Friday, 23 March 2012

The Moon On The Water

Well, a few days ago, we were assigned short stories for a book report. My teacher told me that the short story assigned to me is The Moon On The Water. I searched for it in the web, but there were no copies T-T. That's when my teacher gave me his original copy. I retyped it all so that all of you can have a copy too. So, I hope I helped you all! 


It occurred to Kyoko one day to let her husband in bed upstairs, see her vegetable garden by reflecting it in her hand mirror. To one who had been so long confined, this opened a new life. The hand mirror was part of a set in Kyoko’s trousseau. The mirror stand was not very big. It was made of mulberry wood, as was the frame of the mirror itself. It was the hand mirror that still reminded her of the bashfulness of her early married years when, as she was looking into it at the reflection of her back hair in the stand mirror, her sleeve would slip and expose her elbow.
            When she came from the bath, her husband seemed to enjoy reflecting the nape of her neck from all angles in the hand mirror. Taking the mirror from her, he would say: “How clumsy you are! Here, let me hold it.” Maybe he found something new in the mirror. It was not that Kyoko was clumsy, but that she became nervous at being looked at from behind.
            Not enough time had passed for the color of the mulberry wood frame to change. It lay in a drawer. War came, followed by flight from the city and her husband’s becoming seriously ill; by the time it first occurred to Kyoko to have her husband see the garden through the mirror, its surface had become cloudy and the rim had been smeared with face powder and dirt. Since it still reflected well enough, Kyoko did not worry about this cloudiness-indeed she scarcely noticed it. Her husband, however, would not let the mirror go from his bedside and polished it and its frame in his idleness with the peculiar nervousness of an invalid. Kyoko sometimes imagined that tuberculosis germs had found their way into the imperceptible cracks in the frame. After she had combed her husband’s hair with a little camellia oil, he sometimes ran the palm of his hand through his hair and then rubbed the mirror. The wood of the mirror stand remained dull but that of the mirror grew lustrous.
            When Kyoko married again, she took the same mirror stand with her. The hand mirror, however, had been burned in the coffin of her dead husband. A hand mirror with a carved design had now taken its place. She never told her second husband about this.
            According to custom, the hands of her dead husband had been clasped and his fingers crossed, so that it was impossible to make them hold the hand mirror after he had been put in the coffin. She laid the mirror on his chest.
            “Your chest hurt you so. Even this must be heavy.” Kyoko moved the mirror down to his stomach. Because she thought of the important role that the mirror had played in their marital life, Kyoko had first laid it on his chest. She wanted to keep this little act as much as possible from the eyed even of her husband’s family. She had piled white chrysanthemums on the mirror. No one had noticed it. When the ashes were being gathered after the cremation, people noticed the glass which had been melted into a shapeless mass, partly sooty and partly yellowish. Someone said: “It’s glass. What is it, I wonder?” She had in fact placed a still smaller mirror on the hand mirror. It was the sort of mirror usually carried in a toilet case, a long, narrow, double-faced mirror. Kyoko had dreamed of using it on her honeymoon trip.
            The war had made it impossible for them to go on a honeymoon. During her husband’s lifetime she never was able to use it on a trip.

With her second husband, however, she went on a honeymoon. Since her leather toilet case was now very musty, she bought a new one-with a mirror in it too.
            On the very first day of their trip, her husband touched Kyoko and said: “You are like a little girl. Poor thing!” His tone was not in the least sarcastic. Rather it suggested unexpected joy. Possibly it was good for him that Kyoko was like a little girl. At this remark, Kyoko was assailed by an intense sorrow. Her eyes filled with tears and she shrank away. He might have taken that to be girlish too.
            Kyoko did not know whether she had wept for her own sake of her dead husband. Nor was it possible to know. The moment this idea came to her, she felt very sorry for her second husband and thought she had to be coquettish.
            “Am I so different?” No sooner had she spoken than she felt very awkward and shyness came over her.
            He looked satisfied and said: “You never had a child . . .”
            His remark pierced her heart. Before a male force other than her former husband Kyoko felt humiliated. She was being made sport of.
            “But it was like looking after a child all the time.”
            This was all she said by way of protest. It was as if her first husband, who had died after a long illness, had been a child inside her. But if he was to due in any case, what good had her continence done?
