Keyword exercise: Artist

Artist Eric M. Bahle August 10, 2008

Takezo smiled up at the bird. The little thrush had not flown away as the warriors formed up at dawn. It watched from its branch, calm and unconcerned. When the grey dawn began to lighten, the thrush began to sing, unbothered by the armored men in the clearing. As the Lord Katsu addressed the assembly in his ringing voice, the thrush increased his own volume. The bird finally fell silent and Takezo realized that the assembly had also become quiet. There was a flash of barely seen motion as the bird flew away. Takezo looked toward the generals and they were all looking at him. All except Yamamoto.

“You,” Lord Katsu pointed with his fan. He was pointing at Takezo. Nonplussed, Takezo took a step forward and bowed a little. Katsu waved his fan indicating Takezo should approach. Takezo ran to the front of the assembly and dropped to one knee in a battlefield salute.

“You are to act as kaishaku for General Yamamoto,” Katsu said.

Takezo was shocked but tried not to show it. He wanted look at Yamamoto but stopped himself from turning more than an inch or so. Instead he bowed lower. “Yes, lord.”

Katsu noticed the shock. “You hesitate?”

“Not to obey, lord,” Takezo said. “Just to step before others closer to Lord Yamamoto’s rank.”

“General Yamamoto chose you himself,” Katsu put the barest emphasis on the word general. Takezo turned and bowed to Yamamoto, who knelt in the grass.

“Lord, you honor me.”

Yamamoto bowed his head and smiled. “Two years ago in Gozen you beheaded three samurai. I was there.” Yamamoto was trying to answer the question Takezo could not ask.

“Yes, lord, but those were just executions.” Yamamoto smiled again and moved his head indicating the back of the assembly.

“Back there when everyone was watching me, you were looking up. At what?”

“A bird, lord,” said Takezo. “A thrush.”

“Ha,” Yamamoto chuckled, low and warm, “While the shrike gets his wings clipped you were watching a thrush?” The shrike appeared on Yamamoto’s personal banner.

“He was singing, lord. It was beautiful.”

“You composed a poem?”

Takezo nodded and Yamamoto indicated he should hear it.

“Thrush sings, sun glints on

Bright wings and the once still branch

Now quivers, empty.”

Yamamoto nodded and smiled and Takezo smiled back, nodding as well. He stood and drew his sword. Yamamoto took a few moments to compose his own poem and wrote it with sure strokes. Takezo longed to read it but it would have been impolite. Yamamoto laid the brush next to the gleaming blade of the aikuchi and paused to regard them both.

It’s a shame we lost such a man, thought Takezo. The assembly was utterly silent as Yamamoto grasped the hilt of his dirk. In the forest Takezo heard a thrush singing.

Creative writing – “artist”

(writing exercise for our writing group using the word “artist” as a seed)

The Detective slid the manila folder across the worn steel table to Cassidy.  Cassidy shifted in his chair and looked down at the folder.

“Don’t you want to see the results of your handiwork,” asked the Detective.

Cassidy looked up from the folder and met the Detective’s gaze.  “Not particularly,” he said.

The Detective leaned back in his hard, uncomfortable chair.  He looked at the huge two-way mirror covering one wall of the interrogation room, and bit his lower lip thoughtfully.  No one was behind the mirror, but it usually helped if the prisoner thought there was.  The idea of a faceless, scrutinizing judge was much more imposing than a small, Canon digital video camera.  The whole sterile, hard, cold room was designed to put people off balance, to make them feel alone and controlled.  It worked much better on some than others.

The Detective pressed on.  “You seemed to take a lot of pride in what you did, why wouldn’t you want to see it?” he asked.

Cassidy cocked his head, puzzled for a moment.  “It wasn’t pride, Detective,” he said.

“Then what was it?  Revenge?”

Cassidy leaned forward slowly, pushing the manila folder to the side.  He clasped his fingers and leaned on his elbows on the table.  The Detective tensed, not that anyone else could see it.  He didn’t think this scrawny stick was any danger, but you can never tell.  If this fool got the advantage on him, he would be a laughing stock.

“Do you have any children, Detective?  A daughter, maybe?”

Now the Detective sat upright.  “None of your business,” he replied.

Cassidy shook his head. “I’m not asking for details or anything, but you asked why I did this.”

“My children have nothing to do with it one way or another.”

“I’m an artist, Detective. Art is about helping people to connect on an idea, an understanding, or an experience. It’s a common medium for us to share our private views of the world.  I’m trying to find that common medium with you so I can explain.”

The Detective drummed his fingers on the table.

Cassidy continued, “I know you’re probably supposed to be the Bad Cop, but I’m not trying anything funny.  Really.”

No Good Cop could be spared to tag team on this loser, so the Detective finally responded “Yes, I have a daughter.”

“A baby?  Graduated?  Teens?” asked Cassidy.

“In her teens,” said the Detective slowly.

“Ah, so you’ve had some time to watch her grow up.  To go from the beautiful ideal you had for her when she was an infant, to making her own choices.  To getting tarnished a bit.”

“Careful,” cautioned the Detective.

Cassidy spread his hands, “I’m not judging her at all, Detective.  But no daughter, no son, no child has ever grown up without changing in their parent’s eyes.  Becoming something they didn’t expect, wandering off the path a little bit, or maybe a lot.”

“As a parent you love your children anyway. I’ve had mothers in this very room sob over their gangbanger son as we put him away for years over some driveby shooting.”

“Exactly,” said Cassidy. “You love them anyway, and you forgive their faults, but what if you found your daughter fell in with the wrong crowd?  That she was being abused, used in some horrible way, would you let it happen?”

“My daughter wouldn’t end up with punks like that. I’ve raised her better.”

“What if it wasn’t her own choice?  Someone forced it on her?  Wouldn’t you rescue her?”

“Of course.”

“That’s what I did here. My art… this was not what it was for, what I intended, what it wanted.”

“That isn’t the same at all. Your art wasn’t a living, breathing person.”

“It was my child.  Parent to child, artist to art. My art could not speak for itself and it was being abused.”

“So you destroyed it?”

Cassidy sat back.  “I saved it.”

The Detective slid the manila folder back in front of Cassidy.  “And the rest of what went along with it didn’t matter?”

Cassidy shrugged.  “You and I are both artists, just working in different mediums, Detective.  Where would you stop? What would be too much for you?”

The Detective shook his head.  “That’s not the same thing at all.  You don’t really expect me to buy that, do you?”

“I suppose not,” said Cassidy.  He put his fingers on the folder and flicked it across the table to the Detective.  “After all, I guess being misunderstood is part of the profession.”