Posts Tagged ‘summer reading’

“The Kimono”, Chapter 5

August 12, 2016

 

 

My beautiful picture

 

PICT0069.JPG

Posted for Connie, who also loves kimono.

(A kimono I made from cloth from a quilting store. Lined with light green cotton.)

 

Summer Reading!  And why not?  We should slow down in the heat of summer and entertain ourselves.  I have always felt that writers are just storytellers who know how to type, and most importantly….we entertain ourselves with our words.

I started “The Kimono” in 2008, and dropped it for years.  Just recently I finished the novel, all 28 chapters and now I am going through the entire book, chapter by chapter, trying to fill in the worm holes.  Up to Chapter 5. Yahoo.

Mari is a 21st century Japanese/American, whose husband Steven is working for a large company in Kyoto. She buys a kimono in a strange shop, one that she can’t find again….and this kimono whips her back to the 16th century where she lands at the feet of a dangerous daimyo.  But he’s not controlling the kimono.  Something else is.

 

 

Chapter 5:

 

Early that morning Mari was dressed by the two women, Nyo and Idu. She was told she was to attend both Lords.

Mari had an attack of nerves. What in Hell was she supposed to do? Either she was entertainment for these two dangerous men, or she would be  breakfast. After last evening’s appearance, her knees knocking and mouth dry, she thought her days in front of Lord Tokugawa would be past. Apparently not.

Lady Nyo walked with Mari behind the men, as was proper. Those two ahead cast large shadows in the sunlight, their kimonos, robes and swords making them move like tanks. Slowly, but as dangerous.

Mari could almost forget those men as she looked about her in amazement.

Everywhere she looked she saw evidence of a highly developed esthetic. Gingko trees and small maples, other plantings she could not identify, were carefully placed. Small ponds, gravel walks and stones set in groups. Some, like huge boulders were set alone. Each stone was natural to its site.

Mari had read a small book on Japanese gardening, but this was from a modern perspective. She knew enough from inference to recognize each garden was an expression of the character of its owner, whether poet, warrior, philosopher, or priest. What Lord Mori was, Mari was not certain, but she thought perhaps he had all the above aspects. Nothing she had read gave a clue as to what a garden from the hand of a samurai-magician would look like. She glanced at the stones, wondered if at night they would get up and walk around. There was an old tale of an early emperor, well into his cups, who struck a large boulder in the middle of the road with his sword. It ran away.

She knew enough that a gardener, from whatever walk of life, tried to create not merely a place of beauty, but to convey a mood in the soul. She had read the earliest landscape gardeners were Buddhist monks who expressed abstract ideas like faith, piety and contentment with the design of their gardens. Ultimately, a dual purpose to their work: an expression of the mood of nature and that of man.

Mari was thinking of the landscape, listening with one ear to the chatter of the Lady Nyo. She wondered why  she understood Japanese? Was this part of the magic of the flying kimono? Or was it from something else? She listened to Lady Nyo whisper, her mouth hardly moving, about colors, and spring; less than small talk.

Suddenly, Lord Tokugawa stopped walking and turned around, his hands cradling his two swords.

“Lady Mari! Give us a poem on Lord Mori’s gardens. Surely a poet would have a verse upon approaching that pond over there!”

Lord Tokugawa threw out his hand towards a small pond, and Mari looked to where he pointed. It was just a small pond, but artfully tucked between willows with a maple on a very small island in the middle of the water.

Mari looked at Lord Mori. His face was blank, with just a small curve of his lips, barely a smile. He did lift his eyebrows to her in a questioning manner.

Mari bowed to Lord Tokugawa and also to Lord Mori. “If it would please you, Sir, I will need a little more walking in the fresh air this morning to collect my thoughts. I would not want to disappoint you with my poor attempts. I already see that Lord Mori’s gardens are very beautiful.”

Lord Tokugawa looked hard at her with his one eye, and laughed. Turning abruptly, he and Lord Mori continued to walk and talk in low voices. Mari and Lady Nyo followed, the Japanese woman finally silent. Mari could almost heart Lady Nyo’s heartbeat. She was so scared by the presence of the men. Perhaps she knew firsthand the violence of  men in this century.

