women on his staff.
That proved strangely uncomfortable in the long run, but he did end with the piece of information that social events were one way for men and women to find one another. Then there was so-called “blind” dating, a thoroughly unappealing process. Unwilling to play the Gatsby and offended at the very idea of being “fixed up”, Reason disseminated word amongst his staff that they were to procure him an invitation to a New Year’s Eve party somewhere, the more reliable sources assuring him that it was the next social event of the season that did not require already having family, close friends, or a country club membership—an option that Reason had foreclosed years earlier by calling one of the Ladouane family a repulsive, corpulent bigot on the 14th green at Southern Hills. He could always have bought his way back in, but Reason did not think his future mate was to be found amongst the starved, manicured, or desperate alcoholics that flirted and schemed in the club rooms, and pouring money back into such a system seemed a violation of Wiener’s noble principles of cybernetics. If garbage was what that system produced, then he sure as hell wasn’t going to feed value back in.
His staff had, without any delay, procured for him an invitation to what they assured him was an extremely exclusive end of the year party at the Marriott Southern Hills, the hotel overlooking the golf-course where he had been blackballed years before. The host was a man named Rickard Zweistein. He had apparently taken up temporary residence in the hotel, renting out every room on the top three floors.
Reason made the faux pas of arriving to the party on time. Zweistein was holding court in his suite on the top floor. As Reason hesitated in the threshold, Zweistein stopped what he was doing, pointed directly at Reason and shouted, “For God’s sake, get the fuck in here before the Fire Marshall comes and fines me.” As the night, and his relationship with Zweistein progressed, Reason noticed a tendency for the doctor—for Doctor he insisted upon being called, though Reason very much doubted the legitimacy of his “practice”—whenever he felt himself to be on the verge of losing the attention of those gathered around him to remedy the situation by the rapid introduction of several of the worldlier Anglo-Saxon verbs into his discourse. This usually had the desired effect. Reason immediately knew that this despicable man was going to be his friend.
That night moved quickly for Reason. Unable to find something to drink that would not destroy his palette, he decided to err in the other direction, adopting a bottle of Wild Turkey as his charge for the evening. Soon, it was 4:00 in the morning. The sofas, armchairs, and beds of all of the rooms were covered in sleeping forms or copulating pairs as Rickard and Reason walked around, putting the final touches on everything with a well-placed comment or an observation of some kind. Reason had come to understand that the doctor was, if not in love with the sound of his own voice, then at least very fond of it. He said the most bizarre things with the same gravitas that others used to discuss moral philosophy or the depredations of this or that art movement.
At arguably the most important moment in Reason’s life, for example, Rickard was saying: “—a social class that has fled its generations from city to city has not had the time to accumulate that toughness which produces the necessary obscenity, nor, after the crucifixion of its ideals, enough forgetfulness in—what?—a little over two centuries?—to create legend. Not legend in its proper sense. That is why the Golden Driller strikes me as the most vulgar misappropriation of iconic status that should belong to the Indians that still own this land in a way that these disenfranchised redneck farmers and nouveau riche can not—what?” Zweistein had finally acknowledged the bellboy who had been tugging at the black worsted sleeve of his jacket.
“Dr. Zweistein?” asked the bellboy in a relieved tone.
“Yes? What is it?” Zweistein said, rounding on him in the middle of the hallway. Sounds of vomiting and moans of pleasure or excess mingled with the three of them where they stopped.
“One of the guests is deathly ill, sir,” said the bellboy.
“Quite a few of the guests are ill, lad, what the fuck does that have to do with me?” Zweistein turned on his heel and began to walk away.
“I don’t know, sir, but the night manager told me to tell you that it was Star, sir. He said that you’d know what that meant.” This was relayed with confused glances back and forth between the departing doctor and Reason.
“Of course I know what it means,” snapped the doctor, turning back. “Shit. You call security and tell them that I want all of these assholes out of my rooms. And tell the night manager we’re on our way, right Destry?” Reason gave a small nod. He was not yet tired and approaching sober.
The bellboy looked hesitant, then said, “He said only to bring you, sir…”
“I know where it is, goddamn it, so you’re not bringing me anywhere. I told you to get security and get these people out of my rooms. Now, git.” The boy was already running for the elevators where the angle of the two branching halls had its vertex before the doctor had finished speaking.
“What’s this about, Doctor?” Reason asked, rocking back on his heels slightly. He couldn’t keep the amusement out of his voice.
“Wipe that damn smile off your face and come. I’ll tell you as we walk.” Turning back the way they had been walking before the interruption, Zweistein began to explain. Star was the name of the house girl. Apparently, whatever was going on was bad enough that the night manager wanted to avoid logging an emergency call. They walked in silence down stairs and around several corners. Soon, they were admitted to her room by the same bellboy. He was pale. As they passed into the room, he whispered something to Zweistein, who smiled and slipped him some money. The door was closed behind them.
The lights in the room were on, and a large, bluff man in a black tie and khakis was kneeling on the edge of the bed. The back of his neck and the skin of his scalp were red and the sweat stain spreading across his broad back seemed to be more from distress than any kind of physical effort, as the girl he was leaning over seemed to be peacefully asleep. The side of her face in the fluorescent light penetrated Reason, obliterating him. He backed away from the bed, flushed, nearly panting with desire, and kept backing until the backs of his thighs were pushing and rubbing against the marble counter next to the bathroom. He could feel the cold stone through the thin material of his slacks. He tried to fade into the mirror he knew was behind him as he watched the doctor go to work.
There was muffled conversation between the manager and the doctor that Reason might have been able to work out if he had been able to tear his gaze from the girl on the bed. She couldn’t have been more than twenty-two or three. She appeared from this difficult angle to be Asian—Japanese unless Reason missed his guess—and she was wearing a thin, white linen robe that seemed to flow out from the shadow under her chin like a direct response to the light eating blackness of her hair. She was perfect. Meanwhile the doctor roughly lifted an eyelid with his finger, moved his lips violently in what Reason might have recognized in another situation to be a curse and started to check her pulse.
The doctor looked around the room. His eyes alighting on the trashcan in the corner behind a small wooden table, he leaped at it. He emptied the contents out onto the floor and pushed through them with his toes until he found a large pill bottle, picked it up, read the label and put it into his pocket. A distinct “fuck” pushed through to Reason, and he managed to tune in on what the doctor was saying to the night manager: “Call an ambulance. I’m taking this with me. Destry, help me pick her up.”
Between the two of them, they picked her up. Halfway to the bathroom, her robe slipped open and Reason could not help a little shudder of disappointment when he saw that she was wearing a thin silk shift beneath it. He felt shame and stamped it down. There was no reason he shouldn’t be disappointed. She was beautiful.
They put her down in a sitting position, facing the tub. Zweistein opened her mouth by pulling down on her jaw with one hand, and Reason felt inclined to try to describe it. His first impulse was to describe that mouth as delicate, since its pale coloring so perfectly matched the paleness of her skin, but, upon close examination, he had to admit that the shape of the lips, the way they so suddenly thinned at the corners despite how thick and full they were made him suppose that the best way to describe her mouth was “hungry,” as long as the quality of the hunger connoted was sexual.
At that moment, Reason began to hear the confused sounds of some kind of confrontation in the hallway. The bellboy was refusing someone entrance, by the sound of it. Star’s teeth were even and sharp, which he had occasion to observe when Zweistein shoved the first two fingers of his left hand unceremoniously into the back of her throat, while slipping the thumb of his right hand over the lower teeth and hooking the tongue with his forefinger. It was an erotic sight for Reason. The edges of her mouth were stretched almost to tearing, and the lips drew up until it seemed they almost seemed to be kissing the meat of Zweistein’s palm for an instant before she bit down hard on the doctor’s fingers, the muscles in her temples bulging, causing him to curse under his breath. She shook her head slightly, her nearly paralyzed body trying to shake free of his grip, but Zweistein held her firmly over the edge of the tub. Reason pulled her hair back over her shoulders, where it hung to the floor. She then began retching, little protestant noises quieted by the fingers blocking her mouth. The doctor removed his hands just as three things happened simultaneously: the door to the room was kicked in, causing the night manager to bellow like an enraged beef; Star began to vomit copiously, whole pills plopping wetly into the marble tub in a pink, semi-viscous medium; and Reason decided that Star was the woman that he wished to marry.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Word Count


