Chapter One (the wife)
Evening was coming on in the city of Lima, noisy as always at this hour. All the sounds of Lima echoing through the air, with the end of daylight. Nippon walked down the steep widen street in San Juan Miraflores, flanked by little shops and eateries, and tall concrete walls, alone. Talking to himself incisively -as often he did. He had left his wife and two young boys to go shopping, she took the small Chevy truck they owned, as he took his late afternoon walk around the neighborhood, and around Cherry Park, where his house paralleled the park that paralleled the Church. It was close to the time he figured she’d be back and so he was on his way back to the house.
However disagreeable Nippon was, in some ways he had his bright side. Nippon lived cautiously and there might be something in that.
He noticed the many people on the boulevards, coming and going, passing him-not one smile on anyone’s face.
“Have they all lost hope,” he murmured to himself. A statement, more than a question.
Walking on he came to a corner coated with grime and dirt, dust flying about, garbage piled high across the street. He looked behind him, there stood the large statue of the Virgin Mary, the mayor had refurbished, when they widened the road. Nippon stomped his feet to get the dust off his sandals. He pushed his straw hat back, looking to see if any cars were coming. His wife always reminding him to look before he leaped, he was to a certain degree careless.
– Nippon heard a crash. He tugged at his collar on his shirt, a policeman ran by “Excuse me,” he blasted out, as if in high gear, wanting Nippon to get out of his way, further down the sidewalk, the policeman again reeked his voice at another pedestrian to get out of his way. Now Nippon could hear sirens, an ambulance was approaching. He looked down the street, he had appeared to have come out of a dream. “Oh!” he exclaimed. The automobile that was crashed into, was not a car, but his wife’s Chevy Truck, so it appeared, could it really be he pondered. But there was much more in the scene than that, – the other car, a man staggered out of the other car, the car that hit the truck, drunker than a skunk. Nippon told himself, “It doesn’t do to rush to conclusions,” and approached the two vehicles, noticing the police officer that had just past him with the thick mustache, like John L. Sullivan, was pacing the accident sight, keeping bystanders at a distance, as the medics took charge; the officer passed Nippon with annoyance.
He surveyed the scene, reassured himself: it was his wife’s truck, he approached the officer even closer, amenable. Now he was sure it was his truck. The police officer looked at him, he looked perplexed, and then after a short silence, the officer asked, “Yes, can I help you?”
“I rather think so,” replied Nippon, then paused.
“Yes,” replied the officer, awaiting for some kind of validation to why he was there.
The scene, turned to the medics as they pulled out the three dead bodies from the truck, and the policeman had forgotten for the moment about Nippon. Nippon pulled off his hat as if to see everything clearer, the officer walked quickly to attend the medics. After a moment, Nippon gave the medics an odd nod, having approached right behind the police officer. A nod that seemed approving of some thought that had crossed his mind, said one of the three medics, “Do you know any of the deceased?”
“Yes!” answered Nippon.
It was to the police officer, beguiling, was this stranger living in a world of abstractions? Thinking he was a pretender. But he said nothing, and helped cover the three bodies with a plastic covering.
The drunk driver’s hands were shaking and he sat on the curb as if awaiting to be arrested, but no one paid him any attention, not even the newly arrived police officers.
“Well,” said the medic, “who are they? Can we reach their relatives to tell them of this tragedy, sir… ?” speaking to Nippon.
Nippon showed no pity, compassion, sympathy, no sorrow or discomfort.
“Of course,” replied Nippon, “I’m the husband and the father.”
