Chapter Forty Nine
During the Invention of Chloe, Nikko, Janah and I went on two quickie refocusings. Once to Florida, wife beater, who now resides in New Mexico with a fewer teeth and a limp leftover from a broken femur. The second to Mississippi, to remove a pimp hustling underage girls to the casino crowd on the Gulf Coast. He now resides in hell. They were both simple, the pimp crossed over because he pulled a gun and was angling it towards Nishiko, I took his hand with my chain, and his life with a Dim Mak strike to his heart. Dim Mak is death touch, and if you know how, straight fingers to the left of the sternum results in an internal explosion. Pop went the weasel.
With the advent of Chloe, a few things had to change; wear something more around the apartment, Janah sacrifices her occasional all day in nothing. At least until Chloe is off elsewhere. The sacrifices we make for our children. We make up for it in the privacy of our bedrooms, except when Chloe commandeers Amaya to sleep with. No, not like that. We’re weird, not that weird.
Fortunately for my sex life, it’s usually once a week that she crawls in with Amaya. Like I’m suffering by sleeping with Janah and Nikko. Since Ning needs to take on her nights at the restaurant again, Chloe makes the rounds of Susan, Lacy, us and Mrs. Epstein. She has the social life of a rockstar.
She loves to visit the temple, the monks, the garden and gung fu fascinate her. She’s not interested in being cloistered, nor had she shown any interest in martial arts. Then she went with Nikko and I one day to Hanshi Murakami. We’d practiced Kendo with bokken at the apartment, she watched it, asked questions. She’s learning tea ceremony from our resident geisha, Amaya. She heard Nikko and I talking in Japanese and started learning the language.
Then, she came with us when we went to practice with Hanshi, exponentially expanding her world.
Ari, Nikko’s mom, is impressed by Chloe’s initial foray into Japanese and the tea ceremony. Then, as Chloe observes Nikko and I, in full Kendo regalia, practice under the watchful eye of Hanshi, she is still, motionless, absorbed.
Hanshi isn’t Hanshi for nothing, he reads the young girl, “Do you wish to learn, child?”
Chloe answers in Japanese I didn’t know she knew, “I would be honored, sir.”
Hanshi actually smiles, he never smiles at me, my status, already questionable, is dropping like a stone.
Hanshi, “Enough for today, go and have tea, I wish speak to the girl.”
Nikko, what is going on?
Father has seen something. It is rare, but occasionally there are children who know how to observe. She is one.
You never mentioned it.
I waited until Hanshi met her. I didn’t want to presume. We are authorized to train her ourselves, but why not the Grandmaster if he chooses?
I never even felt it in your head.
Nikko gives me the blank look, Inscrutable oriental mind.
We have tea with Ari, talk of Chloe, Nikko’s business, the Murakami’s business. An hour passes, Hanshi appears with Chloe.
“She must come here three days a week, all day,” he isn’t asking.
Nikko actually blinks, a sign of wonder.
I look at Chloe, “Well?”
“I have found myself.”
That settles that.
Unheard of, Nikko embraces the girl, weeps in joy. My heart soars.
Janah, Only the unexpected is real.
Then this is as real as it gets.
I hear Janah’s soft giggle, feel her enter the bliss.
“Hanshi, is it convenient if she stay here for the three days. We can bring her in the morning, two nights, then pick her up the afternoon of the third day.”
Hanshi, “It is preferable. She can be immersed in Kendo and Japanese.”
Chloe brightens, “Thank you sir. Mrs. Murakami, do I inconvenience you?”
“Not at all. I will teach you Japanese, and to make Japanese meals.”
“Tea is integral to all.”
Chloe, “I never thought such a thing possible, I don’t know what to say, domo, domo arigato.”
How nicely things work out when you don’t try and make things work out.
Back home, Amaya is giddy, “Ari is going to create another geisha and Mr. Murakami a samurai. I cannot wait to get her a kimono, and show her how to apply the makeup, and clogs, she needs clogs. We need to speak only Japanese part of the day, what else?”
“Glad to see you’re enthusiastic.”
