Friday, December 6, 2013



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      In the spring, Bunsa was called for a job in the old man's village again. Moriko and he agreed to go there together with a baby, to check of their friend and let him take part in their joy. The trip took a little longer than the last time, because, plus to both young people's desire to spend some time in the woods, like they did as the newlyweds, taking care of the baby's needs delayed their arrival.         The old man looked like he was buried in his work for a good while. His eyes and cheeks were sunken, it was obvious that he didn't bother to cook for himself, and no one else did neither. He warmly welcomed his young friends to his house and was overjoyed to see Kokuro. Moriko immediately began to cook and scrub the floors. The men sat and smoked over the cups of sake. "I am writing a fantastic story" - the old man said finally. "Would you like to hear it?" Bunsa bowed deeply: "Yes, please, it will be an honor!" 
     From the kitchen Morko heard the old man rise to get his writing and settle back on the tatami
     "After a long battle for the lives of my fellow countrymen" - the old man began - "I stayed with my dear friends in a nearby village. They were a young couple, but the pain and suffering touched their lives as well. On a calm evening, I stood gazing into their backyard, when, in the approaching dark, I saw a small fox carrying a bird in her mouth emerge from the trees. I was about to share this good omen with my friends, for the fox is a powerful spirit and can be a great ally, when the fox dropped a bird and began to shimmer!" 
     The men heard the crash in the kitchen. They rushed there to see, what happened. Moriko sat amid the fallen crockery and spilt rice, horrified. She brought her hand forward in a gesture of supplication. The old man, after taking in her dismay, walked up to her and said quietly: "I know, what you are. Don't you think, your husband should also know the truth?" 
     Bunsa looked at him and Moriko, not understanding, what it was about. He almost went to her then, but her form began to shimmer and change! He leapt backwards, smashing into the low table. Where Moriko was, only her clothes laid on the kitchen floor. Inside them something was hiding, not daring to come out. 
     Bunsa reached for a broom and nudged the pile of clothes with it's handle. A small furry face with the whiskers and erect ears timidly emerged from it. A fox was glancing anxiously between Bunsa, the old man and the door, as if thinking to dash out! 
     As if struck by lightning, Bunsa staggered out of the kitchen into the bedroom, where Kokuro was sleeping. He fell on the floor by his son's form. Thoughts were racing through his mind, the memories of his visions during the sickness, the suspicions that he pushed away. Like the waves, those thoughts crashed against one single question: "What was he supposed to do now?" 
     He heard the door slide aside and, in a little while, the dogs' barking. It sounded like a whole band of them were after something. "Moriko!" He acted on pure impulse to protect his wife. He ran out of the house and bounded toward the forest, where the chase was leading. He came upon the snarling dogs at the foot of the woods, where the fox hid in a hole in a tree's trunk. 
     Bunsa didn't have any protection with him: no staff or a stick to repel the dogs' attack. Nevertheless, he put himself between Moriko and her vicious pursuers. The old man arrived also, panting and huffing, but armed with two strong canes that he brought from the house. Together, they were able to inflict enough damage to dissuade the dogs from staying there any longer. 
     After the last of the beasts fled, Bunsa and the old man tried to convince Moriko to come out. In vain, they called her name into the tree hole. Perhaps, she already left through another opening... 
     Bunsa forgot all about a job that he was there to do. For days, he stayed in that wood, searching for his changeling-wife. The only thing on his mind and heart was, how to get her back. The old man hired a young girl in the village to look after Kokuro. Time to time, she would bring the boy to his father and look in confusion and sympathy as he'd shed tears onto the warm baby-bundle. What was he to do? Abandon his son, his people and live in the forest in hopes that Moriko will one day come back to him? 
     There was only one choice open to him. The old man saw him and Kokuro to the edge of the village and bid them good bye, promising to keep an eye out for Moriko-the-fox. 
     "Everything I touch with tenderness, alas, pricks like a bramble." 
     The hardest part was to avoid Moriko's parents' questions about her disappearance. Bunsa couldn't tell them the truth about their daughter, neither could he simply say that she suddenly died, for the hope that she might change her mind and come back. He steeled himself to the villagers' nosy inquiries and tried to focus on day-to- day living. A lady from Shinano-machi took his son in. Bunsa saw him every few days. He brought the rapidly growing boy home and on the fair days spent a lot of time with him in the back yard, as he used to do it with Moriko. In the evenings, when the fireflies came out and filled the space between the trees with their glow, Bunsa learned to restrain himself from dashing into the woods, because after many attempts to do so, he accepted that it was never going to be the shimmer of Moriko's transformation that he saw there. 

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