            “I’ve only seen Mori from the train window.”Her second husband drew her to him as he mentioned the name of her hometown. “From its name* it sounds like a pretty town in the woods. How long did you live there?”
            “Until I graduated from high school. Then I was drafted to work in a munitions factory in Sanjo.”
            “Is Sanjo near, then? I’ve heard a great deal about Sanjo beauties. I see why you’re so beautiful.”
            “No, I’m not.” Kyoko brought her hand to her throat.
“Your hands are beautiful, and I thought your body should be beautiful too.”
            “Oh no.”
            Finding her hands in the way, Kyoko quietly drew them back.
            “I’m sure I’d have married you even if you had had a child. I could have adopted the child and looked after it. A girl would have been better,” he whispered in Kyoko’s ear. Maybe it was because he had a boy, but his remark seemed odd even as an expression of love. Possibly he had planned the long, ten-day honeymoon so that she would not have to face the stepson quite so soon.
            Her husband had a toilet case for travelling, made of what seemed to be good leather. Kyoko’s did not come pare with it. His was large and strong, but it was not new. Maybe because he often travelled or because he took good care of it, the case had a mellow luster. Kyoko thought of the old case, never used, which she had left to mildew. Only its small mirror had been used by her first husband, and she had sent it with him in death.
            The small glass had melted into the hand mirror, so that no one except Kyoko could tell that they had been separate before. Since Kyoko had not said that the curious mass had been mirrors, her relatives had no way of knowing.
            Kyoko felt as if the numerous worlds reflected in the two mirrors had vanished in the fire. She felt the same kind of loss when her husband’s body was reduced to ashes. It had been with the hand mirror that came with the mirror stand that Kyoko first reflected the vegetable garden.
Her husband always kept that mirror beside his pillow. Even the hand mirror seemed to be too heavy for the invalid, and Kyoko, worried about his arms and shoulders, gave him a lighter and smaller one.
            It was not only Kyoko’s vegetable garden that her husband had observed through the two mirrors. He had seen the sky, clouds, snow, distant mountains, and nearby woods. He had seen the moon. He had seen wild flowers, and birds of passage had made their way through the mirror. Men walked down the road in the mirror and children played in the garden.
            Kyoko was amazed at the richness of the world in the mirror. A mirror which had until then been regarded only as toilet article, a hand mirror which had server only to show the back of one’s neck, had created for the invalid a new life. Kyoko used to sit beside his bed and talk about the world in the mirror. They looked into it together. In the course of time it became impossible for Kyoko to distinguish between the world that she saw directly and the world in the mirror. Two separate worlds came to exist. A new world was created in the mirror and it came to seem like the real world.
            “The sky shines silver in the mirror.” Kyoko said. Looking up through the window, she added: “When the sky itself is grayish.” The sky in the mirror lacked leaden and heavy quality of the actual sky. It was shining.
            “Is it because you are always polishing the mirror?”
            Though he was lying down, her husband could see the sky by turning his head.
            “Yes, it’s a dull gray. But the color of the sky is not necessarily the same to the dogs’ eyes and sparrows’ eyes as it is to human eyes. You can’t tell which eyes see the real color.”
            “What we see in the mirror-is that what the mirror eye sees?”
            Kyoko wanted to call it the eye of their love. The trees in the mirror were a fresher green than real trees, and the lilies a purer white.
            “This is the print of your thumb, Kyoko. Your right thumb.”
            He pointed to the edge of the mirror. Kyoko was somehow startled. She breathed on the mirror and erased the fingerprint.
            “That’s all right, Kyoko. Your fingerprint stayed on the mirror when you first showed me the vegetable garden.”
            “I didn’t notice it.”
            “You may not have noticed it. Thanks to the mirror, I’ve memorized the prints of your thumbs and index fingers. Only an invalid could memorize his wife’s fingerprints.”