Mari wondered what she could compose that would please both men. Lord Tokugawa had pointed out the pond. Surely something would come to mind, even if only an attempt at a verse.

She looked at its outline, the gentle surface like glass, the graceful willows trailing its fronds at the water’s edge. What caught her eye was the red miniature maple standing in the middle, with only a few crimson leaves remaining on its branches. There was something poignant in its isolation, or perhaps its solitude. Mari’s thoughts began to float outward to that tree in the water.

Lord Tokugawa stopped and turned. “Lady Mari, we are waiting for your verse.”

Mari bowed to Lord Tokugawa and took a deep breath.

 

“Surrounded by gentle nature

A man rests in contentment

But keeps his sword nearby.

A heart does not convey

The warning of a mouth.”

 

Lord Tokugawa remained quiet for a moment, seemingly to contemplate her words. Suddenly, he threw back his head and roared with laughter.

“Ah, Lord Mori, this one is worthy of breeding. She has wit and sense, uncommon in a woman. Perhaps she will produce many poets in the future. She is not too ugly in this morning light.”

Mari blushed and heard the soft gasp of Lady Nyo next to her. Lord Mori narrowed his eyes and contemplated the two women.

“You are correct, Lord Tokugawa. Perhaps she is not too ugly in this light.”

Mari could not resist raising her eyes to his face. Her glance was not lost on Lord Tokugawa.

“She does have spirit. However, she is a woman and needs the command of the whip. She has a boldness that might disrupt your peace if allowed to grow.”

Turning his back on the two women, the men continued to walk ahead.

“Lady Mari “, whispered Lady Nyo, her voice almost breathless with excitement. “Lord Tokugawa gives you great compliments. He is pleased with your verse as is our Lord Mori. You are found pleasing to both of them. You must compose more verse, and fast, for he might ask you again.”

Mari listened to her chatter with half an ear. “Perhaps she is not too ugly in this light.” If this was a compliment, she could do without.

After the morning’s walk among the gardens, she had returned to the women’s quarters. She was summoned to Lord Mori that evening where she found him working at his table. She was ushered into his room by two guards and stood there waiting for him to acknowledge her. Lord Mori was writing something with his brush, wetting the ink stone and stroking his brush across the ink. He spoke without looking up at her, his brush making strokes across the paper.

“So, Mari-who-is-married. How did you find Lord Tokugawa this morning? He was very liberal in his compliments. For both your verse and wit. I have not seen him before to so acknowledge a mere woman in his presence. You should feel greatly honored, Lady Mari.”

“Let me ask you, Lord Mori, if it so pleases you. Am I seen by you and Lord Tokugawa as a brood mare to produce little poets? This is very strange thinking to me, as I have not had children.

Lord Mori looked up, his brush suspended in the air, a look of surprise on his face.

“You have not been bred? What is wrong with your husband? Does he not think to breed you? Even an old man can produce children. What is the matter with you?

Mari thought his questioning rude and was about to say so. She checked her tongue.

“Lord Mori”, she began as one would with a child. “In my world a woman has many options, and one of these is the decision to have children or not. My husband is very involved with his work and thinks children will be an interference in his career.

Lord Mori’s expression of surprise was now replaced with one of confusion. “What is the issue here? A woman’s place in the world is to produce heirs. It is not such an onerous task. The wife is naijo. Do you understand this? It means ‘the inner help’. You are slave to your husband, and he is slave to his authorities, whoever is above him. This is the order of life. You turn the children over to the servants and you have your freedom to attend your Master’s desires. What is wrong with your world, Mari, that you can’t see this for yourself?”

Mari considered his words. There was such distance between them so there was no easy answer. Steven’s stubbornness about this very issue was one of true conflict. She thought of all those mornings and afternoons when she walked the streets, watching the couples, families with strollers and children racing around parks chasing each other. She felt the emptiness of her arms when she saw mothers holding their children. She could even feel the emptiness of her own womb.

