“A Kapitany”, Chapter 27 from the novel.

July 1, 2015

de la Motte house

In 2007, I started writing “A Kapitany”.   A number of books got in the way, but last year I finished it.  Revising, reconsidering, etc. is now and hopefully this violent and graphic novel will be published next year.  The theme is this:  Vadas Dohendy owns a rundown vineyard near Eger, Hungary, an area famous for wine production. He also has inherited a 300 year chateau that is unlivable, and a  hunting lodge where he lives, with intermittent electricity (that haunts most of NE Hungary) and a really old Aga that backfires like a gun.

Vadas is also an art thief, a half-hearted Dom (now that he has fallen in love), and attempting to put most of that 30 year career behind him. He wants to leave the sordid life of crime and marry Elizabeth. He wants to recover his vineyard and at 60 he doesn’t want to look over his shoulder every day.  Soffia is one of his ‘henchmen’ though she is a woman.  They have worked many years together and have a long history.  Vadas is overbearing, Hungarian and no fool.  Elizabeth has been tortured, raped by his partner, Miklos Farkas. Both haveheir own gangs of men and are hunting each other.     (Vadas sort of means “hunter” in Hungarian, Farkas means ‘wolf”)

Violence and guns play a role in this novel and I drew from my own experience.  Guns are not something I like, but I have them.  Shotguns and pistols.  I used to shoot skeet, and wasn’t very good.   If you have guns you should learn how to use them and learn the safety rules.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

July 4th, 2015…may it be a peaceful one.

Kapitany, Chapter 27

“Soffia, I need a favor, darling. Yes, I know, your Vadas only calls when he needs a favor. Soffia, listen to me. I must come to Budapest.”

Vadas grimaced and pulled at his cigarette. Soffia could be a hard ass and right now she was being just that. He shifted the phone on his shoulder and stretched his legs.

“I have several things to do in Budapest. What I need is you to come here and stay with Elizabeth. No, she is much better, she is walking around. Yes, she is better, but I don’t want to leave her alone right now. I still don’t know where Miklos is, and I don’t want him showing up here when I am gone. No, I have men posted to watch, but I don’t want to alarm her.”

Vadas held the phone from his ear. Soffia was full of grievances this morning. He wasn’t in a mood to listen.

“No, darling, I haven’t told her yet you are coming. I thought I should ask first. Yes, I know, Soffia, I take great advantage of you. I will make it up. What? You pick. You know your Vadas will buy what you desire. I always have, darling.”

Vadas blew smoke towards the ceiling. “Listen, Soffia, Elizabeth has agreed to marry. Yes, I am speaking the truth. No, I didn’t burn her passport. No, I didn’t break her arm, funny lady.”
He rolled his eyes. Soffia was chattering on. “Look, you can help with planning the wedding. What? Yes, it will be a wedding. A big wedding. You will be maid of honor or whatever they call the woman next to the bride. Where? Some church in Eger. You take her around and show things. You can buy the dress, and another one for you. Yes, like last time. I trust you, Soffia. She will be a pretty bride. You both will be pretty brides. What? I’ll marry you off to one of my men, ok? You will like living in the countryside. No, I am teasing, Soffia. I know you are too sophisticated for these men around here.”

A few more minutes and Vadas got what he wanted. Soffia was coming out by car and would stay with Elizabeth for a few days. This would give him the time to go to Paris, see his lawyers and visit the old aunties. They were his only living relatives. It was crucial he at least visit and invite them in person. They held some important purse strings.

At lunch Vadas asked Elizabeth what should be done with the frescos.

“For now? Nothing, Vadas. First secure the roof. Anything done before that would be pointless. Then fix the plaster in the ceilings. It’s rather scary lying under that ceiling in the bed. It could all give in at any moment. But the frescos should not be touched. They are too valuable and historic for any hands besides professional conservators. And that would cost a lot of money.”

Elizabeth pushed around her salad. She still wasn’t eating much.

“Probably the damp in the house doesn’t help. Fix the windows in the rooms where there are frescos. Where there aren’t, board them up properly. They will be costly to fix anyway. Those sashes have to be custom made.”

Vadas smiled over his coffee. “You have been thinking, no? You speak good sense, Elizabeth. Now, I have a plan. You do that stuff on the internet, you know, press those buttons, and find the people who can fix the roof first. You can go into Eger and ask. I would start there first.”

Elizabeth looked doubtful. “Vadas, do you remember I don’t speak Hungarian? They would laugh at me first, and then throw me out.”

“Well, I have a solution. I have asked Soffia to come up for a couple of days. Now, listen to me, Elizabeth. I have to go to Budapest for a couple of days, on business only and no you can’t come. I will be racing all over and you will not be able to keep up. Plus, I have to call upon my old aunties and invite them to the wedding. You and Soffia can plan the wedding, you two girls. This is woman stuff, and it best left in your capable hands. Four capable hands.”

Elizabeth still looked doubtful. In fact, she looked upset. Vadas guessed what was worrying her.

“Listen, Elizabeth. Soffia has promised to be good. She has promised not to get you under her or whatever she does. Ok? No hanky panky from her. Plus, she is Hungarian and can help arrange the workmen. It will be fun. You won’t even miss me and I will be back before you do.”

Elizabeth said nothing. She continued to push her food around the plate.

Vadas sat back and watched. “Do you remember, Elizabeth, when I told you I would feed you? That you would eat from my hand only? Do I have to do that now? You are going to look like a scarecrow at your wedding. What man wants to sleep with a woman who is skin and bones? The winter, Elizabeth, is hard in these hills.”

Vadas had no trouble with his own appetite. He cut up his meat and held out his fork. “You come here, Elizabeth. You eat this. Then you eat another mouthful.”

Elizabeth looked at him, her eyes filling with tears. “Vadas, I’m scared.”

“What? You  scared of meat?”

“You know, you must know. What if Miklos comes back when you are gone? What if he comes here? Soffia is no defense against him. You know that.”

Vadas sat back and patted his knee. “You come here Elizabeth and I will explain something.”

Elizabeth knew his behavior made her look like a child, a ‘good girl’ in his terms. But she was scared and the news he was going away put her on edge.

She sat on his lap and Vadas wrapped his arms around her. He had this habit of humming off key when she was close by, and Elizabeth found it strangely comforting.

“Now look, Elizabeth. You and Soffia will be safe. I have men here you won’t see. But anyone who approaches by foot or car will be known. These men are hunters and they know this particular prey. And you are wrong about Soffia. I would rather go up against two men than Soffia. She is a good shot, too. I will give her a gun. Hell, you can have a gun, too. Ok? Dry your tears and eat this good food.”

“Vadas, I can handle a gun. I have before.”

“What? You know how to shoot? I will sleep with one eye open from now on. Eat another piece of meat.”

Just to see if she was telling the truth, Vadas took her out behind the lodge where there was a meadow. He set up some bottles as targets and loaded a large pistol. Standing behind her with his hands around hers, he told her to gently squeeze the trigger. She missed.

“Ok, we do this again. You hold the gun steady, Elizabeth. You are jerking when it went off.”

“Vadas. Let me do this without your hands all over. Let me try, please.”

Vadas backed off and Elizabeth considered the target. She closed one eye and aimed carefully. The bottle exploded.

“Good girl! That was beginner’s luck. You try again.” Elizabeth hit the bottle but the gun was heavy. It wasn’t a light pistol, but a heavy European model. The sound scared her.

“Enough, Vadas. My wrist hurts. I have shot a gun before. I don’t use pistols, so this was hard. I have my own shotgun.”