            Her husband had done almost nothing but lie in bed since their marriage. He had not gone to war. Toward the end of the war he had been drafted, but he fell ill after several days of labor at an airfield and came home at the end of the war. Since he was unable to walk, Kyoko went with his elder brother to meet him. After her husband had been drafted, she stayed with her parents. They had left the city to avoid the bombings. Their household goods had long since been sent away. Their household goods had long since been sent away. As the house where their married life began had been burned down, they had rented a room in the home of a friend of Kyoko’s. From there her husband commuted to this office. A month in their honeymoon house and two months at the house of a friend that was all the time Kyoko spent with her husband before he fell ill.
            It was then decided that her husband should rent a small house in the mountains and convalesce there. Other families had been in the house, also fugitives from the city, but they had gone back to Tokyo after the war ended. Kyoko took over their vegetable garden. It was only some six yards square, a clearing in the weeds. They could easily have bought vegetables, but Kyoko worked in the garden. She became interested in vegetables grown by her own hand. It was not that she wanted to stay away from her sick husband, but such things as sewing and knitting made her gloomy. Even though she thought of him always, she had brighter hopes when she was out in the garden. There she could indulge her love for the husband. As for reading, it was all she could to read aloud at his bedside. Then Kyoko thought that by working in the garden she might regain that part of herself which it seemed she was losing in the fatigue of the long nursing.
           It was in the middle of September that they moved to the mountains. The summer visitors had almost all gone and a long spell of early autumn rains came, chilly and damp.
           One afternoon the sun came out to the clear song of a bird. When she went into the garden, she found the green vegetables shining. She was enraptured by the rosy clouds on the mountain tops. Startled by her husband’s voice calling her, she hurried upstairs, her hands covered with mud, and found him breathing painfully.
            “I called and called. Couldn’t you hear me?”
“I’m sorry. I couldn’t.”
            “Stop working in the garden. I’d be dead in no time if I had to keep calling you like that. In the first place, I can’t see where you are and what you’re doing.”
            “I was in the garden. But I’ll stop.”
            He was calmer.
            “Did you hear the lark?”
            That was all he wanted to tell her. The lark sang in the nearby woods again. The woods were clear against the evening glow. Thus Kyoko learned to know the song of the lark.
            “A bell will help you, won’t it? How about having something you can throw until I get a bell for you?”
            “Shall I throw a cup from here? That would be fun.”
            It was settled that Kyoko might continue her gardening; but it was after spring had come to end the long, harsh mountain winter that Kyoko thought of showing him the garden in the mirror.
            The single mirror gave him inexhaustible joy, as if a lost world of fresh green had come back. It was impossible for him to see the worms she picked from the vegetables. She had to come upstairs to show him. “I can see the earthworms from here, though” he used to say as he watched her digging in the earth.
            When the sun was shining into the house, Kyoko sometimes noticed a light, and looking up, discovered that her husband was reflecting the sun in the mirror. He insisted that Kyoko remake the dark-blue kimono he had used during his student days into pantaloons for herself. He seemed to enjoy the sight of Kyoko in the mirror as she worked in the garden, wearing the dark blue with its white splashes.
            Kyoko worked in the garden half-conscious and half-unconscious of the fact that she was being seen. Her heart warmed to see how different her feelings were now from the very early days of her marriage. Then she had blushed even at showing her elbow when she held the smaller glass behind her head. It was, however, only when she remarried that she started making up as she pleased, released from the long years of nursing and the mourning that had followed. She saw that she was becoming remarkably beautiful. It now seemed that her husband had really meant it when he said that he body was beautiful.
Kyoko was no longer ashamed of her reflection in the mirror—after she had had a bath, for instance. She had discovered her own beauty. But she had not lost that unique feeling that her former husband had planted in her toward the beauty in the mirror. She did not doubt the beauty she saw in the mirror. Quite the reverse: she could not doubt the reality of that other world. But between her skin as she saw it and her skin as reflected in the mirror she could not find the difference that she had found between that leaden sky and the silver sky in the mirror. It may not have been only the difference in distance. Maybe the longing of her first husband confined to his bed had acted upon her. But then, there was now no way of knowing how beautiful she had looked to him in the mirror as she worked in the garden. Even before his death, Kyoko herself had not been able to tell.
Kyoko thought of, indeed longed for, the image of herself working in the garden, seen through the mirror in her husband’s hand, and for the white of the lilies, the crowd of the village children playing in the field, and the morning sun rising above the far-off snowy mountains—for that separate world she had shared with him. For the sake of her present husband, Kyoko suppressed this feeling, which seemed about to become an almost physical yearning, and tried to take it for something like a distant view of the celestial world.