Chapter Two (the drunk)
Now you could hear the ambulance clanging down the street. Nippon had opened the window of the truck to cool himself, found the keys, and the truck was runnable, yet somewhat discomforted with the rock and rolling of the automobile’s motor choking, but he lived but a few blocks away, so he figured he’d drive home, have the truck repaired come the weekend. The police officer standing dumfounded, watching it all, the one with the great turned-up mustache that his friends called J. L., for short. At the same time it appeared the drunk had run down the street, was halfway to where Nippon lived, and J.L., just shook his head aimlessly, and started to write out his report (although a propensity for more rhetoric, one he seemingly had, an old habit, which is seldom lost, and if lost they’re returning… )
The truck was clanking, and the transmission was making noise along with the clogging of the motor’s carburetor, but it ran, and that is what mattered to Nippon. He promptly stepped on the accelerator, to give it more gas, -as it too was sticking to the floor, and then popped back up to where it belonged; whereupon, the gears to the transmission connected after a short pause, and thus, the truck picked up speed faster than he had anticipated, then came a second phase of conflict, a crazy scene took place, the drunk stood in the middle of the road, as if preferring contact with the truck waving his hands, to which he might have seen it as a beast from his alcoholic trimmers, for he yelled “Come on beast!”
Then followed abjurations, by the police, in the far-off distance watching everything, hearing the screams by the drunk! As the truck run over him as if he was a sack of potatoes left in the street.
When the police arrived to the scene J. L., greeted Nippon again, but with a faltering smile, “Oh,” he commented, “I do hope it was not on purpose you run this poor drunk over! This Unfortunate soul; don’t you have any compassion?”
Thought Nippon, ‘Would it do any good?’
Other than that, Nippon gazed in silence at J.L., and simply said, “He jumped in front of my truck; I think?”
“It didn’t look like that to me,” said J.L., “it looked to me as if he was in your way and you just plowed over him like a tilling machine.”
Then there was a rush of worthless words by the three police officers, and another call for an ambulance.
Only one factor changed, the drunk was no longer the criminal and that was due to Nippon. He looked at the body with a bleak unresponsiveness, steady gaze, then at his truck, said “Can I leave?” to the remaining officers, who shook their heads right to left, and as he got into the truck, talking to himself, as often as he did, whispered, “One tires of pity when it’s useless.” But all three heard, and wrote it down in their report.
In front of his house, sitting in his truck, he felt it, -he knew there would be a sequence of questions forthcoming, renewed again and again. For him, he thought only of the abstraction, of the unendurable burden of the funeral and court, or pretrial days ahead, because of the drunk. This would make his tasks frustrating, his book harder to write, and therefore he was not glad of it.
The abstractions of these two events, if indeed they were, constituted his whole life to be. Now his world, his life was to be topsy-turvy, unscheduled, to be lived without a plan, as if to be a dry goods dealer without dry goods, he took all these thoughts to his bed with him, he was extremely tired…
(To Nippon the strict and secluded life was like a religion, he had no regret about contradicting himself, -not so unusual for a Peruvian. He believed God existed, otherwise there’d be no need for priests, and the reason God didn’t show up in person is because it caused such a raucous, an irritation which took place incessantly in the souls of evil men-and there was more evil men than good men: the ones whose sinful life were so deeply rooted in a diabolical lifestyle, God’s appearance stop their hearts, or per near thicken their breathing, -having remembered those far-off days when Abraham and Moses walked the Earth; hence, Nippon-for such men-he felt saintliness was combined with habits, bad customs, traditions, routines. And the good seeds had to grow one way or the other amongst the weeds, like it or not! It was like being tested under fire, like Mark Twain wrote: a virtue is no virtue until tested under fire. He believed Evil delays its hand and takes breathe when they are harvesting their weeds, but in the sight, or word, or name of God or Jesus Christ, like a sleepwalker, the devil and his demon hightail it backwards. Like being awaken by some early morning streetcars or trains: these demonic beings, they will fan out in every other direction holding their arm’s full length like flying bats caught in a plague.)
Chapter One (the writer)
The following days had ended gloomily, the whole following month was in truth gloomy, but he had finalized the funeral arrangements, completed his novel, and sent it to an independent publisher, one you called: ‘Print on Demand’ figuring Mark Twain did it, and so did Jack London, why not him, even if the ‘Writers Club of the Nation’ and the ‘National Writers Committee’ frowned on self-published books, as did ‘The National Book Awards,’ he’d do it all the same. And once the book was published, he sent four-copies of his book to ‘The National Novel Awards,’ in Paris.
