Shepherd's Table Illusion
Both tables are the same size
Chapter Sixty Five
Manolo and Eloise join me as morning training ends, it wasn't strenuous and the weather is cool, I didn't break a sweat.
"How's the lab?"
Eloise, "Interesting, technology with herbs, powders and liquids instead of silicon and wires."
Manolo, "Eloise says we can upgrade our systems, automate everything off a control panel, or even an IPad. Can she spend some time on it?"
"That's up to Eloise," I look at her, "what do you want to do?"
"It is only a version of what we have at home. They use electricity to heat, not gas, there are some gas burners for test projects, to make small batches. It may be better to get smaller sealed vats, no chemicals boiling off in the air. Plus, I can fix it so they operate electronically. The chemical analysis is incomplete. It will be more accurate to use a spectrometer to get exact compositions of gases, liquids and solids. Even better for liquids is chromatography, Hitachi makes HPLC systems, they can know exact concentrations of each chemical in the liquid."
"What do they cost, do you know?"
"Used low end HPLC, maybe thirty five hundred, up to twenty thousand. The spectrometer is around seven thousand."
David Li joins us, we walk to the dining hall, I ask, "Eloise seem to think you could use a couple of pieces of chemical analysis equipment."
David, "It would greatly enhance precision, also help us filter out contaminants. Up until we started doing more pharmaceutical preparation, exact chemical analysis in liniment didn't seem so important. Miyako knows how to use all of it, she brings her stuff to a lab. We can hardly bring our specialty mixtures to a lab."
We enter the dining hall, meals are eaten in silence, further discussion will have to wait, unless you can mental.
Janah, "He should have that, we don't need contaminated truth serum, and it would be more effective and consistent with chemical analysis. Surprised he didn't ask for it in the first place. Never occurred to me."
"Eloise can price it out, go over what he needs, both items don't come to twenty thousand. Automating his systems is nothing, a set of smaller distillation vats is peanuts."
Today is garden meatloaf, brown rice, vegetarian egg drop soup, cornbread. We enjoy, and enjoy the monks clear pleasure in a nutritious hot meal. There is breakfast and lunch in the temple, no evening meal. Janah changed policy to allow for tea, cookies and another soup, usually vegetable with tofu or mock duck in the late afternoon. That isn't a silent meal, it isn't formal. Monks can eat in the dining hall or take something outside to enjoy for an hour before evening meditation. We have young kids and growing adolescents, nothing for dinner doesn't cut it.
Janah and I endured those hungry nights, then I started offering 'thick' tea in the afternoons that contained mashed rice and tofu. It wasn't tea, it was vegetable stock, but my sneaky extra food service was overlooked. When Janah became Abbess, the extra 'snack' began appearing and a new tradition started.
Lunch over, I talk to Eloise and David outside, "Figure out what you need and give Janah a requisition for the items and cost. You can go ahead and order it, we just need an email of the bill for the bookkeepers."
All our records are digital now. The days of filing cabinets and paper are gone. Like Murakami Sylk, Janah can scan spreadsheets, call up detail if she doesn't recognize something. Purchases other than food have to be approved by her, me or Master John, or Master Kaiser if it's gung fu equipment or uniforms.
David, "Great, and it is okay for Eloise to automate us?"
"She and Daria did our apartment, I can change the temperature, turn lights off and on, see every room from anywhere in the world, if it's electric we can operate it."
David Li, "I read about home automation systems, but you did it yourself?"
"I didn't do anything, have no idea how to install that stuff. Eloise does, she showed Daria, it was more fun for them than to just hire it out, and we have guaranteed security. No outside company came in to install anything, nothing was off the shelf, they built it from the ground up."
David laughs, "Remember when we had one garden and all Master Hue's pots? New technology for him was when he got gas burners installed. He had no drying room with a dehumidifier, chop by hand, stir with big ladles or wooden spoons, things took weeks and months."
"Janah recalls those days fondly. Being in the old hut, measuring and stirring while she and Hue talked over Buddhism, medicine and Shaolin, were the highlight of her days here. Still, we needed to expand and mechanize, the old volumes aren't enough for today, and the expanded garden supplies more vegetables and fruit. It's about time to plant the summer tomatoes isn't it?"
