The Jaguar was an unusual sight in the streets of this neighborhood, and those who frequented the area paused to look. They might have wondered who owned such a car and why they were here, but then went back to more immediate matters.
“There it is,” Daisuke commented. He noted the white mini-truck that was backed into the space beside the house. “Shall I wait?” He asked his rear-seat passengers.
“No,” Keru replied, “I believe this may take a while. We’ll call for you.”
Daisuke expertly pulled the Jag to the curb, then stepped out to open the rear door. Nanae alighted, and Keru got out from the street side. Together the two climbed the weathered stone steps to the door and rang the bell. Madoka answered the challenge and welcomed both in. After pleasantries and the presenting of a small gift, Keru was directed to the basement, while the ladies sat in the living room.
Squeezing through the narrow opening, Keru descended the stairs. “Okuda-san?” He called.
“Please, call me Goro,” a cheerful voice returned, “and do watch your step, my friend! Things are little cluttered down here.”
That was putting it mildly, Keru thought as he reached the bottom of the steps. Goro’s basement workshop was tiny indeed: a high workbench was mounted to the wall, with a thin narrow lane for Goro to stand or move. Behind him stood a lathe machine, a circular saw, plus other pieces of varied equipment. The room smelled of fresh woods and chemicals of some sort. He also noted a stack of flutes, all unfinished but ready for final action.
The two shook hands and bowed, but Goro first wiped his off. “Please sit,” he said as he indicated the high seat at the end of the bench.
“So this is from where all your work emanates?” Keru asked as he continued to look about him.
Goro chuckled. “It does,” he replied. “Even on the day the shop is closed,” he admitted, “there is work to do.” He picked up one of a stack of flutes, and offered it to Keru for his inspection.
Keru examined the detail work, and felt it in his hands. “This is most remarkable, Goro-san,” Keru finally said. “I’ve never come across one such as this. It plainly has your marks upon it.”
“Thank you.” Goro nodded appreciatively. “My father was a maker, and his father before him. None of us were ever great players,” he added quickly, “but enough to find out if the work was good enough.” Taking the instrument back, Goro played a short piece, which Keru recognized as a traditional one.
“Wonderful,” Keru replied and applauded when Goro was finished, “you are better than you think.”
“You are too kind, Keru-san.” Goro set the flute aside, and leaned against his bench. “Which I think leads us to this moment. How are you, and Nanae-san doing; and your children, of course?”
Keru replied, “Nanae and I have had some long talks, and we are working on it. Asuka has thankfully forgiven my sins, and she has embraced Minoru as her brother, but I knew she would. I regretfully sold my wife very short; Nanae has taken to Minoru as her own. All of us are doing our best to understand one another again. But, Goro-san,” he continued, “I’ve lost my way. So much of what I’ve accomplished in order to give my family a better life--I’ve rather lost what I was doing it for in the first place.”
Goro listened with interest. “I don’t think you are truly lost,” he replied, “you merely got sidetracked.” Stepping closer, he explained, “You see, Madoka and I have always been side by side in this business, and this family of course. We always wanted a child, and Aimi is the finest, no offense to other parents such as you,” Goro added in aside.
“None taken,” Keru replied as the two chuckled.
“We knew,” Goro went on, “that we would not become wealthy, even working together in this way. I learned the craft of my forefathers, and it is one I love. Madoka learned to paint from her family, and we do well enough. We always have tried to bring Aimi up with the value that each person has something to give, to contribute to this world, no matter how humble that gift may be. We don’t always know what that is right away; Aimi is unsure of her future, but we don’t push her. She will know soon enough, and we hope for her to be happy in her youth, before she gets old like us and has to actually get into the trenches!”
The two men laughed. “I have learned more,” Keru replied, “in just these few moments than I have in years. I was thinking as you spoke, of how my grandfather started this business of our family’s. He began in a fishing shack down by the water; it was probably not much bigger than this room! It was gone before my time, but I remember now the pictures he took of it. My father showed them to us on occasion, and he always reminded us that we could be right back there if we were not studious at our work, and what we did. That being said,” he went on, “there is a limit to how much one can do.”
Goro nodded. “So we’re not so far apart after all, eh?”
Keru smiled. “No,” he said and offered his hand. “Thank you, Goro-san. Your wife, and Aimi as well are like you, and you remind me of my family and our beginnings. We must never forget where we came from. I have, but I’m determined I will do what is right.”
“Good,” Goro said, “but then I know you will. I tell you what, let us go up and have some tea, before the women drink it all!” The men laughed again as Goro allowed Keru to precede him up the steep and narrow stairs.
The cards on the coffee table were spread out before the two women, and Nanae was explaining each of them. “We have here,” she said, “a reading which shows where all of us I think are, have been, and could be going. In certain cards, we have speed and strength--the Horse, and again Padmadakini shows up--the skywalker.”