“What? You have a shotgun? What, a lady’s gun? Maybe a small gauge? Something for mice?”

Elizabeth laughed. “No, Vadas, I have a 12 gauge for bird hunting. I have another, a breech loader, I use with skeet.”

“Oh, skeet don’t taste good, Elizabeth.” Vadas was laughing.

“Each day I learn something new about you. This is good, Elizabeth. By the time we are married I will know all your secrets.”

Elizabeth smiled. “Don’t bet on it, Vadas. I have lived a long life. I have many secrets.”

Vadas took the gun from Elizabeth. He put his arm  around her shoulder and they went back to the lodge.

That evening Elizabeth asked him. “So when are you leaving and when is Soffia coming?”

Vadas looked up from his paper. “Are you pushing me out the door? Well, Soffia is coming tomorrow and I thought I would hang around until she got here. Then I can read her the riot act again.” Vadas went back to his paper.

When Soffia arrived, Vadas brought her into his study and closed the door. They were in there for a while and Elizabeth decided to take a walk. She would see if she could spy these men lingering about. Vadas said they would be invisible, but she wanted to see for herself. When she came back in the lodge, Vadas and Soffia were by the fire drinking whisky.

“Ah, Elizabeth darling! You look good! So much better than those first few days in hospital.”

“Hello, Soffia.” Elizabeth went and kissed her on both cheeks. “It’s good to see you again.” She sat down on a small sofa. Vadas held out his whisky to her and she shook her head.

“Vadas has given me a list of things we can do and things we can’t do,” Soffia said brightly. “But we can spend his money and that is the best thing.”

Vadas sighed. “Always you women spend my money. That is constant.”

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2007-2015

“Songs of Summer”, from “White Cranes of Heaven”,

June 22, 2015
Giant English Hollyhock

Giant English Hollyhock

SONGS OF SUMMER

 –

Summer cartwheels through the sky!

The fertility of months

Shines from field to orchard,

Above  and deep below,

Where earth gathers green energy

 transforms by magic

Fruits for the mouth and eye.

 –

Fledglings tipped out of nests

Try new-feathered wings on warm currents,

Calves butt heads and race in calf-tumble

Climbing rocks and playing king-of-the-hill,

Spring lambs past the date

For the tenderest of slaughter

Coated in white curls,

Smell of lanolin sweet in their wake.

 –

There is fresh life in the pastures,

Now with steady legs and bawling lungs,

They graze upon the bounty

And grow fat for  future culling.

Tender shoots of wheat and corn,

Waist-high, defying devious crows,

Paint once-fallow fields in saffron and

A multitude of hues-

Golden tassels forming,

Waving under an oppressive sun,

And when the sky bursts open

In random welcomed rain,

Heaven meets Earth-

The cycle complete.

 –

These are the songs of Summer:

The bleat of lambs,

The cymbals of colliding clouds,

The plaints of cows with udders tight,

The loud quarrelling of a swollen brook,

The scream of a hunting hawk

Calling for its mate,

The pelt of an unheralded storm

Upon a tin roof,

And the quiet sighing of

An unexpected wind-

A benediction to the day.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011-2015

“River of Death” from “Song of the Nightingale”

June 13, 2015

Song Book cover

images (8)

“Song of the Nightingale” is a story in 12 episodes about a marriage in 17th century Japan.  Lord Nyo and Lady Nyo, he a samurai and she from the powerful clan Fujiwara, have been married since she was fifteen.  Now she is thirty and Lord Nyo sixty. Magic, a tricky Tengu and a baby plucked from the surface of the moon figure in the story.

The poetry of Saigyo is noted:  where it isn’t, it is mine.

Episode 11 is a scene from a battlefield, as Lord Nyo is a general in the provincial army of Lord Mori, an aging and despot daimyo in north west Japan, near Moon Mountain.

“Song of the Nightingale”  will be published around July, 2015, a work of 4 years.

Lady Nyo…but not the one in the story.

11

THE RIVER OF DEATH

 

There’s no gap or break in the ranks of those marching under the hill:

an endless line of dying men, coming on and on and on….

—Saigyo

When the news of Lady Nyo

Birthing a son

Reached Lord Nyo

He was far from home,

To the east,

Over mountains

In dangerous, alien territory.

A general in the service

Of his lord,

The gore of battle,

The issue of ‘dying with honor’

Began at first light,

The air soon filled with sounds of battle-

Dying horses, dying men

Drawing their last gasps of life,

Churned into the mud of immeasurable violence.

The river of death is swollen with bodies fallen into it;

in the end  the bridge of horses cannot help.

—Saigyo

Death, not new life

Was before his eyes at dawn,

And death, not life

Pillowed his head at night.

A battle rages around me,

But inside this old warrior

A battle rages inside my heart.

It is heavy with sorrow,

So tired beyond my old bones.

 What good have we done

In watering the soil

With blood and offal

of sons?

 

He stunk with the blood of battle

As his bow and swords cut a swath

Through men in service to another

And when the battle horns went silent,

With tattered banners like defeated clouds

Hanging limp over the field,

Acrid smoke stained everything

And the piteous cries of the dying

Echoed in his ears.

He wondered if his life would end here.

But the gods that he didn’t believe in

Were merciful.

His thoughts turned from fierce, ugly warriors

Towards home and a baby.

Still, he could not leave.

He was caught by status,

The prestige of his clan.

He could not desert the

Fate set out from birth. –

Ah! This was fate of a man in servitude

To his Lord Daimyo.

This was the fate

Of a man chained to Honor.

Still, in the darkest hours of the night

The soft and perfumed shape of his wife

Floated down to him from the fleeting clouds,

Came to him through the smoke of battlefield fires,

And he turned on his pallet

To embrace this haunting comfort.

Off in the distance

There I see my loved one’s home

On the horizon.

How I long to be there soon

Get along black steed of mine!

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015

 

 

“A Dish of Skylarks”……

June 9, 2015

New Knocker 2

Spring is in full bloom here in Atlanta.  Started a new rose garden and have a serious head cold.

Yes, spring is in full bloom.

Lady Nyo

A DISH OF SKYLARKS

 

 

A dish of skylarks

Fell into my lap,

And I ravenous with

A multitude of hungers-

Ate them.

 

Between burps

one did escape,

shook himself,

Bowed,

And offered a feather.

 

I thought it gracious

Considering what I had done

To his neighbors.

– 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014, from  Pitcher of Moon, Amazon.com

“Devil in Paris”,…..a short story.

May 31, 2015

imagesOWARHI3U

Madame Gormosy is a Devil. She can change her sex at will, from Louise Gormosy to Louis Gormosy. John Garret is also a Devil, but not so powerful. They have known each other for centuries as devils generally do. The scene is Paris, in the 1770’s.

.

THE DEVIL IN PARIS

CHAPTER ONE

Madame Louise Gormosy stood by the tall window, looking down at the rain-slicked street. Paris was cold and dreary this spring. Wood had gone up in price, and a timely delivery was a matter of bribes. That should be the concern of her steward, but he had disappeared. Already her servants were breaking up small cabinets and chairs to burn in the main salon and kitchen. She could hear the smashing of wood somewhere in the large apartment.

Madame shivered for the room was chilly. Ah, she thought, if ever I see him again, I will make him pay with his life for my discomfort. I will tear his stomach open with my nails and cook his liver.

She had a visitor, a sullen-looking Englishman, now with his large frame stretched across her sofa. John Garrett had been a friend for many years. He was an easy-going devil and good company when in the proper temper.   She cast her eyes towards him, a smile forming on her painted lips. Patting her high-dressed hair and smoothing the gray satin front of her gown, she wondered what had put him in such a mood. She remembered he was quite a wit when not bothered with serious thought. She hoped he would reform his manners, for she wanted nothing to spoil the afternoon. The rain could not be helped.

