The Open Window

“The Open Window” – Saki (H. H. Munro)

“My aunt will be down presently, Mr. Nuttel,” said a very self-possessed young lady of fifteen; “in the meantime you must try and put up with me.”

Framton Nuttel endeavoured to say the correct something which should duly flatter the niece of the moment without unduly discounting the aunt that was to come. Privately he doubted more than ever whether these formal visits on a succession of total strangers would do much towards helping the nerve cure which he was supposed to be undergoing.

“I know how it will be,” his sister had said when he was preparing to migrate to this rural retreat; “you will bury yourself down there and not speak to a living soul, and your nerves will be worse than ever from moping. I shall just give you letters of introduction to all the people I know there. Some of them, as far as I can remember, were quite nice.”

Framton wondered whether Mrs. Sappleton, the lady to whom he was presenting one of the letters of introduction came into the nice division.

“Do you know many of the people round here?” asked the niece, when she judged that they had had sufficient silent communion.

“Hardly a soul,” said Framton. “My sister was staying here, at the rectory, you know, some four years ago, and she gave me letters of introduction to some of the people here.”

He made the last statement in a tone of distinct regret.

“Then you know practically nothing about my aunt?” pursued the self-possessed young lady.

“Only her name and address,” admitted the caller. He was wondering whether Mrs. Sappleton was in the married or widowed state. An undefinable something about the room seemed to suggest masculine habitation.

“Her great tragedy happened just three years ago,” said the child; “that would be since your sister’s time.”

“Her tragedy?” asked Framton; somehow in this restful country spot tragedies seemed out of place.

2

“You may wonder why we keep that window wide open on an October afternoon,” said the niece, indicating a large French window that opened on to a lawn.

“It is quite warm for the time of the year,” said Framton; “but has that window got anything to do with the tragedy?”

“Out through that window, three years ago to a day, her husband and her two young brothers went off for their day’s shooting. They never came back. In crossing the moor to their favourite snipe-shooting ground they were all three engulfed in a treacherous piece of bog. It had been that dreadful wet summer, you know, and places that were safe in other years gave way suddenly without warning. Their bodies were never recovered. That was the dreadful part of it.” Here the child’s voice lost its self-possessed note and became falteringly human. “Poor aunt always thinks that they will come back someday, they and the little brown spaniel that was lost with them, and walk in at that window just as they used to do. That is why the window is kept open every evening till it is quite dusk. Poor dear aunt, she has often told me how they went out, her husband with his white waterproof coat over his arm, and Ronnie, her youngest brother, singing ‘Bertie, why do you bound?’ as he always did to tease her, because she said it got on her nerves. Do you know, sometimes on still, quiet evenings like this, I almost get a creepy feeling that they will all walk in through that window – ”

She broke off with a little shudder. It was a relief to Framton when the aunt bustled into the room with a whirl of apologies for being late in making her appearance.

“I hope Vera has been amusing you?” she said.

“She has been very interesting,” said Framton.

“I hope you don’t mind the open window,” said Mrs. Sappleton briskly; “my husband and brothers will be home directly from shooting, and they always come in this way. They’ve been out for snipe in the marshes today, so they’ll make a fine mess over my poor carpets. So like you menfolk, isn’t it?”

3

She rattled on cheerfully about the shooting and the scarcity of birds, and the prospects for duck in the winter. To Framton it was all purely horrible. He made a desperate but only partially successful effort to turn the talk on to a less ghastly topic, he was conscious that his hostess was giving him only a fragment of her attention, and her eyes were constantly straying past him to the open window and the lawn beyond. It was certainly an unfortunate coincidence that he should have paid his visit on this tragic anniversary.

“The doctors agree in ordering me complete rest, an absence of mental excitement, and avoidance of anything in the nature of violent physical exercise,” announced Framton, who laboured under the tolerably widespread delusion that total strangers and chance acquaintances are hungry for the least detail of one’s ailments and infirmities, their cause and cure. “On the matter of diet they are not so much in agreement,” he continued.

“No?” said Mrs. Sappleton, in a voice which only replaced a yawn at the last moment. Then she suddenly brightened into alert attention – but not to what Framton was saying.