David, "The sprouts are up, need to be transplanted soon."
"I haven't gotten around to ours yet, is it too late to start?"
"No, take a half dozen of ours with you. Manolo planted more than enough, you still have your roof garden then."
"Yes, Daria does it during down time at the workshop. This year, though, she spending more time at the office, Janah and I will get things going."
David, "If we may, Eloise and I can get online and start the equipment order. She wants to automate while we wait for the other spectrometer and HPLC system to arrive."
"Great, it's getting on to afternoon training, see you later."
I do more teaching that fighting today, masters aren't really supposed to fight, but they like me to demonstrate against two opponents occasionally, today I'm off the hook. We do make contact, disciples come at me with a technique, my job is to use their momentum against them. I send them flipping with a hand or foot technique, we practice a few gymnastic moves but more for balance than show. I see videos of Chinese Shaolin, they call gung fu wushu now to keep the state happy. It's all standard gymnastics and fake qi demonstrations to wow the tourists. Sometimes Chinese students visit New York and find our temple. We let them practice, most don't go away very happy, some are pretty good, a few even very good. The rest collect a lot of strains and bruises, they come once, we don't see them again.
Janah and I change to street clothes, I find Eloise in the garden lab, "Ready for home?"
Eloise is in a familiar position, under a table fiddling with wires, "Just a second, there's a frayed cord," she's wrapping it with electrical tape, "I'll replace it when I come to install the electronics, this will do for now."
Manolo, "Eloise is a genius with equipment. Takes a look and instantly understands how it operates. She sniffed out a failing vat, it wasn't getting near hot enough for proper distillation, then said she smelled something burning. That's when she found the frayed cord. We didn't smell anything, it always smells like something hot or herbal in here."
"That's her thing, she does it with her toys at home."
Manolo, "Don't forget the drone Eloise."
We do our goodbyes, walking home I ask her, "How long do you need to prepare the automation?"
"A day or two, I have to buy a couple of things, most of it we have extra from before."
"Okay, we don't need to go to the temple again tomorrow, but Janah's thinking of another temple project."
Janah, "We have more demand than space, and a few masters want out of worldly life and back in the monastery. I've been thinking it over. If we build up, I can add twenty or twenty five more rooms. We have fifty to sixty monks year round, plus visitors, that chews up the space."
"Why don't you dormitory the kids, that's around twenty. Disciples are two to a room already until they are senior disciples. Only they and masters have private rooms."
Janah, "Less expensive than double rooms, We could add the dorm upstairs, one section for girls, one for boys, a couple of rooms for disciples to keep an eye on the kids. That frees up twelve rooms downstairs. Common showers for the kids, like any dorm. An additional laundry room. We have a lot of space, we build the second floor as big as the first and use the overage for more classroom space."
"There you go."
Janah, "I'll talk it over with the masters, I don't see any objecting though, except what do we do about the kitchen, dining hall and meditation hall? They're pretty full now."
"Either divide up meals and meditation, or go up on both buildings to a second floor. Upstairs dining addition won't cost much, material mostly, monks do the building, we need professional electricians, plumbers. We can stagger training and class time better. Twenty five more people shouldn't matter much. The masters and I will figure out the schedules, it's not like we're adding twenty five people the first day. The kitchen will need to spread to part of the downstairs dining hall, it needs to be expanded anyway. it's always been too crowded in there."
Eloise stifles a small laugh, I ask, "What?"
"You always talk about too much going on, then invent ways to have more things going on."
"Well, none of our family ages, that's apparently the price we pay."
Eloise, "That still feels strange, a year goes by, I don't change at all. Dasha and Daria are twenty one, something like that, but they still look sixteen, Chloe gets carded everywhere, so does Amaya.”
"I'm happy to be stuck, Janah and I would be bumping up on forty if our meter was running. I keep thinking we'll wake up one morning and have caught up. Makes me appreciate every day it doesn't happen."
Chapter Sixty Six
We've been out all day, decide to order in pizza and chill. After hot showers, we're downstairs, Janah's pouring wine for she and Eloise, I call Marconi's and get a large veg and ravioli.
