Sunday, December 23, 2018


Conclusions, as I have already mentioned, are difficult. The reader tends to trip over loose ends like a child with shoes untied. All questions and conflicts in the story need to be resolved, either within a chapter or at the conclusion.

Resolution is a key element in most art forms. Music, specifically as composed in the western hemisphere, is built on tones that become chords that are ordered so that a progression demands resolution. The key of 'C', for example, in its simplest configuration, is comprised of the 'C' chord. the 'F' chord and the 'G' chord. Played on any instrument, the final 'G' chord begs to return to 'C'.

Not all resolution is so clear cut. Popular fiction and literary fiction might well use very different means to conclude a story. Popular fiction emphasizes plot foremost, then character and lastly theme. Dick Francis has sold millions of books. Commonly called page-turners, his plots are tight and his characters distinctive. Themes, besides horses and horse racing, tend to be subjects such as banking, flying, painting and the like. Easy to understand.

Samuel Beckett writes literary fiction (though he would have likely rejected the label). Presenting a theme is the primary objective. Characters and plot take a back seat. And abstraction is the order of the day. Angst and anti-heros, chaos, confusion, death, and a wry brand of humor are the subjects he presents. Beckett has won a Nobel prize for literature. He does not write page-turners.

If label this story I must, then stamp it with Literary Fiction.

The Blind Geisha
III - 13

Dogs Run Madly

Dogs yapping down the beach. A calling man's voice. Fog. The gulls make dogs run madly cross the sand chasing elusive dreams, thought Elizabeth. Dogs madly chasing gulls and elusive ... "Literate this morning, I am". She rubbed the fingers of her hand around the window pane smearing the condensation. Or is it 'literary'? She heard Micki moving about downstairs. Whatever. Gumption, she thought. I lack gumption this morning. Need gulls to chase. Galling.
"Grace," she said. It's her, downstairs, moving about, not ...
"Good morning," the young woman called. "I have news."
"Good or bad?"
"A friend in Palo Alto has turned up another gem." Grace was smiling. She stood at the bottom of the stairs as Elizabeth made her way slowly down. Not as spry this morning, the young woman thought. "Shall we go to the parlor?"
"Did you spell that with a 'u', Gracie? You didn't, did you? Such a slacker you are. Self-discipline is the key to survival. Just ask any samurai you see." Elizabeth stopped and puffed and said, "Phew, I am pathetic this morning."
"Were you up early again?"
"Yes, yes. My demented brain is busier than our little yellow humming birds, flitting here and there."
The old woman tapped her forehead with the back of her hand. "Oh, fiddlesticks," she said.
"I'll get them," Grace said. "No worries. You come on down," and she extended a hand.
"Thank you, dear. I'll just get my coffee and meet you in the parlour. With or without that 'u'."
"The manila envelope on the table," Grace said from the top of the stairs, turning, looking down. "Your surprise."
Elizabeth regarded the plain brown, slightly rumpled package perched against a mug. She poured coffee. As she lifted her cup, pain broke her thumb's grip and the cup tilted away, sloshing coffee on to the counter top, the floor. Chin to chest, she gave a shake of her head, slumped against the edge of the sink. Groaned.
"Beth," came Grace's voice.
"What is it, Bessie?
Another shake of the head. "Nothing. Infirmities."
"I've got you."
Arm in arm, the two women moved slowly to the parlour.
They sat quietly. A gray morning. Distant gulls.
"Shall we have a look?" Grace said. Go ahead; you do the honors."
From the envelope, Elizabeth extracted a thin sheaf of 81/2 x 11 pages. They were crisp and white with a green post-it in the upper left corner. "The squid man?" Elizabeth said.
"My friend in Palo Alto was researching the Kuro Shio, the Japanese Current and how it produces eddies all along the coast of Japan. Put simply, little fish come with these eddies and the big fish follow, including the fishermen with their fishing boats. This," taking up the manuscript, "is a copy of a log from one of those boats. 15th century. Wood, scow-shaped, that distinctive junk rigging."
"Think delicate ribbed fan and blow it up big. Stick it on a post. Put the post on a boat. Junk."
Grace thumbed through the forty odd pages of the manuscript. Half-way through, she stopped and squared the small stack.
"She was scanning this document, this ship's log, and came across a heading that read, literally: Old Woman In Hut. Onna no koya. And, according to the coordinates, this was just down the coast a mile or so from where our little Mori grew up. She called; we talked."
"Antecedents, dear. Most important. Your friend called, yes? Not our little Mori."
Grace shook her head. "Pedantic. Whatever. The upshot is that while the woman in the log is unnamed, the dates seem right and it could be her. It should be."

             Position: 34ยบ N, through Bungo Strait, then SSW
Date: 3rd day, Changing Clothes Month, 12th year Sengoku
Clear, wind NNW, swell 2 feet, filled hold with young squid

The old woman still living in hut. Found her there at the end of the season. Many squid this year with the big eddy sweeping them in onto the shelf. It is good not to have to sail deep water and contend with the black current.

And in the margin, after the date, another green post-it with '1479' written on it.
"This is the first reference in the log. The Sengoku period began in 1467 with the Onin War and ended in 1615. But clearly this fisherman had seen her before. It goes on," and Grace read from the highlighted script of the manuscript.

We left her to it. Warm, this winter, and dry. We give her squid. She gives us song. Dead eyes, but sweet voice.

"That was the clincher for me. 'Dead eyes' was the translation of shindame. A figurative phrase for 'blind'? I've sent a query to a man in Japan. We should hear in a couple of days. So there's location, date, age of the woman, her apparent blindness, and her singing. Like I said, if this wasn't Mori, it should be."
Elizabeth frowned. "Except for that 'old'," she said. "She was fifty something. Old?"
"A relative term."
"Oh really? Look at me. Look at you."
Grace smiled and shook her head. "Mori was somewhere in between. But a much different time." She leaned forward. "Might have been, then. Likely, I think. And several weeks later there was this," and Grace read:

Whaler's Cove. 14th year.
Ran from storm. Anchors out fore and aft. Careened her after. Barnacles again. Took ship's boat up coast looking for schools. Found woman down the beach. Dead. Buried her up above tide line. Rocked the mound. Burnt the hut.

"Took sick and died, she did," Elizabeth said. "Alone on her beach."
"The ague no doubt." Grace thumbed the pages.
"The same year as Ikkyu's death, yes?"
"The same."
"Coincidence or ..."
The two women sat quietly.
"Synchronicity," Elizabeth said. She frowned.
"Ah," said Grace.

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