“Enthusiastic! I should say so. Part of her is going to be me, and part Nishiko. Two perfections in one.”
I hadn’t thought of it that way, she has a point.
Janah and I are talking things over, “I have no idea where school fits in.”
“Her school is already underway, what need does she have of more classrooms?”
“Ah, of course. Better even. She socializes with the RSGs and Miyako. And she’s learning a foreign language, doing math with Susan and literature on her own. She is a school, and its student.”
“Exactly. And the one most affected, the child herself, is making her own decisions about the course of her life. What can a classroom add but confusion, and worse, the opinions of people who aren’t her.”
I make lunch for Nikko and Janah, Amaya is writing, she’s taken on a new Chris Fischer novel and she and Taylor have a fashion blog. There are two million fashion blogs, theirs is mostly for the Chapmans girls and the wealthy moms of Chapmans girls that consult Amaya and Taylor. Naturally it includes accessories, which support Juju’s sales, Geminola, a half dozen other boutiques in the area Amaya favors.
Janah and Nikko were up rather late and elect to nap. I lay on the couch and replay Janah’s adventure, then flip over to my morning encounter with the White Queen. Somehow, while I reverie, my hand finds its way to a sensitive spot between my legs. I conclude my hand has a mind of its own.
Amaya, Come to me.
I walk to bedroom, Amaya is on her knees, “Close the door, I have something for you.”
And she does. It involves me standing in front of her, legs spread, while she slooowwly softly licks the very spot my hand found so fascinating only minutes earlier. She maxi climaxes every cell in my body, I sink backwards onto the bed like a felled tree. She spends the next ten minutes kissing my legs, shamelessly taking advantage of my inability to regain sensibility.
“These legs are national treasures, available for the viewing by the masses, but available to me any way I want. I am the primary curator of your body, only I and my associates are allowed to fondle and kiss the priceless art of your youness.”
She helpfully makes her way, snakelike up my body until she blankets me, licks my face, my lips and slips her tongue in my mouth. We taste each other for a long time, no wish to disengage. Then lays her head against my shoulder. She is licking my neck when we disappear into each other, more deeply than ever. I am Amaya, she is me, nothing separates, bliss comes for the next hour.
We blink back to common reality, forced by consciousness to function in the illusion of separateness. Content in the knowledge there is nothing between us but veils of false distinction.
I kiss her a thousand times, we reluctantly return to the everyday.
Janah, I wept at the beauty, Nikko held me, trembling herself. Our lives are so privileged.
Amaya-Daphne, You opened the door to all of this when you reached out for me years ago. The fruit of that seed continues to produce miracles. This is all you, our Bodhisattva.
We feel Janah’s tears, feel Nishiko kissing them away, our home is joy, our extended family a blessing.
We refresh, meet in the main room, circle on the mat, sip tea in silence, then fold into no mind for another hour.
As we unfold, the phone rings, it’s Chloe, “Ohmygod! What an incredible day!”
“Dear One, your excitement excites me. What did you do?”
“Hanshi spent hours with me, teaching the parts of the sword, the keikogi and hakama, how to put them on and fold them. Then I had a tea break with Mrs. Murakami. Now I am resting, tonight she is going to make tempura, seafood and vegetable. Tomorrow for breakfast, Miso soup with steamed rice. I can’t wait to find out what it all is.”
“What it all is, is good. These will be different tastes, you remember the etiquette?”
Chloe, “Enjoy the food, if it’s strange, learn to appreciate, compliment the chef. It’s okay not to like it, it’s not okay to say so.”
“Perfect, everyone wants to talk to you, even in one day you are missed, hang on.”
Janah, then Nikko for five minutes, Amaya gets a half hour. I feel enthusiastic chattering, explanations of the food, Amaya explaining the tastes and textures. The crap food Chloe had grown up on consisted of leftovers, usually cold. Out of sheer mean and spite, Ashley put the bowl of scraped off leftovers on the floor and made her eat like a dog. I didn’t know all this until after the killings, the degradations, or I would have killed them twice, not very Buddhist, too bad.
