Monday, August 5, 2013



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     The next time Bunsa was called to work in another village, Moriko couldn't go with him: she was pregnant. Bunsa could hardly wait to get back home, but when he ran up the steps and into the front room of his house, there was nobody there to greet him. The whole place had a feeling of neglect that chilled Bunsa to the bone. He found Moriko in the back yard. She looked at him with the empty, hollow eyes, and he knew the truth. She miscarried. Holding her gently, he felt the salt of his tears in his mouth. He was so upset, that she had to go through the terror of losing a child without him! Moriko didn't cry. She quietly hugged him, with all her might. 
     Time after time, Moriko got with a child and lost it in the first three months. Her songs stopped. She went about the house in a pragmatic, efficient way, made meals and did everything a good wife should do, but the joy of life left her eyes. The only time she looked half her old self, was in the forest. Bunsa tried to go with her like before, but she softly, but with the steel in her voice, told him to stay home. She spent hours in the woods now and came back as a wild woman: with twigs and leaves sticking in her unbound hair. Her eyes looked at Bunsa and the household as if she couldn't right away recognize them. "Outliving them, Outliving them all,-Ah, the cold!" 
     Whether Bunsa was the one to bring cholera to Shnano-machi or not, nobody could tell. The fact was, he returned from a trip with a fever. It got worse in the night. The vomiting and bloody diarrhea quickly stole his strength and left him limp and lifeless. Nothing that Moriko or the village doctor did helped him. This was a new kind of sickness, that nobody in the countyside experienced. Soon, half of the Shinano-machi's population was horribly ill. Moriko stopped going to the forest; day and night she stayed by Bunsa's bed, wiping the bitter sweat off his brow, bringing him water and washing him. She changed sheets often, but very soon they were soiled again. Bunsa laid on the bed, but his restless, tortured spirit roamed the rooms and the decimated village. In his fevered mind, he felt Moriko's cool hand on his forehead and blessed her name, but, sometimes, it seemed to him that, the fox was looking at him from the bedside! The little fox, that he met on the way to Shinano-machi! It was then that the first suspicions took root in his brain. Surely, it was Moriko, softly cajoling him to take a sip of water! But the next thing he saw, were the black tips of the fox's ears and it's tail, as it turned away from him. 
     Moriko was at her wits' end. She went into the woods and brought back the bark of 'yanagi' - the willow tree. She boiled it and forced Busna to swallow the desperately bitter liquid. His fever went down, but he was still lost in his imaginings. Once, there was a quiet knock on the door and a greeting: "Konnichiwa, konbangwa!" The old man came to Shinano-machi, to offer his aid to the dying people. Moriko was never more glad to see anyone else. Together they tended to Bunsa and to some of their neighbors. The use of the willow bark and the old man's suggestion that they should gather all the sick in one place and burn the dead and their houses and belongings, made a huge difference. Slowly the village revived. People helped each other to rebuild and continue with the business of life.
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