Posts Tagged ‘a novel’

The Bull’s Blood, Chapter 33…the Dom acts silly.

April 16, 2019

Cover for Bull's Blood


It was after three in the afternoon when Vadas returned from seeing Zoltan. He walked into the kitchen, looking for Elizabeth. Maria was stirring a pot on the stove.

“Maria, have you seen Elizabeth?” He threw himself in a chair and bumped his shin on the stretchers of the oak table. The old table was scarred with knife cuts and pot burns. He remembered adding his own carvings with a knife Janos had given him when he was ten years old. Vadas traced a curse word with his finger. He got belted from Janos for that trick. Maria has to cook and look at that all day, Janos had said.

“Elizabeth was here in the kitchen, but my English and her Hungarian weren’t good enough to talk. She did knead some dough. Her wrist is hurting her, Vadas. She needs to take better care of it.”

“Yeah, she needs to stop beating me up. That will help her wrist.”

Maria laughed. “Perhaps if you speak only Hungarian, she will learn faster?” Maria poured a cup of coffee for Vadas from the percolator on the back of the big stove. Vadas wanted to replace that old Aga with a new electric one, but Maria wouldn’t hear of it. She was used to this stove and too old to change. Janos kept a low fire burning in it throughout the night. Maria claimed only good bread, decent enough to eat, could come from these old stoves. The new stoves made “store bought” bread.

“Where have you been all day? The girl wasn’t easy with you gone.”

“I was seeing Zoltan, Maria.”

“And how is he?” Maria wiped her hands on her apron and sat down at the table.

“He’s doing pretty well. He’s lost weight and is pale, but his spirits are good.” Vadas sipped at his hot coffee. He liked it strong and black. Maria was the only one who made decent coffee that was strong enough for him. “When I was visiting the aunties, they told me something. Zoltan is my half-brother.”

“I knew.”

“What! Am I the only person on earth who doesn’t?” Vadas put his cup down and splattered the table.

“I nursed him as I nursed you.” Maria wiped up the coffee. “Your mother didn’t have enough milk when either of you were born. Let me see. Zoltan is about four years older? I forget. And you were born after your father returned from that work camp.”

“What happened to your baby, Maria?”

“They both died, Vadas. I was raped by a Russian soldier after the war. The baby was stillborn. I had milk but not much else. Zoltan’s father hunted in the mountains. He saved a lot of people around here. All the other men were either off fighting the war, or in the labor camps, like the one your father was in. But that was later. I was too young to carry that first baby. But I had milk. I was given Zoltan. Years later, when your mother had you, I moved in with her and your father and nursed you. You were a fat baby then.” Maria looked at Vadas over her cup. “You’re getting fat again.”

Vadas pounded his stomach. “It’s all muscle. Women get fat. Men get muscle.”

Maria laughed.

“Tell me more, Maria. Tell me more about those early years.”

“So much happened during the war years, Vadas. There were no men around. We did all the labor, plus the work of women. I was so young then, not even seventeen, and after the first baby, I was lonely, too. So many had died around me. The old people were dying off from disease and the famine. There were no doctors. I thought if I had a baby I wouldn’t be so alone. This second baby died, and then not long after I met Janos. He was coming home from the war. He walked for months, hiding out in forests and caves. It was a miracle he made it back. So many didn’t. Your father came home but he was a broken man.” Maria sipped her coffee.

“But you never had another child?”

“No, those two were all I had in me. I grew attached to Zoltan. They took him away. Some aunt raised him.” Maria sighed. “I was attached to you, too, but your aunties took you to France with your mother. You were just a baby. I cried so much, but I wasn’t wanted by them. I begged and pleaded for them to take me. When your mother came back with you after a few years, you had grown into a little boy and didn’t remember your old nurse. You were scared of everyone. You cried at the drop of a feather.”

“Living with Aunt Margit probably gave me reason.” Vadas laughed uneasily.

“It’s God’s miracle, Vadas, that both of you boys survived. More than half of the children in Noszvaj didn’t. I remember gathering grass and boiling it with any roots we could find to make soup. Some of the barn cats, the ones we could catch, went into the soup. We ate up the kittens first, then the rats. We ate anything to survive, shoe leather and bits of old harness, but we stopped that in winter when we had no more shoes.”

Vadas looked at the fat old grey cat sitting on the ledge of the window.

Maria smiled and sipped her coffee. “You know, Vadas. Your Elizabeth will never know or understand what happened here, or what happened across Europe. The war was terrible, but after the war, it was worse than hell. It never really ended. Not for another ten years. It was sect after sect, different militias battling each other. We were in the middle. We were expendable. Partisans took their revenge on everyone. One village raided and slaughtered another. I saw men and women tied together by the Red Army soldiers and thrown in the river to drown. We were rounded up and made to watch this. Men had their eyes gouged out and bugs put in their sockets and then sewn up. There were always enough ‘others’ to slaughter for no reason. Even the priests were hung. I remember women and children from another village locked in a church and set on fire. What happened after the war was madness. The whole country reverted to savagery. That was what we lived with. Your Elizabeth will never understand this, even if she reads a hundred books.”

Vadas shook his head. He knew the stories. The older people couldn’t forget them, and why should they? Perhaps in the remembering, in the telling, it made them grateful for life, for survival. Perhaps they didn’t want to let old wounds heal, either. He wondered. The elders, with their memories and stories, were like fallow ground, just waiting for the next bloodbath, the next ethnic cleansing, the next war. He was a man, and he had served his time in the defense force. He knew how brutal men were. It could happen again. The flood of immigrants from Morocco and the Middle East were increasing the ethnic tensions in Paris, Budapest, London. This was a new world, different from post-World War II, but not that much different. It was always the same issues.

No, this wasn’t Elizabeth’s war, and they weren’t her memories. But as she learns the language and lives here, she will hear the stories. He knew the Hungarian resentment towards the Americans. Hungary was Russia’s spoils of war. Things never really changed in Europe.

Maria poured more coffee. They sipped in silence, thinking of the past.

“I asked Zoltan to move in here,” said Vadas. “He refused. He says he’s comfortable where he is and too old to move. I will deed over the lodge to him. Of course, you and Janos will continue to live here. You are as much part of this family as he.”

“We know, Vadas,” said Maria patting his hand. “You have always been good to us. Janos and I have no worries about that. We do worry about your woman. She’s been through a lot, yes?”

“I will deal with it,” said Vadas glumly. “Talking with Zoltan today gave me ideas.”

“You protect yourself, Vadas. Whatever it is you are planning, you protect yourself. You will have a new wife.” Maria crossed herself. “Don’t leave this one a widow.”

Vadas changed the subject. “We have been talking about bringing her old auntie over from the States. She won’t want to live in Hungary. Elizabeth says she will probably stay a month. I can’t see her elderly auntie making that trip for just a month.”

“As long as she stays out of my kitchen, I will make her welcome.”

Vadas laughed. Two women in one kitchen was trouble. Three? God Almighty. He would move in with Zoltan.

“I have a lot of work to do, Maria.” Vadas got up, leaned over and kissed Maria on the forehead. The things he learned in the last twenty-four hours! Ah, life was complex and too many secrets were kept in the dark.

Vadas looked in on Elizabeth and found her sleeping. She looked tired even in sleep. Watching her, he saw her mouth move and heard her murmurings. She was dreaming of something.

Vadas sat down at his desk. There was much to do for the vines, always the vines. He needed to calculate the amount of nitrogen fertilizer to use. Zoltan usually did that, not by a process of math, but by experience. The rows of vines stretched out across the valley, almost to the foot of the mountains. Calculating the correct amount of fertilizer was critical, but Vadas hated math. Ah, God! It always screwed with him. He persevered with it only because of the needs of the vines. Too much nitrogen, or too little, like wine and women, would unbalance life. Something was always screwing with him.

After a couple of hours of toiling over numbers and equations, Vadas had had enough. He would have to dig deep for the fertilizer next year, between bud and bloom season, but for now, this year, he had it covered.

Vadas went to his study, stoked the fire then sat in a club chair. Janos had a good supply of wood stored under a roof, but he needed more before winter. It was always winter when things broke down, stopped working or died. Vadas had only been attending the vines for the last five years and now it was a make or break time. If it was dry tomorrow, he would take Elizabeth out to inspect the grapes. They would be like small green bullets but growing. He made a mental note to call around to his clients in Paris and Budapest. There were enough barrels and bottles in the caves to supply them now. He would also have to secure more buyers for the wine. Ah God, it never ends, he thought. It’s a race between the weather and the demands of the soil and fruit.

The news about Zoltan made him happy. He decided to listen to his favorite music: American rock and roll. He had a collection of old records he bought during visits to the States. It was rare he had a chance to settle and enjoy this music. He put on “Under the Boardwalk” by The Drifters. He lit a cigarette and stretched out, drawing the smoke in deeply.

Elizabeth stood at the entrance of the room. She laughed. “I didn’t know you liked this kind of music.”

“Ah! My dance partner has arrived!” Vadas threw his cigarette into the fireplace and grabbed Elizabeth around the waist. He danced her around the room, dipping and swaying, twirling her around like a 50s jitterbug. He was quite happy with himself.

After a few minutes, Elizabeth was tired out, but Vadas continued to dance, putting on a show, one hand on his stomach, the other waving in the air, his feet gliding about. Elizabeth laughed at his antics, glad to see him in such a mood. Finally, he flopped down in his chair, beaming at her.

“Wherever you went, it certainly made you happy,” said Elizabeth.

Vadas turned off the phonograph. “I saw Zoltan.”

“And how is he?”

“Good. In fact, better than ever.”

“Oh, that’s so good to hear. He’s a sweet man.”

“Yes, he is.” Vadas started to light another cigarette, and then thought the better of it. Elizabeth was around and he didn’t want her nagging. He would keep the good news about Zoltan under wraps until they went to bed. Then he would tell her, when he could weave the tale.

“Come here, Elizabeth.” Vadas patted the chair.

“There’s no room, Vadas,” said Elizabeth, laughing.

“There’s always room for you, Mouse.”

Elizabeth sat on his lap. Vadas pulled her into his arms. She tucked her head under his chin, as he looked outside at the trees. The afternoon had slipped away and dusk was falling. The rain was heavier. The night would be good for sleeping. Lying in bed, he heard the pounding of the rain. It always comforted and lulled him to sleep.