Her three days up, Chloe returns, collected by Angelo at the Murakami’s and delivered promptly to her home. It’s been long days for the young one, nearly seven now.
She jumps in my arms, head on my shoulder, looks at the others, “I am so tired. Hanshi is relentless. He says I must be diligent and ignore weariness.”
Amaya, “Let’s get you in a warm bath, then Daphne will have something for you to eat.”
I hear her talking to Amaya, then silence, then the tub draining. They reappear ten minutes later, Chloe bundled up in a terry cloth robe. She’s refreshed, but I can see tired eyes. I make her a hamburger, figure she’s up to her ears in Japanese. Nikko and Janah surround her on the couch, we watch Downton Abby, a period piece Janah likes about an aristocratic family in England at the turn of the nineteenth century. Chloe falls asleep, head in Nikko’s lap, legs across Janah’s. When the show ends, I carry her to bed while Janah calls Ning to tell her Chloe will stay with us for the night. We don’t want Miyako to start chattering with a stream of questions about Chloe’s time with the Murakami’s.
As I lay her in bed, her eyes blink, “Where is Amaya? Can she sleep with me?”
I mental Amaya, “Your presence is requested.”
Amaya comes in as if she’s just checking on us, Chloe doesn’t know from mentaling, “Sleepy girl, would you like me to lay down with you?”
Chloe nods, as I leave I hear Chloe ask, “Will you hold me?”
She takes what’s left of my heart as I hear her mumble, almost to herself, “No one ever held me until I came here.”
Tears in my eyes, I feel Amaya weeping, then Janah. Nikko doesn’t cry much, but I feel the flood of affection in her heart.
Chan, Ning and Miyako are over this morning. When Amaya has Chloe dressed, she runs out of the bedroom, energized from a twelve hour sleep, “Ning! Chan! Sister Miyako! She collects hugs, sits on the chair between Ning’s legs. I have her breakfast prepared, scrambled eggs, grits, a fluffy biscuit and apple juice. Ning and I agree to keep her on the fine line of needed calories and too much food. So far, too much doesn’t appear to be a problem.
We let things develop eclectically at first, let her explore without much structure. It’s time to schedule up.
Ning, “Chloe, since you aren’t going to regular school, we must think over what needs to be done for your education in a more orderly fashion. The reason is not just to make rules. It is because your family has duties and obligations. Our first duty is to see that you are cared for, which includes teaching you to care for yourself.”
Chloe, “I think I understand. On the farm, things needed to be done in a certain order to make it run right. And they needed to be prepared for, the seed, the combine to be repaired and maintained, the ground tilled, lots of things.”
Ning, “Exactly. Here, we don’t do things by decree. The person who has to do the work has a say in what it is. I think it would be good for Janah and you to talk about the things you need first. Then perhaps Daphne will organize a schedule for you. It will help the rest of us. We need to know when you are doing something and when any of us need to be with you. Does that make sense?”
“Nobody ever asked me what I wanted.”
Ning, “You have choices now. Of course, you can’t choose to play video games all day, or eat candy for every meal.”
Chloe fakes a pout, “Okay….mom,” grins over at me.
Ning sighs, she can’t tiger mom this child, Chloe had enough brutalization for ten lifetimes. But she couldn’t let her go from prisoner to wild child either.
Ning, “I would like to sit in on the planning this morning, so I know where we are going. Then perhaps Daphne will post it on the family website.”
When Amaya came to us, Susan had created a family only website. We filled in a broad brush of who was doing what for the next couple of weeks, adjust it day by day. When Ning took over the restaurant, we included the Li family in case we needed to watch Miyako. When it was Janah, Nikko and me, there wasn’t much need for planning. Then Janah became Abbess, Nikko started running the family business, Amaya came along, Mrs. Fong died and we inherited more property and the restaurant. The idea of floating along had to float away. Janah’s hopes for a less complicated life floated off with it.
Janah, Chloe and Ning are in the kitchen talking over a basic outline. Amaya goes off to meet Taylor for her Chapmans class, Nikko, Zi and I are in the workout room stretching, doing forms tai chi style. An hour passes, then we pound qi bags for a half hour, then healing meditation for an hour.