 

 

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2008-2016

“Devil’s Revenge”, Chapter 2

July 10, 2014

It’s summer, it’s hot and I am looking for something easier to post. Seven years ago I started writing this novel. It was my second one and grew out of the characters of the first. The first one was ‘normal’ Dutch folk, set in the 1820
‘s in the rural landscape of New Jersey where I grew up. This first novel, called “Heart of the Maze” was too long and I dropped it. That it wasn’t on computer but typed out and put in a binder didn’t help in the rewrite. But I had fallen in love with some of the characters and didn’t want to leave them behind. So “Devil’s Revenge” came about, but the characters (most of them) were now devils, or ghosts, and the author, Bess, had tired of the original book and had closed it for 16 years. The main male character, Garrett Cortelyou, stepped out of the book and lay in wait, full of rage. He was now a Demon or devil, and full of mischief. He was gunning for another character in the original book, Obadiah Voorhees, now also a powerful devil, and Bess is caught up in the fight between the two of them. I am not posting the first chapter because it has a rape scene, or something that comes pretty close to it. And, I have work to do on it. So, for a while, until readers get tired of this, I am going to post chapters of “Devil’s Revenge”. Hope it fits the bill for summer reading and entertains.

Lady Nyo

Devil’s Revenge
Chapter 2

“What the hell?”

Opening my eyes, I struggled to focus. Embers had popped from the fireplace
and it sounded like the Fourth of July! One rolled to where I was sitting and stopped at my bare foot. Blinking, I snatched my foot back and took a deep breath. If materializing this way was supposed to unsettle me, it was working. My hands shook, my heart raced; I felt nauseous. A few minutes before I had control of myself. At a man’s command I appeared in this room. I shivered, a combination of fear and wonder.

The wind raced around the corners of the house, and sleet scratched at the window panes. I was glad for the good fire before me. I was chilly dressed in a linen morning gown, nothing more than a wrapper over a chemise. I had that mob cap on my head, falling over my eyes, but at least I was without stays. I could breathe again.

Placed on the tea table were two sheets of stiff paper and a lead pencil. I stared into the flames leaping about the logs, lost in thought, the sway of the fire hypnotic, the sound of the sleet beat a steady tattoo on the windows.

Was he a demon? Well, he wasn’t the Devil, or at least he didn’t seem to be. I had no idea what he was, and my knowledge of anything supernatural was poor to non-existent. But he shouldn’t exist, not if I was sane and the universe too, but here he was. What was he? My imagination couldn’t stretch that far to account for all these magical things, like the tankards of ale appearing with a snap of his fingers, or that he had materialized out of the pages of an unfinished book. But perhaps these things were small beer compared to what was possible? In any case, I was caught between two worlds, my comfortable if mundane life with a husband and this apparent ‘rip in the fabric of the universe.’

Since I had been thrown back into this book, perhaps I could write a couple of lines. I might as well use the time I given, and writing would calm my nerves. The chapter’s weather on my page imitated the weather outside my window, both gray and threatening days. I would write in a snowstorm, the two characters not able to travel, stuck in the countryside. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a small movement and glancing up, there sat the demon, Garrett Cortelyou. I jumped and squeaked out a scream, covering my mouth with my hands.

“Goedemorgen to you, and I am still the Devil, I see.” He sat across the table, unshaven this morning. His appearing like that and his confounded ability to read thoughts still rattled me.

“I am thinking of growing a beard, just to bedevil you.” He grinned, sitting back in his seat, stretching his legs and propping one boot upon the other.

“Why would I care if you had a beard?” I tried to sound snarky.

“It would give a turn to seducing you, something new and untried.” He grinned even broader and winked at me. “Ah, think how good it will feel with my beard brushing the soft skin in the middle of your back. I can think of other places to bury it just as fine.”

“Ah, stop it, Demon child. What business brings you here this morning except to taunt me.”

“You should form that as a question, not a statement. Again, with the bad English.”

“It is not a question of whether you will taunt me, but a fact. I already felt your sting.”

Stretching his arm out, he lay it palm up on the table, his hand out for mine. A gentle gesture. I had no reason to trust him.

“Yes, a gentle gesture, and one that I would like to follow up with more ‘stinging’ of your nether parts, my sweeting.” His eyes were languid and narrowed, and left no question his thoughts were mostly about lust this morning.

I reddened at his silly words, in spite of my determination not to.

“Oh, I don’t think that you are at all displeased, sweetheart. I think you are attempting to play a game where your feet do not touch bottom.”