Then he went for his weekly dramatic sermon by the Chief of Police, who read out the police reports, of the three police officers concerning his family, and the drunk, and his lack of empathy, compassion, indifference. And he told the Chief of Police, he was sorry for the death of Mr. Blackwell, and it was a tragedy his family were taken so suddenly “… but what is sorry, when you are dead?” Was his only comment.
The chief was searching for intent, and could only find indifference; the death of Mr. Blackwell was grim at best, to call it murder or manslaughter, but he was trying hard to make a case of it.
It would appear Nippon’s case had reached a wider range, where he had to go see a specialist concerning frozen anger, and study anger management, court ordered, although he did, he asked “… who’s angry?” But the court deemed it necessary, and that held presentence. And so he listened to the lectures and then the next step was to see a psychologist, to probe the remote laxity of his emotions. On these occasions he had not strand from touching his listeners vigorous nerves with what he called ‘Truth’ saying at one point: “These manifestations of public pity you want to see come out of me, I am not like you, a man of some passionate, fiery temperament, who wholeheartedly must mind, and find some hidden devil in me.”
Said Dr. Sterling, “There wasn’t a large attendances at the service of your family and you showed up late.”
“Is that a statement or a question?” asked Nippon.
“A Question,” said the doctor of psychology.
He now recognized the enormity of what had come upon him, -he couldn’t help feeling being a specimen for obvious reasons, to him it was a rhetorical question, and he remained silent on it.
At that point, Nippon accepted the fact, He must be guilty of murder because of his unresponsiveness, according to the police and the medical clinics and the judges, and it was becoming epidemic. But even with this, he felt no obligation to try and appease them-now or later-by showing emotions he did not have, or express empathy he knew not how to, he’d have to let them become alarmed as they were; in short, he was not playing the game of pretense, because he didn’t know how to; if that was a crime, then he was guilty as charged.
By and large, Nippon had induced in their minds, a curious form of thought, and a fever to fight his: coldness, his lack of sympathy, or interest, his indifference, (his rebelliousness to be less like them, and show more compassion, less resistance,) for they called it by many names: even, impartiality, and objectivity.
Chapter Two (death and punishment)
On awaking the next morning, he understood why the psychologist and Chief of Police looked cross at him, he hadn’t thought of this at the time, -it only struck him now, Death! Death scared them, it was a fear: they were trying to escape from this atmosphere, a growing panic, and he, with more skill and persistence, accepted it with greater success. Could this be it, he pondered? ‘They all saw a perseverance in me, inevitable I pointed-in a manner of speaking-all the ill-drawn interpretations of life and death being no more than what it is. Perhaps they had good intentions, but when it came too practically, nil. And here opportunity arose to show God their repugnance for death, and they did. They would never concede this point of course. They live in a world where they had to have consolers, who assured them that the present state of things where as they should be so don’t make a fuses, and passing an inconvenience was death. Did not these fruitless people thoroughly worn out God’s patients, he sent his Son to deliver us was this not good enough? Was God’s angelic faces blank to them, only dusty records from a church?” To Nippon, it was a hit of bitterness against God for putting them in a predicament of death. To the onlooker, it was against God’s direct command, meaninglessness, but was that what Nippon showed? God forbid, a flat effect did all this, yet his subliminal-mind, must have known and said nothing.
“It wasn’t my fault,” he told himself, “in both cases it wasn’t my fault, I’ll see D. Nelson my old high school friend, the Governor, and he’ll help me!”
Getting up out of bed was an effort, his mind brought up the exhausted comments of the authorities. Their badgering. “In war,” he chattered out loud, (and he had been in war) “… you force yourself never to think of the problematic day. You cease looking to the future and keep your eyes fixed, dodging the predicament of being exiled. Ready to fight at any moment, knowing you will be ill rewarded, no matter what. It makes one drift through life, rather than live it; and you throw those old family pictures away, as if they are dream shadows.”
As he sat on the edge of his bed adjusting, his mind’s mind was telling his conscious: ‘In war there is no normal times, and we are less disposed to compromise. Death is around the corner lurking. It puts on people a rare unmerited distress. Which with the psychologist and police are quite indignant to.’