Janah, We’re done. What’s for lunch?
Cripes, I haven’t thought of it. Suppose we go to the diner.
Cool, I’m ravenous, Mini will fix that. Then a walk, perhaps to the temple.
Nikko, I’ll take Zi with me to the office. She can help me wade through paperwork. May as well teach her the property management business. Amaya has too much on her plate, someone needs to be informed about the daily operations.
Janah, Have you asked Zi?
She asked me.
Good enough, twenty minutes.
Chapter Fifty One
Chloe goes home with Ning, she and Miyako are going to the roof to talk about whatever it is young girls talk about. We shower, dress and walk to the Village Diner.
Juju, “DeSeelk and her posse, where is de young girl?”
“At home with Ning. She doesn’t just live with us, she lives with the Li family, my mom, Nikko’s family, Mrs. Epstein.”
“All de same family. De girl got a seat in de first class section, dat’s a fact. You need to bring girl to Juju, I give her voodoo blessing, no harm come to her ever. She will be powerful Mambo, you wait, you see.”
“What makes you think so, Juju?”
“Juju don’t gotta think. Juju see de violet eyes. Dat girl, she knew pain, now she know love. She gon’ do magic, de blind see, de rich get poor, de evil man die. Amaya, she got de beauty to break a man face to face, but Chloe, she got de skill to break a man a t’ousand miles away. You don’ believe, don’ matter, you see.”
“Juju, I know enough to know there’s plenty I don’t know. One thing I do have is an open mind.”
Juju laughs, we go to feed.
Mini, “Where’s the young one, she alright, she better be alright.”
“Mini, do you think we wouldn’t call if there was trouble for her?”
“Better be the first call you make. Amaya and Chloe come here, I get an overflow crowd in twenty minutes . The customers asked Amaya to sing, she had them in tears in three minutes. They making Juju rich, I hope Amaya gets a piece.”
“We don’t work that way Mini, you know that.”
“I ought to pay ‘em to eat here. My guys still can’t believe you set them up in business and don’t take a cut, not even vig on the loans. Guys still in the joint are on best behavior so they can get early release. I get pitched a half dozen business ideas a week, beauty salons, strip clubs are a favorite. At least until I tell them you don’t file ownership papers. They gotta qualify on their own for liquor licenses. No way an ex-con is gonna get an ABC license.”
“We have the money, they come with a good idea and you say give them a shot, Nikko writes the checks.”
“There’s a coupla guys, been cooking in the prison kitchen. That’s mostly heat and eat crap the State buys. But they got some skill. I think they could make a diner work. They both have families, if the wives help out, and the kids do stuff after school, they could make a go.”
“Talk to Nikko, that’s her domain.”
“Chloe’s with Ning?”
“Yep. We don’t want her to grow up surrounded by lesbians.”
“Didn’t hurt you none.”
“No, it didn’t, but still. We want her to have a regular family, and we don’t have other kids. She’s pals with Miyako, David’s not around much, she has lots of friends at Chapmans. She’s not like Amaya, Chloe has so much to learn about life.”
Amaya, I am on the way, order a grilled cheese for me, pickle on the side, no fries.
“Oh, by the way, Amaya’s coming down, she wants a grilled cheese, no fries, pickle.”
“Got it, usual for Janah, what do you want today?”
“Scrambled eggs, hash browns, wheat.”
Zi, “Fruit platter, please.”
Amaya appears, hugs Mini, slips in next to me, thoughtfully lays her hand on my bare leg. I’d worn shots, the little stretch cotton ones Nikko uses to inflame Janah. Maybe their power would carry over to me. Amaya’s hand drifts up and down my thigh, I might be on to something.
Janah, “The outline of Chloe’s schedule is on the laptop, maybe I’ll call it Voodoo Princess.”
Amaya, “I heard Juju, wonder what he means?”
“Beats me, but he is nothing if not definite.”
We eat, I pay, wave at Mini and Chuck, head to Chinatown.
“Taylor go home?”