“John Garrett!”   Madame’s natural voice was low pitched but now showed her exasperation with a rise in key. “Are you going to continue your gloom and sour my day?”

Garrett, his eyes drawn slowly from the low burning flames that hardly threw any warmth, looked up at her. He stared for a long minute, a sneer forming on his handsome face.

“We are alone,” Garrett said quietly. “I know you better as “Louis”. Why behave this way amongst friends? “

Madame did not answer.   She walked to the double door, locked it and threw the key into his lap. For a moment she stood there, with her head cocked to the side, an elegant older woman, dressed in the latest fashion and only a sharp rise in the middle of her skirt gave warning of what was to happen.

In an instant, “Louise Gormosy” was “Louis Gormosy”. Gone were Madame’s satin overdress, the high coifed and perfumed hair. A bit of makeup remained, but it was the current fashion among Parisian men. Louis laughed at the expression on Garrett’s face. He now was a slight-figured man, above middle age, with powdered hair and white silk stockings sagging around thin calves.

John Garrett shuddered. He knew his friend was not just any man in Paris. He was a demon, an important one– the Archduke Demon of Lust, with sixty legions under his command.

Louis Gormosy had ridden out of Hell on a white camel and long tormented the earth. It could not be helped; it was his nature. It was his…. calling.

Ah, he thought, I miss my camel… along with my legions, but tant pis! Paris cobblestones were hard on her aging hooves.

His present guest, John Garrett, was also a demon, but not of the same stature. Louis Gormosy was not sure of Garrett’s actual position in Hell, but knew him to have the patronage of the powerful Archduke Abigor, close to the throne. With friends like that, even the powerful Demon of Lust had to watch his hoof.

Louis Gormosy chuckled at his guest’s surprise. “Oh come, John, surely you are getting used to my little trick? Non? Well then, I have another reason to invite you here, besides parlor tricks. This evening I am expecting some guests, and I have reason for you to meet them.”

John Garrett sat up, stretching his legs. “Are you planning a little entertainment this evening? You know, Louis, one never can tell with you.”

Louis Gormosy lay a finger aside his nose and winked. “You have come at a good time, John.   I expect a young woman, a girl actually. She is the daughter of a neighbor in the country. She is around eighteen and her mother is anxious to have her married.”

“I am almost afraid to ask, Louis. What part do you play? ”

John Garrett looked at his friend from half-closed lids, like a cat settling in for a long story.

Monsieur Gormosy walked to the window and looked out at the still pouring rain. He turned his head slightly and gave Garrett a nervous smile before peering down at the street, watching for a carriage to stop at his door.

“Madame Luciern is a silly woman, a bit more stupid than usual. She has a daughter on her hands she complains is a ‘bookworm’. Ah! Bon Dieu! So the young woman will educate herself with novels and newsprint. Tant pis!”

Louis Gormosy threw up his hands in disgust. The words “Good God” had a strange sound in his mouth, just shy of a gurgle.

“You still don’t tell me what your part is in this affair.”

Gormosy turned and looked at his friend. “Better you ask me what your part is.”

John Garrett sucked his breath in sharply, and let out with a soft “Oh no, Louis!”

Louis gestured with his hands outward, all Gallic charm, and continued his appeal.

“What is a little fun amongst devils, neh? You have certain…ah…attributes that I unfortunately, do not have.”

“The starch issue again, Louis?” Garrett’s words rattled Louis and he winced.

Quel dommage! I don’t know if this is a little trick of Heaven or Hell, John…but it persists. I begin the attack, a few thrusts with the sword, and even with one parry, I wilt.”

And, thought Louis sadly, it always came down to what devil had more ‘reach’. It always came down to a measurement. Here on earth the length of the cock, and in Hell, the amount of control.

 

“So, what is your plan and why should I care?”

Monsieur sucked on the side of his thumb, thinking how to present his case.

“I have not seen the young woman. Her mother keeps her well hidden in the house. If she is a bookworm as the mother says, perhaps any attempt here in Paris to marry her off will be impossible. Perhaps she is ugly!”

“Or perhaps she has no bosom,” said Garrett from his sofa, eyes wandering back to the fire.

“Or perhaps… she has a harelip!” said Gormosy. “What do I know? I have not seen the poor girl.”

With a grimace, Gormosy shook out his hand. He had bitten deeply into his flesh, and blood spurted from his thumb.

Garrett asked, “Does she have a good fortune?”

Non, unfortunately not. Madame Luciern is a widow and her estate is lessened with the behavior of her oldest son. That young man has no sense at cards…and worse luck! I would give him some pointers in faro, but I do not cheat at cards.”

What a big lie, thought John, laughing silently. There was honor amongst devils but not at cards. What was the worse that could happen? A duel, you die, you come back fresh and new, with another chance to cheat life. And at cards.

“But!” continued Louis, raising a finger into the air for dramatic emphasis. “She has an honorable name! That is worth something, I think.”

“Hah,” said Garrett. “Perhaps of worth to mortals. But it is something.”

The blood continued to spurt from Gormosy’s thumb. “Merde”. He pulled a sooty handkerchief from his pocket and wrapped his thumb.

“So, what do you intend to do with Mademoiselle? Do you have a cuckold in mind?”

“Why would he be a cuckold, mon ami? I have all intention of marrying her to someone worthy and with a good fortune.”

“And if she is not marriageable due to this harelip or flat bosom? What do you intend then for Mademoiselle?” asked Garrett.

“I intend to make her a whore.”

There. It was out, thought Gormosy. Let him chew on that. There was profit to be made here, and he, Louis, would take the advantage.

“Why do you need me?” John Garrett’s eyes half closed again as he looked at his friend who was grinning stupidly.

“ If I can not obtain an acceptable offer, I will need your –ah, efforts, John.”

“Meaning? Come Louis, do not make me beat it out of you.”

“You will seduce her. You will make her more pliable for her gentleman callers…I, of course, will revert back to Madame, for this is all her mother knows of me, and you will play…”

“Hold on, Louis. Do you or don’t you intend to get her a husband?”

“How should I know?” Louis Gormosy shrugged his shoulders and presented his palms upward.

“I don’t know if she has a harelip or an unfortunate bosom. We both, my old friend, will find out this evening.”

CHAPTER TWO

John Garrett stood at the window looking out at the rain when he heard the knock on the door. He watched Louis cross his hands over his breast and shake his head violently. Louis became Louise again. Voila! Her high coifed powdered hair, the satin dress, the tight corset and breasts returned. As many times as he witnessed this transformation, it always took him by surprise. Louis was one tricky devil. A snap of Louis’ fingers and the door unlocked.

Garrett watched Madame and Mlle. Luciern entered the room, Madame like a clipper ship in full rig. Madame was a short, plump woman, middle- aged, with powdered hair that showed the effects of the rain. Her dark plum, satin gown was ten years out of fashion. She wore little face powder and there were honest wrinkles and age-spots enough to signify that Madame was no longer young. Kissing Louise on both cheeks she shook herself, rather like a hen ruffling her feathers. Louise gestured for her to sit.

Garrett listened to Madame Luciern introduce her daughter to her hostess. Louise took the young woman’s hands in hers, studying her carefully and called for him to come be introduced.

Garrett bowed over Madame Luciern’s hand and watched her face color with delight. Mlle Luciern had no such reaction to his presence. Her face remained expressionless.