“Here they are at last!” she cried. “Just in time for tea, and don’t they look as if they were muddy up to the eyes!”

Framton shivered slightly and turned towards the niece with a look intended to convey sympathetic comprehension. The child was staring out through the open window with a dazed horror in her eyes. In a chill shock of nameless fear Framton swung round in his seat and looked in the same direction.

In the deepening twilight three figures were walking across the lawn towards the window, they all carried guns under their arms, and one of them was additionally burdened with a white coat hung over his shoulders. A tired brown spaniel kept close at their heels. Noiselessly they neared the house, and then a hoarse young voice chanted out of the dusk: “I said, Bertie, why do you bound?”

Framton grabbed wildly at his stick and hat; the hall door, the gravel drive, and the front gate were dimly noted stages in his headlong retreat. A cyclist coming along the road had to run into the hedge to avoid imminent collision.

4

“Here we are, my dear,” said the bearer of the white mackintosh, coming in through the window, “fairly muddy, but most of it’s dry. Who was that who bolted out as we came up?”

“A most extraordinary man, a Mr. Nuttel,” said Mrs. Sappleton; “could only talk about his illnesses, and dashed off without a word of goodby or apology when you arrived. One would think he had seen a ghost.”

“I expect it was the spaniel,” said the niece calmly; “he told me he had a horror of dogs. He was once hunted into a cemetery somewhere on the banks of the Ganges by a pack of pariah dogs, and had to spend the night in a newly dug grave with the creatures snarling and grinning and foaming just above him. Enough to make anyone lose their nerve.”

Romance at short notice was her speciality.

Bouldering in the Cave

Took the kids climbing in Shibuya again on last Sunday and spent a little time playing around in the 2nd floor cave once they had pretty much exhausted themselves on the 3rd floor wall.

I really love the design of this room: it’s a fantastic use of restricted space and it’s cool how the big window looks out to the street. Anyhow, I still don’t have even half the strength necessary to climb it well but it is fun to play around on some of the easier problems and let the angle kick my ass a bit.

Boston

I had a long, hard day on Monday and walked into work today already feeling exhausted. We have big screen TVs around the floor constantly playing the news and I saw the explosions in Boston the minute after I sat down.

I remember on 911 I was sitting outside Harrelson Hall at NCSU, drinking a soda and waiting for my class to start when a classmate said “did you hear a plane hit the WTC?” I was thinking: “A biplane?” “An accident?” Soon after we were all huddled around a TV in one of the classrooms and watching in disbelief as debris, people, and then eventually the buildings themselves, fell to the ground.

For the next good week I was really in a state of shock. Just didn’t really know what to think or feel. I also remember worrying about how America (both its people and government) were going to react, and I think that worry was validated unfortunately in a lot of ways.

I find that this time around I feel a lot different: I find myself not caring so much who caused it, or even what their excuse for a reason was. I’m just sad. I think it feels a little more real too in some ways as I have visited that area of Boston before. I had taken a day trip there from RI some years back to buy my wife’s engagement ring.

Anyhow, I really feel a great sympathy for those affected, am of course deeply saddened, and hope the city (and country) can achieve a sense of normalcy again sooner than later. I guess there will always be those people that for whatever reason, misguidedly try to fill some personal void by tearing things down under whatever pretense is most convenient. I try to take a bit of solace in the fact that there are still far more people out there focusing on building things up.

These Days

Been playing drums:

Working:

Had a picnic in Yoyogi Park under the cherry blossoms:

Started working on a new problem at the gym today:

This one is a 5-kyu/5b/V2. All the holds are nice and positive although the second to last is a little weird: like an underhanded three-finger pocket. Not bad though. I got my left hand on the last hold tonight but just couldn’t pull myself up to grab it with my right. Don’t have the strength. The wall is a good bit steeper at the top then it looks from this picture. I’m kicking off the big white thing right now to grab it but I’m pretty sure there is a better way to go about it technique-wise. Still kind of irks me because if I had just a little more strength I should be able to pull it off the way I’m doing it.

