Wherever it goes.
It hadn’t left him in a long while, further back than he could remember, always walking beside, always accompanying, four soft padded paws on the pavement as they moved down the narrow darkened street. Protected from the inclement weather the long coat swished along the road and the large black hat kept the long hair from getting drenched.
Not knowing where he was going was always difficult for the traveler and a quick glance down showed they had not yet reached their destination. The striking green eyes of his companion always felt like he was staring into the void of space with the stars shining through the black emptiness.
He had always loved the mix of wood, concrete, tarmac and stone that gave the capital such an eclectic montage of styles that shone through regardless of the age in a harmonious way not seen in other cities. Even in the rain there was a warmth that radiated through him and gave him strength to continue on even when it seemed sapped away by the days activity. Pausing in front of a scruffy vending machine he studies his face in the worn and scratched metal on the side. How many faces had he seen over the years, the same eyes but a different look. Feeling the lines and contours of his face he thinks back to his ‘younger’ years and the fresh smooth looks of his upbringing. The hot wind of summer, the smell of wild flowers and long grass brushing against his leg, were all still there but faded, muted by time and age.
The sun started to peek through the clouds and turning his head he holds up his hand to shield his eyes from the glare.
Must be about 4 or 5 pm, delivery drivers going home, kids coming back from school, part timers walking to their evening jobs in the cafes and restaurants.
His companion had decided to stop and wash its mucky paws and had perched itself on a block of concrete next to a planter of brightly coloured flowers. They almost looked like an afterthought, an echo of when this might have been a field full of wild plants. It brightens up some must say is a dank and uninviting street he thought to himself.
So you need a rest break too eh? Not sue the owner wants you to fertilise their garden. You could have been more careful. Better find a restroom because I’m not taking your idea as a good one, too out in the open and he shakes his coat as to emphasise the decision.
You know you could be a little less brash with your words, after all I am just a four legged feline who needs to relieve myself in the best way I can. But as elegant as your words are you can only (and he bends down to bring his face down to the same level) look back at me with those twinkling green eyes. Wait here…. I will ask the cafe across the road if it has a loo and don’t get too cosy, we aren’t staying here tonight.
Unbuttoning his jacket he loosened it from his shoulders attempting to look less threatening to those inside the establishment. The door swings shut and the majority of the customers look over to see who has entered their space. Two youngish looking businessman sit opposite each other and glance up before returning to their conversation and the plans on the table pointing to something important. As he walks past the drinks seem cold, obviously discarded in favour of the scribbled drawings that looked like some kind of map with badly drawn car and roads. To get to the bar he winds his way through the seating where a group of high schoolers sit talking about their day and the latest anime. Catching a few words, something about devils and phantoms he catches one of their eyes who takes an interest before turning away towards his friend again.
I will have a strong cappuccino and some of that, he points over to a slice of red velvet cake and I’m going to need your restroom. The barrister nods and indicates with his head the direction of the facilities. Peeling off his coat he leaves it over the tall bar chair and pushes open the wooden swing door.
Adjusting his trousers the sound of nature reverberates through the room as he thinks about the travelers luck or lack of it. Down to our last few yen and that will all be gone by the time we pay for the drinks… and when I say “we” I mean “me” I suppose. Looks like we might have to stay in an ally tonight little one. Shaking off he catches a advert on the wall opposite that catches his attention.
Ripping it off the wall he studies the badly drawn artwork on the poster and enters back into the main room and sits down sipping his coffee.
Oh so you have seen the advert, I’m sorry about that, the local students want to raise money to fund surgery for a sick lad at the hospital. They say his injuries are quite severe and the drugs are to expensive for the family to afford.
As he studies the art more closely he realises its a picture of a haunted house. Not very imaginative eh?
Taking another sip from the cup he pulls out his phone and rings the number on the top. A shrill ringing comes from the table in the middle of the cafe.
“Its that guy from over there” ehh!
“What at the bar? Oh he is looking directly at us”.
“He looks dangerous, best to ignore him”.
You better go over if you want to speak to them. Kiro is the leader of the group if you need a name, not a bad boy but desperate to save his friend. Go see him.
Pressing hang up on the phone he walks up to the group who seem to be a bit nervous.
“Hajimamaste” erm “look im looking for a gig and…well I see you are looking for some entertainment for your party?”
“well I, no we are but not sure if an old geezer is what we are looking for” Kiro pipes up before trailing off as the other elbows him in the side.
“To say… “ he rubs his stomach trying to ease the bruse “well yes but what can you offer us in return?”