Taking a chair across from Mlle., he listened to Louise Gormosy ask the mother questions about their trip from the countryside. The two older women were soon lost in chatter and he had a chance to observe the silent young woman.

His first impression of Mlle was favorable. She was slender, with an underdeveloped bosom, a fine complexion and a pretty mouth.   She did look like a bookworm, he thought with a chuckle.   She had a serious demeanor, with pale gray eyes and dark brows that did not arch in the necessary fashion. Fine brown hair pulled into a simple unadorned bun exposed a slender neck.   He was curious. He had his fill of coquettes and fashionable young women in Paris. They were of a general order, all schooled in manners to attract a man’s attention and hold it captive for an afternoon. Their charms passed through him like water. How bored he had become with the women of Paris!

In Mlle. Luciern he saw something different. Something intriguing and virginal, but virginity had little value in Paris. He laughed to himself. Virtue was good for children but pointless in an attractive woman. Already the gloom of his mood was lifting in the presence of a rather mysterious young woman.

The two Madames were lost in conversation and twittering with laughter as old friends do. Both her mother and Louise seemingly forgot Mlle. Her face was politely blank, trained to assume a mask in company, but Garrett could see she was not empty of thought. Her fine eyes narrowed as she listened to her mother and Louise rattle on and a pained look cracked the mask.

“You have been in Paris before, Mlle.?” Garrett’s voice was low enough to not disturb the chatter of the two older women. Mlle. Luciern turned her gray eyes to his and answered his question quietly, but with little interest reflected in her voice.

Oui, Monsieur, I have visited Paris before, but not recently. I was a girl when I was last here.” Her voice was almost husky, and the pitch of it surprised him. Most young women were taught to have ‘musical’ voices in company, to laugh as affectedly as a tinkling bell. Mlle Luciern seemed unspoiled by such manners.

He did not have a chance to question her further, for the sound of Mlle’s voice made her mother remember her.

“M. Garrett”, said Madame with a bright smile. “Margot-Elisabeth was a little girl the last time we were here, only about twelve years old. She is now nineteen years of age, and a stay with Madame Gormosy will bring some color to her cheeks and some polish to her manners. Ah, Bon Dieu! The countryside is good for virtue but there is little opportunity were we live to make her a wife!”

Mlle Luciern’s face showed distress at her mother’s words. Garrett saw how Madame Gormosy’s eyes glittered.

“Ah, my dear Marie,” Gormosy said to the mother. “We will polish the apple and find her a mate. She has promise, but is too pale in the face. Perhaps a bit of rouge and the labors of my hairdresser?”

Madame Luciern laughed at Gormosy’s words. “Bon chance, Louise! I can barely get Margot-Elisabeth to brush her hair!”

Poor Mlle. Luciern blushed at her mother’s words and Garrett suppressed a smile. Margot meant ‘pearl’ and this one would need quite a bit of polish to catch a husband in Paris.

Garrett tried to make small conversation with Mlle. but she was now as shy as unpolished. The two older women chatted away without stopping for breath and the conversation was all about Margot-Elisabeth, unconcerned with her growing discomfort.

She could have been invisible in the room for all they noticed.

Garrett heard the amount of funds pledged by Madame Luciern to Gormosy, and almost whistled aloud. A dressmaker would be sent for immediately.

“Ah, Louise,” said Madame Luciern with a look of gratitude. “You work your magic with Margot-Elisabeth. In your competent hands I am sure she will bloom.”

Garrett wondered how much ‘magic’ would be needed by Louise, and how her mother would react if she knew the source of Madame’s….ah….magic.

How droll it was. Mother Luciern to leave her precious daughter in the hands of a devil. All the rosaries in France would not amount to a hill of shit once Louise got her claws into the prey.

Garrett laughed to himself. Tant pis! The bargain was struck. The Devil would have his due.

CHAPTER THREE

A week later, John Garrett was shown into Madame’s apartment by an old servant. He glanced at the dark and wizened man and smelled brimstone. Madame was known to choose her servants carefully. Life could be a subterranean maze in Paris. He knew other demons in the city and all were not friendly devils.

“Ah, John! Bonjour!” Madame was drinking tea with a young woman, one Garrett did not recognize.

“You remember Mlle. Luciern? What changes we have wrought! Such an elegant young woman. What man in his right mind could resist her! Could you, John?”

Ah, thought Garrett. Madame is up to her old tricks. She insists in making me part of her plan for this young woman.

Madame’s eyes glittered as she turned to look at the young woman sitting across the tea table. Garrett bowed over the jewelled hand of Louise, and then stood back to look at Mlle. Luciern.

Madame had indeed worked her magic. Mlle. was coifed and gowned like a young, elegant Parisian matron. He admired her hair, piled high on her head, with many curls and loops and one long curled tendril, a thick sausage over her shoulder. At least Madame’s hairdresser had forgone the powder and her natural color was preserved. Mlle’s complexion was good but now she had some bloom in her cheeks. He knew this was all art, for Louise was an expert with faces and makeup. He saw Mlle. had only two black satin patches on her face, one near the left eye, and one near the mouth to draw attention to her painted lips. They did look alluring to him, like they were stung by an amorous bee.

Garrett cocked his head to the side and let his gaze travel down her figure. Her morning dress was of light blue silk. Ruffles framed her breast. Garrett let his eyes linger only a second, but Mlle. did present a lovely bosom to onlookers. He knew this was due to more of Madame’s magic – this time with pads in the corset. Round, delicate mounds above and the merest of rouged nipples appeared like little mouse noses peeking over the tops of the corset. Such was the fashion for seduction. He wondered how far Madame had corrupted her student.

“No, Madame Gormosy, no man could resist such a beautiful young woman.”

Garrett was surprised to see Margot blush so deeply. At least Madame’s instructions had not destroyed this vestige of virtue in the girl.

“Mlle. is an good student, John. She learns fast and takes an interest in her future. Her mother will be proud of her. We will get her matched up with the proper husband soon enough. But as I have told Mlle. Margot, there is plenty time for an engagement. Now is to be given to sharpening her feminine skills. That way she will attract the best prospect for her future happiness. Mais bon Dieu!   She is still so young and innocent. We must hone her wit and deportment. Nothing like the polish upon an apple to attract the proper bites.”

Garrett stared at Madame Gormosy. He could easily see through her designs, but of course, the young woman was too naïve to understand what was happening right under her nose. She was a pretty morsel, and it was hard to take his eyes from parts of her. The swell of her breast, how gently it rose with an almost imperceptible movement. He could feast his eyes on that tender piece of flesh all morning. How much more alluring she would be if she were panting, he thought. A sly smile appeared on his face.

Ah, Madame Gormosy was full of devilry this morning, and it was infectious.

Louise Gormosy spoke with excitement. “Today we will work on the great science of “coquetry”. Non, M. Garrett, do not laugh, for women have their own science. Let the men work with fire and chemicals. We women have our own fire and it is called “La Passion”

Garrett winced and hoped Mlle. Margot would forgive the bad prose of her patroness. But Madame would press her case.

“Surely Mlle. Margot has higher aspirations than to be a housewife to her husband. It is a most contemptible and unfashionable position for any women of breeding, and has no social standing except for a parson’s wife or a lowly farmer’s. Ah Dieu! Mlle. is made by nature for much finer things!”

Garrett wondered if the word “God” did not burn the inside of Madame’s mouth, but since she was an old devil, he imagined she would have a mouth immune to heat. Still, he had heard this speech before, but he could not remember when. Perhaps it was another time in another century, while attending Madame under similar circumstances, that she had used these same words. They seemed familiar to him in any case. He heard her drone on.