Nothing was resolved, and Miklós was still out there. But he had seen Zoltan. He had gained a brother. He felt happy. The woman in his lap was a big part of that happiness. Whatever tomorrow would bring, he could face it. He knew Zoltan would have his back. Then again, Zoltan always did. It just was a bit different now.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2019

“The Bull’s Blood”, Chapter 32

April 15, 2019

Cover for Bull's Blood


Vadas knew where Zoltan lived, though he hadn’t been there in a long time. He passed through a small village behind Noszvaj, where the road cut through a dense forest. Zoltan had a small cottage, down from the village, off the road. Vadas saw smoke from a small chimney.

All of this region was poor and had been since it was settled. World War II hadn’t helped. The villagers survived much as they had before, scratching an existence from the earth. Many of them hunted in the forest for deer and boar to feed their families. They planted cabbage and millet, the poorest of grains. There was the forest for fuel, the way people still heated their houses. This region of northeast Hungary was poorly served by the national gas and electricity. Unemployment was high.

Vadas stopped his Jeep in front of the small path that led to the cottage. A dog jumped off the porch, barking wildly. A woman, not young, came from inside and yelled at the dog. It went behind the house where it quieted down. She smiled at Vadas, showing missing teeth.

She must be a relative of Zoltan’s, thought Vadas.

The woman stood aside and held the door for Vadas. He entered a room where he saw Zoltan sitting, his feet propped on the woodstove. Zoltan was smoking. Vadas embraced him, kissing him on both cheeks.

“You look good, Zoltan. How do you feel?”

“Like I dodged a bullet,” said Zoltan with a wide smile, his eyes twinkling.

Vadas laughed. “Well, you didn’t dodge the bullet, but you live another day.”

Zoltan offered him a cigarette from his pack. Vadas hesitated. He had cut down and mostly didn’t smoke when Elizabeth was around, but Elizabeth wasn’t around right now. Vadas lit the cigarette and drew in the smoke. Ah, he missed this.

Vadas and Zoltan sat in silence. The woman, who was a cousin of Zoltan’s, brought in a tray of glasses, wine and sausage. She poured wine for each of them then went back into the kitchen.

“How is your woman?”

“She is recovering, Zoltan. She is a bit cracked in the head right now.” Vadas twirled his fingers near his temple, like Soffia had that morning.

Zoltan looked at the woodstove and grunted. “To be expected. She went through hell with Miklós.”

Vadas took a long drag on his cigarette. He looked at the glowing tip. It was good to smoke again. “I still don’t know where that bastard is. He hasn’t surfaced. I got all sorts of men looking and nothing. It’s driving me crazy. It’s also driving the woman crazy. She’s jumpy and cries a lot. This morning she tried to beat me up. I’m sore now, and tomorrow I’ll be bruised like a kicked dog.”

They both laughed.

Zoltan stared at Vadas. “You got one bold woman, there, Vadas. Either she’s bold or you’re getting soft.”

“I’m getting soft in the head. Ah God. And I am marrying her. Yes, soft in the head. She’s softening me up for the kill.”

“You know she tried to save me, Vadas? She told me to stay where I was. She started to leap out of the back door. She was going to deal with them. Her dress and heels slowed her down.” Zoltan shook his head and laughed softly.

Vadas drew on his cigarette. “I didn’t know that. I’m not surprised. She’s smarter than she looks.”

“Well, women, Vadas, you know?” Zoltan shrugged his shoulders and picked up his wine. “To life and death, Vadas. To the death of Miklós. In time.”

Vadas tipped his glass to Zoltan. He could drink to that. “How are the grapes?” asked Vadas.

Zoltan had his own vines. Vadas saw them stretching down the hill behind Zoltan’s cottage.

“Good. We need more rain. Always more rain.”

“How’s your cabbage?”

“Small, Vadas, but the woman spreads manure, and they are growing, but slow.”

Vadas finished his glass and put it on the tray. “Look, Zullie. I came to talk to you about something important, something I just found out.”

“I’m all ears. Look me in the eye and speak, Vadas.”

Vadas sighed and shook his head. “When I was visiting the old aunties yesterday, they told me something. Seems my mother was yours. We are brothers, Zullie.”

Zoltan shifted his weight and smiled. “I knew, Vadas. I knew years ago. Not officially. I heard the whispering when I was a boy.”

Vadas leaned forward and snubbed out his cigarette on the tray. His voice cracked with emotion. “What in hell made you silent? No family to speak of, just these two old biddies, and here under my nose I had a brother? What the fuck, Zoltan? Why didn’t you say?”

“There didn’t seem to be reason, Vadas. Life was fine without knowing. Would it really make any difference?”

Vadas stood up, ran his hand through his hair and sat down. “Difference? Hell, yes, it would have made a difference. I could have done more, I could have done something. Look, Zullie, you are my flesh and blood. Do you know what that means? I’ve not had that. I’ve been thinking I was alone in this world. You could have been part, an important part of my life.”

Zoltan laughed softly. “What would have changed? I’ve been a part of your life. When we have need, we know where to find each other. Look, Vadas, I’m not like you. I’m a peasant. I’m a simple man. I have no education and I am comfortable. I don’t have your responsibilities. What do I need? I have this cottage, these vines. I got plenty of wood for the stove. I even got a cell phone.” Zoltan laughed, his heavy eyebrows going up and down.

“No, Zullie. It’s not that simple. You are my flesh, my blood. I have that house and the lodge and money in the bank. Sure, without Miklós’ business, and the needs of the vineyard, the money won’t last. But fuck, Zullie. I have something more than that with you. I got family right under my nose and I didn’t know.”

Zoltan smiled. “Vadas, has anything changed between us with this news? No. We are the same as before. You need me, you find me. I need you, I find you.”

“Look, Zullie. I don’t care what you say. I have to make this right. It’s something I do. I want you to have the lodge. I am going to deed it over to you, understand? You get the lodge and the land around it, okay?”

“Vadas, are you cracked in the head like Elizabeth? What the fuck would I do with that place? It’s too big. Besides, my vines are here. My cousin takes good care of me. I am set in my ways. What else do I need?”

Vadas sighed and passed his hand through his hair again. “You may not need much now, but I am still going to deed the lodge over. No argument from you, Zullie. Whether you live there or not, it’s your inheritance.”

“You should live there, Vadas. Live there with Elizabeth. That house is going to eat you up. Too expensive to fix up and what would you do with all those rooms? No, you stay in the lodge, and whatever the future brings, well, the future will be here soon enough.”

Vadas was out of words and argument with him for now. He changed the subject. “How’s your wound? Are you in pain?”

“Nah, I’m fine, plus I got these pills. They take the edge off life, Vadas. You might need them after marriage.”

Vadas laughed. “I might need them now. That woman runs circles around me. You wouldn’t believe how strong she is. I don’t want to be on the receiving end of her bad moods. I’m going to be black and blue tomorrow.”

They smoked a while in silence. Vadas filled their glasses.

“That woodstove? Heats pretty good? Maybe I put one in the lodge. That place is cold. Elizabeth is going to freeze her nipples off this winter. She isn’t used to the winters up here.”

“She will adjust, Vadas, but I think you need to keep her warm. Being cold will sour a woman fast. We can take it better. And the whining when they are cold! Jesus Christ, they can whine.”

Vadas laughed. “Yeah, Elizabeth is going to have to make a lot of adjustments. This first year will tell. I expect her to buy and hide a ticket back to the States. This winter will say a lot about her devotion to me.”

They drank their wine and Vadas filled their glasses again. “You know she wants to raise sheep? Not for meat, but for wool. What the hell?”

Zoltan laughed. “Be thankful she is doing just that. She could be sitting around spending your money on crap. A few sheep? Not bad for a new wife. Sounds good to me. You can always kill a lamb and blame it on a wolf.”

“We will see, Zullie, we will see. Right now, I worry about Miklós, where he will pop up. Elizabeth is so spooked she doesn’t want a wedding. She wants to get married in a civil service.”

“Not a bad plan, Vadas. Think of the money you will save.”

“Oh! I want you to be witness. You and Soffia.”

Zoltan laughed. “As long as I don’t have to be too close to that hellcat. Even standing next to her gives me the creeps.”

Vadas laughed. “Lesbians. I don’t understand them. What’s wrong with a man?”

“To them? Plenty, I’m sure. Perhaps they paint each other’s toenails?”

Vadas laughed. “I don’t want to think about it. But I have to think about Miklós. I have to figure out where the fuck that bastard is hiding. I thought by now I would have a clue. I don’t and I have several men on the payroll. Nothing yet.”

“Ah, Vadas, you know Miklós. He’s a tricky bastard. But he will surface for air. Just be patient.”

“Yeah, and quiet Elizabeth. She’s afraid Miklós will come through the window like a wolf.”

“He might. I wouldn’t leave her alone again.”

“I got men watching, but Miklós has men, too. It will be interesting to see what happens.”

“Just a thought, Vadas. Miklós might try to strike before the wedding. You find him first before he finds you.”

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted 2019

Haiku and Tanka from “The Kimono”

September 12, 2018

Kimono Proof Copy photo

I am sitting here with the proof copy of “The Kimono” in my hands.  It looks beautiful, and in a week or so will be on for purchase.  I decided to post some of the poetry from the novel.  Some are haiku, some are tanka, and tanka in many cases are a call and answer between Lady Mari (a 21st century Japanese-American and Lord Tetsu, a 17th century warlord.  They haggle in verse.  Over the course of this novel, there is a lot of verse -haggling between them.

Lady Nyo


So lonely am I

my soul is like floating weed

severed at the roots.

A glance at a wrist

There! The pulse of a river-

tiny beat of life.

I chase one red leaf

across dry and brittle grass

Juice of summer gone.

A swirl of blossoms

caught in the water’s current

begins the season.



How long will it last?

I do not know his heart.

This morning my thoughts

are as tangled as my hair.

How can a woman

know a warrior’s heart?

We have the sound of

war drums that drown

out weaker sentiments.

Who attends to the wounded

but women?

Our hands are soft and strong

the best medicine after war.

A woman only knows

a man’s heart

by her silence.

Who knows the depth of my hidden heart?

Perhaps a ravine in the mountains?

No matter. A firefly of love is flashing.

What can dispel the

blackness of a man’s heart?

Never mind. Even the torch of a firefly

lends its light.

The fireflies are bright this evening,

They light up the night

and make me remember

your laughter.




“Devil’s Revenge”, Chapter 10

August 28, 2018


I started this novel in 2006.  I had almost finished my first novel (this being the second) but didn’t.  It was too involved and besides, what did I know about writing novels?  Nothing, but pushing on in this endeavor brought results.  It’s loaded with sexual scenes but I found the characters, at least some of them, to be full of vigor.  You have to love your characters or what  is the reason to create them?  I must tell a secret here:  the characters took control of the book and I was just a scribe to them.  They went wild and wide and no amount of slamming the book closed or whips applied would bring them back in line.  Perhaps that is the way it is with some books.  It certainly was with this one.