Super 8

My lunchtime has been my study time for about ten years now. It began when I was studying for the JPLT way back in the day and I have just continued on with it out of habit. Lately (meaning for the last year), I have been studying for the JSDA exam. Not really getting anywhere with it though to be honest. It probably took me at least 2-3 months just to get used to the vocabulary (it’s in Japanese), and 30 minuets here and there just isn’t enough to get it in my head. I probably need to do a good few long study sessions but I just can’t make the time for it these days with everything else going on. And by everything else I’m basically talking about work.

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The wifey’s dad brought over an old super 8 reel he had from when he lived in Germany. The thing has to be what, at least 30 years old? It’s the first time I have even seen one.

Anyhow, I promised him I would try to figure out a way to view it. I found a little shop in Tokyo that specializes in old film digitization so I’m thinking I will bring it to them and try to get it converted into a DVD or something. Should be kind of interesting to see how it comes out.

The Moon Rock

They opened the new 3rd floor at B-pump:

And it looks downright awesome. Everyone has been calling it the “moon rock.”

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It’s insanely hard though — very few holds and all the problems are hands/feet restricted. It’s marked by hold color rather than tape like the rest of the gym, which is a bit different. They also tend to be graded a bit more harshly in my opinion.

BBQ

I spent quite literally the weekend on take two of my imitation eastern NC BBQ. Take one was here for reference.

Got three large blocks of insanely fatty pork to use this round:Marinated each block overnight:

The baked them so hard the next day they were almost falling apart on their own:

Then in the middle of Sunday night after they had finished baking, I pulled all the pork and flavored it (while yawning and regretting that I had started cooking so late):

Note this is the “kids” bowl of a not-so-spicy version. I filled a Pyrex bowl with the normal BBQ. From there I wrapped the bowl, put it in the fridge, and hit the sack. Got a email from the wifey around dinner time saying Oishii~! so I guess I passed. Tried some for my dinner tonight and yeah — it came out really, really good this time. I aimed for closer to a Smithfield’s flavor as opposed to Moore’s — mainly because I won’t ever be able to get that wood smoke flavor in the oven and I felt I could fake the previous better, which ended up being true I think.

Anything and Everything

Went shopping with the kids yesterday afternoon to pick up some stuff to make meatballs:

Stopped by the shrine on our way home:

First made the meatballs:

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Then the subs:

These subs actually have a bit of a story behind them. I was always a bit sad that the Subway in Japan didn’t sell meatball subs (which were my favorite) so back when I was jobless and had too much spare time on my hands, I decided to try to imitate them. But I couldn’t find any decent meatballs so I learned to make them myself too, and so on. They taste fantastic, but they take forever to make.

Other stuff that has been going on:

I ran in the Nissan Stadium Ekiden (relay race) last weekend:

The wifey went to the princess’ school parent day (I was at work unfortunately):

And today we went to the park and while the kids rode on their bicycles, I, for some ungodly reason, went skateboarding for the first time in almost 15 years:

It’s rather interesting though — I suppose it’s kind of like ridding a bike in a way. The first 15-20 minuets I could hardly keep my balance and after about an hour I was landing kick-flips again. Guess your body just kind of remembers it. The princess did awesome as well. It was her first time but after about 15 minuets she was skating by herself:

Ren had fun as well, but he mainly just got on his stomach and used it as a surfboard.

Dinosaurs

The princess has been learning about dinosaurs at school and after getting probably farther into it than any rational family should, we decided to take the kids to the National Museum of Nature and Science here in Tokyo to see some:

I’m actually rather surprised I’ve never managed to go in my 10+ years of living in Tokyo. It’s a fantastic museum. We spent half the day there and barely covered half of it.

In other news, last Monday was a national holiday and the kids were taking some classes at the international school, so the wifey and I went to go see “Looper” (which I ended up liking quite a lot). I also just finished “The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern today, which I also rather enjoyed.

Oh yeah, and I am supposed to be running in the Nissan Stadium Ekiden (Japanese) which I am totally regretting about now. It’s been so cold I haven’t run in like over a month. I ran 5k last night trying to get back into the groove of things but it was pretty rough. I plan to do at least one more 5k this week before the race but I’m debating on a 3rd (because I need the practice but I also don’t want to kill my legs before the weekend). Luckily I’m lazy so I will naturally gravitate to just one more. Or maybe not even that one.