350. Master Basho’s Dojo (2)

Regular readers will notice that these posts are coming later in the day.

Keir, back from Cyan, has found Uke Tomiki after his disappearance. You really should read yesterday’s post first, if you missed it.

They ate supper with the master of the dojo as the evening fog rolled in to mask the hillside and hide the view of the slum. The old man introduced himself as Basho. At Keir’s puzzled expression, he explained, “The name is familiar, perhaps? Basho was a seventeenth century poet, famed for his haiku. I took his name when I opened this dojo. I was born under another name.”

They sat on tatami and ate rice with scraps of vegetables and fish. It was not fancy, but there was plenty of it. Keir suspected Uke’s back salary assured that.

Keir had wanted privacy to talk to Uke, but the master of the dojo was soon engrossed in his meal, and ignored them so completely that it was as if they were alone.

Keir said, “Uke, I need you.”

“For what, Keir?”

“Will you come with us to Cyan?”

“Of course,” Uke smiled. “I was only waiting for you to ask.”

“Why did you wait? You knew that you would be welcome.”

Uke looked serene, but it was apparent that it was a hard won serenity. Much pain lay beneath it. He said, “Keir, my arrogance almost cost you your life. Or made your life a thing not worth living.”

“How so.”

“My testimony.”

“You were in pain, and you only told what you knew.”

Uke shook his head. “No. If I had acknowledged my pain, I would have never put you in danger. I hid my pain, hid my uncertainty, and attacked the court-martial board. Their whole lives were dedicated to the acquisition of power, and I threw in their faces the fact that they had no power over me. If I had gone in meekly, they would have treated me gently, and I would never have been badgered into giving them the testimony they used against you.”

“You can’t blame yourself for what they did. I don’t.”

“Blame is not the issue, Keir. I cannot control what they were and what they did. But I should be able to control what I am and what I do – and I didn’t. I attacked when I should have been silent. I would never jump a kavine with my bare hands, because I recognize its danger. I did not recognize the danger that panel represented. Worse, I did not realize that my attack would put you in danger. And I should have.”

“And so . . .?”

“And so, I compounded my failure. I went from stupidity to stupidity. For a while, after the trial, I spent my time drinking, taking drugs, and walking dark streets alone, as if I were searching for death so that I would not have to face my failure. Eventually, I came to my senses and returned here, to regain my balance.”

“Returned?”

Uke nodded. Keir pushed his empty rice bowl aside and said, “When Stephan told me you had come here, we agreed that it was unlike you. You never seemed to have much feeling for your Japanese heritage.”

“That is largely true. My father was a fifth generation citizen of USA. He and his elder brother were most unlike one another. His brother embraced zen, became a black belt in several disciplines and spent much of his adult life in Japan. My father, on the other hand, loved football, beer, and everything American. What he knew about Japan, he learned in college. When he became ambassador, he went to Japan as much a foreigner as if his name had been John Smith. And I am my father’s son.”

“But . . .?”

“But even as a boy, I loved my uncle and, odd as his ways seemed to me, I spent time with him when he returned to San Francisco to found a dojo.”

They were silent for a moment, and the old man raised his chopsticks in a kind of salute. Keir said, “How old are you, Uncle?”

With mock formality, Uke’s uncle replied, “I have had the privilege of seeing the year ’06 once before, although I was too young to remember it.”

“Uke, are you ready to take on the world again?” Keir asked.

Uke looked toward his uncle, who nodded and said, “It is time.”

This is your last freebie. What are you waiting for – go download Cyan.

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