Frustration for Nippon had now become a watered state of affairs. He felt alone and abandoned, but told himself, he must remain as in war, battle-conscious. He told himself, mentally, each one of us lived in a world of solitude and each of us had to bear the agony of his or her own issues and troubles, and bear them alone. If one of us tried to unburden ourselves, it would simply be a deeper wound. It would be like trying to eat without thumbs; plus, -his absurdness and un-talkative manner had pushed the authorities to harbor resentments, but he told himself: you are who you are.
Chapter One (The Governor)
In the Governor’s waiting room Nippon noticed how enormous it was, the ceiling twenty-feet in height, decorative; there were several people waiting, of them a few peasants, or common folk, and among them a few well-dressed men, more neatly put together. Seemingly all well-aged men, like himself. A uniform person, that looked like a soldier stood leaning on the wall by a door, next to another office apparently, a guard.
With a quick survey of the enormous room, he noticed one of the commoners, had yellowish smoked stained teeth, another a loose jacket on that showed his potbelly, and trousers among the common folk. And the well-dressed, with tailored suites. A secretary sat behind a wooden desk next to the door that led into another adjoining office.
He walked up to her, made his request, verbally, and handed her a piece of paper to be handed to the Governor, saying in an uppity tone, “The Governor, Mr. D. Nelson, he and I are old friends from High School, in Huancayo, let him know I’m here I’m sure he’ll want to see me right away, and for goodness sake, don’t forget to give him my note, please!”
Replied the secretary, a plain looking middle-aged woman, with an arrogance equal to Nippon’s indifference, and absurdness, yet a little weak with some insecurities, commented in a sweet low tone, “I’ll tell his personal secretary, she’s in the room behind me, where the soldier is and the Governor is in the room behind her! It may take a while, do you wish to wait?”
“Very well,” responded Nippon, with an illogicality to his voice, as being annoyed, and not answering her question directly, feeling she didn’t take him serious, but she tried to put on a sweet smile all the same, with her rounded rosy like cheeks, he convinced himself, and that was good for something, if not a tinge of common courtesy.
Everyone in the large room was quiet, and superficially sat with little to no movement. The eyes of a few followed Nippon as he picked up a magazine, next to a sofa chair he found vacant; there lying on an end-table was the magazine. Reading the culture part of the magazine, which he often turned to in all public literature available in such sittings, he came upon a short article on his book, it read, “Unknown author’s first book, ‘The Disgorged’ to be awarded the ‘The International Novel Award’ in Paris, next month, the book being a self-published novel of the superficiality of the now and new generation, of the not so common person.” And then it expressed how the National and International writers associations were annoyed with the selection, overlooking all their participating writers, which amounted to over ten-thousand.
His action was predictable, and perceptible, giving two gawking elder common men, a smiling side-glance, and no more than that. One of the two had sad eyes, hollow checks, perhaps in his 90s, just there to annoy the secretary, having nothing else to do in life perhaps: and who kept a composure as if to look and to be looked upon as superior, or that of having at one time, a well-established name, thought Nippon.
“How long have you been waiting,” asked Nippon?
The elder man lifted his hands from resting on his knees, both hands showing all ten-fingers.
“Ten minutes,” commented Nippon.
“No,” said the elder man, “Ten days!”
Thinking the guy was kidding, he asked the fellow next to him, “And you, how long have you been waiting?”
“If you add the weekends, two weeks!” he replied.
“Really,” said Nippon, with an insincere look.
“But you know the Governor so perhaps you’ll get in like those well-dressed men sitting across from us, they’ll only have to wait ten-minutes or so.” Said the man who had been waiting two weeks.
After five hours of waiting, Nippon went back up to the secretary, “Are you not going to bring my request into the private secretary to give to the Governor?”
She replied with indignity, “Sir, I can only go in there once a day a 4:00 p.m., lest I lose my job” (and the time was now 3:55 p.m.)
“Very well,” said Nippon, “And what time does the Governor leave?”
She hesitated, “Around 3:00 p.m.”
“Why didn’t you tell me this,” asked Nippon.