Lady Nyo

Chapter 10

“Tell me, Demon. Tell me more about your ‘world.’ You certainly have pushed your way into mine.”

“I wouldn’t say pushed, Madame Author,” he retorted. “I would say, ‘pulled’ into your world, by the push of your ink.”

Perhaps. I was trying to make sense of what happened to me since he first stepped from the page.

“Can’t you write “leaped” from the page? Sounds manlier.”

I laughed. This demon l of mine “Capitals, Please…as in “Demon Lover” he whispers to me…

…THIS Demon Lover…you got another? … is always concerned about his masculine…’virtues’. Can you use the word ‘virtue’ with a devil? Well, he is very concerned about how he appears. This little vanity makes him more ‘human’ to me.

“Don’t bet on it. You’ll lose your coin.”

“Then tell me, Garrett. By what other names have you been known?”

The Demon grinned across the table. “Pick a letter from the alphabet.”

“Stop being coy. Tell me about your world. What do you do with yourself when you are not here? That will do for starters.”

“Well, ‘for starters’ as you put it, I could say I bedevil other old maids or I could tell you I danced in the street to the tune of my fiddle, or I was a gigolo, or it as ‘none of your business’ as you say to me. Pick.”

“Ah! So…I’m an old maid to you? I guess this is the end of the honeymoon.”

“Could be. We almost started a litter last time.” He grinned broadly.

“You can start with that little event. What happened there? All I remember is being very heated.”

“You could say that. I seem to have those effects on old maids.”

He is an insufferable boor. But I vaguely remember being….passionately aroused, out of my mind with lust. Then I remembered falling asleep.

He reached over the table and passed his hand down my face. I floated in darkness. There were stars above me, and little hills beneath, hills that looked like mole hills far down there.

“That’s a nursery.” He smiled, and then laughed at my expression.

“Mole hills? What are you talking about?”

“Some dimension’s nursery, where the little monsters are cradled until they are let out upon some world.”

Lately I have discovered the Demon has knowledge about worlds and creatures I don’t have language for. Asked directly, he will hem and haw. But every so often, he slips up and tells me something actually interesting.

“You hurt my feelings, Bess. Everything I have to say is interesting.” The Devil is reading my mind. He does so when he damn well pleases.

“And besides, you are a virgin where the cosmos is concerned. I only tell you what you need to know.” He leaned towards me across the table, scowling for effect. “Besides, it can be a very scary place. Good thing you have me around.”

He puffed on his long white clay pipe and I would have to say that his last statement could easily be qualified.

“Tell me, Garrett, if I was ‘breeding’ as you say, what would the baby look like at birth?” I was curious as any woman would be.

“If they were female, they would have your breasts. If male….my cock.” He grinned nastily.

“No, I mean, would they be human looking? Would I be able to love this child?

“Every other woman who has had my children loved them. Don’t know why you would be any different, Bess.”

I didn’t expect this! Other children by him. Somewhere in the novel, I remembered writing he had two bastard children by a woman in Martinique, but then I had forgotten to follow up with more information about these children and the mother.

“You are slipping on a lot of things, sweet lady.”

“I guess because now I am an old maid?”

“You can be revived.”

He had a droll wit at times. Grinning and snapping his fingers, produced out of the ether two tankards of ale.

“Do you aim to get me drunk?”

I couldn’t drink more than a glass of wine. A tankard would put me to sleep. He snorted, again reading my mind.

“Tell me…you must know more than you let on. How did I become fertile?”

Certainly this was a worry, because I was beyond the age where a woman needs to carry around a pregnancy. I never thought of ‘demon-control’ before.

He looked thoughtful, and puffed on his pipe.

“There are many ways and many carriers of mischief. This could be what you call a succubus or it could be of another species altogether.”

“So, you have no control over what happened to me?” This was not welcome news.

“Oh no, I could make it happen myself, but it’s so early in the affair, sweetheart, and I wanted to have more fun before I loosed my seed up your womb.”

He laughed. “Much more fun. Besides, I would be turned away from your harms when you got heavy with whatever was brewing in there.”

He took a swig of his ale and his eyes glittered across the rim of his tankard.

“So it ever is with mortal woman.”

I took a sip of my ale.

“These mole hills you said were nurseries. What happens to the birthlings when they are born?”

“Think of spawns or swarms of fish. Most are eaten by other species, some by their own. Others end up ‘road-kill’.”

“Oh! That is too horrible!”

“Not so much if you saw them. It would take a particular mother to nurture one,…like a blind one.” He laughed as he swallowed his ale, and managed to choke. He ended up trying to wipe the ale from his shirt.

“Would our child appear like a monster?”

He put his tankard down and looked at me. “Not if you loved it from birth.”

That was not exactly encouraging.

“Garrett…do you have shape shifters in your world?”

“Doesn’t every world have that? I think you call them transvestites in yours.”

I had to laugh. Not exactly what I was asking, but I’ll take that answer. Witty Devil.

He knew much more than he would say.   He held some of the secrets of the ages and this I was sure. But he was a damn tricky Devil, and he made me work for it. It was like peeling an onion. I wasn’t sure I wanted to get to his center. He was full of mystery, but then, most demons are. If anyone tells you they are benign, or banal, don’t believe a word of it. They are charmers and tricksters and will keep you unbalanced. This Demon was a handful, but ‘life’ as I was becoming to know, would be a lot duller without him. I had learned it was not just the human heart that was layered with complexities. If I was learning anything, it was that the Universe held infinite mysteries, some of them anxious to be known.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2006-2018

The Kimono, Chapter 43

July 16, 2018


After 12 years, “The Kimono” is finished and I am aiming at a publication date of September, 2018.  It’s been a long haul, where I studied Japanese culture, mythology and language for all those years.  This will be my first full length novel, though I have published 6 books in between this one.

Lord Yoki is a Tengu.  Tengus are big birds, originating from China but very much tied into Japanese mythology.  They are shape shifters, and bedevil arrogant Buddhist priests.  Lord Yoki figures greatly into this novel.  He also, as does the main female character, Mari, travel from the 21st. century Kyoto  to 17th century Japan.  Over the course of a year, this Tengu has fallen in love with Mari.

Lady Nyo

Lord Yoki perched on the window ledge. He felt most comfortable perching. A Tengu was just a big bird, after all. He was still dressed in an old linen kimono, badly patched and stained. It was this or feathers. It was harder and harder to maintain the glamour. He had to concentrate on those parts that were reverting, his hair and limbs, but he could do nothing about the feet. They would always remain clawed.

He was conflicted. This was the first time in centuries that his heart hurt. He was racked with emotion from the time he awoke until the time he roosted. He thought he might be in love. And, of course, his beloved had to be someone who was out of his league: a mortal woman.

How could he have fallen to such a state? Lord Yoki prided himself on being a tough old bird. He looked at the world through a cynical eye. He only believed in the warmth of the thermals and sake. And a few pretty trinkets, for he had a magpie nature. Now he found himself in love. How could he reveal himself to her? Would she find him distasteful, ridiculous, insane? He pecked at a flea amongst his breast feathers. He had fallen in love and knew she would be horrified if he revealed the truth of his form. He was a skinny, molting old bird and a scrawny old “man”. A devil cannot hide in the form of an angel for long. Nature rebels. He remembered the story of Lucifer. He certainly felt like Lucifer, the Great Deceiver. Could she overlook his appearance to see into his heart?

He was fooling himself. His opposition was too powerful: a mortal man. Even without the magical advantages of a Tengu, the man would surely win any battle between them. He also knew that he had much more to lose than a friendship. His rival would wear his severed head on his battle helmet. He had joked to his beloved about this but he knew this man was still a barbarian at heart.

No, his love, his admiration for her would have to remain concealed in the bottom of his heart. He chanced losing both of them and that would be unbearable, even for a stoic Tengu. If not through love, how could he protect her? Only the mystical gods knew what would happen and even they sometimes faked it.

Bah! He wished he was back in San Francisco, in that park, in the form of a pigeon. Then he could look up skirts as he strutted around and there would be no complaints. Still, he knew why he mourned. She was the only one who knew what the world was about. The parochial mentality of the people around him drove him nuts. They waved their amulets in the faces of the sick, smoked up the room with incense until the sick couldn’t breathe and brewed noxious potions to make them swallow. They usually died, perhaps because of these ignorant customs. A little common sense and some soap and water would work miracles. She knew this. She also knew nostrums that could save lives. Further, she was the only one he could talk with about history. He couldn’t read, there were no schools for birds, but he could ask questions. And he did. She told him about the world before this century, and of course, the centuries after. The world was an immense place, and though his eyes were closed as he flew by the moon, he knew something of this.

These generals! These nobles! They thought they knew about warfare? Hah! They knew nothing. As a pigeon walking around San Francisco, he had watched television in store fronts. His hackles raised at the inhumanity of people! Nuclear bombs, chemical weapons, these were just some of the arsenal of these modern warlords. These 17th century daimyos who went to war against each other may as well have hurled rocks and sticks at the opposition considering what was to come. This century hadn’t seen real guns yet. They only had the blunderbusses that the Spanish had thrown away. The men of this century were savages. They killed for the sport of it. The only laws were those that came from Edo and most of those were ignored. The real law lay within the two swords carried by men and there were enough of them to go around.

Even if his beloved could come to love him, where would he take her? Tengus lived in mountains, in nests, where they fought other Tengus for territory and tripped up arrogant Buddhist priests. What would she think of that? She didn’t lay eggs and wouldn’t know how to clean a nest properly. And she didn’t have feathers to fluff in the cold months. She would be disgusted by the food she would have to eat. It would be a bitter life for her. He loved her more than that.

He knew she was a pawn in a bigger game. Lord Tetsu was an ambitious daimyo and he needed her knowledge to increase his power and build a larger life for himself. Could she deliver what he wanted?

Lord Yoki realized that if his beloved tied her wagon to Lord Tetsu, he would have to secrete her away from court life. She would always live in the shadows of the castle. Was that any better than living in a nest in the mountains?


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2018


Tengus are warriors, martial arts experts and teach the Yamabushi (mountain- yama, bushi-warrior) their skills at warfare.  They are shapeshifters, and have magical arts. They also don’t like arrogant Buddhist priests and cause trouble for them.  Over the centuries, their ‘pr’ has changed.

“Kimono”, Chapter 28, Earthquake.

