Chapter Five

The treatment for a bruised ego is to lose ego,
not to reinforce it with talk and drugs
Nikko Murakami

Nikko and I are walking slowly together back to the apartment after visiting Sis.
I have an urge to kiss her, “I love your kisses, you could kiss me right now for instance, and I would love it.”
We stop on the street and kiss. We don’t normally make out in public, it just happened, and it feels nice. Isn’t anyone around, we aren’t sticking our passion in anyone’s face.
We start to the apartment hand in hand. We can’t hold hands when Janah is there because we walk surrounding her. This is an occasional simple intimacy we enjoy.
“Well, well, dykes. I coulda guessed.”
I turn, it’s Tom and Jerry. Jerry’s jaw is wired shut, Tom’s doing the chatting.
“The cat and mouse. What’s up boys? Not enough pain the first time? You can’t really want another go.”
“That’s exactly what we want, bitch. We can’t leave it like this. We’re already catching shit because we let you cold cock us before. This time will be different.”
Hand in his pocket, he pushes it towards me, “Yes, it’s what you think it is. Take a swing and you’ll be bleeding on the concrete, cunt.”
“So, let me get this straight. You’re going regain your reputation as assholes by holding us at gunpoint?”
“I regain my rep by getting you dead. The point being you can’t fuck with us. You caught us off guard, very good. I learned a hard lesson, my partner learned a harder one. So, I’m gonna let him do you. I’ll do the other broad just for good measure. Can’t have her testifying can I?”
“Oh, she’s not going to testify.”
“Fucking A she’s not. She’s gonna be dead as you.”
“You going to do us right here? I don’t even have a will, can I call my lawyer first?”
Tom is having trouble accepting the nonchalance, “You got a fucking smart mouth.”
“How would you know?”
I turn to Nikko, “Maybe I should speak in simpler sentences? I could write it out for them, got a pen?”
Tom’s face gets red, he tries to collect himself, “You’re going to get in the car. We go for a ride. You don’t get in the car, then we do what we gotta do to your girlfriend right here and we make it worse for you later. Want to watch her die?”
I look perplexed, as if he’d asked an incredibly dumb question, “Well, of course I do. You don’t think I’d let her die alone do you?”
Jerry’s getting pissed, more so because he can’t open his mouth. I want him livid. Not so livid as he fires the gun, just good and angry. I know what’s coming and only need a few more seconds.
Jerry tries to talk, which only frustrates him with his mouth wired shut. He steps forward and pulls his gun, he’s losing it. Two guns pointed at me and I give attitude, not fear, more than his feeble brain can process.
Tom grabs his hand, “She’s playing you, fool. We do her here, we risk prison. Follow the plan, ignore her bullshit.”
Jerry growls angrily, his face is flushed, hand shaking in anger. He reaches for me with his free hand, I knock it away as if I don’t care about the gun. I don’t. I don’t because Chan materializes behind the men. He snatches the gun out of Jerry’s hand and I kick Tom on the side of the knee, I kick hard. The wet crunch of his snapped joint audible on the quiet street.
Tom’s hand is still in his jacket pocket. Chan crushes it around the weapon. Blood seeps through the jacket, Chan holds the hand and the gun points down at Tom’s foot. If he pulls the trigger, he loses a foot on top of a crushed hand and broken leg. It doesn’t matter, his leg gives way completely, he collapses to the sidewalk. Chan whacks his skull with a knee strike. Chan’s knee is like a fire hydrant, lights out.
While Chan is ruining Tom’s day, Chris arrives with attitude. She smashes the good side of Jerry’s jaw with a flying side kick. He is trying to scream, his jaw won’t open. Her second kick breaks two of his ribs, and her third essentially gives him a sex change. Starting now, neither testicle will produce anything useful to his manhood.
A police cruiser screeches to the curb, then another from the other direction. Four city cops surround Nikko and me, Chan, Chris, and the two visitors from Chicago, one of whom is unconscious, the other wishing he was.
“Freshening perspectives again, Daphne?” Officer Edison Neil is one of my coffee buddies from the Village Diner.