“Now, Mlle. Margot, advice today is seen as ridiculous to be given, and even more ridiculous to be taken, but your dear maman would want you to listen to me very closely. Alors! She has given you into my hands for more than to fluff your beautiful hair and plump your fine bosom. It is her choicest desire to prepare you for entrance into the best of society and this is the path to catch the eyes of a husband. Have you read Madame d’Effine’s letters? Non? Pity. But I can supply you a copy of her book. Or better yet, I can give you the benefit of my long experience.”

Garrett could not stop a smile creeping across his face. Mlle Margot would have no idea just how long that experience really was. Yes, Mlle Luciern, it goes back a long way. Whether Madame could read his mind, which was standard fare amongst devils, or she caught a glimpse of his sly smile, she turned around suddenly and gave Garrett a vicious look. His face went neutral and he closed his eyes in compliance. He would not interrupt her behavior. Besides, it was entertainment for a morning’s visit.

“Now, Mlle.Margot. Virtue is all very fine and good, but to get a husband, or any admirer, a woman must use what attributes she has and develop more. A fine voice, the ability to cut to the heart of a man’s desire just with the cast of your eyes, the flutter of your fan, ah! There is so much to learn, but we will persist. Now, M.Garrett, please attend to Mlle. and lead her around the room, s’il vous plait.

Garrett stood and offered his arm to Mlle. Margot. They walked around the large salon, Mlle. Margot only as high as his chest. He was a tall and well- built man, with broad shoulders, and Mlle. petite next to him. He observed her blush as she placed her hand on his and looked up into his face.

Entertaining as Madame was, he was beginning to have his doubts about her plans. He believed this young woman to be innocent. He rarely, now that he thought of it, came across a woman so – uncorrupted, and certainly not in Paris. The thought crossed his mind: Quelle dommage, as Madame liked to say. Perhaps he would have his own plan for Mlle. Luciern. What was a little competition between devils? They had shared tender morsels before in their long history.

Eh bien! Attendezmoi! John, give me the advantage of your eyes. Tell me what you think are the best points of Mlle.’s figure. Does that style of dress, the color suit her the best, mon ami? Speak out loud what her beau would say, and let us see how Mlle. reacts to such praise!”

Ah, it was clear what Madame’s plan was now! Madame was a terrible devil this morning, and she would have her fun at the expense of the painful blushes of Mlle. He decided to turn the game to his own advantage, and perhaps spare Mlle some pain.

At that very moment, the old devil servant of Madame Gormosy slipped into the room and approaching quickly, whispered into the ear of his mistress. Madame cocked her head towards his mouth, and though she did not take her eyes from John Garrett and Mlle. Luciern, Garrett saw they grew dark with concern. Muttering some curses low under her breath, she rose and went with her servant from the room, forgetting her two guests.

Garrett took the time of Madame’s absence to lead Mlle. Luciern to a chair and to sit down across from her. He observed Mlle. sink gratefully into her seat, and with a motion beneath her skirts, kick off one shoe.

“Ah, Mlle, does your foot hurt?”

“M.Garrett, I can not get used to these narrow shoes Madame makes me wear. I am not used to this fashion. And if you would know further, I am not used to these headaches. They are from my hair pulled from my head and pinned so tightly. And I can breathe only a little. Madame demands my corset be laced tight.” Mlle. blushed, but Garrett could hear in the distress in her voice.

“Ah! I sympathize. Perhaps you think what Madame does here is far off the mark?”

“I don’t understand what you mean, Monsieur.” Another sharp kick under her skirts and off came the other shoe.

“Mlle Luciern. Forgive my blunt words, but Madame is an “old fogey” as we say in England. She means well, but she is generations behind in her thinking.”

How many generations Mlle could never guess.

Tears formed in Mlle. Luciern’s eyes, and she shook her head. Garrett could only sympathize.

“Here, Mlle. Let me do something for your comfort. I will take all the blame, but tant pis! I am an old friend of Madame’s and used to her ways.”

He stood and moved behind Mlle’s chair. With practiced movements, he removed the pins from her hair and spread them from their high peaks and down her back. With gentle hands he massaged her temples and she groaned in relief.

“Ah! Bon Dieu, Monsieur. That feels so good. My poor head was about to explode. Madame means well, but she does not seem to suffer pain like the rest of us. I saw her put on a hat the other day and plunge a long pin into her head. Mon Dieu! She said she did not hit her skin but her hair, but to me, ah goodness! To my eyes, it seemed to go through her head!”

Garrett smiled from behind Mlle’s chair. In fact, he had seen Madame do this before and other such things and had warned her if observed her game would be over. Madame had laughed, she had been doing such tricks for centuries. Besides, the winds of Paris were strong and her hat would blow off if she didn’t get a good layer of skin beneath her hat pin.

“Madame has a thick skull, Mlle. Luciern”, Garrett said drolly. “She is used to all sorts of torture for fashion.”

Garrett looked down Mlle. Luciern’s bosom and watch the gentle curves rise and fall with her breathing. Too bad his plans for Mlle. did not include a seduction. He would like to savor those two young mounds in his mouth. But it would be a passing fancy and his plans for Mlle. Luciern’s future did not include this fleeting pleasure. He had a more lasting pleasure to savor.

And his good friend Louis would be the poorer for it.

CHAPTER FOUR

John Garrett was standing behind Mlle. kneading her temples when Madame Gormosy entered the room.

“Ah!– Oh no! What have you done to Mlle’s hair, John? All the work and effort of my hairdresser! Ah well, it can’t be helped now. Would you like me to leave?”

Madame’s voice cut into the silence and Mlle. Luciern jumped from her chair. She had almost fallen asleep, Garrett’s hands soothing her nerves. But she was young and obeyed orders, her face showing her distress.

“Oh Madame! Forgive me! My head was pounding and I thought I would be sick with the headache. Monsieur Garrett has saved me from my pain. Please, I beg you, I am very sorry about the hair.”

Madame cocked her head at Garrett and raised her eyebrows. He just smiled and closed his eyes like an owl.   He did this many times with Madame. It was his way of signaling he would not answer her questions. He could be as stubborn as Madame was persistent.

“Well, Mlle.,” she said with a sniff, “if you are recovered, perhaps we can salvage this morning with a lesson.” She would put aside her annoyance and continued with Mlle’s instruction, but gave Garrett a withering glance first.

“Perhaps we can start with “The Art of Seduction”. Do not laugh M. Garrett! Do not dare laugh. These are important lessons I impart to Mlle. Her future happiness rests upon honing what she has been given naturally. We must polish the apple some more until she can attract the fruitful nibbles.”

Garrett almost groaned aloud. Louis was stuck in this apple cart.

Madame sat down across from Mlle. who had hurriedly twisted her hair into a chignon.

“Attendez-moi! Seduction by a man is his act of attaining the affections of a woman, of becoming deeply enamoured, and applauding her for her generosity and attention.”

Garrett moved to the window where he could look out at the street below and listen to Madame. When he heard her definition of seduction, he almost guffawed. Ah, Madame, he thought. You meant to say that the great art of seduction is that of gaining a woman’s affections under pretence of being enamoured, when you really despise the woman for her vanity and weakness in playing your game. But of course, your pigeon will know no better.

Again, whether there was an unseen current between thoughts, or Garrett actually did laugh at Madame’s words, she whipped her head around to look at him, her mouth tight against her teeth.

“Ah, Mlle.”, Madame continued. “Seduction is a little game between a man and a woman which leads to great results. Do not be discouraged by what the moralists think or say. Seduction is the engine that drives amours. Amour leads to marriage and to happiness in the future.”