February 21, 2018

Samurai Lovers, #2

After ten years I have finally finished writing “Kimono” a novel that flies between 21st century  and 17th century Japan.  My dear editor, Nick Nicholson in Australia wrote to me this morning.  It took him three days to read the entire novel from start to finish but he was ecstatic with the results. I am too close to this work so I have lost perspective. But I trust Nick, a friend for twelve years and an excellent writer.  I thought that it would take months perhaps nine months to revise/edit this long novel, but I have been careful in the writing…and Nick’s eagle eye has kept things on track.  Along the way I learned to read Japanese (somewhat), learned about Japanese culture,  learned medieval Japanese literature and so much more about a mostly alien culture.  Now we have the task, or I do….of designing a cover for this novel…or perhaps Nick can work his computer magic.  I need a vacation.

Lady Nyo

 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 2018

Mari was dreaming 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 Mori had turned in the night and taken all the quilts.

She sat up, pulling her thin kimonos around her. The dawn’s light hardly infused the bay before them, 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 humming beneath the soil and Mari placed her hands firmly on the ground, feeling the vibrations. She wondered why Lord Mori did not awake up.

Mari stood to get a better look at the bay, but even standing was difficult. She felt drunk, unstable on her feet. Something was wrong, and the water before her looked as if something was punching beneath with a million fists, causing it to roil and churn.

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

“Do not try to stand, throw off your geta and run”, he whispered.


He grabbed her hand and at a crouch, they ran up the hill towards the others, Mari gathering her robes above her knees. They were knocked to the ground with the tremors of the earthquake a number of times, and each time Lord Mori covered her with his body.

They could hear screams and shouts in the distance. Nothing seemed real to Mari, and those beautiful cherry trees were uprooted and fallen in a jumble against each other. Lord Mori saw Lord Nyo scrambling towards him and shouted for him to try 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 following an earthquake could come the feared tsunami.
A small fire had started with a brazier turning over on some quilts. Lord Mori stamped it out, and then looked for survivors. Lady Nyo and her servants were lying under some branches of a fallen cherry tree, and Lord Mori and some of the men lifted the tree to pull them out. Lady Nyo had blood streaming down her face mixed with soil, but other than a flesh wound, she would survive. Others were not so lucky. A few servants from the inn were buried by a fallen trees, or laid out like they were asleep on the soil. Lord Mori’s men dragged them out and laid them together on the ground. Someone covered them with the half-burnt quilts.

Mari scrambled to where Lady Nyo was sitting against a half-fallen tree and with her kimono sleeve, wiped the blood from her face. Why didn’t Lord Nyo free his wife first before he obeyed orders from Lord Mori to bring their horses? Clearly the rules of this century, and this country were very different than her own. She would hope that Steven would have attended to her first, but then again, this was a very different culture.

“I am fine, don’t worry about me, please”, whispered Lady Nyo. Mari could see that she had suffered shock and her pale face showed the effects of trauma.

“Is my Lord Nyo alive?” Mari nodded  and told her Lord Mori 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 Mori wants us all to ride to Gassan Mountain. He says the higher we are the safer we will be.”

Suddenly a man appeared over them. Startled, Mari looked at him.. It was Lord Yoki.

“Do not fear, my ladies”, he said bowing. “Lord Mori is right. The higher we get the better our chances of surviving will be.”

Another tremor, this one lasting 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 was feeling feathers through his clothing. In any case, she was glad he was there. Lord Mori 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.

She continued to wipe the blood from Lady Nyo’s face, using the other sleeve of her kimono. Lady Nyo was chanting something in a low voice. Mari thought she was praying.

Suddenly, Lord Mori was bending over her as he pulled her to her feet, leading 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. “Then I will die with you.”

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

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2018


“Devil’s Revenge”, Chapter 33

December 11, 2017


(Definitely a devilish looking character….)

I have been chided by an old friend for posting one chapter and leaving potential readers confused and hanging.  I have lost ‘friends’ because of the title and because of the theme.  Especially amongst those who are religious.   There are some sticky parts, issues in this one, and the issue of submission, etc. is so not ‘today’.  But Bess is a modern day woman writer (or trying to finish a book, except for all the interruptions and troublesome ‘friends’) snatched back into the 19th century by a Demon Lover.  Or a Demon, Garrett Cortelyou, who becomes a lover.  He has his own issues, big ones, and his friends are more devils….some not so dangerous (Madame Gormosy, a transgender Demon of Lust) and others who  definitely are so.  This was only my second novel and I had tremendous fun in the writing.  Whether it will be published or not is not decided yet.  But what I experienced was the joy and freedom of a world not of my own.  It was a heady experience.

Lady Nyo


For the next few days, I sat in silence, my mind unable to focus, my nerves sharpened, my behavior strange.  Madame Gormosy was all sympathy, and tried to distract with rounds of faro.  For once I was uninterested in the game, could barely hold my cards.  She was kind enough to allow me my undress, and does not insist I wear the corset.  She brushes out my hair when she arrives in the morning, and I uncomplainingly give myself over to her hands.  She rouges my cheeks and lips and fashions my hair into different styles.  I walk through these mornings like a ghost, only the routines of chamber pot and tea make me feel alive.  I am suffering some shock to the system according to Madame, and will eventually recover.

Garrett was absent most of the day, still meeting with his various devils and god only knows what else.  On occasion I will hear him, and ‘Monsieur’ Gormosy, in the hall. Even though at times I can pick up words of their conversation, and I am sometimes the topic, I listen with little interest, for nothing seems real or of substance in my life now.  The third morning, Garrett came in during my breakfast tea, and sitting down across from our tea table, stretched his hand to me, his usual offering gesture of tenderness.  I look at him over the rim of my teacup, my eyes blank, empty, and place my cup back in its saucer.  I give him my hand, and at that moment, tears swell in my eyes and spill over my cheeks.

“You’ve had your fill of demons now?”  He grins, gently holding my hand.  I nod, unable to speak.

“Come here, darling one, I leave you too much in Madame’s company.  It couldn’t be helped before, but I can do better.”

I get up and go to him, feeling like a penitent child.  He pulls me onto his lap, and wraps his arms around my shoulders.  I hear the heartbeat in his chest as I tuck my head under his chin.  He is warm with the heat of life, and my pain of the previous days lessen in his arms.

“Abigor has pledged his support against Obadiah and his forces.  Oh, there is nothing Devils like more than a chance at warfare.  They have all these impatient legions under their charge and it’s just another game to them.  It’s the chess game from Hell.”  Garrett laughed, a deep rumble in his chest.

“He was amused with your company.  It’s been centuries since he sat over a teacup with a woman.  Not many devils are interested in the French salons, darling.  You tickled his fancy with your curiosity and thoughts.  He could see you struggled to hide them, and of course he could still read your mind.   Abigor is a powerful devil, he will be useful.  You played your part well, Bess, and I thank you for it.”

He thanks me for it?  Does he even know what that glimpse into Abigor’s eyes did to me? I lay in his arms, hating him and everything in this room.

“Sweet woman, sweet woman,” he coos to me.  He tightens his grip and pulls me up close to his chest.  “Not all Devils have the, ah…nature of Abigor.  Look at Madame Gormosy.  She is all sweetness and light.”

Hah!  I guess this is his idea of humor!  Madame Gormosy is also lustful and quick with the hands.  My thoughts flow unchecked in my head.  At least I can think again.

“Ah, I warn him, but to no avail.  He is after all, the Demon of Lust.”  He laughed, and I can’t help but laugh with him.  Madame Gormosy comes by her vices honestly, cross gender that she is.

He holds me on his knee, silent for a while.  It is enough, for we have little time together.  This Devil’s coven or whatever you call it, has come and gone, and now perhaps I can roam the downstairs in freedom.

“You can.” (He still reads my mind) “But Madame has noticed soot on the walls and hoof marks on the floors.”  He made me laugh.  “I have something of interest for you.”   I am all ears.

“We are taking a trip.  But not in a dream.”

“I smell magic here.  Is that what you propose, Demon?”

“I liked it better when you called me Demon Lover, but in any case, I’m not asking you.   I’m telling you it will happen.”

“Oh! So….I have no choice here?”  I know I am picking a losing fight.

The Demon looks at me with a scowl.  “Perhaps I have been too lenient with your mortal feelings.  Perhaps you don’t fear me enough.”

Ah!  He wants me to fear him?  I am crazy with fear since I fell into his world, and he wants more?  I don’t know how to answer him, for it’s more than a question of him.  I stand and move to the window.  He watches me closely.

“You are a strong woman.  That’s why I picked you for consort.  Perhaps a bit too headstrong.   Abigor warns me to keep a tight rein on you.  You don’t know the rules yet.”

Rules! I have fallen into an irrational world, full of magic and devils, and he talks to me of rules?

His voice is steady, but it is touched with some anger.  “You have some standing in these other dimensions, because you are my consort, but only for that.   You have yet to prove yourself.  You will remember that I am your master.”

I whirl around from the window, my hands on my hips, and as soon as I see his face, I realize that I am playing with fire.  We stand across the room glaring at each other.  The words “make me” cross my mind, and immediately, before I can react, he has crossed the room.  He grabs my hair and twists it around his wrist, forcing my head backward.  I flail out with my arms and try to hit him with some force, but he easily backs away, never losing his grip on my hair.  I try to hurt him, and I am further humiliated by the expression on his face.  It only increases my rage and I continue to strike out, even try to kick him in that particular spot between his legs.  A look of surprise crosses his face, as he stays just out of reach.  Like the fencer he is, he turns sideways, and I haven’t a clear shot at his crotch.  He is hurting me with another twist of his wrist, and I am fairly spitting with rage.  He forced me to my knees with a downward pull on my hair.

“You bastard!  Let me go, bitch!”  I am incoherent with anger and still struggling with him.

“Ah! I’m a bastard and a bitch?  You don’t know my gender yet?  Perhaps that’s the problem.  I’m definitely bastard, but never a bitch.”  He is not grinning and he is as angry as I have seen him.

I was winded from my struggle. I was panting.  He let go of my hair and in a chair across the room, sits down slowly.  I started to rise, and his low voice stops me immediately.

“Stay on your knees, woman of mine.  Stay where you are if you value your life.”

I looked up at him, my eyes flashing with hate.  “What does this do, prove you are stronger than me?  Well, Einstein, there’s no surprise in that!  That’s why women are smarter than men.   We are born smarter to put up with your kind.”

I am stretching here.  I have little defense for my behavior besides my rage.

The Demon relaxed in his chair, a slight smile crossed his face.  “What Madame taught you was only the surface.  Appearances aside, you have learned nothing from her.  Your arrogance and ignorance keeps you blind.  You didn’t fear Abigor, and you don’t fear me.  We shall change that balance beginning now.”

