“The Kimono”, Chapter 28, Earthquake!

Sesshu painting

The painting above by Sesshu is in my opinion a brilliant usage of ink and imagination. It takes years to even approach such a technique and I am firm in my belief that in order to even begin such is worth while of a life time of effort.  There is so much ‘good’ in this painting that it enthralls me.  There is a depth and simplicity in this painting that demands attention.


“The Kimono” be published in a matter of months….

Plum Blossom Snow

The present snowstorm

of white plum blossoms

blinds me to sorrow.

They cascade over cheeks

like perfumed, satin tears

too warm with the promise

of life to chill flesh.

Lady Nyo, circa 2016

MARI DREAMED OF SNOW falling on her face but somewhere in her mind she knew it was spring, now too far from winter. She woke up, cold, as Lord Tetsu had turned in the night and taken all the quilts. She sat up, pulling her thin kimonos around her. The dawn’s light barely infused the bay. Only thin tendrils of light skimmed the sky above the distant mountains. Something was wrong. It wasn’t snow, but cherry blossoms. They covered the ground. There was a deep humming beneath the soil.

Mari placed her hands on the ground and felt the vibrations. She wondered why Lord Tetsu had not woken. Mari stood to get a better look at the bay but even standing was difficult. She felt drunk, unstable on her feet. Something was definitely wrong. The water in the bay looked as if something was punching from beneath with a million fists, causing it to
roil and churn.
  

Lord Tetsu woke with a start and sat up. For the first time, Mari saw fear on his face.

“Do not try to stand. Throw off your geta and run!” he shouted. He grabbed her hand and they ran half-crouching up the hill towards the others, Mari gathering her robes above her knees. The tremors of the earthquake knocked them to the ground several times and each time Lord Tetsu covered her with his body. They heard screams and shouts in the distance. Nothing seemed real. Cherry trees were uprooted and tossed in a jumble against each other. Lord Tetsu saw Lord Nyo scrambling towards him and shouted for him to get back to town and get their horses. They must ride to Gassan or get as high as possible. They were in the lowlands and after the earthquake a feared tsunami could strike.

A brazier had turned over and started a small fire on some quilts. Lord Tetsu stamped it out and then looked for survivors. Lady Nyo and her servants were trapped under some branches of a fallen cherry tree. Lord Tetsu and some of the men lifted the tree and pulled them out. Blood mixed with soil streamed down Lady Nyo’s face but other than a flesh wound, she would survive. Others were not so lucky. A few servants from the inn had been killed by fallen trees. Lord Tetsu’s men dragged their bodies out and laid them together on the ground. Someone covered them with the half-burnt quilts. Lady Nyo sat against a fallen tree. Mari scrambled to her and wiped the blood from her face with her kimono sleeve. Why didn’t Lord Nyo free his wife first before he obeyed Lord Tetsu’s orders to fetch their horses? Clearly, such were the rules of this century and culture. “I am fine, don’t worry about me, please,” whispered Lady Nyo. She was in shock, her face pale with trauma. “Is my Lord Nyo alive?” Mari nodded her head and told her that Lord Tetsu had ordered him to bring the horses from the town.

Lady Nyo looked doubtful. “Surely the town has suffered what we have here. The horses might have bolted and he will not find them. We can only hope he does. Lord Tetsu wants us all to ride to Gassan Mountain. He said the higher we are, the safer we will be.”

Suddenly, a man appeared over them. Startled, Mari looked up. It was Lord Yoki. “Do not fear, my ladies,” he said, bowing. “Lord Tetsu is right. The higher we get, the better our chances of surviving will be.”

Another tremor rumbled beneath them. It lasted only a few seconds but Mari screamed in fear. Lord Yoki laid his hand on her shoulder to steady her. Mari buried her face in his robes. Either he had very hairy legs or she felt feathers through his clothing. In any case, she was glad he was there. Lord Tetsu was off directing the men, gathering what they could that would be useful for their flight to Gassan Mountain. He was not around to comfort a hysterical woman. Mari continued to wipe the blood from Lady Nyo’s face, using the other sleeve of her kimono. Lady Nyo chanted something in a low voice. Mari thought she was praying.

Suddenly, Lord Tetsu bent over Mari, pulled her to her feet and led her away from the others. He put his arm around her waist and drew her to him. “You must leave. If you stay, you will die.”

“Yes,” said Mari. “I will die with you.”

Lord Tetsu grimaced and put his hand around her neck, close to her chin, and bent her head back. He increased the pressure on either side of her jaw. The last thing Mari saw was his eyes, two black pools to drown in.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2018

Kimono Cover

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