Mlle. Luciern nodded her head, seeming to attend carefully to what Madame was saying. She appeared to be a diligent student.

“Now, consider the fan. A woman can make a great conversation of love with just the flick of a fan. Regardezmoi.”

Garrett watched Madame picked up a white silk fan from a little table by her chair and opened it, holding it just beneath her eyes. Isolated by the fan’s whiteness, her eyes glittered like diamonds. Mlle. Luciern’s own eyes widened at the effect.

“When you put the fan’s handle to your lips, you are saying “Kiss me.” When you twirl the fan in the left hand, you signal: “We are being watched.” Fan held over the left ear means: “I wish to get rid of you. Allez!” Fanning yourself slowly, ever so slowly means, “I am married.” Fanning quickly, “I am engaged.” Hiding the eyes behind a fully opened fan, like so, means “I love you.” Now, Mlle., you show me what you have learned from my efforts.”

Mlle. Luciern took the fan from Madame’s hand and did as she was told. She hesitated on a number of turns, but Garrett thought that was to be expected.

Eh bien! Now, we will extend the lesson. With the flick of the fan like so—“ Madame started another lesson of the fan, when she noticed large tears collecting in the eyes of Mlle. Luciern. Suddenly Mlle. burst out crying and threw herself dramatically onto the floor, clutching the skirts of Madame Gormosy.

“What in Hell’s name—“. Madame forgot her manners and looked with surprise at the young woman now sobbing into the fabric of Madame’s dress.

“Oh, Madame Gormosy, I can no longer deceive you! I am already engaged, though my maman does not know of this. She suspects something but she would die a thousand deaths if she knew all!”

Madame Gormosy stood up suddenly and moved from the clutches of the young woman as she would a grabbing beggar. She looked down at her, a cold sneer on her face.

“Ah. So, my time and efforts are to be wasted on you? Well, who is he, this great beau of yours? Is he a groom? Your maman’s steward? Who, girl, out with it. Do not defy me!”

Mlle. Luciern stayed on her knees, her face streaming with her tears, her hands clasped in supplication before her.

“Madame, my maman did not deceive you. It was I who deceived you. My dear maman thought it was over for I steeled my heart and hid my emotions behind my books. I was determined to give him up, my Etain, but it is too late. I am expecting a child!”

Madame’s breath sounded like a rasp in her throat and her face appeared blackened with rage.

“You little devil! You little whore! You come here, instill yourself into my tender affections and you have deceived me! Where is your honor? Where is your breeding? You are no better than a gutterslut! You mother will know what you are, why am I wasting words upon you? Out of my house, you whore, you little—“

Madame raised her hand and was about to descend with it across the face of the stricken-looking and pale Mlle. Luciern, but Garrett had crossed the room at the first words of Madame. He had seen her temper first hand and knew her for what she was. He grabbed Madame’s hand and held it firmly so she could not strike the young woman on the floor before her. Madame whirled around, her face distorted with her anger and she hissed like a snake. At that very moment, she did appear like a viper, with her cold, glittery eyes, and suddenly her tongue snaked out of her mouth, a forked tongue like a snake! He had seen many tricks of Madame before, but this was a new one. Later, when he had time to reflect, he realized that it was not a trick, but very much a part of the nature of Madame. After all, he thought, the serpent figured in the story of lust, and Madame Gormosy was, after all, the Demon of Lust.

Whether it was because of her passion or because of her tight corset, Mlle. Luciern’s eyes rolled back into her head and she fainted away. It was a mercy for then Mlle. would not witness what happened next.

John Garrett kept a hard grip upon Madame’s arm, raised up in the air, and Madame continued to hiss at him. He knew devils could use greater or lesser magic against each other, and what to do Garrett was not clear. But he knew enough to put distance between them, and dropping her arm, stepped fast behind a sofa.

“You have lost, Louise, she is of no benefit to you now. Let the girl go with your blessing. Play the generous Madame and let her return to her mother and her fate.”

“You!” Madame’s voice came back to her. She no longer hissed like a snake. But Garrett observed there was no cessation in her rage.

“You would stay my arm? You, who is not even a proper Devil? The Archduke Abigor only knows what you are, yet you would counter my behavior to this little slut? Do you know what I can do to you? I could turn you to cinders right now along with your little friend here.”

“But you won’t dare, Louise, because of what Abigor will do to you. Do you want to try his humor? Do you want to find out what Abigor will do to you and all you know? Is this little woman before you, now senseless, worth the risk that you take? And, knowing Abigor’s affection for me, you know what fate you will have. There will be no fire of Hell hot enough to punish you. Abigor will cook up his own punishment. Don’t chance it, Louise. Think about your beloved camel.”

Garrett knew Louise Gormosy on a better day might have thought of her camel, but today she was in an inconsolable rage. She couldn’t stand that Fate had frustrated all her fun.

It just wasn’t fair.

But Madame Gormosy could not contain her anger, for it was consuming her before Garrett’s eyes. Her face began to darken, and she began to stamp her foot on the floor. Within seconds she was jumping up and down, and suddenly she was on fire! Before Garrett could move, she was nothing more than a cinder herself, and black ash floated down to the floor, to collect in a puddle of soot.

Tant pis, thought Garrett. She will be back. She always came back.

A fortnight later…..

Garrett heard gossip Mlle. Luciern was sent home to her mother with a considerable fortune. He heard from impeccable sources this was to appease the mother but also to allow Mlle and her beloved to start life together.

The money went a long way to sooth Madame Luciern’s passions over the circumstances, but what could she do? Etain d’Aubringe did not have a fortune, but he did have an old name, and with the money given by Madame Gormosy, Madame Luciern had her satisfaction. Her daughter was married, supplied with a fortune and Madame had the prospects of a grandson.

*************************

That spring, a strange sight was seen in the fashionable boulevards of Paris. A woman, heavily veiled, with a golden girdle surrounding her waist and a crescent moon headdress, was seen leaving Paris on a large camel. Behind her walked her household, a collection of dark-skinned little men and women, who left sooty footsteps behind on the cobblestones. Paris had never seen such a parade, and this one passed in utter silence.

Except for the camel. She complained loudly with groans and spat upon all she could reach. But those who saw her– the camel, not the veiled rider– would long remember the intelligence that gleamed from those eyes.

The End

untitled

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2008-2015

“Love Poems from “Kimono”…..

May 24, 2015
Japanese Lovers

Japanese Lovers

 

Excerpt from a chapter in “The Kimono

“So, Mari, do you have a verse in mind to start our exchange?”

Lord Mori poured a little water on the inkstone and started to rub a long-haired brush across the surface like a cat switching its tail.

Mari closed her eyes and thought for a moment.    He would write her poem  on paper and  answer with his.  She had not learned Kanji yet.

“How long will it last?

I do not know his heart.

This morning my thoughts

Are as tangled as my tangled hair.”

“Ah!  A good start, though of course you compose like a woman.”

He bent over the stone, added more water and wrote her words  with his brush.

“Let me think of a good answer.  Give me a minute.”  He picked up his pipe, relit it from an ember from the brazier, and puffed for a while.

“How can a woman

Know a warrior’s heart?

We have the sound of

War drums drowning

Out weaker sentiments.”

“Oh, very good, Lord Mori.  Perhaps I can answer this.”

“Who attends to the wounded

But women.

Our hands are soft and strong

And the best medicine after war.”

Lord Mori grunted and expelled a large puff of smoke.

“A woman only knows a man’s heart

By her silence.”

Mari thought of the inherent chauvinism of this statement.  However, this age would not embrace more progressive sentiments.  Women were still chattel, no matter how high their position.