Dominic, "What's up, nobody home, you never order one pizza."
"Janah, Eloise and me, the rest of my tribe is out earning a living, we're at home deciding on a movie and gearing up for your pizza. Tell you what, make a pepperoni for the Paladin people."
"Be over in twenty or so."
I call down, it's Janice, "Marconi's is making a delivery, there's a pepperoni for you guys, ring me and I'll collect the rest, only three of us tonight."
"Thanks Daphne, love Marconi's. Joline said her stomach was grumbling and we have six more hours of shift. Yogurt in the Chapman fridge isn't the same as Dominic's pizza."
I hang up, heat the oven, Janah and Eloise are surfing options.
Janah, "We can play catch up on The Following, the Kevin Bacon bit about the world's most incompetent FBI agents, you remember, they managed to let a vicious serial killer escape from jail twice. Natalie Zea plays the same kind of bullheaded woman she plays on Justified. The killer is interesting, overacted, but he does an okay job as an arrogant prick."
"I recall it being up my alley, nice and gruesome, wasn't there way too much back story?"
Janah, "Yes, that's why we fast forward."
"I've watched two hour movies in twenty five minutes. I'm always amazed at how much you can skip and not miss the plot line. So much filler."
Eloise, "I've never seen it."
"We'll bring you up to speed, the rest of it's obvious. If we did Society work like the FBI does serial killers, we'd have been fired after our first target."
Pizza comes, I toast it up a bit, we take our slices, a few cheese ravioli, marinara sauce, don't care for pesto, it's too....green. We don't do green chili sauce either, reminds me of mildew.
The first forty four ends, we load another episode, zip past the first four minutes which are a repeat of former episodes.
Eloise giggles, pours more wine, refills Janah, "I see what you mean, Kevin Bacon's job is to get beat up, he must have two or three concussions by now. The cult members pretty weird, they did a good job with those roles I think."
"Agreed, by the way, we have no idea if this is one of those series that just ends and leaves everyone hanging. I recall starting one show called The Killing. A girl gets murdered, her parents’ lives become a wreck, it goes on endlessly, episode after episode where nobody can find out squat. We finally didn't care who killed the girl, although her parents were such dweebs, I wondered if the girl killed herself to get away from them. Anyway, we killed the program. I noticed a fair number of reviews where people said the same thing, 'enough already, make something happen.' I didn't follow, it may have just died on the vine."
End of the fourth episode comes along, FBI still stumbling around, it's near ten, Janah and Eloise killed one thing, the bottle of wine. I'm on a second Coke Zero, but the little caffeine in Coke has zero effect after a day of gung fu.
"Girls, I'm going to pile up in our big bed and read a few pages of a book, kiss me."
They do, I hear Janah tell Eloise, "Perhaps open another bottle, we can have a glass, stopper the rest. Maybe we'll think of something to do, or not."
I know that tone, bad girls are going to play lesbian games all over the living room. Nobody home, comfortable mat on the floor, pillows everywhere, a comforter over the end of the couch.
I find my endless copy of Proust. I'm always good for three or four pages before I fall into a coma. Works the same tonight, dozing in minutes.
When I blink awake I’m alone in the oversize king bed. Downstairs the mystery unravels, Janah and Eloise are curled together under the comforter, couple of vibratory devices on the floor. I collect them and go to the bathroom, there are two strap-ons on the counter someone's already cleaned. I fix up the vibrators, turn them on, batteries still good, check the other toys, batteries dead in one, I'm replacing them when Janah walks in.
"We had every kind of fun girls can have, buzzed on wine, Eloise drilled me back, front and sideways."
"She get you to do the tush thing? She loves that."
"Oh yeah, she's too small for the butt strap-on, I got her senseless with the other one."
"Happy girls are a good thing, I haven't even gotten to coffee yet."
Janah, "Going to shower."
I'm finishing up the coffee prep, water's hot, I add the tea bags, start to think about breakfast.
Eloise is behind me, long skinny fingers touring the territory. As usual, I'm in a t-shirt, I turn to kiss her pale cheek, she's in nothing.
