The black bird flew away, never to return. The warmth of the anonymity overwhelmed by the callous sun lurks behind the soaring iron gates. The man takes a bus to a strange new world. The groceries rip through the paper bag. The accusatory tone of the store manager meshed with the wary eyes sensing his melancholy. Terror struck his eyes as he fumbled at the speeding automobile. How the world had changed? He thought he could rob the store. But, he was too old. Living in constant fear, he walked home. Feet firmly on the wobbly table, he carved on the ceiling beam words that could write a forgettable memoir of a man lost in the autumn of his life. A rope looped the beam; a noose approximated his neck and the rickety noise of the collapsed table. He was tired. The inert ceiling eulogized the inscrutability of a librarian –“Brooks was here”. Defying my melodramatic corny thought-processes, the emotive ‘Shawshank Redemption’ scene flickered, interrupting the initial perusing with scepticism over Kikutani’s providence riding the identical path of Brooks Hatlen. Could there be a noose awaiting his arrival at the halfway house? Or, the deafening chaos of the crimson blur would bring the inevitable, exploding through the silence within?
“I like chickens. I like them a lot……..”
The crimson blur festers in the blackness spread across the tatami mats. The blue suit now tattered, a parched throat anticipating the surprise of a hot miso meal. A strange world, a new world, the clucking of the hens soars with every damp egg laid. The homogeneous streaming of eggs on the conveyor belt, harks back reflections of military stride at the prison. A tainted embryo at the cusp of breaking through the anonymity of the calcified eggshell carries the transgressions of the past etched behind the thick prison walls. The echoes of the boot thumping patrol guards subsided in the vastness of an industrial park. The crimson flood ebbs into a lighter hue breathing the fragrant air of freedom precipitated in the rancid stench of the chicken shit encasing slimy maggots. The memories of Sakura travelled from the twin graves flaring the fearsome inferno of a sordid past.
Do you think he’ll tell other people who work there about me?
Did he know that I just got out of prison?
After sixteen long years, he gulped the alcoholic euphoria; he smoked, slept in a heated room, laughed like a man running in wild tasting the sweetness of freedom. The cruel sounds of “an indefinite incarceration” cautiously trailed the narrow alleys of gratifying autonomy and inescapable surveillance. The obscurity of the half-way house comforted the twitchy mind on the verge of desertion. Kikutani was on parole; assimilating his reception in the society that had prosecuted him for a crime he harboured no remorse. Cognisant of the delusional accusatory eyes, he had secrets everywhere which ceased to evaporate in the muggy air of the henhouse. Emiko’s bare hips shuddering in the deathly impenetrability of the crimson blur. The unpleasant smell of burned wood lingered in the tranquillity funeral tablets. The arousing nostalgia of a tethered fly pinned on the edge of a hat looping with the resentful life of a strangled bird.
“A fly that had found its way into his cell landed on his foot, and as he stared at it, he felt a pang of envy for the freedom of this tiny insect.”
The timorous fly crawling to its independence, the broken wing restricting the destined flight; the claustrophobic existence of the hens clacking fervently at the sight of a human , the clipping of the beaks to reinstate the stated hierarchy in the henhouse and the tiny translucent killifish eggs shimmering amongst serene seaweed equated the fragmentary predicament encumbering Kikutani as a convicted man agonized by his haunting past, the timid present and a capricious future crammed between the legitimacy of survival and a respite from loneliness. Yoshimura’s unbiased handling of Kikutani’s caricature integrates the inherent culpability of grief and the intricacy over the earnestness of penitence. Kikutani’s constant struggle to re-assimilate and adjust in a prejudicial society consumes the core of his sanity and indispensable tolerance collapsing in the self- destructing truth bitterly frenzied between the fragility of an outsider and a righteous man. The fear of discovery veiled in surreptitious communications questions the inexplicable psychology of men on parole and the simultaneous grappling of the critical pandemonium by the assigned parole officials. The illusion of liberation twisted in a charred birdcage of natural retribution and the potential hope of clemency seeking a closure from the world beyond stirs the permissible angst over personal and communal justice. The agitation of collapsing egg market in an economic volatility develops into a salient pictogram of the imminent obliteration of human nature manoeuvred by the erratic peripheral milieu. Emotively, Yoshimura assembles the legitimate asphyxiation embedded in the quandary of a virtuous figure encircling fragility of life. The sunny prediction of seeking a ‘pardon’ fluctuated over the adherence of Kikutani’s fortitude prevailing over his cloudy past.
“If he stayed in the prison, passing his day between his cell and the print shop, none of this would have happened. In prison he was hidden from the prying eyes, alone in his own world; but here there were too many people, too much to worry about. It had been wrong to let him out.”
The accessibility to the refinement of the established conjecture “deemed fit to return to the society” burgeoning from the uneasiness of departure from the consoling oblivion of tapered prison quarters and the bitter joy accustomed with the borderless expanse of society , the irony of a far-flung dream slipping in a burrow of self-doubting realism. Intentionally, Yoshimura floats on the edge of the Japanese Criminal Justice system, resisting the palpable urge of diving into the complexities of the concurring legalities. Thus, leading to a lucid depiction of the mitigating pragmatism of Kikutani and the people around him. The helplessness of Toyoko, the looming trepidations of Takasaki, Emiko’s icy visage and Kiyoura’s loyalty bubbled into the maddening scarlet void. Kikutani’s incessant contemplation about returning to the secrecy of the prison walls averting the nightmares of crippled peace in the air of emancipation, delves into the vulnerability of the justice programs initiated in the rehabilitation of parolees. The noble benevolence of Kiyoura and Takebayashi rooted in their selfless service to the possibility of re-establishing a sense of reverence and reception in parolees gratifies the perseverance of the parole officers in the meticulous work aiding the parolees in achieving a normal existence and averting their return to crim. Nonetheless, perceiving the loopholes in the justice system, one is compelled to ask, ‘How far and to what depth can the rehabilitation work?’ And, when is a parolee or rather any prisoner for that matter truly ‘free’ in all sense without succumbing to the tremors of the past? Can the sanctity of forgiveness triumph over the insanity of life and if will it then restore the pristine sanity devoid of ambiguity? Is the vehemence of fate greater than psychosomatic reverberations? The tussle between betrayal and trust exploded in the crystallised mass of fleeting fragility. The probabilities of Kikutani walking into the crimson blur sympathetically lurking on the very next tip of a glowing incense stick.