“Hi, Eddie. These dopes tried to grab Janah a couple of weeks ago. We handled it, and I was informed that there was a full and frank discussion with the guy who hired them. He agreed that it would be best if he settled his personal business and went on with his life. However, these two couldn’t deal with the rejection. So, on their own, they thought killing us would restore their self-esteem. One assumes they still have issues.”
“There was no report of any attempt on Janah. We’d have seen it.”
“Uh, we meant to file a report, didn’t we Nikko? I must have forgot or something. You know, in all the confusion.”
Nikko looks at Neil, face impassive, “It was reported. Must have been lost in the vast bureaucracy.”
Officer Neil, “Yeah, well, I could see how that might happen. This, however, will require another report.”
I give him the story accurately, Nikko confirms with a slight nod to Eddie. Chris says she was trying to catch up to us to walk to our apartment. Chan doesn’t say anything. Neil has seen him around the diner. He’d have better luck talking to the concrete lions in front of the library. He takes it all down, one of the others calls EMS. Tom and Jerry go back to the hospital where orthopedic surgeons will cut and paste them together, again. This time there are charges, so off to the criminal ward for another round of recovery.
They also won’t be back on the street. They will be sitting upstate, with permanent severe injuries and certain inmate acquaintances of Mini making a miserable prison existence even worse. When he finds out what happened, he’s for sure going to inform his as yet unrehabilitated friends that the only way that either of them should leave prison is horizontal. They will be perpetually harassed. If they get transferred, paroled or serve their time, they’d never walk out the door. Mini won’t say anything, not to Janah or me anyway. He’ll tell Nikko only so she won’t have to look over her shoulder for them, ever.
We hang around the apartment, keep a low profile. The police report will find its way to the paper, maybe even TV news. We’d evaporated from the scene before any media showed up. It happened in the morning, and since it went down so quickly, even the couple of people on the street didn’t catch the action until there were two guys on the ground and the cops pulled up.
It did make the Metro section of the paper, our names were withheld, and it was portrayed as a mugging where the muggers bit off substantially more than they could chew. There was some follow up speculation as to who had dropped two armed muggers on a quiet street in broad daylight. It didn’t last long with no thread to follow. The two in the hospital aren’t going to say anything. New York loses interest quickly. Well, most of New York loses interest.
When the three of us walk into the Village Diner, the entire place rises and applauds. Janah and I smile everyone to death, Nikko to a booth, sits down like nothing happened. Janah joins her a few minutes later, they eat while I make the rounds and explain that, ‘honest to God,’ I hadn’t touched either of them. I decide kicking Tom’s knee sideways wasn’t technically touching.
“I just stood there enjoying the morning air. Chris and Chan had words with a couple of hostile tourists, who took a nap on the sidewalk. That’s all I know, really.”
Mort Glickman, a retired bond trader from the old rough and tumble days of Wall St., says, “Had woids? Miss Chris and Chan don’t have woids. They don’t say nuttin. Two schlemiels tried what they shudda never tried, and got their dicks stepped on. Pardon my vernacular.”
I laugh, “I love your vernacular Mort, you have the hottest vernacular in Manhattan.”
Mort, “Don’t get an old man all excited, Daph. The pressure will kill me.”
I kiss his cheek, “If bond trading didn’t kill you, you aren’t going to die. I’ve got to get something to eat, keep up my vernacular.”
I plop down next to Janah, look over at Nikko, there are crumbs on a plate, “You ate an entire piece of toast?”
Janah, “She ate a piece of crust I left on the plate, about the size of my thumb.”
“Oh good, I thought I passed into some kind of alternate universe where Nikko actually ate food.”
Nikko, “Mistress already lives in an alternate universe.”
Janah gets the giggles and is still smiling when Chuck delivers my omelet, fries and toast. Ten minutes later Janah is dragging the last of the fries thru ketchup. She feeds one to me, Nikko pays the bill and we stroll back to the apartment for a morning of lazy nothing.