One morning in May, Kyoko heard the singing of the wild birds over the radio. It was a broadcast from a mountain near the heights where she had stayed with her first husband until his death. AS had become her custom, after seeing her present husband off to work, Kyoko took the hand mirror from the drawer of the stand and reflected the clear sky. The she gazed at her face in the mirror. She was astonished by a new discovery. She could not see her own face unless she reflected it in the mirror. One could not see one’s own face. One felt one’s own face, wondering if the face in the mirror was one’s actual face. Kyoko was lost in the thought for some time. Why had God created man’s face so the he might not see it himself?
 “Suppose you could see you own face, would you lose your mind? Would you become incapable of acting?”
Most probably man had evolved in such a way that he could not see his own face. Maybe dragonflies and praying mantises could see their own faces.
But then perhaps one’s own face was for others to see. Did it not resemble love? As she was putting the hand mirror back in the drawer, Kyoko could not even now help noticing the odd combination of carved designs and mulberry. Since the former mirror had burned with her first husband, the mirror stand might well be compared to a widow. But the hand mirror had had its advantages and disadvantages. Her husband was constantly seeing his face in it. Perhaps it was more like seeing death itself. If his death was a psychological suicide by mean dos a mirror, the Kyoko was the psychological murderer. Kyoko had once thought of the disadvantages of the mirror, and tried to take it from him. But he would not let her.
 “Do you intend to have me see nothing? As long as I live, I want to keep loving something I can see,” her husband said. He would have sacrificed his life to keep the world in the mirror. After heavy rains they would gaze at the moon through the mirror, the reflection of the moon form the pool in the garden. A moon which could hardly be called even the reflection of reflection still lingered in Kyoko’s heart.
 “A sound love dwells only in a sound person.” When her second husband said this, Kyoko nodded shyly, but she could not entirely agree with him. When her first husband died, Kyoko wondered what good her continence had done; but soon the continence became a poignant memory of live, a memory of days brimming with love, and her regrets quite disappeared. Probably her second husband regarded woman’s love too highly. “Why did you leave your wife, when you are such a tender hearted man?’ Kyoko would ask him. He never answered. Kyoko had married him because the elder brother of her dead husband had insisted. After four months as friends they were married. He was fifteen years older. When she became pregnant, Kyoko was so terrified that her very face changed.
            “I’m afraid. I’m afraid.” She clung to her husband. She suffered intensely from morning sickness and she even became deranged. She crawled into the garden barefooted and gathered pine needles. She had her stepson carry two lunch boxes to school, both boxes filled with rice. She sat staring blankly into the mirror, thinking that she saw straight through it. She rose in the middle of night, sat on the bed and looked in her husband’s sleeping face. Assailed by terror at the knowledge that man’s life is a trifle, she found herself loosening the sash of her night robe. She made as if to strangle him. The next moment she was sobbing hysterically. Her husband awoke and retied her sash gently. She shivered in the summer night.
            “Trust the child in you, Kyoko.” Her husband rocked her in his arms.
            The doctor suggested that she be hospitalized. Kyoko resisted, but was finally persuaded.
            “I will go to the hospital. Please let me go first to visit my family for a few days.”
            Some time later her husband took her to her parent’s home. The next day Kyoko slipped out of the house and went to the heights where she had lived with her first husband. It was early in September, ten days earlier than when she had moved there with him. Kyoko felt like vomiting. She was dizzy in the train and obsessed by an impulse to jump off. As the train passed the station on the heights, the crisp air brought her relief. She regained control of herself, as if the devil possessing her had gone. She stopped, bewildered, and looked at the mountains surrounding the high plateau. The outline of the Blue Mountains where the color was now growing darker was vivid against the sky, and she felt in them a living world. Wiping her eyes, moist with warm tears, she walked toward the house where he and she had lived. From the woods which had loomed against the rosy evening glow that day there came again and the song of a lark. Someone was living in the house and a white lace curtain hung at the window upstairs. Not going too near, she gazed at the house.
“What if the child should look like you?” Startled at her own words, she turned back, warm and at peace.