(Bad Kitty continues)
It wasn’t until she returned from almost three weeks of vacation that she heard anything about her check handiwork…
Over dinner, she’d been going on to her friend Dolores about Japan and her mastery of one constantly applicable word – “Kanpecki” (perfect) – when Dolores interrupted.
“Oh, you missed the news! The Lewises have changed! They decided to be generous! Who knew? I never thought they’d be bit by the giving bug.”
She did her best to look stunned.
Dolores lifted up her drink and clinked glasses: “We won’t have to find more money for the rest of the year for the food pantry.”
After not giving the Lewises or that check a second thought while she was away, now as soon as she felt happy that they’d accepted the forgery, she realized that she had done something very bad.
She had stolen from the most beautiful, sacred, and Kanpecki spot of all.
To visit the Kokedera Moss Temple in Kyoto, you have to make a reservation far in advance, but she had screwed that up and only sent a letter a week before flying to Tokyo, humbly begging for three tickets, and giving her Kyoto hotel’s fax and address. She had sent it thinking she had one chance in a thousand of getting in–
But, at check-in time, extending with both hands a fancy handwritten single page in block caps, the ticket, the hotel lady had bowed extra deeply.
The tickets are collected at a gate in the high wall around the remote temple and you join about a hundred people busily exchanging shoes for slippers and selecting a little floor pillow with a low desk and an ink stone. She sat facing a Buddha set into the wall.
Monks chant and beat drums and she imitated all the Japanese guests who picked up the brush and started making ink in the wet ink stone, and as the sutra was being chanted off, started copying the printed-out sutra’s onto an onion skin semi-transparent large page provided by the temple. For her, it was a very slow, but very pleasant chore. A monk with a little English explained that she should add her name and address and a wish (though she had heard “wishes” plural and written eight).
The monk explained that they burn the sutras and pray for everyone and pray that their wishes come true.
He also said that the transcribing of the hundreds of little ideograms calmed the mind—so that the visitors would see the Moss garden in a more zen frame of mind.
After she set her copy on the stack, bowing to the Buddha, she passed out of the prayer hall, crossed a small field, and through an unlocked door in the next inner high wall walked into the moss garden itself –into the long long beauty, the calm, the light green-gray ravishing quiet splendor.
And oh the sin.
Because, right away the design for a moss garden piece of jewelry sprang to mind:
Emeralds for the moss surrounding dark gray temple pebbles for the boulders.
The temptation was complete: Kanpecki.
After eyeing various patches of pebbles, she had bent down to tie her shoelaces and plucked up two small gray stones.
Yes, she had stolen them in so thief-like a way, the memory jabbed, she pretended to listen to Dolores—the shame kept jabbing, she excused herself and went to the ladies room and just like in high school, she sought the blessed privacy of the toilet stall.
She stood there, seeing herself and the nasty-literally-low-down-crouching pretense of tying her shoelaces. She told herself they were just two insignificant stones and no one would miss them but she knew the stones would miss their garden, and she knew that she’d gone too low, stealing something from such a sacred place.
But on that flood of shame, a new thought came floating, jauntily like a bright little buoy:
The pebbles must go back home!
And the next morning, she carefully put the pebbles in an envelope she’d bought in the beautiful Tokyo stationery shop –a red and white one the Japanese use for paying back debts.
She google-translated a confession, an ardent apology, and the request that the monks put the pebbles back in the moss garden. Folding her Japanese note around the little red envelope, she thought: If a piece of paper could ever bow deeply, this is it. With a bilingual volume of Japanese nature poetry, she made a package and took it to the post office.
Repentance brought joy.
She told her girlfriend of her redemption– the shame and how Kanpecki sending them back felt, imagining the package landing in that beautiful place and the poor monks dealing with this new display of human absurdity.
But her girlfriend laughed!
Apparently tales of repentance are best kept to oneself.
(to be continued)