"I have to find my glasses."
We walk over to the couch, pick up the comforter, another vibrator falls out, Eloise giggles. Her glasses are neatly folded on the end table.
"Oh good, they're pretty indestructible, titanium frames, shatter proof glass, still better not to smush them," she slides them on, looks up at me, "Janah is so sensual, we had a great time."
"What she said, you're pretty addictive, all the girls enjoy their turn."
She blushes, "I can't help it, I want everyone, guess I’m greedy."
"It's not greed, it's good taste."
She smiles, goes off to shower, I'm sitting with a laptop and coffee when Janah returns.
"Any new news?"
"Same as the old news, conflict everywhere, people blowing themselves up to kill other people and get some virgins, the government is either spending too much money or not enough, most of America is absorbed with people who make duck calls or going to movies."
Janah, "I can't bring myself to watch a program called Duck Dynasty. They resemble the people we refocus, but I really know nothing about them."
"They're on a don't need to know basis, goofy beard and a tacky bandanna, God this and god that, please. Yes, I'm being judgmental."
"What's for breakfast, Eloise fried all my pizza calories."
"I'm feeling pancakey, maybe a side of eggs, is that enough?"
"Sounds yummy, I think we have berries, I'll have those while you cook," she gets up to rummage in the refrigerator.
Eloise is back, pours herself a coffee, plucks a couple of berries out of Janah's bowl. Pancakes are done, I have them in the oven while I make eggs to order. Everyone wants basted, over easy without the over.
Eloise, "I love pancakes, buttery, maple syrup, until I came here I never heard of the other kind."
"Steen's cane syrup. Miss Alva put me onto it a million years ago. It adds a different flavor. I sometimes use it by itself, added to maple gives a richer taste I think."
Janah, "I'm talking to the masters this morning, get a consensus about the expansion, then I have Society work to follow up on, That's going to shoot my day."
Eloise, "I need to buy a couple of parts, then start the automation project for the temple lab."
"Good, Janah's nice and safe here, I'll take a walk with you, where do you need to go?"
"Nothing special, any electronics store."
Eloise and I are out, another nice spring day, reminds me I need to get to the roof and transplant the tomato vines. She's absorbed in transistors or something, I'm staring out the window at Sy's deli across the street. Figure it might be simple to pick up something light for lunch. While I ponder the virtues of chicken salad over sliced turkey, two shifty males approach the place. Oh geez, flipping hoodies, these guys complain about being profiled, then wear junk that tags them with a bullseye. The skinny one peers in the deli window, he's either got a fanny pack or he's got a gun tucked in his waistband. Pussy growth of beard, grimy pencil mustache, tattoo of something climbs up his neck, doesn't fit the fanny pack profile. His pal is an inch or two taller, considerably wider, same ugly fashion sense.
"Eloise, stay here, do not go outside, I'll be back in a minute."
They go in the deli, I know Syed and Sehba, hard working Pakistani couple. Open up at six, close at ten, seven days a week. Kids work in the summer, the rest of the time their noses in textbooks or online.
I'm in before the hoodies can get set up, but Skinny Hoodie is walking to the counter and reaching behind his back. Fat Hoodie grabs for me, I side kick his knee and elbow him hard over his ear without looking at him. My owl claws grab his throat, eyes on Skinny's right hand. Gun comes out, the noise has him turn to me, I yank Fat’s neck, and walk him backwards towards Skinny.
"Sy, get Sehba to the back room, run!"
My eyes are on Skinny, I hear movement behind the counter, Skinny turns, raises the gun, "Don't move!"
Bought my opening, I sail a ketchup bottle that cracks Skinny hard on his cheekbone, so hard the bottle smashes, glad I didn't pick up a plastic one. I throw Fat into him, they smash into the display counter. Skinny doesn't know it, but Fat is unconscious, he's pushing his way out from under. My hand grabs the gun, twist, now it's my gun. I use the butt to make Skinny join Fat. I got a heap of punk trash on the floor, blood mixing with ketchup. I lay the gun on top of the counter.
Cop cars screech to the curb, first in, gun drawn says, "Jesus Daphne. If we'd known you had this, we coulda still been eatin' doughnuts and keepin' an eye on NYU coeds. You know, protect and serve."
