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Here are a couple of characters I have been writing about. They appear in the story previously posted (Haruki), set mainly around Ueno Park in Tokyo.

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~ Excerpt from ‘Haruki’ ~

a working title for a story in its first draft stage…

In the Tokyo district of Ueno lives Haruki, a homeless old man with a lot on his mind, but even more hidden deep within it. When he meets Noriko a 21 year old Japanese born Australian with problems that reach far into the Tokyo underworld the two embark on a mysterious and sometimes terrifying adventure.

1.

I am the Cawing Crow
If you listen you will know

Haruki’s pants filled with urine. It lets off a vapour in the bitter cold morning air as it seeps down his leg. A wry smile comes over his face as he takes comfort in the warmth it provides. His recent loss of control in this area had been worrying him, but on these icy cold mornings with winter approaching he has found it more a welcome surprise than an inconvenience.

The crows cawed above the way they always do early in the morning. Haruki gives a quiet caw back as if to say he is also awake. His eyes slightly slit open to survey where he has landed on this particular morning. Again he has managed to make it back to familiar territory, Ueno Park, or at least that’s what he assumes. He has slumbered on the side of a path beneath the now naked cherry trees. A mist is in the air and mildew beads on the branches of the trees. A drop even manages to fall into his tiny eye-opening. He squints furiously and lets out a grunt.

Two young men in suits walk by and their conversations are temporarily halted as they scan Haruki up and down. Haruki looks straight back at them. Unlike his fellow homeless he isn’t as ashamed to face those that look down upon him. His friend the Woodsman is always telling him to talk more to people. ‘Isolation leads to insane thoughts’ he would say as he carved another piece of elm branch into the shape of a pine branch. Haruki could never understand why he would want to carve something into what it already is albeit a different species, but its subtle transformation was important to the Woodsman. Besides, who was he to give advice about sanity.

Once the men pass and make their usual ‘bum’ remarks, Haruki gingerly arose to a sitting position. His hair is matted into six distinct spikes that would stick out on either side of his head. The rest he would tie into a top knot mitsu-ori style. One side was now flat against his jaw. He wiped his cheek and puffed it back up away from his face. The urine in his pants now turned cold and stuck to him. The temporary relief is given way to total discomfort, but Haruki knew how to block this sort of thing out. He would just ignore it and move on. He had even built up quite a resistance to extreme temperatures from years of exposure. With his skin red and thick like leather it provided a hardy armour.

As he gathers himself a crow flies down from the branch above. Haruki has been visited many times by the local crows, but this one he didn’t recognise. It just stood there frozen for a while.

“If you’ve got nothing to say to me then move on, I’ve got a lot to do,” Haruki said tongue firmly in cheek.

“Now is the time for the Dragon to slay his captor and fly to the west,” the crow finally spoke.

“What do you mean? Crows don’t talk in riddles, explain yourself.” Haruki demanded.

The crow just sat there frozen again for a few moments and then flew away. Haruki looked up to the branches above and called out to the other crows, “Who invited the crazy one? Doesn’t he know we don’t tolerate that around here.”

Somewhat bemused Haruki slowly rises to his feet. He is quite fit considering his age and lifestyle. He cannot remember exactly how old he is, but he does remember his birthday, 11 January 1929. He would never tell anyone this. He pulls back his layers of clothing and inspects a tattoo he has on his shoulder. The tattoo is very complex and seems to spread right around his body without end. It bares a montage of ancient motifs. He concentrates on one image in particular, that of a dragonfly. It is beautifully coloured and is so lifelike it almost appears to be three dimensional on his skin. It has translucent wings with an iridescent glow of the colours green, blue and purple and its body is long and elegant. He taps at it a couple of times as if to provoke it, but he soon gives up unsatisfied and slips his coat back over his shoulder.

Haruki grabs his walking stick which has of course been carved by the Woodsman. It is made of pine but shaped into the branch of a Sakaki tree. Sturdy, but crooked with a smooth texture, it seemed to mirror Haruki’s own legs. The Woodsman had even carved the leaves into the top that provide a smooth grip for Haruki. It was designed well, for both walking and for use as a weapon if need be. Sometimes at night the old men in the park would fall victim to the violence of young teenagers who were drunk and looking for a punching bag. The stick has grown quite smooth In the several years he has used it and it had a kind of varnish finish provided by the oil of Haruki’s hands.

He walks past the local primary school where some children have arrived early and are playing with a soccer ball. They are kicking it into a tall wire mesh fence. Haruki feels as though it is pounding into his own head each time it hits the wire. Sandwiched in by a tall concrete wall on the other side he squints as he shuffles down the narrow path. Having seen him, one of the children walks up to the fence threads his fingers through the wire and stares at Haruki. One by one three more of them follow and with a look of bewilderment and intrigue, they appear to have a million questions on their mind. Eventually their hypnosis is broken by the soccer ball pummeling into the back of one of their heads.

“Hey he’s just a bum! C’mon,” the culprit yells out in a squeaky voice.

Haruki keeps walking.

In a small lane-way behind a large department store Haruki sifts through a bin of discarded clothing and shredded material. He is not having much luck finding some replacement pants as most of what he finds is women’s clothing. Suddenly he hears some people approaching from inside. He steps behind the bin.

“I’m just gonna leave these out here and we can come back and shred them after we restock the post-Christmas stuff,” a young sales assistant calls out to one of his colleagues. He was dressed in tight black pants and a loose shirt with a loose skinny tie. His hair is teased up at the crown and the front is pushed across his forehead. He wheels a trolley full of red clothing with white trim and then reaches into his pant pocket and pulls out a packet of cigarettes and a lighter. With a flick of his wrist he lights up and takes a puff. Haruki watches as the smoke streams along the lane silhouetted by the low morning sun. He also notices as his own breath seems to do the same in the bitter cold air. Surprisingly for his generation Haruki has never smoked, he couldn’t understand the attraction, other than perhaps to watch young women do it. He would admire their poised hands as they gently guided the cigarette to their mouth, inhaled and then subtly caressed it while held up by their side. Some women are such masters of the form, he thought, so much so he could watch them for hours.

The young sales assistant finished his last puff and butted out his cigarette throwing it into the bin beside Haruki. After a few moments Haruki could walk back out into the middle of the lane and resume fossicking. He was intrigued to see if the trolley the young sales assistant brought out might bare something so he decided to take a look. He pulled one pair of pants out that seemed to be about his size. He wasn’t sure why it was bright red and with fluffy white fur at the ankles, but he at least they would be comfortable and warm, and that was all that mattered. Once he put them on and managed to tie them up he was satisfied and ready to move on to the train station where he would earn his days pay, all the while the message from the unfamiliar crow would keep repeating in his head.

Copyright (c) 2009 Stuart Wilson

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