“Let me see” and with that he pulls out a tattered looking book and starts to draw with a half bitten pencil, scratching the surface with quick strokes.
“Blue flowers in a field looking down from a tall tree. The summer breeze is flowing through the leaves as you lounge together on a branch halfway up” his eyes face forward and then back again to his book as he draws some more. “ the scent of flowers and the warm sun make you want to….” and he closed the book shut with a snap that made the spine fall apart and as he fails to recover it falls on the floor, the contents dispersing across the room.
“What was that Kiro, your mad if you think he can help”? he says picking up his bags and heads towards the door and the others follow and head out down the street. Tiger quickly manoeuvrers the door and sits down by the bar washing its bottom.
Kiro helps him to pick up the bits of paper and hands them back as the traveller stuffs them back into its binder. “Oh shit. I have had that book for 80 years… ahhhh…damn… something else to buy now…”
Looking about Kiro spies another piece under the table and picks it up drawn in by the drawing of a tree and two boys sitting in the branches looking down at some blue flowers.
“This isn’t just a coincidence is it?” and he wipes his mouth with his hand “its myself and charlie when we were younger?” and holding it out he offers it back to the traveller.
“Well it’s something you hold close soooo… you keep that drawing if you wish, and if you want to know more than I can offer my services as a sort of fortune telling at your party if you wish. I’m sure we can raise some money for you and your boyfriend?”
“He isn’t my… well… ehh… what I mean is well… err” and he stutters slightly as his eyes sparkle slightly revealing his true thoughts.
At that moment a connection was made and his memories came back with the clarity as if they happened yesterday. I flood of thoughts mixed from his subconscious and reality hit him all at once. A tear rolls down his face and wiping it away he bows deeply. “Arigatou gozaimasu. I would be grateful if you could attend the party. Please bring your notebook and your talent to wow the clients attending. I will make sure you are paid well from the profits on the day.”
Slinging his bag across his shoulder he bows again and runs after his friends down the road with renewed energy.
Turning back to the bar he stares at an empty cake the remains of which are on the floor being licked up by tiger. “ugh now your belly is full maybe I should pay the man for the hospitality of his establishment eh?”
Bending down he picks up tiger and puts him down on a table leaving the feline to lick his face clean.
“I have not seen Kiro so emotional in a long time” the bar man mentions as he cleans a few glasses. “Look I can see your down on your luck so how about you finish off the drink and then you can clean the shop for me as payment. I have a bed roll of you want to kip here tonight?”
Tiger curls up and rests its head on the table. “Looks like we are staying here tonight thank you”.
The store opened early as it had customers from the dockside and the train station all wanting a fix of strong take away coffee freshly ground that morning. The traveller and his companion were walking towards the docks to get some fresh air and stretch their cramped legs.
“I think you will be looking for fish this morning I suppose?” but the feline just skips along the road beside him not looking up at all.
“Well it looks like we will have to be imaginative today seeing as we have no money!”
The docks coming into view gave off that fish smell missed with its own urban city dirt and fumes. The cold of dawn was moving towards the warmer air of morning as workers began to open shops, warehouses and shutters. A lone figure was at the side of the concrete jetty sitting on a fold up chair with rod in hand so the traveler decided to see who was so intent on fishing at this time of day.
Sitting down beside the man holds up his hand to shield his eyes from the glare of the morning sun reflecting off the water. Tiger paws at a float stuck to the back of his chair.
“Yes morning friend”. He answers back with a gruff voice that reveals his age.
“A truly beautiful day to be fishing” he says looking at the guarded features of his face.
“Join me if you want, I have no one else to be talking to. There is a spare rod on the ground behind me.” and he indicates with his thumb over his shoulder.
The traveler reaches over and picks up the brightly coloured rod that seems to catch the light at every angle. Untangling the line he casts off not too far from the old man’s hoping to catch something to eat.
“It was my sons, but he has no use for it now and never wanted to admit to using it especially around his friends. I think they ribbed him for its colour more than he would like to admit.” and with that he sighs slightly. “But thats then and this is now, I’m sure he won’t mind you using it. Infact I can hear him saying something like I don’t have time for this old man. Im young and need to use my energy to express myself not sit about all day.”
“keep anything you catch” and he reaches down and strokes Tiger who has curled up under the chair.
“So your son was close to you?” the traveller asks.