“Kaldera, no doubt,” Madoka replied.
“I agree,” Nanae replied. “It was he who arrived in Asuka’s life, along with all the others, at a time when he was needed. She then pointed out two cards side by side. “The three of vajras and the three of double vajras are next to one other,” she said, “this is very interesting. The first deals with pain and suffering, and the next tells of support and guidance. It would seem all of us have had measures of that.”
Madoka nodded. “We all have,” she said, “and each of us finds a different way of handling it. Aimi bore Kira’s passing with great strength, yet we all knew how much she loved that girl, and missed her. They were both over at one another’s homes so much, her mother and I agreed that we’d introduce them as our ‘daughters.’”
Nanae laughed. “Ebissan was a dear friend,” she said, “and her sudden death was as shocking as it was painful. Minoru hurt so deeply over it all, and Asuka was the only one that could really comfort him. She would have, even had she known they were related.”
“How is Minoru?” Madoka asked. “How is he dealing with these changes, and Asuka as well?”
“They are both well,” Nanae said, “and I made sure that Minoru knows that no matter what, I accept him as my son. Stepson technically, but he is my son. I can do no less than that. He’ll be moving in soon, and Asuka and I are making his room ready. Keru also is taking us on a sail this weekend, just the four of us, so we can be together.”
“You are very forgiving, Nanae,” Madoka told her, “to forgive Keru for keeping quiet all these years, that is something.”
Nanae shrugged. “I have already made Keru suffer,” she replied, “by not sleeping with him! But it is not in my nature to carry a grudge. I do love Keru, very much; he is, despite what many think, a very compassionate and kind man. He just needs to rediscover it. Oh, and that I think is where this card fits.”
She motioned to the card that held the image of a woman. “Yasodhara is the future empress,” Nanae explained, “the feminine principle, of desire and wants!”
The two women shared the laugh as Goro and Keru came upstairs; they would keep this joke a private one.
“Okay, Kaz,” Kaldera said, “start us up!”
Kaz grinned and nervously began to strum the chords of his song. He and the others were seated or standing on the deck in the late afternoon sun. There was one other in the club today: Marlie was back to stay at Kaldera’s for another night. Having one professional musician to judge was tough enough, he thought; now there were two.
“My father told me when I was just a child, don’t lend your fancy to the wind…”
Minoru played on acoustic as well, as Kaz made his way through the song. As he played, he wondered about the words he’d had this morning with his parents. He was up early to use the bathroom; before leaving for work, they asked to speak to him.
Kaz had at first thought he was going to get a talking-to over that strange boy that was passed out on the couch, but his parents evidently figured out Minoru’s identity. They stood near the door, his father, a stocky bearded man in his mechanic’s uniform, his mother, taller and thin, in her department store outfit. Keeping their voices low so as not to wake Minoru, both told Kaz what he’d long suspected.
“Your mother and I,” the father said, “will be separating. We have talked long about this, and we can find no recourse.”
Kaz looked to his mother, who nodded and said, “What remains of our marriage is worth saving, but not in that way. There is much to consider, but we wanted to tell you face to face.”
“We’re sorry.” Both his parents’ expressions were of hurt, and Kaz could only feel for them. “We have used you,” his father went on, “to take out our frustration. Please believe us when we say that you are not the one at fault. You have been a fine son, and you always will have us to love and support you.”
Kaz found himself going to them both, and pulling them to him. “I can’t fight you on that decision,” he said, “but I can love you both, and I will. Always.” It was so strange, that conversation; it was short and to the point, but then my parents have always been that way. Minoru didn’t even wake up. I don’t know what my home will look like in the future; I gather that Dad is leaving, but I’ve been given the choice to go in whatever direction is right for me. I can wait on that; I will let things unfold as they should.
“But I pressed on and I lived to see the light
And breathed the wind of a new day
And though it took some time to see Dad just wasn’t right
I’ve learned to teach my kids to say…”
Kaz kept his head lowered, his eyes on his fingers to make sure he didn’t slip up, but he could see certain people’s faces. Aimi was smiling, as was Asuka. We talked after visiting Kira’s grave; Asuka understands how I feel, but needs time to figure out where she is right now. That’s all right; her friendship is more than enough.
“Don’t fear the climb though you may have to crawl
You’ve just got to fight on when you hit those walls
Don’t be discouraged if the battle’s uphill
There’s nothing stronger than the strength of your will
You’ll never know what you can achieve
Until you believe…”
Kaz hit the high notes and dragged them out, Minoru doubled his own rhythm, and they ended with a flourish. Everyone cheered, and Marlie applauded and nodded in approval. Kaz looked to Minoru, and grinned. He hadn’t believed his own words, at least not until now.
(Writer's Note: "Climb" is written by John Lauver, and was performed by members of Ahltyrra. It has not been recorded.)
There you have it!
There you have it!