“Wait.  I have another.  Perhaps more pleasing to your ear.”

Lord Mori let out another plume of smoke.

“Who knows the depth of my hidden heart?

Perhaps a ravine in the mountain?

No matter. A firefly of my love is flashing.”

Mari laughed and clapped her hands.  “Only a firefly?  Can it dispel the blackness of a man’s heart? Oh! Perhaps you should work that into another verse.  That could be a good beginning.”

Lord Mori’s eyes shone in the gathering darkness.  A cloud of aromatic smoke surrounded his head like a halo. He was silent.

“Let me try then”, said Mari, pursing her lips and narrowing her eyes in concentration.

“What can dispel the

Blackness of a man’s heart?

Never mind, even the insignificant

light of a firefly

Is a start.”

Lord Mori’s eyes narrowed, a  smile creasing his face.  The flame of the lamps wavered in the darkness and a nightingale sung nearby. Crickets were chirping outside the window and every once in a while the sound of carp could be heard jumping out of the lake for insects.

Mari looked at her hands in her lap.  She felt a loneliness, a yearning  she could not place.  She raised her eyes to Lord Mori, his face now cast in shadow.

He was puffing on his pipe again.  In the lamps, his hair shone like a blackbird’s wing, worn loosely down his back, except for the samurai topknot.

“Your soul is unsettled.”  A statement,  not a question.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted 2008,2015…from “The Kimono”

 

“The Kimono”, Chapter 25

May 18, 2015

Samurai Lovers, #2

Lord Sojobo, King of the Tengus

Lord Sojobo, King of the Tengus

I started writing “Kimono” 7 years ago, and life got in the way.  Other books, too.  But it’s a long novel, transposing from the 21st century to the early 18th. Mari is a 21st century woman flung backward (by a magic kimono) into feudal Japan. 

Lord Yoki is a former samurai, but more importantly, he is a Tengu.  Mischief making creatures who adopt the appearance of whatever species fits their needs.  This Lord Yoki is able to travel between centuries.

Lady Nyo

The Kimono, Chapter 25

The women were gathered apart from the men, under the trees. The glow from lanterns fell prettily on their faces; at least the faces Mari could see, veiled in the shadows of evening. The men were at a distance, sprawled under the trees, surrounding a brazier where brown sake bottles warmed in an endless kettle.

Mari had eaten dried bonito, roasted seaweed, and rice dumplings enough for a month. A screen had been set up between the two parties, and Mari realized the advantages of this device. They could eat, instead of picking at a small piece of fish, a teaspoon of rice. It would have been unseemly for women to eat with any gusto in front of men. Soft laughter sounded in the dusk, as women and even the two servants of Lady Nyo joined in the finger and guessing games of the girls from the inn.

 

Lady Nyo is called upon by Lord Ekei to play the samisen.

Though there was soft laughter from behind their screen, it was much different amongst the men. The clink of sake bottles, the laughter, and the general noise the men made as they related their stories, boastings and lies made this cherry blossom viewing more of a loud disturbance than a quiet, reflective contemplation of the beautiful blossoms. Mari wondered how long this would go on.

The blossoms only lasted three days before they fell. Surely the men could not last so long!

A servant came to the screen, knelt down and relayed a message to Lady Nyo. She was respectfully requested to entertain the men with her samisen. Lady Nyo rolled her eyes at Mari and Mari burst into laughter. But duty was duty, and Lady Nyo approached the men, bowed low and settled herself on a cushion with the instrument.

Lord Mori patted a cushion next to him and Mari could see by his face he was already drunk.

Lady Nyo quickly tuned the samisen and started a sad song.

Mari heard the strange tinny sounds of the instrument and the voice of Lady Nyo. How surprising was her voice, a low contralto, rich and not at all what Mari expected. Though Mari couldn’t understand the words, the tune apparently was well known to the men, as they fell quiet and seemed to contemplate other things than their drinking and merriment. Another song was requested by Lord Ekei after the first, and this was more upbeat than the first. Or perhaps it was just in a different key? It seemed to be less sad and her playing was faster.

Mari already knew poetry would be her part of the entertainment. She wracked her memory for some of the poems of Saigyo and Ono no Komachi. These she studied from a small book Lady Nyo had given her. She cobbled verse from words she could identify. It wasn’t easy, and it wouldn’t be the poetry of these fine poets, but it was all she had. Since there was to be a full moon tonight, Mari thought she would recite some of Saigyo’s moon poems. She didn’t trust her memory completely but thought the sake the men had already drunk would dull their own memories. She was betting on this.

 

Mari had to pee, excused herself and walked with a serving girl apart from the gathering. There was a narrow path leading upwards from the cherry trees and into a bamboo stand. When she came out and was making her way back, a man standing on the path bowed to her. He was dressed very elegantly, a handsome man, but there was something a bit familiar about him. Mari bowed to him, out of politeness, and supposed he was one of the many people out to admire the cherry blossoms and the rising of the moon.

She was about to pass when he spoke.

“Ho! You do not recognize me? Perhaps my robes are too fine for a mere tengu.” He smiled broadly at her and chuckled.

Mari recognized Lord Yoki, but what a difference from the first viewing! Tall, with shiny black hair arranged on his head, his robes were embroidered with silver thread on a dark plum background. Only his feet in his sandals with the claws of a bird, gave him away. Mari started to laugh when she saw his feet, but realized she would offend and threw her hand over her mouth.

“Send your girl ahead and we will stroll back and talk.”

Mari gestured to the servant and she disappeared down the path.

“So, my dear lady. Have you found why you are on pilgrimage with our Lord Mori?”

Mari considered her answer. No, she hadn’t, not really. But perhaps giving any information to Lord Yoki would be disloyal to Lord Mori.

The tengu watched her out of the side of his eye. She was playing her cards close to her bosom. Perhaps she really didn’t have a clue why she was accompanying her lord.

“What I do know, is this, my lord. Women are not allowed on Gassan, so I, with Lady Nyo and the servants, will remain in a temple at the foot of the mountain. More than that, I haven’t been told.”

This was only part right. Lord Mori had informed her, though only in a few terse words, that he was seeking counsel from someone on the mountain, that he was pushed between the actions of Lord Kiyama and the lord Tokugawa. Who this man he was to seek counsel was unknown, at least to Mari.

“Ah. I see. You are informed correctly. Women are not allowed on the mountain. The kami up there are particular about whom they choose to entertain. They are not known for their friendliness either. They are a tricky bunch of demons up there, so Lord Mori’s plans are in consideration for your safety.”

Lord Yoki didn’t reveal that Gassan was a historic home of tengu, and they classed women in the order of arrogant priests: something to bedevil and dismay upon crossing. He also did not say that the ‘man’ Lord Mori and company would be meeting with was the all-powerful Lord Sojobo. He would be the most dangerous tengu of all. He held a fan made of feathers and when he was displeased, not uncommon for him, he would casually wave the fan and all sorts of mischief could happen. One might be swept from the mountain and find themselves in a ravine somewhat bruised for the journey. Lord Yoki knew this from personal experience. He seemed to get on the nerves of his Lord Sojobo easily.

“Well, there is a journey of at least two days between here and Gassan, so you might find out more what you seek. Then again, you might not. It is hard to determine fate.”

Mari figured he knew more than he was telling, but she also knew that men of this century, even men- appearing tengu, could not be forced to give up much information. It was something about their nature.