"How are you Billy, Edwina, good to see you."
Edwina, "These two been robbing convenience stores and delis for a month. They don't get hardly nothing, a hundred bucks maybe, two hundred is a big score. Assholes shot one old man uptown when he refused to open the register. Lucky his cranky ass ain't dead."
Billy is talking to Sy and his wife, making notes, comes over to me, "You're covered, said you saved their lives."
"Hopefully an exaggeration, I got to Skinny before he had a chance to do anything stupid, stupider, going around stealing a hundred bucks from people who work their tails off is stupid enough. You know Sy and Sehba, they practically live here, two high school kids with straight As. Best kind of citizens."
Billy, "I've eaten enough of his sandwiches, seen the kids in here summers and holidays, always respectful, polite."
Edwina, "Give me a statement Daph, you can be on your way. Might have to testify, not likely, prob'ly gonna plea out. Or you could mention it to Mini, they won't get as far as court."
I don't take the bait, give her my statement, skip the part about being suspicious beforehand. I just say I came in to grab lunch and there they were.
Sehba comes over, "Very dangerous Daphne, you may have been hurt, even killed. Maybe they just take money and go."
"Sehba, they've already shot one man, and if they get away, they keep holding up people until the gun goes off again. I've trained a thousand lifetimes to deal with this kind of thing."
Sy, "We are most grateful, Sehba doesn't want you hurt, we have known you for, what, fifteen years since we opened this store, you and your mother have shopped here all that time. It would be like losing our own child."
I hug Sehba, then Sy, "I have no intention of dying, there may not be as good a deli in the next life. Speaking of which, can I get a pound of sliced turkey?"
EMT is hauling out the trash, I go across the street. Eloise followed instructions, still in the store, we start home.
Janah, "Nice work, I wasn't following you, but whenever there's trouble, something like a shadow floats through my head. I tuned in when you walked in the store."
"Good thing, never know when I might need a qi boost from you. This one was fairly simple. Bottle of Heinz and grip gift from the owl was more than enough."
"You usually carry shuriken."
"We were going down the block, the deli popped in my head. The whole trip was supposed to be fifteen minutes. Won't make that mistake again, can't count on a shelf of ketchup everyplace I go."
Chapter Sixty Seven
On the roof, transplanting vines from the pot to our roof garden. Daria grows vegetables, simple things, peppers, we cultivate mushrooms. We have three citrus trees, orange, lemon, lime. Once a year we plant David Li's hybrid tomatoes. They taste like the once famous Creole tomatoes from Louisiana, although I understand those have declined in flavor and quality. Not really sure of that, we don't hit Louisiana much. Aside from the food and music in New Orleans, there's no reason for Louisiana. That's where the duck guy is, tells you something. New Orleans should be its own state, like the Vatican of food.
Janah joins me, "The expansion is in motion, I decided to go with an architect and formal city approvals. We'll hire our inmate rehabs to do the work, they have everything, general contractors, carpenters, electrical contractors, plumbers, flooring. The monks have too much other work to spend time doing construction. We can get it knocked out in six months or less and not drag it out for a year or more."
"Phone dings, it's Mini, "You think you can keep a secret from me?"
"Didn't try, we just haven't been to the diner since it happened."
"Billy said you was okay, handled it like you handle things, but I gotta call and find out for myself."
"Janah was at home, Eloise was in the electronics place across the street, she called 911 when I went in. I had to help out Sy and Sehba, we've known them forever."
"Good thing Nikko is out of town, she'd break into the tombs and off them herself."
"Mini, don't get your people out on a limb over these punks, okay?"
Mini, "I don't gotta do nothin', they gonna find out what happened, them two pukes are in for a season in hell. Better they plea bargain for time in Guantanamo or solitary. They too stupid to know it though."
"We'll be around tomorrow for breakfast or lunch, thanks for the call."
We disconnect, I look at Janah, "Guess you heard."
"I heard, don't care what happens to those two. Leave it, let's finish these plants and turn over the rest of the garden, it's time to plant the summer stuff. Daria is busy, I'm going to do my thing like my days with Hue."