Amaya, “Shopping with one of the Chapmans moms and her daughter. They went to 5th Avenue. The tab will run to thousands. Mom is a trophy wife, a title she admits to. Daughter is her birth child, she is not a stepmom. Dad rapes and pillages on Wall St. He is a kajillionaire twenty years older. Mom is only thirty, so he’s not headed for the old folks castle anytime soon. The girl seems quite happy, which says good things about her parents. The mother has the luxury of doing nothing, but she stays occupied in the philanthropy game. The shopping trip is partly for some gala or other, orphaned kittens, millionaires who used to be billionaires, attention deprived starlets, the usual.”
Nikko, “You two merged is going to make life impossible. Janah, what happens when two egomaniacs merge?”
“Daphinity and self-anointed royalty. Let’s see, something between the Mad Hatter and the Red Queen. Time stops, memory works both ways, illogical pronouncements and edicts that subvert reason and logic.”
“So nothing changes.”
Zi laughs again, “Nothing will be what it is, and everything will be what it isn’t.”
Nikko, “Daphmaya in Wonderland, Daphmayaty.”
Amaya, “Guiding principles of the universe, watch and wonder.”
Chapter Fifty Two
Nikko and Zi drop off at her office, we continue to the temple. While I check the kitchen, Janah goes to the office she shares with Master Kahn and they review student progress, expenses and income. The temple lives off earnings from investments, former drug lord money we’d appropriated prior to their demise. It formerly ran on donations, a substantial portion of which came from Mrs. Fong and the rest of the Chinese community. It still receives a fair amount of donations, and as an educational and scientific entity, it is tax free and donations are deductible.
Janah thought over whether to accept donations once she’d made the place flush. She decided it was something the community wanted to do, to be a part of it and support the Buddhist teachings. She didn’t think she had the right to deprive them of their connection. We never ask for money, it just comes in. In return, we have visitor days. The public can come, watch practice, meditate in the hall, visit the gardens. We have lunch prepared, one of the masters gives a talk. Since we don’t do public demonstrations of martial arts, Janah thought visitor days were an acceptable alternative. Visitors watch ordinary practice, there is no show.
Rare exceptions occur if there’s an Asian exhibit at one of the museums. Monks demonstrate gung fu forms, we will not do tricks, no pointed sticks in the neck, no gymnastics, no board or concrete block breaking. That doesn’t seem like art to us. I suppose one could argue that it was part of the art of gung fu and qi, but we decline anyway.
While Janah does her thing, Amaya and I go to Tan’s hut. On the way, visit with David Li and Manolo.
Manolo runs and hugs me, then bows, David Li bows solemnly.
“The garden is delightful in the spring, everything is in bloom.”
David Li, “Manolo is most proficient, he is learning the medicines, but his tenderness relieves the stress of growth in the plants. They develop quickly, and are rich in nutrients. Master Hue looks in delight from the other side.”
Manolo, “Master J is here?”
“Yes, she will speak to the monks later, then we will have tea and visit.”
We continue on to the hut, into qi meditation, gone for nearly two hours, accepting the energy all around us. The us isn’t an us, had anyone peered in, there would have been one glowing entity, gently vibrating.
On the way down David Li says, “The hut became illuminated, visible through the bamboo, bright even in the daylight. Reverence suffuses the temple. You have merged with your companion.”
“It is complete.”
David Li, “The wonder of things.”
In the meditation hall, Janah talking quietly with Manolo and David Li outside. Amaya next to me. We changed into everyday monk clothes when we’d arrived, tiny shorts and snug jeans are perhaps not appropriate. Monks are human, we’re not here to put on a show of our own.
Janah enters and takes her seat in the front, facing the monks.
“Monks of Shaolin, it is a privilege to be with you on this beautiful day. We dwell with you, even if we are out in the world, our thoughts on the hard work and dedication you exemplify. To serve with Master Khan is an honor bestowed by a beneficent universe. One for which I am most grateful.”
She is silent for a time, the monks settling into the moment, the drills of the day finished, not time to contemplate tomorrow, time to be here, now. To be near their Bodhisattva.