I listened and thought a moment. “Tell me, then, how does this work? Does anybody in my life notice I’m gone? I don’t remember much when I’m home, and it seems the time with you is all a dream. What happens here? How do you do these things?” I looked around the room, wondering if I came down the chimney.

Garrett smiled. “Time is different in each dimension. A month here is an hour there.”

“Then my husband doesn’t know I’m gone?”

He snorted, a strange sort of laugh. “I think you could be gone a week in your time, darling, and that husband of yours wouldn’t notice.”

I didn’t want to humor him, and suppressed my own laughter. He was probably right. My husband was addicted to television and we led almost separate lives in our marriage. Little held us together, except our dogs and cats, and a comfortable routine.

“How do you bring me here?”

“Why should I tell you?”

“For Christ’s sake! You kidnap me from my bed and bring me to yours. There are laws against such behavior.”

He started to laugh. “If I told you, it would ruin all the fun.”

“For you? I have a marriage to hold together and you are interfering in my life.”

His smile disappeared. “You are quite the little hypocrite. You put a set of horns on your husband’s head fast enough and now you complain? I seem to remember you enjoying the fucking you got. Perhaps I should give some lessons to your husband.”

“You are a bastard! He’s a fine and sweet man!” I rose from my seat in my anger.
He did not seem impressed. He barely changed his posture, only crossed his arms over his chest. If he thought I would hit him, he didn’t care.

“Yet here you are with me. And curious as to what comes next. That depends on controlling your temper. You act like a spoilt child.”

Suddenly I felt drained. This show of anger was not getting me far. He was stubborn, with his own set of rules. He was right, I had set the horns upon my own husband’s head and enjoyed the fucking that set them there. Slowly I sat down in my chair, my energy gone. I didn’t have a moral leg to stand on.

“Woman.” I heard his voice through my tears. “I promise you your dear husband will not notice you gone. He will think you outside feeding your chickens or getting his ale from that cold cabinet.”

I started to laugh through my tears. He could be a fly on the wall or a ghost haunting my house!

“Sixteen years gives me the authority to do so,” he said, reading my thoughts.

Again he stretched out his hand to me across the table. It was a tender gesture, but I was having none of it. He sat back and looked at me solemnly.

“Take the mobcap off, please. It reminds me of Aunt Catherine in bed, and that’s a cock- crushing sight in the morning.”

I took the cap off. It was slipping over my eyes. Aunt Catherine was a character in the book in her eighties, almost bald and toothless.

“What have you done to your hair?” He looked intently at my now caramel streaked locks.

“Oh, summer is rough, being out in the garden, and the southern sun, you know….” My words trailed off. What in hell was I doing here? Talking to a doppelganger like he was a friend. “I put in caramel streaks.”

“Why would you put candy in your hair?” Garrett’s eyes narrowed in puzzlement.

“Does it taste sweet?”

“Oh Lord, deliver me from such fools! No, Garrett, it is just a color that women put– Oh, never mind.”

“Hey day! What’s this?” He spied my foot with the cherry red nail polish peeking from my under my gown. He reached down and grabbed my foot, almost yanking me off my seat.

“Garrett! Remember I’m attached to that foot!” He had it in his lap, where he stared at my toes.

“It’s like cherries in milk, your foot!” Looking up at me, he laughed. “From your hair to your feet, I could eat you this morning.” He looked like he was just capable of doing so. I snatched my foot back from his lap.

“You are here for a reason, now state it and leave.” I felt foolish sitting in my bathrobe talking to something not real.

“Ah, my pretty author, do I need a reason to visit you in my house? Remember that you are here at my calling. Let’s start with a name. What am I to call you?”

Oh God…I had not thought of this! After all these years, one would think he would know by now. I had three Christian names and tried not to think of them. I couldn’t fool the damn devil.

“Well, Sarah is taken now. And a bit morbid for me to call you that. Remember? Sarah is killed by your friend Obadiah. I’ll call you Bess from your middle name. I like the sound of that. Nice and docile.” He threw back his head and laughed.

I well remember what I write, you stupid devil. Why was he here this morning? Or more to the point, what in hell was I doing here in this bedroom?