Garrett rises from his chair and with a snap of his fingers, a small whip appears in his hand.  “You don’t like magic, darling?  You really won’t like this either.”  He stands there looking down at me, and I start to see that I have made some mistake with him.

“Now, stand up and strip off your gown.  Do it or I’ll do it for you.”  He looks menacing enough.  I start to undo the bodice and since I’m not wearing any stays, I drop it and slip out of the skirt, wearing only a linen chemise.  Immediately, either from fear or cold, I get goose bumps and I started to shiver.  I cross my arms over my breast and look at him, my rage dampened with fear.

“Come over here, Bess.  Walk slowly to me.”  I walked to within a few feet of him.  I am less defiant without my clothes.  He reached out and whirled me around and ripped my chemise from my shoulders like tissue paper.  It puddled at my feet and I am to step out of it and turn around.  I faced him, now with the scent of fear coming from me.  I can smell it.

“Now.  I want you to feel how powerless you are.  You are naked. I have a whip in my hand, and I’m bigger.  Older, too.  So, do you really think you can fight me and win? Now, move over to that chair and put your hands on the arms. Don’t move from there and if you do turn, I’ll hit whatever part that faces this whip.”

I was too afraid to defy him.  I did as he asked, and waited trembling.  I didn’t have to wait long, for I felt him hit me on the ass with a well aimed flick of his wrist.  It cut me like fire, and I yelped.  I was shaking, and he again popped me across the other cheek. He hit me three more times, and then nothing.  I waited for him to hit me again. This agony of waiting is as bad as the whip.  I took a gulp of air, and I felt the whip handle slowly trace my backbone from my neck to the small of my back.  It made me quiver. He suddenly hit me again, this time harder and I screamed.  I felt his hand run over the welts from the whip.   I was crying great dramatic tears and collapsed into the upholstered seat of the chair.   Feeling his hands on my back, I turned and embraced his legs.  He didn’t move, and crying into the fabric of his breeches, hide my face in his thighs.  Finally, I felt his hands on the top of my head.  He pulled me to my feet and lifted me into his arms, and carried me to the bed.   I felt him lie down beside me and, with my eyes tightly shut, I continued to cry.  At last, after the shock and silence of the past three days, I could finally feel again.  The pain and burning on my ass tells me I am alive.  I was beginning to wonder.

He leaned on his side, his head propped up on one hand.  He turned me to him and his other hand travelled  down my back to my flank.  He stroked me like he would a frightened mare, humming something under his breath.

“Sweet woman.”  His words were almost a whisper. “I choose you because of what you are.  Now you need to trust me and know I am wiser and stronger than you.  In me is your safety.  It isn’t the magic that makes me stronger.  It isn’t the whip.  It’s because I am.  It’s because of my experience.  You submit to me in these things, and you will find contentment.  It’s the natural order in the universe.  Men protect women.  That is our role and duty.  If you violate that order, and fight against me, you put us both in peril, do you understand?”

I looked up into his face, and was confused. He is more than mortal, that I well know.  Perhaps that part of him demands my submission.  I can tell by his face he knows what I am thinking.

“Ah, Bess, you have so much to learn, even about mortal men!  The women of your century must be very discontent.  They don’t know their place in the scheme of things, even in such a narrow dimension as yours.  Such unnecessary chaos.”

I couldn’t disagree, for there was more than a kernel of truth to his words.  His gentle stroking of my back eased my pain, and he turned me on my stomach and caressed the red marks he left on my backside.  I turned over to face him, and cupped his face in my hand.  He was beautiful, with dark hair and eyes, and the dark shadow that comes over his face in the evening. What had happened to us?  What did I think would happen? I was not dealing with a normal man, what I have hooked is beyond my comprehension.  What he has hooked is my heart.

This submission he demands confuses me.  I have little control over anything since I emerged in his sphere, his dimension. What I do know is I have no answers for anything and I can well believe that my safety, my very life depends upon him.  His behavior is rough, at times vulgar, uncouth, but he does have an experience, a wisdom, knowledge of things a few months before I would never have to exist

The petty magic, as he claimed, was only window dressing.  Something  else that was able to move Heaven and Hell was afoot.  And as he said, demons and devils were only a small part of the universe.  There were things of magnificent and incomprehensible ‘magic’ that awaited our discovery.  I was not sure that discovery was the proper word, it seemed to me that fate was already decided and we were just hanging on for the ride.

If this was what he meant by submission I was safer for it.  The natural order of things in his universe.  The natural order in mine?  Perhaps my life depended upon it.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2006-2017

“Devil’s Revenge”, Chapter 32

December 10, 2017

Supermoon in dec.

This was the second novel I wrote. I had killed off most of the characters of the first (unfinished) novel, but had grown ‘attached’ to those who escaped death.  I decided to write them into a new novel. This time they would take up the appearances (and natures) of Devils and Demons.

Madame Gormosy is an important  Devil in Hell, a Demon of Lust.  She can appear as either sex.  She cheats at faro.  Bess  is a modern day woman snatched by another Devil to appear in the 1830’s.  His name is Garrett Cortelyou.  M. Abigor is an Arch Duke of Hell.  He is close to the hoof of the Throne.  Madame Gormosy is grooming Bess for the appearance of M. Abigor at tea.

Lady Nyo



When I came from the other room, Madame was sitting in the window, waving her fan slowly.  Looking outside at the gray winter landscape, she seemed lost in thought. I could see her aged and transparent skin reflected in the cast of light.

Of course!  Madame is old, she is pre-history, and I forget her age.  She is such a fountain of knowledge, sometimes delightful.  I was embarrassed at Garrett hissing at her, but then again, what do I know about manners between devils?

“Thank you, Madame!  M. Demon must not be thinking clearly now because of his guests downstairs.”  I came into the room, shaking out my petticoats and tried to regain some steadiness in my walk.

“You must remember he is only part mortal and the other part of him does not suffer as mortals do.  Non, ma petite.  It is not because of his thinking.  It is because he is cruel as are all men.  And, yes, thoughtless.”

I wonder if Madame includes herself in this category, for I know her also as Monsieur.  I decide to be bold and ask a question.

“Madame?  I know you are a shape-shifter.    What would possess you to appear so?  In my experience, men are covetous of their identity and their…..ah…equipment.”

“Mon Dieu!  You are a saucy one!  But since you ask, I will tell.   We have a moment before M. Abigor appears at the door.”  She considered her words before proceeding.

“There are many Demons of Lust and Love in Hell.  But I am the only Demon to want to do such.  Ah! Men die and go to Hell, and few have learned much on Earth.  There is great seduction in women!  Their sex developed the art, yet they are called ‘the weaker sex.’  They use their wiles and within a short time, have all men in thrall.  You are weaker in strength, but you are stronger in the head.”

Madame snaps her fan closed and points at her head with it.  I laugh, as much as my tight corset allows.

“But! We have short time, now.  I must talk to you about M. Abigor.  You must be on your guard, ma petite!  Monsieur is a wily one.  You don’t become an Arch Duke of Hell for your kindness.  Non, M. Abigor is to be feared!  Do not put too much faith in his charms.  M. Abigor is known for his lust for mortal women.  Your M. Demon was right to charm up your sex, mais tres cruelle!”

Cruel indeed, Madame!  I could not agree more.  Especially how tea goes through me.

“Attention!  M. Abigor’s knowledge is vast.  He is known to be an intellectual in Hell.  There are many stupid devils, you know.”  Madame rolls her eyes.  “M. Abigor has many interests, cherie.  Philosophy, music, the dance, politics, especially the French culture.  Ah!  I know what you must talk with him!  He was un habitant  of the salons of France!  Ah! He was an intimate of Mme. Du Deffand et Mme.Necker, et  Mme. Geoffrin, just a few!  M. Abigor knew M. Grimm, Sainte-Beuve, Voltaire, Diedrot,  so many illustrious men and women!  Talk to him about the salons, cherie.  Entertain him with philosophy.”

Ah, Madame Gomosy, I thought to myself.  If only I could.  My memory and knowledge of such a time and place was miniscule.  But I would try.  At least we could talk of music.  Now, here I was competent.  Or so I hoped.

“Mais…M. Abigor is a genius, ma cherie.  But he leaves the trail of a serpent!  When you see on his forehead the reflection of a ray from Plato, do not trust it.  Look well, there is always the foot of a satyr beneath.”

Madame’s words made me shiver, though the room was warm.  Well, what should I expect?  I was dealing with devils!

“Now, when M. Abigor knocks, I will answer and present him, and you stand and curtsey your best.  I will leave you both and then will return when he leaves.  Ah! Be charming, my young friend.  Your fate depends upon it!”

I wondered if we have time for a round of faro, just to calm my nerves, when we hear a strong knock on the door.  Madame rose from her chair, blew me a kiss, and glided to the door.  She opened it, and gave a deep curtsey to M. Abigor, who entered the room.

I rose as gracefully as my trembling legs allowed, and curtsied to him.  Monsieur Abigor looked at me for a second, and bowed.   Madame past out of the room and left me alone with my visitor.

“M. Abigor.  It is delightful to see you today.”  My voice sounded strange in my ears.  Dancing with Devils, today!  I looked at him as boldly as I dared and saw a tall and elegant man before me.  He certainly had a presence about him.  He was dressed in a black coat, with a dark wine colored waistcoat, embroidered in gold.  Black breeches and hose, and a fine piece of plain linen at his throat completed his appearance. His grey hair, probably a wig, was powdered and curled.

I dared a glance into his face, and his eyes! They were blank, like the eyes of a dead dog! No reflection, dull like the light had faded.  Fear rose in my throat. As though reading my thoughts, a small smile crept across his face.   I motioned for him to sit in the chair across from me.  Madame had moved the tea table between us, but had faced the chairs to each other.  M. Abigor sat, and flipped out the tails of his coat behind him.  I wondered if he had a tail.  Just as the thought crossed my mind, I realized with horror he probably had the same power as all these other demons.  He could read my thoughts.  My face colored fast.

Abigor’s smile broadened, and I knew he had discovered my thoughts! All I could do was to go on, now uncomfortable. He cocked his head to one side, and I thought of an owl.  Of course!  I remembered a picture in one of those heavy books, of this Arch Duke of Hell. He rode on a wolf, had the face of an owl, and carried a sword.  Otherwise, he was human.  Very human, according to the drawing in the book.  M. Abigor gave a chuckle.  I was not doing well.

I cleared my throat, and tried to swallow.  “M. Abigor, would you like a cup of tea?”

