Shipwreck — part 3

Jiro looked up the beach in one direction, then in the other direction, and finally inland toward the forested hills. He decided to walk along the shoreline, and look for signs of human habitation rather than immediately striking inland.

Rain continued to pour down. He walked slowly. He founds bits of wreckage, but not much. All his belongings—all the costumes, makeup, props, and texts—gone. He found a ladle lying on the sand, and paused over it, studying it bitterly. Then he picked it up and flourished it. “You are the key to my new beginning,” he said, aloud. “Ladle, I will sell you in the market for one ryo, and buy a hook and line; I will catch fish and sell them for a ryo apiece until…”

He saw something ahead on the beach, and stopped. Then he walked slowly toward it.

It was a man, dead. Jiro touched him lightly, then turned the man’s face: it was Akihiko. Jiro had not known him before boarding the ship in Edo, but he had been an amiable companion during the voyage. He had said he was traveling to attend a wedding.

Jiro sighed and rocked back on his haunches. He could not do much for Akihiko, he decided. But he straightened him, placing him face up to look at heaven, and allowing the rain to wash his face free of sand and seaweed. As he composed Akihiko’s limbs in a more dignified posture, he noticed something inside his clothes around the waist, and this was revealed to be a small box about three inches square. The wedding present? There was a fastening around it…

As he straightened up, intending to examine the box more closely, he was startled by a movement out of the corner of his eye, and he turned around quickly—and found himself staring into the face of a man who had approached, but had given no hail, no greeting. In fact, he had been stealthy, and now betrayed alarm at being seen. The man was holding an oar, half-raised. Behind him came several other men, running, and each of them also carried some implement—one looked like a forked octopus spear.

“Dog!” cried Jiro. “Why do you approach me thus? Do you know who I am?”

The man’s eyes widened and his mouth dropped slightly open. He took a step back, in an involuntary reaction.

Jiro realized that he had startled but not quite convinced. Suspicion had to be choked off before the man realized it was there. He planted his legs and shoved his face out toward the man wearing what he knew was a horrible look of barely suppressed rage. (He had seen it on Lord Hideyoshi’s face and had afterward practiced it until he had it right, once he had gotten over the shock it had given him.) He gestured towards Akihiko, and bellowed, “This is the daimyo’s son—dead!”

An appalling look of fear took over the man’s face. He almost seemed to melt. He dropped the oar, went to his knees and prostrated himself. Jiro heard muffled words, of which he could only make out “Please.” The other two men also fell to the sand.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s