Eloise comes out from the workshop, “I can do start-up wiring at the temple tomorrow."
"Okay, we'll go to the diner for breakfast, then to the temple. Won't hurt me to get in some gung fu time. Janah always has something to do."
Janah, "I'll see if the architect can come tomorrow. At least send someone to take pictures."
She calls the firm, someone will be there at ten. We're good clients, they did the Epstein library, all the renovations to our place, Ultra Violet and the Down Homes, Ning's restaurant, the buildings we bought and renovated, the three schools and the buildings we built from scratch. Maybe Nikko should buy an architectural firm. No, better not to give her ideas for more businesses.
Nikko, "Don't worry, I'm not buying our accountants or our architects, the land is beautiful, we're going to enjoy whatever it is we decide to do with it. We took a side trip from Flagstaff to Prescott, interesting possibilities and the weather is less frozen than Flagstaff in the winter. We're finishing up this afternoon and to San Francisco tonight. You handled the deli thing perfectly, I'm logging off Dasha wants to talk to you."
I feel Dasha in my head, "We haf a thousand acres in Colorado, five hundred outside Santa Fe, five hundred acres of pine trees and mountain in Flagstaff, maybe Prescott or Prescott Valley. We fly later to Empire, peectures of property ees on website, you will show Janah and Eloise."
I look through her eyes, "I can see mountains, a long stretch of grassland, pine trees by the thousands."
"Da, we think over selling teember. Land must be cleared of trees or it make a fire trap. We get income, no much, but haf to be anyway cut down. We don't know about teember lease, Daria research then negotiate wiz company. Daria says hi to you and Janah and Eloise, you will tell them. Look," she stares down at her feet, "we haf hiking boots, climb all over, Nikko haf to see everyplace."
"Love the boots, since we're going to own so much mountain property, probably come in handy."
"Daria ees mountain girl, she likes empty, no people around, only tree, creeks, wolf and bear. You will like, owl and eagle all over. They follow us, look, see?"
I see an eagle circling over her head, then she shifts her line of sight, there's a great horned owl blinking at me from a nearby branch.
"That's cool, wish I was there to talk to her."
"Da, we cannot talk, but Daria knows they are watching out for us. Eagle flew down and sat next to her while we haf a break. Zi cries."
"Only a couple of days and I miss you."
"Da, Dahfoney, you will fly to Los Angeles, no wait all month."
My heart breaks, "I'll be there when you get to the hotel, okay?"
"We will go now Dahfoney, you will talk to me in San Francisco, then you will be in LA. Vesnushki ees missing Daria also too. We are going now, you will talk to me tonight."
Janah, "You're a little misty, talking to Dasha?"
"Yes, I'm booking us to LA."
"Good, be fun, we don't have to work, we can screw around Venice Beach. Eloise will be glad to see Daria. I'll book the flights, ask Amaya....no she'll be busy, I'll book us rooms at Shutters, we only need a standard thing, Eloise can stay with the twins."
I check in with Amaya, "Busy?"
"On the way to location."
"Janah, Eloise and I will be there the day before the twins. We'll handle reservations at the hotel."
Amaya, "Chloe will be happy, me too. Turns out none of us much like being this spread out. I wondered how long Dasha would take to miss Dahfoney following her around. Two days."
"Dahfoney feels the same way. Janah and I haven't spent a day apart in all our years together, mentaling is great, but physical presence is essential. I like all our family near, arm's reach is best."
Amaya, "Come sooner."
"We might, Janah's decided to expand at the temple, about thirty percent more students. We're meeting with the architect tomorrow. They can get permits and whatnot and be ready for construction by the time we get back."
Amaya, "If Janah ever mentions slowing down again, I shall duct tape her. Maybe things will slow down if she quits talking about slowing down."
"That's a point, I'll mention it. Go make a good movie, I'll check in later."
Chapter Sixty Eight
Black, Janah and Christine Blumenthal, our architect, are walking the temple. Chan is with his son David Li in the garden. Christine takes photographs of the exterior and interior of the buildings in question, a laser measuring tool for accurate measurement.. The building plans for the temple don't exist, it began almost informally on an open stretch of ground in Chinatown and built up from there.
