Holy priests, in admiration of Buddha,
Went to the west, leaving the east:
Bodhidharma, disliking Buddha,
Came to the east, leaving the west.
They will meet at the tea house of
Awakening.. But alas!
This was in a dream.
Words and pictures by Bon-Sengai in veneration of the first Zen monastery in Japan
Lipton went to the fridge. He opened it with a shudder but he did not notice the shoe. There was not much milk left but it was not out of date and it still smelled okay. It would do for a cup of tea. There wasn’t much else; Nothing fresh but nothing rotten. Although he had not been shopping regularly recently, he was always assiduous at throwing out rotting vegetables. He rather enjoyed it, one element of control and responsibility he had in his life. Often he would get to the end of the week having thrown out every single vegetable he had bought on his weekly shop the previous Saturday. And he always felt a sense of pride and righteousness about this. The healthiest thing would have been to cook and eat them, but failing that the next best alternative was not to have them rotting in bottom draw of the fridge.
It had been a busy, blurry, drunken few weeks. Not only had he not been in the evenings to cook or eat the supermarket’s faux farm fresh fruit and veg. His Saturday morning hangovers had been too demanding to allow him to contemplate shopping. He had survived on tins and take-aways. The supply of perishables had not been replenished, and had long since been thrown out. At least his mother would approve of that. Now, the fridge just contained jams, pickles and intriguing intimidating jars of foreign delicacies, brought back by Rose from all over the world, but never opened.
Until recently, when in drunken hungry midnight snacks, Lipton had started working his way through these more eclectic provisions. It is probably a sign that one is going off the rails if, however drunk or however hungry you may be, you think that rancid shark on toast would be just the thing. He had been in decline since Rose’s permanent departure a year ago. But he never had sunk as low as Iceland’s infamous foodstuff before last night.
He shuddered again as he warmed the teapot. The metallic ammonia taste had lingered in mouth all night and in his mind all day. He heaped three large spoons of Lapsang Souchong into the pot. Its strong smoky flavour might help permanently eradicate last night’s awful olfactory memory. Meanwhile, something else troubled him about his fridge. He added the boiling water to the pot and poured out a small jug of milk. Checking it again for freshness. He did not fancy any more rancidity. In fact, he probably ought to throw the jar of imperfectly preserved shark out while he remembered.
He went to the fridge to replace the milk. On the third shelf was a single man’s black leather shoe. It was a left shoe, it looked expensive and it had not been there this morning. Lipton knew without looking that it was size ten and a half.