“I came to apologize,” he said, offhandedly. “ I was a bit rough, not that you didn’t deserve it. I could have been a lot rougher, but then, you wouldn’t have been so nice to me.” The loathsome devil grinned.

“Ah, still with the names….and you were nice to me. Even if you resisted at first.”

“Garrett, that was almost a rape. You know that.” I wondered if he could feel remorse. I didn’t know how much was human, how much devil.

“Your own fault, Bess. You refused to kiss me. Had you been sweeter to me you’d have no problem at all. Next time allow me your mouth, it will go better for you.” He paused. “I don’t know how you could call that a rape, sweetheart. You fell in my arms fast enough.”

My mouth was open with shock. What an arrogant man…demon! But he was right. I had tried hard not to respond to his ardor, but my body was not of the same resolve. Blushing, I tried not to remember his lovemaking.

My stomach was rumbling, and snapping his fingers, a tray of tea appeared on the table between us.

“Would you like a cup?” I was trying to focus on something else, yet my hands shook.
.
“Yes, make it sweet, my love.” He turned his chair to face me. Looking over his cup, he caught my eyes. He was such a silly demon and appeared right at home in this bedroom.

“Before, it was ‘demon lover’. I liked that best. Could you please say it again?”

I smiled, touched at his vanity. ‘Yes, demon lover, and all attendant titles that go with it.” Oh God! What am I saying? Where is my sense? Where is my sanity?

“Ah, that’s better. Tell me, my Bess, what happens at the end of the book?”

“You mean you don’t know?” I was surprised, I thought he would. I hadn’t written it down, but knew the outcome for a number of years. I thought he was a mind reader.

“No, I don’t know. I have tried to read your confounded writing, but until you typeset it up into a book, I can’t. Tell me- do I survive Obadiah? Do I get the girl? What is my fate?”

“Do I look like a gypsy woman? Why should I tell you anything? I think that is the only power I have.” I sat back and looked at him smugly. Two could play at his nasty game.

“Oh, my darling woman, you have more power over me and John Thomas down here than you know. And speaking of cocks, who are these other men in your life? Does your husband know of the horns you are planning to put on his head?” He looked at me, his dark eyes flashing. I wondered suddenly if he ever had a soul.

“How would you know anything like that?” I rose from my seat, again, angry and stupid. Before I could formulate an answer, he rose from his chair and yanked me to him, hurting my wrist.

“You are full of fun, with no idea of consequences,” he said almost hissing with anger, pulling me close to him. “I would call you a cocktease, but you know what you are. You think your glib tongue will hold you from harm? It will lay you down for it. You are such a little fool.”

“You are hurting my wrist. Stop it!” My words were sharp and he dropped my arm. I stood there rubbing where his fingers now marked my skin.

He was angry about something. I could see that. Shocked by the violence of his words and hurting my wrist, I was growing afraid and tried to placate him with sweet words.

“Garrett….I created you from the desire of my loins. No mortal can compete with you. You are a subject of jealously among men, my demon friend”.

“Ah, not demon lover?” He was not so easily put off. He had a fine temper.

“Garrett, as a character, created by me, you are perfection. There is nothing lacking in you. I have seen to that. No human can hold a candle to you.” I wondered why I would say such a thing! Fear had to be the larger part of my thinking. He had the strength and violence of manhood, compounded by magic. I needed to be more cautious. He had the power of a demon, after all.

“Your words are not so original, but will do for now.”

He made a mocking bow, ending the argument. Placing his hands on his hips, he looked at me with a bemused expression on his face.

“I want some changes here. I am being starved by you, and your thoughtless writing.”

“What do you mean, sweet Demon?” I hoped my voice dripped with acid.

“Ah, nice and docile, Bess! I like that. Do it more.” He laughed but it wasn’t a cheerful sound.

“For a week I have fed on bread, cheese, and ale. Jennie doesn’t cook for me, nor does Daniel. I am hungry and that doesn’t make my temper better. I want some real food written into this damn novel. I want some Zuur Tong, Head Cheese, some Gehakt, a nice Hutspot a couple of times a week. I want you to bake me some kretenbroad.”