Janah, "I know you need photos, and it will be good for us to have formal sets of plans. Don't let the photos find their way to anything public. I understand you need to file stuff with the city, can't be helped."
Actually it can be helped, but we don't need Christine to know that. We'll pull the files when the project is signed off on, one of our Society contacts works in records. Paper will be sent to the temple, digital records will be erased. We've been breached once when Chinese tried to steal the secret texts. They are irreplaceable in their original form. We have them digitized and encrypted, we don't keep any of it on the net or public servers, we store it on external drives locked in an underground vault in the monastery. Copies that look like originals are in a safe in Janah's office. Those are valueless, all the dangerous material has been removed and replaced with mumbo jumbo that sounds mysterious, but doesn't mean anything.
Christine, "I'll handle it myself, I have an assistant, she'll only have access while we're in the office, I lock up everything at night, my computer could be hacked, but Daphne's mom did our security. We log-on with a password and a fingerprint."
Black, "Based on what I've heard, I can't think of anything to add or change. Are the common showers for the dorms open?"
Christine, "You mean like five showerheads in a row, not separate enclosed showers?"
"Yeah. The dorm will be all kids, but should they have some privacy?"
Janah, "Yes, we will want enclosed showers and toilets. And separate them, at least by a partial wall in each bathroom."
Christine, "Actually that's helpful. We can put hooks for towels, they can hang their robes on the wall across from the shower. The other side will have a row of sinks, behind that, toilets. It will work, there's plenty of room."
She taps in notes on the dining addition and the space that will be built on top of the meditation hall, "You're not sure what you want to do with that yet."
Janah, "Nope, but while we have this going on, I figure we do that too. We may need more classroom space, the kids mostly work on the internet, we can shuffle more people through the classrooms we have, they aren't in use all day now. Leave the space flexible, perhaps those accordion doors that can chop up a room. Oh, don't scrimp on power outlets, with computers, phones and chargers we've more than doubled the outlets already."
Christine, "You're going to move the solar up to the new roofs I assume."
Chan returns, "Eloise is automating the garden workshop."
Janah, "David may actually have time to practice gung fu."
"Never his strong point."
"Once he became a master, his time is his own. Contemplatives don't martial arts much."
Christine, "May I ask, what's a contemplative?"
"Think academic, mostly immersed in the dharma."
I don't mention the esoteric teachings, Contemplatives are allowed to study the secret texts, they add observations, comments on meaning. New scientific findings broaden the knowledge base, contradict old comments. They aren't trying to 'prove' the secret teachings, experience has already done that. It's more like trying to understand why they work. Like when we talk about consciousness, but it's an abstraction, nobody really knows how it operates.
Christine, "This place is amazing. Everything has the sense of centuries, the uniforms, robes, the meditation hall, bare minimum rooms as one would expect in a monastery. Then I see laptops, netbooks, a thoroughly modern kitchen with a pizza oven even. Like the fifteenth century materialized in the twenty first. The additions will match up to the current style of course, it would be sacrilege to lose the essence of the architecture. From outside, it resembles the front of a common warehouse, then inside it's all beautifully monastic. Using the same quality wood is going to cost you a bundle."
Janah, "It's okay. Aside from toilet fixtures, our hope is to make it appear the additions were here originally."
"The wood will age, in a few years that's exactly how it will look. The right fixtures can make the bathrooms fit with the rest of the space. It will have modern utility without looking like a modern hotel bath."
It's approaching lunch, we invite Christine to join us. We don't have to entertain her, lunch is in silence. We eat, walk back to the courtyard.
Christine, "Food here is great, I was thinking rice and bread, that was restaurant quality. Eating in silence is something almost no one ever does. I actually tasted the food. Is that a Shaolin tradition?"
"It is here, it was never a rule, we just do it."
Christine looks around, "How does the inside look so much bigger than the outside?"
I fudge, “A Buddhist illusion,” hope she leaves the laser measuring tape in her bag, some mysteries are best mysteries.
She leaves for her office, Black and Chan are sticking around for hard gung fu.