Chapter Six

I came into the world crying,
I will go out laughing.

Old Tan’s time is near. He sits quietly in the shade of the bamboo, surrounded by Janah, Chan and me. There is no conversation, nothing to say.
I knew he was ill six months earlier, smelled the cancer that would kill him. Of course, that meant Janah knew as well. Towards the end, we told Chan and since then we’d seen him every day, supposedly to visit and meditate. Tan was his usual self along the way.
Tan, “You come here every day to annoy an old man. I am content. Perhaps you should look at your discontent.”
Janah, “Be still. It is your time. Do you want to deprive your students of a last few moments with their teacher?”
“Trust you to see through an old fraud. I may die today or tomorrow, it is good to return to the void.”
“You aren’t going anywhere until we bring the baby for your blessing. He is coming tomorrow with Ning. When you have fulfilled your duty to him, then you may do as you wish.”
Tan groans, “You are worse than a nagging wife. I had thought to escape all that, then you show up. At least you were good student, the boy too. Your other has work to do, you will see that it’s carried out?”
“Of course. She is me, and can do what I do. She has most of the skills in her, the more extreme she can only do through me for now.”
“So, you will teach her to stand on her own. Then the two as one will also have two powerful qi rivers flowing into one mighty one. It will be a beautiful thing to see. I will enjoy it from the other side.”
We are quiet again, then leave him to rest. His pain would have been unbearable to anyone but himself. He is not of his body and his being feels nothing. He sees his body suffering, he has not been his body for a long time. We remain through the evening, all night, sleep in shifts outside his hut.
Ning comes with the baby. Tan takes the child in his arms and strokes his brow. He chants softly, and holds the child to his breast for a long while. Baby David grins the entire time.
Tan, “It is time.”
We wait outside for a half hour, Janah with him when the mystic monk is no longer with us. She weeps alone, I do not intrude on her sorrow.
Janah emerges from the hut, “I need to see Sung. Daphne, please make arrangements.”
She slips through the bamboo, Hue is waiting for her, he says with no remorse, “Master Tan has left us, the garden is silent, the bamboo will soon rejoice in his return to them.”
Janah nods, “Will you walk with me to tell Master Sung”
Sung is in the courtyard, watching the fish in the pond, gung fu in full swing across the way. He turns to Janah.
Janah, “Old one has discarded his body.”
Sung looks at the sky, then back at Janah, “It is good to hear Tan's laughter. Preparations?”
“Master Sylk will take care of everything.”
Sung, “There should be no practice for three days, we will sit in meditation for the blessing of his presence. After preparation, place his body in the meditation hall. When the night has passed, we will send it for cremation, then share the ashes with his beloved bamboo.”
Janah bows and sets off to organize the monks for twenty-four hour meditation, four hours per shift. Hue stays with Sung, Janah tells Zhang, Chu and Master, Kahn. Practice is suspended, the first monks file into the meditation hall. Other than necessities, there will be no activity in the temple, only silence.
Chan walks Ning home, then returns. The moms show up at the apartment to stay with Nikko. Black appears. It isn’t a time of sadness. It is a joy for Tan to return to the void. We celebrate with him in silence.

Chapter Seven

To go where you've never been
You must go where you've never been
Since you have never been
You cannot know what awaits
You cannot know tomorrow
It is coming anyway
Daphinity, The Secret Teachings