Part III, Chapterlets 2 & 3

In the first month of 1970, despite the warnings of her doctors and the urgings of what passed for friends and perhaps to some degree because of the somewhat distressing vogue of backroom abortions permeating the circles she moved through, Marianna Destry, last daughter and sole heiress of the Tulsa Destries gave birth to a seven pound, 4 ounce boychild whom, in a sort of falling gasp, she named after the one thing that seemed to have most eluded her during the long string of events leading to the child’s conception and construction and, as a by-product, the destruction of self that the baby’s difficult birth signaled and that she could feel surging up infinitely within her, both a void and a ground for her slow fadeout due to her hemorrhaging.
Reason Destry survived his mother’s fate, inheriting a large amount of money at the tender age of one hour and sixteen minutes, the principal of which he was protected from in any way diminishing by a large system of trusts and legal barriers to access which girded and upheld the swollen vastnesses of his real, mineral, and monetary rights and properties. This large, invisible structure spun fine webs out from his fortune that established and protected his absurd rights over the rights of more mature relatives of the Dallas branch and generated servants and caretakers, lawyers and stockbrokers, trustees and legal guardians that ushered him from infancy into adulthood with surprisingly little graft or deception.
This meant that, at the age of thirty five, on a warm autumn night of the year 2000 CE, Reason had managed, by the observance of a strict laissez-faire principle of economy, to increase his holdings at a rate which could only be accurately described by a rather strict application of logistic growth formulae, arithmetic no longer being adequate to encompass his worth or the rate at which that worth tended toward infinity. He had no need for gainful employment, and yet idleness weighed on his days, infecting his thought, and his need for activity was like the hot sun on his shoulders, casting long shadows that narrowed toward him sharply, maliciously as he sat in his garden while the oaks changed. That night, inspired in some way, he thought, by a cold wind that suddenly closed the page he was contemplating in the faded red book in his lap, Reason decided would do two things: find a job, and find a wife.