“Perhaps that would be safest, my dear.”  His voice was deep and low. He smiled at me, amused by my gaffes.  I rose to pour him a cup of tea, and my hands shook.  “Would you like cream and sugar?” I asked over my shoulder at the console on the wall where the silver service was placed.

“I take it black.”  Of course, why didn’t I think of that!

“I understand from M. Garrett you are a writer.  And, a bit of a musician and dancer.”

Oh God!  What did the Demon say to him?  “I am hardly a writer, M. Abigor, as I have only written one book.  And that I have not finished.”    I brought him his tea and tried not to rattle the cup in the saucer.

“Ah.  One would think your change of….ah…circumstance…would retard your progress.  Very human.”  M. Abigor picked up his cup, his eyes stared over the rim, those two dead pools of darkness. My stomach gave a flip and my fear returned.

Yes, very human.  I decided to approach the issue of ‘circumstance’ delicately.  “Yes, one might say so.  I find my world exciting and confusing.”

“It is to be expected.  You are out of your element as they say.  It will take time to adjust.”  M. Abigor regarded me with his head cocked to the side.  Again, I thought of an owl.

“Madame tells me you knew many of the men and women in the salons of Paris.”  I sipped my tea, and hoped to turn the conversation.   “I have little knowledge of the salons, but I am very curious as to your experience, Monsieur.”

“Ah!” His  face visibly brightened. “The Salons! Yes, they were a lovely invention.  Some good friends I made on different days of the week.  Some good friends I occasionally still see.”

I thought about his words and again I shivered.  I managed a smile.

“Did you know Mme. d’Epinay, Monsieur?”  I had read some of her writings.

“Ah!  Mme. d’Epinay!  I remember her well, though I don’t think I have seen her sweet face since the 1770’s.”

Good, I thought.  Then she isn’t in Hell.  From what I had read of her, she was a wretched but sensible woman. She suffered terribly from an early marriage to a dissolute cousin.

“But her husband, now, M. d’Epinay….I have seen him around some.”  M. Abigor’s grin reminded me of a wolf.

“Madame d.Epinay now…how she was to be pitied!  She was peaceful, and sweet and trusting.  And she was a good writer. She listened to so many others as they read their works out loud to the room.  A sensible and courageous woman, married to a monster.”

I thought of what I knew of the women of that century. In my own century, which I had forgotten for my surroundings,  women had all the expectation to do with their lives. It was hard for us to understand a society in which the best female intellect was given over to entertaining and living their lives through the minds of the men around them.  They had little place else to wield power except in the drawing rooms.  But from these rooms, such ideas!  Revolution, class warfare, the liberating and the terror, these were fermented by sentiments at times vain and sensual.

M.Abigor threw out names from history.  Mme. de Lambert, Mme. Geoffrin, Mme. Necker are just a few he mentioned.   And the men!  Grimm, Diedrot, Voltaire just a few more.  M. Abigor captured my interest with his fascinating tales of long dead people.  I was discreet enough to curb my interest as to who was where in the universe.

“M. Garrett tells me that you dance, n’est-ce pas?”  He changed the direction of his conversation so fast it took me by surprise.  M. Abigor relaxed in his chair, and stretched his long legs before him.  I hastened to serve him some cake.

“Thank you.  I don’t usually eat sweet things, but this looks divine.”  M. Abigor took a bite of his cake and his eyebrows lifted in pleasure.  Ah! Madame had prepared Devil’s Food Cake.

“M. Garrett overstates my talent.  It is not the courtly dances you would be familiar.”  I presumed too much, for M. Abigor was as old as the Alps and knew much of the world.

“I am familiar with the Harem dance.   I have known many Sultans and their harems intimately over the centuries.  In fact, in my youth, I effected the guise of a harem guard.”  M. Abigor looked at me, that wolf smile again gleamed out over long, white teeth.

“But I thought only eunuchs were allowed in the harem.”  I spoke without thought.

Abigor laughed, his voice rumbling deep from his chest. “One of the privileges of being a Devil, my dear, is appearing as we want. Like our Madame Gormosy, we appear as a man, and a second later, Voila! A woman.” He waved one elegant long finger in the air.  I blushed from my thoughtless words.

“And we can dismiss parts of our anatomy, and gain them back at will.”  M. Abigor obviously enjoyed my embarrassment; his dead eyes suddenly glittered at me!

I took a drink of my now cooled tea to cover my distress.  “M. Abigor, may I warm your tea?”

“You have already warmed my heart with your blunders.”  He smiled and gave me a little bow from his chair.  My embarrassment was tinged with fear.  I remembered Madame Gormosy’s words of caution about his ‘charm’.

“I can see your M. Demon has great fun with you.  I myself have had many mortal wives in my time.  I enjoyed the naivete and companionship.  M. Demon is to be applauded his choice.”  He chuckled and again bowed from his seat.

I inclined my head to him, my blush now covering my neck.   I was being courted by an Arch Duke of Hell!

We talked about many things and I noticed the room was darkening.  It must be about dusk.  I rose to light a taper from the fire, and M. Abigor rose with me, picked up a hot cinder from the fire and lit the first candle.  I made an exclamation, as he was sure to burn his fingers, but M. Abigor just smiled and showed me his unscorched palm.  He took my hand and placed it against his.  It was warm but did not burn.  Close to me, I looked up into his face, and by the light of the one candle, saw something in his eyes that terrorfied me.  His eyes opened suddenly, like the lens of a camera, and I saw scenes   and I could not look away.

Like a card deck being shuffled slowly and each card held out for a nanosecond viewing, I saw  wars, tragedies, famines,  scenes of torment down through the ages.

I saw male babies thrown in the river Nile, to be drowned at the whim and command of Pharaoh, heard their gurgling screams as they sank beneath the waters, their mothers anguish ringing out on the banks of the turgid waters.

I saw the Crusades, many cards there, with Christians riding down the ‘unbelievers’, slaughtering young girls, children,  raping them and cutting their throats.

I saw and felt the tumbrels rumbling through Paris’ streets, the fall of the guillotine, the roar of the crowds, the spray of blood from that steel knife cover the crowds, and the heads tumbling into the  fouled straw baskets.

I saw the results of the War to End all Wars, the men falling to the ground, spewing their guts, vomiting in the mud from the mustard gas, nerve gasses. The horror of field hospitals with severed limbs piled up like cordwood, and broken lives never to be regained. Horses rotting in the fields of battle.

I saw the brutality of the boyars, the Cossacks, the military riding into peasant villages and all slaughtered, the babies smothered under the fallen bodies of their mothers. I smelled the cottages burning, heard again the wailing of the women.

And then I came to the card, flipped over in slow motion, of the Holocaust.  I felt the fire of the ovens, saw the mounds of gold teeth, smelled the burning flesh that swept across the countryside and I stood there, looking at my forearms, and was covered by human ash.  I saw the children clubbed to death, their bodies thrown into the pits after their parents were shot and rolled into the mass grave.

I think I stopped breathing. I felt time had suspended itself.  M. Abigor’s eyes closed and a tear dropped from one eye.  I watched the descent of that tear as if all the answers to this madness were in that single sign of human compassion.

But of course M. Abigor was not human.

Woodenly, I pulled away and place the candlestick on the table.  Turning, I stood behind my chair, my face shocked beyond expression.  I could not stop my heart from pounding.  I wasn’t numb for I was able to feel an overwhelming sickness, a terror with every heartbeat.  There was something in the room with us, a presence more than the two of us.  It felt like the Ultimate Evil.  I thought I would faint.  In the growing gloom of the room, M. Abigor looked intently at me, and saw my distress.

“Madame, I have most enjoyed our tea.  In the next few days, I will return and take you riding.  I understand you pine to go out of doors. I will be your protection from the elements.”

M. Abigor bowed, a figure of masculine elegance. He turned at the door, smiled and left the room. Within moments, Madame Gormosy entered.   I still stood behind my chair, frozen, barely breathing.

“Well, Madame, you have survived this visit unscorched.  Ah!  You minded your manners or at least you did not insult the Devil!  Bon!  You live another day.  Your M. Demon will be glad of it.”

Rooted to the spot, blindly I put my hand out to her, and Madame came to my side.  I almost fainted and I found Madame’s arms around me, supporting me.  But it was Monsieur’s arms now around me, transformed by her particular magic, and at this moment, I was grateful.  I leaned on his chest, and I could hear his heart.  I started to shiver violently and Monsieur picked me up and sat down in a chair.  He rubbed my arm, my back and thigh.  I couldn’t stop shivering, my shock so great and Monsieur cooed to me gently. Soon I was weeping into his linen.

“Ah, my poor thing.  Perhaps M. Abigor let down his glamour for a minute and you saw him for the demon he is?  Perhaps you looked into his eyes and were frightened? Ah! It happens with devils.  We look like humans, when we want to, it is our favorite disguise, but the eyes will tell all. The horrors of Hell show up in these dark pools.  It is the one piece of ourselves we can not transform.  Quell dommage!”

I still shivered and Monsieur crossed over to the bed.  He pulled back the bedclothes and covered me to my chin, chaffing my arms under the covers.  He also rubbed my legs but decided a few hot bricks would be of service.  Bringing two bricks from the fireplace he placed them by my feet.  In a couple of minutes, my shivering stopped.  I fell into deep sleep.

I was told I was unconscious for a day, and cried out.  There was little to be done, for the shock I received from the presence of M. Abigor would have to be endured.  I am now told M. Abigor was pleased with my company and his tea, and this was the usual fate of dining with such devils.  The next time my mortal system would adjust, and I would not suffer such effects, at least  it was whispered to me that it would be easier to dine with the devil.

If this is to encourage me, Madame Gormosy is wide of her mark. I saw too much in M. Abigor’s eyes.  No amount of immortal elegance could hide those visions of Hell.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2006-2017








“The Kimono”, Chapter 17

June 30, 2017


European Eagle Owl, watercolor, something I imagine what would be Lord Mori in bird of prey form.


images (8)


For my friend, Kanzen Sakura.

This is a book in progress.  Actually there is a ‘corrected’ version at Dropbox, but I don’t seem to be able to copy and paste it here.  So it goes.  I am no computer whiz.

I hope to have this ready for publication in this fall, 2017.  Nick Nicholson is a dedicated reader and much more:  his intelligence and eagle eye has made this  a much better novel.  

I know it’s not easy to post a chapter mid flight in a novel…lends to confusion. But I am now, after 4 months, beginning to finish it…”The Kimono” has it’s origins back in 2007 or so, so it’s a novel of 10 years writing.  

Short course as to the theme of the book:  Mari, 21 century Japanese/American woman, married, buys an antique kimono and donning it, is transported back to 16th century Japan….northern region, Akita,  to the domain of a warlord, a samurai and a daimyo, Lord Mori.  Plot thickens….