Janah, in a burst of inspiration, decides to go on retreat.
Ning is delighted, “You have hit on the perfect moment. It will be good for David, to experience nature away from the city.”
Janah, “Will you and Daphne plan the provisions? I’ll find us a spot and make travel arrangements. I’m looking for quiet away from the city. Apart from the temple garden, we don’t spend any time in nature. I think that’s a mistake.”
Janah contacts the Society, describes what she’s looking for, someplace isolated, not rustic. We aren’t looking to camp out, we are looking for solitude. It should be in the mountains. Not near popular trails or campgrounds.
Two weeks later we’re in a cabin in Canada. The place has three bedrooms, a large living and kitchen area, a front porch runs the length of the cabin, which overlooks a crystal blue lake that separates us from the world. The only way in is an hour ride on a houseboat. A couple that runs a small fishing lodge on the far side of the lake takes us over.
The woman, Tess, says, “Cabin’s stocked, we’ll come up again in two weeks with fresh provisions. It’s a big lake, we won’t take any customers fishing near your place. Keep in mind, there’s two more launches and guides around the lake. They almost never come this way, they have their spots like we have ours. It keeps everything friendly. You likely won’t even hear a boat until we show up, but you might see them cruising one of the outlying shorelines.”
I’m occupied learning how the houseboat operates. The others are fascinated by so much nothing. All of us are city people. The majesty of the mountains, the sheer splendor of color, the calm of the slow moving boat and the vast lake keeps them mesmerized. The boat eases alongside the dock, we unload and organize, Nikko asks if I need her for anything.
“This is for all of us. Please do whatever suits you.”
Nikko, Ning  and Chan go back to the pier, the rugged beauty of the mountain, blue lake and solitude. Janah and I bring hot tea, and settle onto the wooden dock. No one says anything, the baby’s gurgles add to the sense of nature that envelops us.
As the sun sets, Ning stands, “Little one needs to eat.”
She and Janah walk to the cabin together.
I come in a few minutes later, “Nikko and Chan may spend the night on the pier. They haven’t moved a muscle.”
Ning, “I am thrilled to be in such a place. More thrilled for my husband. We had some small time out in the country when we were in China, no mountains and crystal lake like this. He is absorbing it all. You’re right, I may never get him inside while we are here.”
“He may be on to something. Although when the sun goes down and the chill comes in, I think his warm Ning will win out over even the moon and stars.”
Ning blushes, “Well, if he doesn’t show up in bed, at least I lost out to something as grand as the entire universe.”
David fed, burped and pottied, we bundle him up and go to the porch. Nikko and Chan come up from the dock and we sit quietly until the final dot of sun disappears behind the mountain, big moon glowing across the lake. As the chill comes on, we move inside, Chan and I figure out the fireplace. We eat raw vegetables, fruit and cheese for dessert. Afterwards, sit in a semicircle in front of the fire, the little one crawls around the floor, then up into Chan’s lap, engrossed by the flames in the fire.   
Occasionally, he gets into a frenzy of arm waving and gurgling, then looks up at his father to make sure dad is paying attention. Nikko adds a log, I take the opportunity to make Tazo Calm tea and return with cups for everyone. There is no talk, the logs crackle, David supplies the only conversation. When a log pops, he giggles merrily. When it pops particularly loud, he lets out a soft ‘ohhhh,’ then he begins to make his own ‘pop’ trying to imitate the fire. Janah drifts off into the bliss, the fire dwindles, we drift off to bed
Everyone but the baby is up at sunrise and out on the porch in the morning chill. We bundle up in blankets, drink strong coffee or black tea and sit entranced by the stillness and sunrise.
Chan goes to check on his son and returns with him, hands the baby and a warm cup of smashed veggies to Ning. When David has eaten, she kisses him and passes him to Nikko.
“He loves your voice, as do I. Would you sing to him, and to us?”
Nikko sings a poem, a history of a samurai warrior who gives up everything for the love of his family and triumphs over a dishonorable warlord. She sings in quiet strength and in passion, then in tenderness.
Every time I think I have a handle on that girl, she reveals another layer.
Janah, It is her trust in us allowing her to show this deeply hidden side. We will honor that by never speaking of it.
Nikko puts the baby to her shoulder, on which Ning laid a soft towel. A few pats and he makes a noisy burp. Ning takes him inside for the next inevitability.  We prepare a light breakfast, a pot of yerba mate, take cups outside in the sun, the air is warming slowly, it will be cool all day.
Janah, “I’m going for a walk, anyone care to join me?”
Ning gets David bundled in a sling. Chan offers to carry him, Ning says the extra pounds will be good exercise. Everyone in a line, we wander up a little used trail, steep in spots, for half an hour then back down. Each remains within, feeling the forest, sounds of birds and insects, not naming, seeing as if for the first time, without the filter of knowledge. On returning, the David Li crawls around in front of the cabin, Ning doesn’t mind dirt, she lets him get as crummy as he wants. He will be healthier not sanitized all the time.
Janah wanders to the edge of the woods and sits on a boulder, mostly flat on top. She folds up and enters no mind. The others find their spot, Nikko and Chan on the pier, me on the front steps facing the water, Ning on the porch, rocking young David Li.
Janah hears birds chattering about the new residents in their forest.
These don’t make as much noise as the others. They look the same, but different.
What relief. Last ones had noisy boxes that screeched day and darkness.
Rock one attends. She understands.
“I wonder what is her song.”

Janah, My song is not as beautiful as yours.
She knows our song! None of them has known it.

Janah, Only poorly. Please help me learn.
This one not ignorant. We teach her.
It might be a trick.
She sings with no sound, yet I hear.
I approach.
Not too close.

The bird flutters down to a low branch, a few feet from Janah. He cocks his head, looks around carefully.
“he others are inside themselves.
Not the porch.
“hat one caring for its young. Only dangerous if approached.
She let others touch her young.
One must be her mate. Other sang her song to young. Do not know that song. It was good song.

Janah, Thank you for sharing your home with us.
Why not? Everyone’s home.

Janah, We are new to this part.
Others come. Not speak.

Janah, They do not understand you.
How you?
A teacher opened my mind.
Others like you?
Everyone is like me, except their minds are not open.
Yes, and their loss.
We will sing again.

The bird flies up to the higher branches. He and the others observe, then call to each other softly, what each sees, any dangers, songs of the forest, the water, their young. Janah enters no mind again, the leaves rustle, the birds settle down and watch the strange creatures.