They returned to their site, and Mari bowed to Lord Yoki, noticing that his robes had seemed to lengthen, covering his feet. If, by his appearance he surprised or confused the men assembled under the trees drinking sake, they gave no sign of it. Mori, Ekei, and Nyo bowed from their cushions and Lord Yoki was made room for amongst them. Mari returned behind the screen, accompanied by Lady Nyo.

In a low voice, Lady Nyo began to speak.

“My lady, we were concerned for your safety. When I saw you approach with a gentleman, I was most worried. But I see that it was Lord Yoki, and my mind settled. Please consider your safety when you venture out without at least a few servants. There are robbers on these trails, and Lord Mori would hold us all accountable if anything were to happen to you.”

Mari looked at her in surprise. How did she know it was Lord Yoki that stood beside her? Perhaps he appeared differently to her than to the others? Perhaps Lord Yoki threw glamour over him to befuddle her eyes? Or perhaps Lady Nyo was used to his tricks? There was more than Mari had answers, but then again, there was much more to these woods and this century than she could fathom.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2008-2015

 

Alerts to Threats in Europe by John Cleese…..

May 12, 2015

Terrorism is not funny, but John Cleese is.   This was first penned in 2012.

ALERTS TO THREATS IN EUROPE: BY JOHN CLEESE by John Cleese – British writer, actor and tall person.

The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent events in Syria and have therefore raised their security level from “Miffed” to “Peeved.” Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to “Irritated” or even “A Bit Cross.” The English have not been “A Bit Cross” since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from “Tiresome” to “A Bloody Nuisance.” The last time the British issued a “Bloody Nuisance” warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.

The Scots have raised their threat level from “Pissed Off” to “Let’s get the Bastards.” They don’t have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.

The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from “Run” to “Hide.” The only two higher levels in France are “Collaborate” and “Surrender.” The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France ‘s white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country’s military capability.

Italy has increased the alert level from “Shout Loudly and Excitedly” to “Elaborate Military Posturing.” Two more levels remain: “Ineffective Combat Operations” and “Change Sides.”

The Germans have increased their alert state from “Disdainful Arrogance” to “Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs.” They also have two higher levels: “Invade a Neighbour” and “Lose.”

Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels .

The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.

Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from “No worries” to “She’ll be alright, Mate.” Two more escalation levels remain: “Crikey! I think we’ll need to cancel the barbie this weekend!” and “The barbie is cancelled.” So far no situation has ever warranted use of the last final escalation level.

A final thought – ” Greece is collapsing, the Iranians are getting aggressive, and Rome is in disarray. Welcome back to 430 BC”

John Cleese.

The US is noticeably missing from this round up…. But it’s not forgotten.  Drones, bombing Pakistani weddings, etc.. The Hackers don’t help….the threat level changes, but not much.  It’s like blood pressure…always high.

Jane

“O Absalom” …..a passionate poem of love.

May 11, 2015

waterlily in our pond.

(water lily in our pond)

O Absalom,

Ensnared by long hair in the

Boughs of an oak,

Pierced through the heart three times–

The shimmer of life fading.

I,

Pulled into mysteries

So abandoned by love

Now given over to lust

Charged with stolen rapture

Dizzy as a drunken dervish-

One hand up to Heaven

One hand spilling to Earth

Skirts stiffened with sins hard as stone

Corrupted over a life time and now–

Flayed on an unending mandala.

Mystery of Life,

Unstoppable desire,

O beautiful Absalom,

We float upon a divine river

Entangled in the reeds of human wanting.

This is our nature,

This our calling while

Flesh answers flesh.

What quarter be given when the heart is

Overwhelmed by passion’s excess?

Lie still–

Let the waters cleanse our loins,

Mud of the banks soothe our wounds,

Our blood mingle with the floating grasses,

Our hearts sink beneath the surface.

Let the rivers of Babylon

Carry us away.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015, “O Absalom” originally published in “Seasoning of Lust”, Lulu.com, 2009 and then revised and published in “Pitcher of Moon”, 2014, available at Createspace, Amazon.com

“Mother’s Day….Oh, the pain of it all!”

May 8, 2015

Mother in Law

Right now I am sitting on my back porch watching my five Easter hatchlings swoop and flutter around the yard. This is the second day they have been set free….instead of an 8×8 foot chicken yard. They run up to me, lifting their heads and extending their short wings. I guess I’m their mother now, and that is fine by me.

Mother’s Day is an uneasy time for many of us adult children of mothers who are mentally ill, neglectful, abusive, discarding, or just narcissistic. The last category probably contains all that goes before. So, we are left feeling uneasy, marginalized, because we don’t buy into the rosy ‘memories’ of our mothers and our childhood. We can’t march in step with the Hallmark sentiments, the other hoopla of this very commercialized holiday.

What to do? I think it depends upon the stage of our recovery. By recovery, I simply mean where we have come in our own minds, where we have confidence in our own abilities. (this ‘centeredness’ that Rollo May talks about). Of course it’s much more than that, but I am proceeding what to do on this ‘holiday’ by summing up where the last 5 years has brought me, and the last 10 years of therapy with a woman who was definitely a mother substitute. She stood by me as I worked out of a very dark place, and supported (and encouraged mightily) each point of progress. In the last 6 years I have published 5 books, the last to be published this July, and each book (except the first because it was full of sex…but I was flapping my wings…) she embraced as a major stepping stone in my development. I can’t help but compare her attitude to my own mother. At the publication of my third book, I received the last letter from her, the first in years, stating: “I can never be truly proud of you because you didn’t allow me into your artistry.”

Well, IF I was confused before what she was and is, (and at 95 she isn’t about to change) that simple statement certainly clarified her for me: This is the leitmotiv of a true Narcissist.

There is no winning faced with such a narcissist. They take up too much internal landscape and energy. I went No Contact 5 years ago, and I needed the time to work on myself without the constant slings and arrows of this woman. I had enough. And the process was liberating.

So, what did I do about Mother’s Day with her? I sent her a card. This will shock my friends, who know the history between us, but I did it for me. 90% for me, and 10% for her.

As my husband said: “At least you know your soul will be clean.” That went straight to the meat of it. I was not cowing to convention, I was releasing myself from her control and power. And this card wasn’t sentimental, and I just signed it “Cheers, Jane”. But I was stepping out of her shadow, though many might not understand this. She has not been the mother, ever, to celebrate. But that doesn’t mean that I must follow her anger, rage, hatred, contempt and vengeance. Life is too good to do that. People are too good for that. As the grave approaches her, and at 95 this will happen, at least I am cleaning my soul of her destructive psychic energy. That, I believe, is the part of the recovery process.

I received a card from some loving relatives from my Dad’s side: Wishing me “Smiles and admiration, contentment and peace, joy and love.” (And the best of luck with the new book.)

Now that’s what Mother’s Day should be about.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2015

MOTHER

 

I am always aware of my mother,

Ominous, threatening,

A pain in the depths of my consciousness.

My mother is like a shell,

So easily broken.

Yet the fact that I was born

Bearing my mother’s shadow

Cannot be changed.

She is like a cherished, bitter dream

My nerves cannot forget

Even after I am awake.

She prevents all freedom of movement.

If I move she quickly breaks

And the splinters stab me.

—Nagase Kiyoko (1906- 1995)

Nagase Kiyoko wrote poetry for 65 years. She never called herself a ‘professional poet’, but referred to herself as ‘a useless woman’. She was a farmer, and wrote her poetry at the kitchen table before dawn, while her children and husband were asleep upstairs. Because of her sensual and cosmic verse, Nagase Kiyoko is considered by many Japanese women poets to be the “Grandmother” of modern poetry. Just a short reading of her verse goes deeply into the heart of the reader. She is ageless in her verse.

Lady Nyo


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