“All right, Garrett…translate those words.” Zuur Tong turned out to be Spiced Tongue, Gehakt was sausage, Hutspot was a one-dish meal of beef, mashed potatoes, onions and carrots and Kretenbroad was currant bread.

I couldn’t resist. “Why don’t you snap your fingers for the food to appear?” I smiled sourly.

He grimaced and scowled at me. “I can’t seem to manage more than a tankard of ale, some spirits and a tray of tea. I can levitate a chamber pot, but you don’t want to see that trick.”

I laughed and told him that I would make Daniel, the caretaker, bring in his niece, Anna, to cook. These were characters from the original book I had put aside for some other life.

“Good. Settled. Now come here, lambkin. He led me to the window that looked down to the river. Placing me in front of him, he put his arm around my shoulder, holding me.

“I don’t like sitting in that library all day, I want you to write me out there hunting. I want to bag more ducks. There are geese on the river bank for the taking, can you see them from here?” He stretched a long arm towards the general direction of the river, but I saw nothing in the gray, morning light
.
“Maybe a deer or two. I need some time with my guns, and I want to get a pack of dogs. Agreed? And about your Dutch.”

He was full of demands today. I had to smile. “What about my Dutch?”

“It is rotten. You write what you don’t know. Again. You should ask me. Like the word ‘fokken’….It doesn’t mean to ‘plow’…it means to copulate. Simple, isn’t it? Now, let us get fokken.” He tried to steer me towards the bed, but I twisted out of his reach.

“Stop, Garrett. You have the seduction manners of a goat.” He stopped in surprise in the middle of the room.

“I am unworthy of your cherry, plucked though it’s been. Forgive my manners, my lady.” He gave a low and elegant bow, and coming up, picked me up over his shoulder. He threw me hard on the bed and jumped on top of me.

“I can’t breathe, you monster! Get off me, give me some air!”

“I might, if you willingly give me your mouth this time.”

“And what do you intend to stuff in it? I know you, Garrett. I may have been oblique about your ‘lesson plan’ in the novel, but I think I know something of your appetites.”

He rolled off of me, laughing. Turning back, he propped himself on an elbow, stroking the hair from my face.

“You and I, we understand each other, no? Perhaps I don’t have to read every thought of yours. But it is fun, and it gives me an advantage.”

“It’s an unfair advantage, Garrett–and you know it. I have little independence when you do so.”

“Ah, but that is some of the delights of being a woman. You submit to me, in all things, and I will fill your–mouth with sweet things. I will stroke your limbs and warm your belly, and you will grow to open to me with pleasure.”

“Now who sounds like a second-rate novel?”, I said sarcastically.

“And what kind of novel are you writing? Do you even know?”

“I don’t, just something decent. Men are critical- and my girlfriends are even more so.”

“What do the men think?” He asked, distracting himself with his hands on my breasts.

“I thought that you would know this? Don’t you read my emails?”

“No, I don’t. Not yet. Isn’t there a password involved?”

“Why would a demon need a password? Aren’t you all seeing?”

“I’m trying, my sweet woman, to seduce you. I don’t give a damn about your letters. I want to know the competition. I want to know about these men who want to stick their tongues down your throat and part your pretty thighs. Why are you talking to them about the novel? Why mention us?

“I didn’t know that there was ‘an us,’ Garrett. You forget you are all fantasy. All in my mind, and all in my book.” I snapped my fingers; he was still there.

“I think that I am all between your legs right now.” He put his hand over my crotch, and stroked me through my gown.

“You want to kiss me, why don’t you start with my mouth?”

“You can delay all you want, you sweet witch. I have eternity here.”

“Then this is Hell? Purgatory? Something like Dante’s Inferno?

Putting his head next to my neck, he breathed gently on my skin. The warmth of his breath was arousing.

“Would you stop trying to figure it out and just let it be? Look, I will lie quietly with you, and we can coo together. I promise you will rise as virginal as you are now. Just go cook me something in the kitchen. I am fading fast.”

I promised to feed him but he didn’t keep his. The afternoon was a quiet one, as he slept on my breast. I had a chance to observe my demon lover closely, and he was as beautiful in life as anything I could put on the page. He would be happy with that, but of course, he already knows what I think.

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2007-2014


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