Chapter Eight

Be not righteous over much, neither make thyself over wise:
why shouldest thou destroy thyself?
Ecclesiastes 7:16 King James Version

Nikko and I walk into the woods, farther up the hill on a different path. An hour into it, we come on a waterfall over a hundred feet high that falls into a pool, then a stream that winds down the mountain. The water is frigid, coming from snowmelt higher up. Take off our shoes and freeze our feet in the icy water, splash it on our faces, sit on a boulder, watching the water crash down, then kissing slowly, gently. My jeans off, Nikko softly touches me, brings me to a splendid orgasm, the rush of the falls and the clear blue sky above. An eagle circles overhead, our only observer. Nikko slips off her jeans, naked underneath. She folds them under my leg, then straddles it. She’s primed, gets herself off on my thigh. Before long, I feel her slick warmth, long finger inside me brings a second tingly orgasm. We lie holding each other, Nikko’s wonderful lotion drying on my skin. We kiss and nuzzle, then just are. The sun is sinking low.
You two have me all worked up. I expect you to take good care of me tonight, bad beautiful girls.
I relay Janah’s message.
“Tonight we double up on Ange Blanc. I have her favorite toy as well. Every need will be met, When we’re done, she’ll be covered in us.”
I’m taking notes, just to make sure you get to everything.
I tell Nikko Janah can hear her through my ears, “Keep your tongue warm white hair gaijin. I have a special use for it.”
Janah starts giggling, Better sign off now, the baby’s coming in the room. See you in an hour.
Ning, “I’m learning your laughter. That one means you have special plans for your girls later I think.”
Janah smiles, “Good thing this family is close. I wanted to have a retreat, not become celibate.”
“I feel the same way when I have my Shaolin next to me. He has his own kind of beauty.”
Janah, “David looks well.”
Ning, “Our baby is strong, he sits on his own easily and pulls himself up. You’ve seen Chan holding his hand, he tries to take a step or two. He giggles so much when he plops down. I think he likes falling as much as walking.”
“Your husband likes falling as much as walking, He’s always rolling around on the mats and leaping off the meditation loft.”
Ning laughs, “I asked him to slow down that jumping. I want his knees intact when he is older. I’m likely worried about nothing. By that time, they’ll be able to grow new knees with stem cells.”
“I’ll go out on a little limb and predict David’s walking by the time we go home. You’ll have a mountain climbing baby.”
Ning, “We may have two mountain climbing babies.”
Janah’s eyes light up, “You’re going for it?’
“I’m not on birth control. Chan is most, um….active. I’m approaching prime time.”
Janah claps her hands, she sits on the floor behind Chan and hugs him to her, “You and Ning bring ever more joy to our family.”
Chan shrugs, “Ning won’t say boy or girl. What about you?”
 “Flavor is unimportant. I will ask the birds if they can tell.”
“You listen to people everywhere you go. You go on retreat, you listen to birds. Always listening.”
“It’s a privilege to hear them.”
Chan, “Yes, that’s how you would see it.”
“David will have a brother or sister to watch over soon. You must do your part.”
Chan, “I get the best part.”
Ning and Janah laugh, the sweet sound spills out the door as Nikko and I come in.
“Nikko says she’s meditating the entire retreat for a girl. If not this time, then the next. She says little brother has to keep going until she gets a girl to spoil.”
Chan looks blankly at Nikko, “Nothing but work for Chan.”
We explode in laughter, Chan’s humor doesn’t creep out often, it’s a special moment.      
Nishiko scoops David off the floor and takes him outside. While I make tea, the others join them while she sings a poem in Japanese. Janah listens, teary eyes, only she and I understand the lyrics. It is about a young girl finding purpose in service to her mistress, and of many adventures and tender moments. It is touching, lovely.
She rocks the baby, then tells him a story in English translated from the Japanese, of the trials of a masterless impoverished samurai who roams the countryside seeking a worthy master and finding many unworthy ones. One day he saves the life of a young girl who had fallen into a swiftly flowing river. She is the daughter of a famous and honorable nobleman, who rewards him generously with land, rice fields and cattle. The samurai rules his land with great feeling for the people, he turns parcels over to poor families, eventually gives away everything. He returns to his wandering, in complete freedom from all possessions.
Does this mean I have to give away all my short skirts?
Janah, Don’t be silly, your skirts are for us, not you.
That’s a relief.
“’m hungry.

It’s dark, a chill descends, Chan and Nikko build a fire, Ning cuts raw vegetables and adds them to a pot of water and vegetable broth. While it simmers, she puts out cheese, nuts and crackers and a big jug of lemon water. After the snack, the others wander off for showers, Ning and I clear up
We watch the fire and David’s efforts to walk with Chan’s help. He pulls himself up several times to play with the rubber balls on the coffee table, pushing them to the floor or trying to stick one in his mouth, big as an orange, it isn’t happening. He gums it pretty good, then bonks dad on the head with it, which he finds insanely funny.
Time for bed, Chan to enthusiastically do his part in baby creation, Nikko and I make Janah lose her mind, as promised. Janah is soon happily asleep covered in what she loves best.

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