Lady Nyo



Mari stood at the window, a copy of the Man’yoshu in her hand.  Love poems, and of course in a language she couldn’t read.  Literally “The Collection of a Thousand Leaves”.

Some scribe had taken the time to carefully illustrate this book with erotic drawings.  They were exquisite, though rather pornographic in her opinion.  Compiled during the 8th century, this book was considered the pinnacle of Japanese verse, even in this more ‘modern’ 16th century.  But eroticism to these Japanese didn’t seem to have many boundaries.  Sex was very natural to them, and even nudity. They did not have a concept of sin, at least of sin she understood.

Lady Nyo was ordered by Lord Mori to teach her to read and write.  He was of the opinion, according to Lady Nyo, that Mari should be entertained while learning a difficult language.  Therefore he gave her this book.

Entertained!  How different their cultures, stretching across the centuries, two oceans separated by mountains and sand.  It was now two months since the miscarriage, but her mood had not greatly improved.  Her heart was a mass of confusion. She would wake in the night, sweating.  She dreamed constantly but could not remember much, just disjointed scenes in clashing and violent colors. Dreams before were fathomable, but now?  They were strips of some unrolling and unending painting, without words or knowable meaning to her.  Just confused sensations with a hidden terror.

With patient instruction by Lady Nyo, Mari was beginning to recognize some of the words.  She still couldn’t construct a decent sentence.  There were all sorts of issues with the Japanese language, and her attempts in forming a sentence sent Lady Nyo into peals of laughter.

Well, at least she was entertaining to someone, if not exactly entertained.


The house was a flurry of activity.  Lord Mori was to visit sometime in the afternoon, and Mari felt anxious. He had not visited her since her miscarriage, but Lady Nyo said he had come. Apparently,  she  was asleep due to the medicine prescribed by the doctor.  The only evidence was a short poem inked on his fan. Something about laughter and fireflies.

Mari turned from the window.  There were two small women kneeling outside the entrance to the room. They bowed with their heads to the wood floor as soon as she saw them.  Lady Nyo came up behind them and bowed to Mari.

“So sorry to disturb you, Lady Mari.  These women are here to attend to the house.  Would you please come out to the rokka and view the niwa?

Mari nodded and put her book down on a small chest.  She recognized the words rokka and niwa as the porch overlooking the garden and niwa as garden.  She was beginning to recognize the names of her environment.

“Oh, Lady Mari!  If you would like, I will come with you and we can read together those wonderful poems.”

What she really meant, thought Mari, is I can read these poems, because you are still stupid about our language.  Of course, Lady Nyo was the picture of decorum and would never say such, but Mari was foul in mood and took offense secretly at many things.

The house was more like a cottage, with small, bare rooms constructed from a central passageway, closed off by shoji screens.  They walked through the house towards the back where kneeling, Lady Nyo pushed a screen open and they faced a narrow platform looking out upon a small garden.

Enclosed by a low stone wall, the garden  very old with a misshapen tree in the middle.  There were raked pebbled paths and small green bushes with buds and a few open flowers beneath.  Upon the wall were small plants growing out of the rocks.  The cherry blossoms were almost beginning to bloom. This event was as important to the Japanese of this century as much as it was in Mari’s.  She heard how beautiful they were on the castle grounds when in full bloom.


The morning mist, kasumi, had lifted but there was a possibility of rain.  Mari liked the rain, it fit her moods.  She could withdraw from the company of Lady Nyo and look out her window, wrapped in a silk quilt against the cool air.  As she recovered, she spent less time sleeping late and would get up earlier.  She liked the kasumi, it comforted her.  It put a barrier between her and the world.  Any rain or mist was welcomed by the people around her.  There had been a drought for a couple of years. Lord Mori had mentioned the rice production had dropped.  Famine was always around the corner.

Mari sat on a wooden bench on the rokka overlooking the garden and above the pebbled paths.  The mists had all gone from the morning, replaced by a gentle wind.  White cranes lifted off the water down by the shore, their black legs trailing like stiff ribbons behind white bodies.

It was peaceful.  She felt her nerves untangle, fall away.  Breathing in quietly, she could smell the scent of plum trees within the garden wall.  The wind made cascades of plum-snow litter the raked pebbles.

“Lady Mari, I have bought your book outside.  If it pleases you, may I read aloud a few poems?”

Mari could not refuse this simple request.  Lady Nyo’s role was to educate her in these finer arts. It was not as if it were her idea to do this.  Clearly,  it came from Lord Mori.  Mari could see Lady Nyo was obediently following orders.

“Oh, Lady Mari!  Here is a poem by the Princess Nukata.  She was very famous many centuries ago for her lovers.  She was wife to Prince Oama and then the Emperor himself!”

“As I stay here yearning

While I wait for you, my lord,

The autumn wind blows,

Swaying the bamboo blinds

Of my lodging.”


“Oh, isn’t that the most romantic of poems?”  Lady Nyo clasp the book to her flattened bosom.

“Well, I would think it would be a matter of taste, my Lady.”  Mari didn’t want to sound sour, but the poem did not move her as it obviously did the reader.

“Oh, Lady Mari”, said Lady Nyo plaintively.  Perhaps the part of the poem that is more obscure is a key here.  The autumn wind in this poem represents the visitor….or builds yearning for him.   And this morning we have such a lovely, gentle wind blowing.”

If she is referring to the Lord Mori, she got him all wrong, thought Mari.

Lady Nyo looked at Mari hopefully.   Mari laughed and asked her to read more.


“Tonight, too,

Does my woman’s pitch-black hair

Trail upon the floor

Where she sleeps without me?”


Mari sat up straighter, her interest piqued.  Now, that poem had interest and so modern in sentiment.

But why were they separated? There were more secrets than answers in this sort of poetry.


“Read more.”


Lady Nyo smiled and looked for another poem to please her.

“Though I sleep with

A single thin rush mat

For my bedding,

I am not cold at all,

When I sleep with you, my lord.”

Lady Nyo smiled over the book, again clasped to her bosom.  “She must have been a poor woman to be only able to afford such bedding. But here’s another poem that speaks to men.”


“Though I sleep beneath

soft, warm bedding,

how cold my skin is,

for I do not share my bed

with you, my woman.”


“Now, that is nice”, said Mari wishfully.  And how modern. A man who shows his main concern in bed:  warm feet.


Lady Nyo read another.


“Brave man like the catalpa bow

That, once drawn,

Does not slacken—

Can it be that he is unable to bear

The vicissitudes of love?”


As soon as Lady Nyo read this particular poem, she blushed deeply.  Mari saw her reaction.

“Lady Nyo.  I am a stranger here.  I have no history among your people.  Clearly that is obvious.  But please tell me.  Does Lord Mori have a wife, or children?”

Lady Nyo’s face went sad.

“Ah, this was a long time ago, but Lord Mori still mourns, I think.  It is hard to tell with men, but Lord Mori, though powerful daimyo, is still a man.”

Lady Nyo moved closer on the bench to Mari and dropped her voice to a whisper.

“Years ago, before my Lord Nyo and I were vassals to Lord Mori, he lost his young wife and children to the sea.  They were travelling to a city on the southern coast and a terrible storm took hold of the boat and all were lost.  Lord Mori was not with them, being on land.”

Lady Nyo sighed.  “I understand he travelled to a sacred mountain and for years lived in the forests.  He talked to their ghosts and shunned all men.”

Mari felt her breath catch in her chest.  Perhaps this was key to his personality.  He was certainly a strange man.  Even for a 16th century daimyo.


“But surely he has remarried? Does he have a wife in the castle I have not seen?”

Lady Nyo’s eyes widened.  “Oh, no!  To my knowledge, Lord Mori has never remarried.  Certainly she would be amongst the women with Lady Idu.  Oh, it would be hard to ignore a daimyo’s wife!”

Mari thought, yes, she would be first among all the women in the castle.

“But perhaps he has a wife that lives apart from him?”

Lady Nyo shook her head. “No, not that I have ever heard, Lady Mari.”

“But of course men and women many times do not live together.  So that would account why we know nothing about a wife.  However, surely my husband would tell me.  But in all these years, he has said nothing.”

The expression on Mari’s face took Lady Nyo by surprise.

“A man and wife don’t live together?  How strange.”  As soon as Mari spoke, she realized her mistake.

“Oh, Lady Mari!  Surely the married people where you come from don’t live together after marriage?”

“Well, actually they do.  Except if the husband has to travel for his…ah….business.”

“Oh! People are so different it seems.  Only the farmers live together, but that is because their women are needed in the fields.

That morning Mari learned that among the upper classes, and especially within the aristocracy, men and women lived apart.  The visits were planned, and each was notified by a messenger.  Now that poem of autumn winds and the bamboo blinds blowing made sense.  These marriages were conjugal visits.

“No, no wife I think, but the finest courtesans do visit him….or he them, from time to time.  It is only right and proper. He is not a hermit.”

“Who?  Tell me, Hana, do you know the women?  What do they look like, have you seen them?”

Lady Nyo, touched Mari would use her name, blushed and shyly touched Mari’s hand next to her.

“Well. There was the beautiful courtesan Midori last year.  Oh, Lady Mari!  You should have seen her kimonos! Such silks and colors!  She looked like a beautiful butterfly!”

Lady Nyo giggled like a girl and rushed to explain.  “I was passing from one hall to another on some endless errand and I saw her with attendants.  She was so beautiful!  Her skin was as white as a lily and her hair was as glossy as a blackbird’s wing.  Long, too.  She wore it unencumbered and it swept her hems. “

Mari chuckled to herself.  So, Lord Mori wasn’t the hermit he appeared at first to her.  He was man enough.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017
















The Kimono, a novel

November 11, 2016

For my friend Connie who loves all things Japanese and knows them well.

Lord Jizo

(Lord Jizo with bib and other children’s clothes.  Mothers would leave knitted hats and bibs, bonnets of their deceased children at the foot of Lord Jizo who is the Japanese “saint’ of children, alive and dead)

Chapter 23

(where Mari goes to the Jizo temple to light incense, and meets Lord Yoki.)

Mari and Lady Nyo returned from their shopping, and Mari went to lie down. Her feet hurt in the high geta. It took careful steps and concentration not to twist an ankle.

When they were out, Lady Nyo told her of a small shrine close by, dedicated to Lord Jizo. Mari wanted to make an offering. When they passed the shrine on the road a few days before, Mari was deeply moved. She had lost her first and possibly only child and perhaps now she could face grief. She had put it out of mind because of the disruption and shame.