“He was, well is but he isn’t well and is kept in bed now. I would want nothing more than to be able to sit with his just once fishing with his rod and catch a fish. Even if its small but well…”
“But… I have other worries right now. My ex-wife has divorced me and wants to sell our house as payment for herself. A property investor has taken an interest and although the house is very old its set to be demolished to make way for apartments.”
The line dips slightly and he pulls back but the bait has already gone. “Ugh I’m too slow”
The traveller helps to add more to the hook and the old man casts off again. “Lets see if my luck changes shall we?”
A shadow casts across the ground towards the two men sitting at the edge and two suits come into view.
“Mr Izumi we have come to see you one last time to see if you have changed your mind on the sale of the property. You know if you sign now you stand to get at least a small payment from the government even if you don’t get to keep the main processes of the sale.”
The old man turns his head very slightly “I can’t sell as I need more money than what you can offer. I know its not going to change so I would rather have nothing than a dream I can’t reach with such a small amount.” Stretching his arms he places the rod down on the rest and turns around to face them. “It’s a NO from me. Even a small amount of hope is better than none and that’s what keeps me going these days.”
The sun had risen more in the sky but the traveller could make out the features of the men he met at the cafe the other day writing the map on the paper.
The click of hard soles on the concrete fades away and the sun beats down again as the old man adjusts the umbrella to shield them some more.
“Its only a matter of time and the courts will foreclose on the land I own and then I will be left with just my memories. But I won’t give in to those thugs in suits. I won’t give in. Never.” he says gripping the rod with both hands.
Tiger jumps up onto his lap and the traveller puts his rod onto the rest and picks out the remains of his book. Scrapping around he finds a page that still has no drawing on and starts to sketch a drawing. “Its just a sketch but maybe to you it… might mean something important?”
The old man lifts his sunglasses and takes the page from the book. “Well its a sword of sorts but looks like its half fish half sword to me. Is this meant to mean something to me? I don’t.. think so.. no I’m sure it isn’t important. If it is that can’t help me now but I will keep it in mind.”
The two hear a plop as the float goes down and they both scrap towards the pole and heave it up as the traveler winds in. “Ahh ahh get the net, get the net”
As they lower the big fish into the net it flops and flaps about thrashing out its last moments of freedom. “ohhh, you must come around tonight and share this on the fire in our garden. We can feast on our hard work together!”
“It would be my pleasure, here I will write down my number in your book and he opens it up and finds hundreds of other numbers as well.”
“Erm” the traveller replies. “I’m well travelled but please put down your address and I will be there later tonight and I promise good memories too.” and with that he shakes his hand warmly and heads off towards the main street.
Tiger moves in beside him and rubs up to his leg as they move along the road. “Looks like we may have a nice bit of grilled fish tonight, but for now we will just have to wait”.
As they walked back into town most of the commuters had disappeared and only a few students going to school were left trying desperately to get in before the gates closed.
“Lets set up near the market, we wont get many objections there…and I need a new empty new book to use”.
Getting some advice from a passing kid they head off towards a local stationery shop and pushing open the door he goes inside. Breathing deeply he can smell the fresh waft of new unused paper products that you only get in a few places. Skimming over the different shapes, colours and designs he lets his fingers rub over the spines of the sketchbooks until he feels like he can connect with one and pulls it from the shelf.
“Looks like its purple today” and he fingers the pages for thickness and roughness. Picking up the book in both hands the places one on the top and one on the bottom and lets the energy flow from his body into the binding. A bright yellow/gold stream emanates from his fingers and then fades away.
Grabbing a handful of HB pencils the traveller purchases them from the nice guy behind the checkout and head outside where Tiger is waiting.
“Back in business little one” he said.
The market was busy with traders of all different kinds of stalls, some selling second hand items some food and some traditional Japanese crafts for the tourists.
Picking his way through the stalls he finds an open space and rolls out a mat sitting down in the centre. Pulling a simple wooden sign from his bag he places it in front of him and Tiger joins him stretching out so it looks like he doubled in length soaking up the sunshine.
A few polite passes by said good morning then we had our first customer. A young boy with a satchel on his back sat down and asked for his fortune to be read. “Please onegai shimasu” he asks with earnest.
“Well as long as you make sure you get to your class straight afterwards”. and with that he takes out his notebook and starts to draw out a sketch.
“if you really want to know something important then you need to go to this building and ask to see your records”. What my book is showing me is that what you have been told is not correct and with that he shows him the drawing of the building and its name.
“Ahh this is rubbish. I wanted you to tell me that Im going to win the lottery or become a manga artist. Thanks for nothing old geezer”. and with that he gets up and runs off.