“I ask you to go beyond mind, beyond body. Not to think of going beyond, rather to let go of thinking that mind, body, or consciousness is the actual. Mind, body, consciousness are in reality, they are not unreal, nor are they illusions. However, that small slice of reality is contained in a far greater field, the field of awareness. Consciousness does not contain awareness, it is contained within awareness. See the false and know the true. You can neither reason nor meditate your way to awareness, you cannot get there by any method or practice. You cannot because you are immersed in it already, there is no place to go, nothing to do. Only your mental constructs and convictions keep you from realizing that you are already realized. You cannot roll away these constructs, make them disappear, no effort of yours can remove them. Only understand that they are there, drop all effort. That state within you now, awareness, will flourish. In awareness, beyond mind, body or consciousness, you may find the real you, an indescribable mystery, the Absolute.”
There is silence in the hall. The comments don’t create any new wisdom for the monks, it is the soft clear voice of the Bodhisattva, the communion of the hall and the gentle inexplicable light that surrounds Janah as she speaks. Her light a manifestation of her words, what is possible without restrictions and ideas.
Janah, “Thank you for your kind attention. To close, our companion Amaya, will sing the Heart Sutra.”
Amaya stands, we are in the back of the hall, the monks seated facing Janah. Amaya sings in her natural crystal voice.
"When the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara.
Was Coursing in the Deep Prajna Paramita.
He Perceived That All Five Skandhas Are Empty.
Thus He Overcame All Ills and Suffering.
Oh, Sariputra, form does not differ from the void,
And the void does not differ from form.
Form is void and void is form;
The same is true for feelings,
Perceptions, volitions and consciousness.
Sariputra, the characteristics of the
Voidness of all dharmas
Are non-arising, non-ceasing, non-defiled,
Non-pure, non-increasing, non-decreasing.
Therefore, in the void there are no forms,
No feelings, perceptions, volitions or consciousness.
No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body or mind;
No form, sound, smell, taste, touch or mind object;
No realm of the eye,
Until we come to no realm of consciousness.
No ignorance and also no ending of ignorance,
Until we come to no old age and death and
No ending of old age and death.
Also, there is no truth of suffering,
Of the cause of suffering,
Of the cessation of suffering, nor of the path.
There is no wisdom, and there is no attainment whatsoever.
Because there is nothing to be attained,
The Bodhisattva relying on Prajna Paramita has
No obstruction in mind.
Because there is no obstruction, there is no fear,
And passes far beyond confused imagination.
And reaches ultimate Nirvana
The Buddhas of the past, present and future,
By relying on Prajna Paramita
Have attained supreme enlightenment.
Therefore, the Prajna Paramita is the Great Magic Spell,
The Spell of Illumination, the Supreme Spell,
Which can truly protect one from all suffering without fail.
Therefore utter the Spell of Prajnaparmita,
Saying Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha.”
Janah stands, bows to Amaya, and the monks. We leave the hall, Master Kahn walks with us.
“Amaya, I have not heard the Sutra sung so beautifully in my many years. Perhaps, on visitors day, we can entice you to sing again.”
“How very kind, thank you, I would be delighted.”
“You now dwell in Master Sylk, and she in you,” he turns to Janah, “I think that, at the least, she is an honorary monk, perhaps one in fact.”
Janah, “I don’t see how it can be otherwise.”
“Oh, wow, I never thought of it, how wonderful.”
Master Kahn, “And you don’t even have to get branded.”
Amaya smiles, “Thank you for that.”
“Most monks go unbranded, it is only an option, one can become priest by completing the gauntlet with no brand. Our own Abbess is unbranded, then she is a Bodhisattva, beyond Shaolin rites and rituals. I am not going to dwell on how you can be Master Sylk, but not a priest. I cannot explain how Master Sylk is Master J, but not a Bodhisattva, and how Master Sylk is you.”
“Master Kahn, we cannot explain ourselves to ourselves. Janah says trying to explain it only muddies the water.”
“Like efforts to explain the sutras, rather than absorbing and living them. You and your companions are a sutra for the rest of us.”
There is nothing to say, no response sufficient, we bow deeply.