Reason had, as a very young man, decided to live his life according to the only precept that his mother had given him, which was buried in the structure of his name. In honor of this decision, he managed not to become a wastrel or a profligate member of the elite stratum of society through which he moved. Catholic private schools, the decadent oubliettes where the disinterested amongst the Tulsa rich let their children go to “figure things out for themselves,” became distasteful to Reason quite before he was out of primary school. He sought private tutors for an isolated education, and, to the surprise of his caretakers, was in truth running his immediate household with precision and rationality by the age of twelve, devoting the bulk of his time to one on one study and leaving the management of his more abstract estate to those better equipped to deal with it by inclination as well as by training. Basic mathematics were not beyond his capabilities, but the overt presence of accountants in his life led him to see that he would never have a practical need for it, barring betrayal. His capacity for delegation was breathtaking.
Perhaps owing to the influence of those years of primary school, Reason’s choice of tutors had a classical tendency from the very beginning. He was taught Latin and Greek at first, but found little or no interest in the learning of languages it seemed to him were long dead. Translations being, then, more than acceptable to be moving forward, Reason was able to quickly absorb the Loeb library and move on. At fifteen, an unsettlingly informative encounter with a dusty history of the Ottoman Empire left him curious as to what else might be out there to learn that was not readily or easily visible in the Western Canon. He hired a small, humorous man with graying hair and a PhD in Western Philosophy who had defected from the University of Beijing in 1983 and was making a living as a proofreader for various Chinese restaurants and tailors in Tulsa. Michael Chang, a man of Chinese birth and parentage, had liberal leanings—something as difficult for Reason to define as it was to find, even amongst the educated in Oklahoma—and was extremely well-read in several languages, including five contemporary, non-romance languages, and three dead ones. In short, he was just what Reason was looking for.
Their relationship was odd. Chang insisted on being called Michael, and he refused to teach Reason anything unless Reason consented to learn everything. Contractual obligation being a concept with which Reason was familiar, he agreed in bona fide. This meant that, surprisingly, Reason found himself studying an alien calligraphy, an alien poetry, an alien system of thought, and undergoing a strenuous program in calisthenics at the same time. His teacher insisted that this ridiculous hopping and flailing be referred to as the Technique of Force on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and on the weekends, however, Reason was sharply reprimanded for not using the term the Force of Technique for the same exercises. Reason’s initial doubts about the usefulness of these classes when compared to their readings of Li Po, Lao Tze, or Confucius, melted away at the same time as the chubbiness that had clung to his face and body from his infancy. He came to realize the movements as the stylized extension of his thought in space and time and began in earnest to relish the hours spent in personal contemplation of sets of motions he now understood as forms.
On Reason’s eighteenth birthday in January of 1988, Michael assisted him in arriving at the extremely difficult understanding that what Reason had now mastered by dint of physical and mental training for eight hours a day, every day, for three years was at its heart a practical system of physical defense and not a ritual of dance or physico-mental expression as he had been indirectly led to believe. Michael did this mostly by attempting to hit and kick Reason about the face, head, and torso in earnest for the better part of an hour while Reason’s body executed—with greater speed, precision, and force than he had known he was capable of exhibiting—the stances and forms that it had had drilled into its very muscle fibers.
At the end of this demonstration, Reason was forced to admit that, once these motions had been re-described, it was easy to see them as divided into distinct modes of attack and defense and not just a method of being towards your partner in motion. The implications of this redescription staggered Reason. Not only was the change difficult to come to terms with, so was the ease with which Michael had overturned an entire system of thought. Also at the end of this demonstration, Michael gave Reason his birthday present, a little book bound in red cloth, and printed on creamy, seventy pound paper with the strange title Book of the Five Rings. To the book was tied a folded paper note. The note said:

This is both my resignation and the proof copy of my latest published translation from the Japanese. Let me know if there are any punctuation problems or typos. It’s due back at the printer next week. To this point, I have been the needle, pulling you after me. It is past time for me to set your considerable weight aside. I have carried you far enough. Now, walk, you fat, lazy guai lo.

When Reason looked up from reading it, Michael was gone. Reason had the faint, preposterous notion that somehow his shadow had stayed behind. The space of their training room was all angles and planes. He looked at the little mirror on the wall. Reason walked to the master suite, tossed the book in his secretary drawer and got in the shower. He didn’t mind the sting of the hot water pelting his face beyond noticing it. When he got out, he sat on his bed and called in his major domo with the little black button on his night stand. He gave Lucas instructions that would help him to prepare the household for a trip to Japan while he toweled dry his hair.