Lord Mori and Lord Ekei disappeared during the morning. Neither Mari nor Lady Nyo had a clue where the men were. They were just women and not to be informed. Lord Nyo was left in charge. Mari thought it a good time to approach Lady Nyo. She wanted to walk the short way to the shrine, to spend some time in thought and she wanted to do it alone. Lady Nyo’s expression upon hearing Mari’s words was one of concern, but she promised to talk to Lord Nyo.

Mari knew she would have to have protection, either in the form of Lady Nyo or one of the men of Lord Mori. This was not of her choosing. She had no say in these things.

Lady Nyo found her in the tiny garden in the back of the inn, watching goldfish in the small pond before her stone bench.

“Lady Mari”, she called softly.

At her voice, Mari looked up. It was still early, just before noon, and the day was overlaid with clouds. It had turned misty, but Mari was still hopeful she could make her visit.

“My Lord Nyo has agreed and is to send you with two men and I will send you with a servant. I will provide you with coin to buy incense.”

Mari smiled. She knew Lady Nyo was risking much in not accompanying her, but Mari wanted some distance from everyone. She wanted some privacy to think and to be alone. It didn’t seem possible in this century.

Lady Nyo was kind. She sensed Mari’s need. After all, this foreign looking, foreign acting woman was full of secrets, and she knew in time the tight ball who was Lady Mari would unravel. She was willing to wait. There was something much bigger about this woman, this unusual and rather ugly favorite of Lord Mori. What it was, Hana Nyo did not know, but sensed it was worth her patience. There were clues, but these were too fantastic to believe.

Mari set out with two armed guards and one of the two women servants. This time she wore her straw sandals and her traveling kimono, with an oiled paper cloak to protect from the rain. Mari had not been raised in either Shinto or Buddhist beliefs, though her mother privately offered prayers and burned incense at a small family shrine set up in a corner of their house. Mari for a time had attended a Unitarian church, the religion of her father. Who Lord Jizo was remained unclear to Mari. The only knowledge she had was that he was the patron ‘saint’ of unborn, miscarried and stillborn children. It seemed enough of a starting place. Perhaps she wouldn’t feel so empty after offering prayers for her dead baby.

The walk to the shrine was not far, and the road was banked with mulberry trees and beyond the road, bamboo stands looking like small forests of waving greenery. A drizzle had started; it served to dampen the dust on the road.

There were few travelers today. When they got to the shrine, Mari was surprised how primitive it was; not more than a raised open shed, a stone pillar with a carved face set back from the entrance.  There were offerings of toys, incense, pebbles, a few small coins. Children’s clothes were folded and laid at the base of Lord Jizo. One mother had put a red bib around his neck and a white, knitted hat sat on his head.

The men and the servant stood back by the road, but not so far they couldn’t see Mari. She walked up the few wooden stairs to kneel on the rough wooden floor. There was a crow in the rafters, who looked at Mari, curious as to her presence.

Mari placed her unlit incense in the bowl of sand in front of the statue. She raised her eyes to his face, and realized his features were faint, dissolved by time. A small, smiling mouth, long earlobes, closed eyes. Mari felt tears forming and gulped to swallow them.   She didn’t know what to say, what to pray for. She had not been a religious person back in her own century, and things were too disrupted and strange to even contemplate the spiritual now. The presence of magic had destroyed her belief in comforting things.

A strange sensation came over her.   She did not recognize it at first, but soon realized she was feeling more than the usual emptiness. She felt—filled with something, and at first she didn’t understand. Tears coursed down her face, and raising her eyes to Jizo these ancient details dissolved even more. Whether it was her tears or some magic, she was looking at the face of a laughing baby. She clasped her hands to her chest and uttered a soft, marveling cry. Then, the vague stone features of Lord Jizo reappeared.

Mari was deeply moved, but also frightened. Perhaps it was the dim light of the shrine playing tricks or perhaps it was her confused mind. Whatever it was, she felt a peace, something she had not felt in a long time. She felt as if a heavy burden had been lifted from her heart.


The faint sound of a flute came to her ears. Sad, consoling music. She looked up in the rafters to the left of the Jizo statue and saw a monk sitting there, or what she thought was a monk. He was playing a bamboo flute and floated down like a dust mote. Mari looked around at the men and the girl outside. They seemed oblivious to anything happening inside the shrine. In fact, they weren’t moving. They looked frozen.

“Do not be afraid”. The monk, a very dirty, dusty man in a ripped kimono, spoke in a raspy voice, clearing cobwebs from his face as he stood there.

Mari for some reason did not feel afraid. Perhaps she was enchanted and this was a spell?

“Nah, you‘re under no spell. But the men outside are.” He giggled and snorted.

Mari blanched. This monk could read her mind?

The monk coughed, and spat, very unmonk-like behavior in a shrine.

“Were you the crow in the rafters?” Mari’s voice was soft, disbelief making it hard to speak.

“You’re a fast study, girl.” The monk laughed, seeing the astonishment on Mari’s face.

“What are you?”

“Ah….you are a rude one! Perhaps the shock of seeing a crow transform into a man has robbed you of manners?”

“But what are you?”

“You already asked that. I am Lord Yoki.”

“You obviously are not human. Are you a figment of my mind?”

“Oh, I am much more than that, girl. I am a Tengu. Are you familiar with Tengus?”

Mari shook her head, eyes wide in shock, now beyond speech.

“Ah….we have met before, Mari.”

“How do you know my name?”

The tengu laughed, a raspy sound from a thin, wizened throat. Mari’s eyes traveled over his kimono. It was patched and stained, none too clean for a monk. He was wearing straw sandals and his nails were very long, in fact they had grown over his sandals and seemed more like bird claws. He was scratching at his hindquarters, too.

Lord Yoki smiled, blinked, and closed his eyes to mere slits. Mari noticed his nose was very long and red. Probably drank too much sake.

“You were visiting a friend in Kyoto. Coming home one night, I called out to you.”

Mari couldn’t think of where she had seen this creature.

“Ah…your friend, Miyo? “

Mari gasped. Miyo was back home…in her century, the 21st, not the 17th! What was happening here? Was she losing her mind?

Suddenly, she remembered. There was a large bird on a wire high above her one cold night. She remembered that night with Miyo, telling her about the dream….a dream that turned out to be another reality. She remembered being scared by a voice, and looking up in the dark, she saw a huge bird with a long red beak.

“Yup, at your service.” The tengu bowed and giggled like a girl.

“But, but….how?” That was another century, hundreds of years from now. “How are you here?”

“Better you ask me why.”

Mari went to rise, and fell back on her backside. Her legs would not support her.

“And….you speak English! I must be losing my mind!”

“Oh, don’t get overly excited, girl”, he said, making a dismissive gesture. “Weirder things have happened.”

The tengu grimaced, scratched at his scraggly beard. “Lice”, he said flatly, with a grin.

Mari twisted from the floor, trying to see the men outside. They had not moved an inch.

“Oh, don’t worry about them. We have things to talk about.”

The tengu folded his legs and sat facing her, tucking his flute into his robe.

“I am sure you have some questions for me?” He looked at her expectantly.

“What questions could I have for you?” Mari’s shock was lessening and she began to feel danger.

“Perhaps you would like to know what your husband Steven is up to.”

Steven! Mari gasped, her eyes opening wide. What would this old man, if he was one, know of Steven?

“Well, why don’t we start by you asking me some questions? I bet I know more than you could guess.” He folded his hands in front of him, looking rather pleased with himself.

Mari swallowed hard, wishing she had some water. Her throat was dry.

“What could you know about my husband?”

The monk lifted his eyebrows a few times and winked. Mari almost laughed. He looked like Groucho Marx.

“I travel in many circles, girl. I get around.”

Mari would have dismissed him as insane, but uttering Steven’s name meant something else.

“Then tell me what he is doing. Is he worried about me? Is he ok?”

The monk‘s face softened.

“You don’t understand much about this time travel, do you? Has no one explained to you what happens?”

Mari remembered only that Lord Mori said a year here in this century would be like a minute in hers.

Haltingly Mari told the monk what she knew.

“Yes, yes, that is part of it. Going back and forth can be confusing, but do not worry. You have no reason for concern about husband Steven. See those men out there? And your servant? “

Mari saw the men and woman in the same position. Still frozen.

“That is how your disappearance has seemed to Lord Steven. He doesn’t have a clue.”

The monk chortled and the hair stood on the back of Mari’s neck.

Mari wrapped her arms around herself and looked at the floor. Tears started to form. What had she done to Steven, to her marriage? Was she already dead and this was some kind of Hell?

“Mari”, said the monk in a soft voice. “You are caught up in a web of magic, and none of this is of your doing. You only bought a kimono having some history and you fell under its power. What happens now is out of your control. From the beginning it was your fate.”

“What is going to happen to me?” Mari raised her eyes to the monk, her face full of despair.

The monk, or tengu, or whatever he was, almost scowled, and spit again on the boards of the shrine.

“Do I look like a fortune teller? I have no idea, girl, what is to be your destiny, but I know you are a pawn in a larger game.”

“One of Lord Mori’s making?”

“Lord Mori is also a pawn, but a much more important pawn. We all are pawns in this present game, Mari.”

“What does he want of me?”

Lord Yoki looked at Mari, studying her face, but said nothing for a few seconds.

“Our Lord Mori is a complex man. He can wield his own small magic, more tricks than anything else. There are other forces at work and our Lord is determined to find them out. This, in part, is the reason for this pilgrimage to Gassan Mountain.”

“But how do I figure in all of this?”

The monk laid his head to one side and narrowed his eyes as he looked at Mari. He looked like a blinking owl.

“I have no answers for you, girl. I just know that you do. You will have to cultivate patience. You have no control or power as to what happens. “

Mari did not get much from his answers. At least she now knew something about Steven, if she could believe this monk. If it was true her absence had gone unnoticed by him, then perhaps there was something good in this.

What her role was to be here, in this century, in the presence of Lord Mori and the others, there had to be an answer for her. At least she had the small comfort about Steven. If she could believe the monk.

She looked at him, but he had vanished. In less than a blink of the eye, he was gone. Mari stretched out a hand to where he had been sitting. Had she dreamed all this? Was she also under a spell?

She heard voices. The men were talking amongst themselves, leaning on their nagatas. The woman servant was plaiting reeds from her basket.

Mari left the shrine, only turning back once to look at Lord Jizo. She still had no answers, but for some strange reason, she felt comforted. Whether it was Lord Jizo or the monk, she didn’t know.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2016  The Kimono will be published Spring, 2017. Working on the rewrite presently, so hopefully this will be on schedule.









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