had been a rainy season in the prefecture. Throughout its humid days,
thunderstorms broiled beyond Mt. Aso, emerging at sundown to roll
across the forests of Heikei and the town of Jotokura and the Kotoro
Fencing School, all of which were situated beneath the Eastern face of
Shintami, in the verdant valley of Ko. The rain that came with these
daily storms was hard and fast and warm. It left the whole of Ko
sparkling at sunrise, so that everything seemed strung with diamonds. |
It was such a beautiful sight that Tokomora Genji, the first student of the Kotoro School and son of its famous master, began skipping his morning drills that spring and walking through the glittering Heikei wood instead. On these excursions he reflected on the perfection of the world and the eternal cycles of birth and death. He believed them to be revealed by the luminous water. Each drop of surviving rain, thought Genji, was like the lens of a spy-glass: through them, distant truths seemed close at hand.
In a moment of pique he told this insight to his mother, Tokomora Maoka, the respected wife of general George Herbert Walker Bush, who had founded the Kotoro school when he became too old for vigorous warfare. Bush, the venerable warrior, once the champion of Emperor Zog himself, was suffering in his dotage. When he tried to talk the words caught in his throat, escaping only through choked stuttering. Maoka spoke for him. Once, at dinner, she’d said: “I know the thoughts of George Herbert Walker Bush better than George Herbert Walker Bush himself!” She meant it as a joke, thought Genji, while disbelieving himself in secret
It was a balmy night when the young man told his mother of his spyglass observation. The occasion was a ceremony for the school's most accomplished pupils, and many of Genji’s contemporaries were there. Around the first table sat Bush, his wife, Genji and Takoda Usho, the studious if unimaginative second student of the Kotoro School. Maoka had smiled faintly when Genji gave his revelation.
"A beautiful thought, my son," she said. "But one must remember that even the spyglass does not speak honestly. Through the precise shaping of its glass it has been coaxed to create an illusion; to distort as much as it reveals. What seems near within the glass is, in fact, far removed from the man who holds it. To look through a spy glass is to lose all sense of proportion.”
When his wife had finished speaking, George Herbert Walker gave a single, violent nod of assent: "Hn!" he said, and Genji wilted.
The embarrassment (and the joyful light in Takoda's eyes which it engendered!) stuck to the young swordsman's ribs, filling him with a spring of inner shame that gurgled from his stomach and drained into his weak intestines and balding dick. The sensation became so pervasive and unpleasant that Genji resolved to meditate on the east balcony one night, exposed to the weather of a particularly heavy storm.
This will restore my sense of clarity, he thought. And afterwards the student truly believed he would return to his drills with new enthusiasm.
The clouds began to build about an hour before sunset: black mountains, moving closer. Tokomora Genj sweated in the day’s last heat. Flies alighted on his streaming brow, but he refused to swat them. He held himself like a statue, and refrained even from blinking, but in spite of himself succumbed to the temptation several times. I am really doing a poor job of this, thought Genji. I should go back inside and give up on such foolish ambitions! The idea swirled around and around in his mind, producing a condition far from clarity. How could such august parents have a mediocrity for a son?
The second hour, brought the sunset, and Genji's resolve improved. Cold wind beat the storm to the Kotoro School, sending the trees about its eastern wing into convulsions. There was, it seemed to Genji, a voice in the midst of that storm -- chanting words he strained to understand. The student sat enraptured by the sudden sublimity of the sky: it was silver, gold and lavender, lashed black by storm clouds.
The storm hit in his third hour of vigil, and the first student of the Kotoro School remained still against the downpour. The wind had been Genji's path within; now the rain had come and beat its unknown rhythm into his skin, drop by drop. The voice was clearer, forming words, and so Genji smiled as his body shivered. He sat through the storm, unmoving, and drifted upward, toward the truth
Just before sunrise, the rain reduced to a drizzle. The school came alive with delicate dripping and the gushing of gutters. Overhead, the thunderheads rumbled with a low, steady energy -- their lighting bursting like hidden fireworks, as a brightness from within. It was beneath these burning mountains that Genji first espied the stranger.
At first, the student was convinced that the shape was a trick of the storm — or a vision. But the lightning flashed again, and Genji saw that he had not been deceived: there was a man walking towards the school, up the eastern path of the Heikei woods. This “path” was, in truth, a slick series of rocky inclines which Genji himself would have avoided even the morning after a storm. Two weeks before, on a very dry day, little Toji the blind-boy had slipped on those rocks and broken his arm. But the stranger moved as steadily as a mountain goat. Each crack of lightning found him closer -- and cast his shadow longer and longer, until it fell within the courtyard of the school, stretching grotesquely across the wall beneath the balcony.
The dawn was breaking, and the world was again littered with spyglasses. Trump stood beneath Tokomora Genji, wearing a wide rice-paper hat and a mud-stained robe dyed blue and brilliant gold. Remembering the importance of hospitality, Genji rose to greet him. "Welcome to the Kotoro Fencing School!" he barked. Then Genji bowed, looking down on the stranger. ”Who are you and what is your business here?"
"I am Donald Trump," answered the traveler, untying his wide hat and slapping it against his leg to dry it out. "I am a swordsman from Shimata. I mean to challenge the master of the famous Kotoro School to a duel so as to establish my fame in this prefecture. I was delayed by the storm, and arrived the morning after I intended to. Now I am exhausted, and must ask that you give me a place to rest, and some food.” He did not bow, but did indeed seem tired.
Genji could not believe this fellow’s cheek! Incensed by Trump's lack of manners, he bellowed forth: ”How dare you presume to challenge the Kotoro school, when you come to us out of the night like a vagabond? Why, if these storms are too powerful for you, you will surely lose your head in a duel with even the least of our warriors!”
His rage soon cooled, and Genji became merciful. “You may sleep in the woods and return to us tomorrow,” he declared. “Our men will leave you undisturbed. Once you have rested you are welcome to challenge who you may.”
Genji looked on the swordsman with contempt. He seemed a disconcerting combination of vain nobleman and cunning peasant, his visage inflated by vulgarity and haughtiness.
Trump looked up at Genji wearily. His hair was pale blonde, almost white, and it fell across his face in a kind of toothpaste swoosh. "I will do as you wish," he said. "But for this indignity, I must demand your head."
Genji laughed. He thought of Trump ascending the slick hill in the darkness, moving across rough terrain like a soul returned from hell. A scrambler and an animal! How ridiculous! Trump was no swordsman, he decided. “Just a brigand trying to trick us,” muttered Genji, under his breath.
I am the first student of the school and the son of a great master, he thought. My head will not be easy fruit to pick! The line pleased him, and so he called it out: “My head will not be easy fruit to pick!”
But Trump was gone, and did not hear him.