“Well,” said the secretary, “I did ask you if you wanted to leave the note… ” and she babbled on with words unrecognizable. Then abruptly said, “He knew you were here,” she pointed to a camera overlooking the whole room, so as if for him to select whom he would talk to and not talk to. And since it was Friday, she commented, “He comes in early on Mondays!”
With her delicate hands she shut down her computer, and left the large room with the few common folk still sitting in their chairs.
Nobody bothered to look at her enquiringly. Nippon grabbed the magazine, to finish reading, and the guard confronted him on the consequences of theft should he leave with it, and so he dropped the magazine onto the end-table where he found it.
As he grabbed a cabby, to take him home, his car now in the shop being fixed, he gloated ‘I can just see their faces, what an extraordinary feat, and here a self-published author gets the golden egg, and all their ambition down the drain, those arrogant writing committees! Stick that Pulitzer in your ear! Or you know where else!’
Chapter Two (The Writers Club)
At the writer’s club, the Committee President, a stocky sort of fellow, in his early fifties who owned a bookstore, a man of medium built who had won at one time the ‘G.A. Birch Medal’ for horror, when he learned of the award being given to a self-published writer of no renown, commented to the committee of about two dozen writers, gasping, with his heavy torso, and his steel-rimmed spectacles fogging up, “How dare Paris do this to us!”
He spoke with a powerful voice with an emotional delivery, which carried a great distance in the Committee Gallery, all present were acclaimed writers of some sort, if not a novelist, short story writer, or writer of essays, or poet, if not, a journalist for sure.
He laminated his phrase clear and emphatically with hard tones, “Calamity has come upon us brothers and sisters: a person of no acclaim, a self-published author has won the prestigious Paris Award, what can we do, and we must do something?”
Said one of the many voices, “Maybe he deserves it?”
Responded the Committee President, “How can that be?”
“Perhaps they are actually qualified to judge writings, and novels of quality, as you know, most institutions, -their judges are hired writers who have failed in that profession, and took up the trade of critic, or judge, to judge others. And yet they themselves have been judged inadequate.”
“I’m sure,” said the president, “this Nippon will love you for your comments, but we may become an endangered species, should we not do something about it!”
In essence, the message that got across to the writers club was clear: this could not be allowed, something must be done. Lest this become a plague liken to the Plague of Egypt, all the nobodies of the world, submitting their manuscripts to scourge history. In that there was only so much room, and it didn’t allow for such invaders.
Said that outspoken voice again, “Is it not true God brings down the proud hearted, and lays low those who harden themselves?”
But it was too late for axioms, the president with his downpour of verbal ferocity and his striking words intensified in the long silence and a drumming for action, in all but one writer, took place.
Chapter Three (Nippon’s Suspicion)
Nippon, his mind three-quarters dead, after three months of the police and his neighbors stalking him, the dogs in the park seemingly with pointed ears whenever he went across the street to Cherry Park, all looked too suspicious; circumstances caused him to fall under a spell of day-dreaming, more so than normal. As for his gawking neighbors, and hideous phone calls of mockery and insults, it only brought more disarray to his life: to him they were no more than gibbering idiots, holding onto some baited hook, the police was dangling, with a sign attached say “He is guilty!” Therefore, he must be. Where was their sympathy for his family, it all went down the drain, with the drunk: why? Because he didn’t look sad? Who’s to say? Nothing save, suspicion had snared him.
“Why don’t they ask serious questions… ?” (He paused, thought) then mumbled onto himself “yes, a tragedy, but no more than that?”
He walked the platform at the train station, as if in a coma state: mumbling out loud as the train pulled away, “The truth out to be welcome,” then looking about, as if coming out of a day-dream, he speculated where he was, how did he traverse the city unaware, it was for the most part a mirror of mystery, perhaps never to be explained, and as he looked about, nightfall had fallen. And as a result, his thoughts started wandering again, not paying any attention to the people about him, that is to say, if anyone was following him, if any shadows lurked about: “The investigation” he mumbled, “faint, salty, fishing… ” it was all a psychic warning to him, to escape: his body acquiring a chill. ((However, it is not the narrator’s intention to ascribe this chill and give it more importance than it’s due, doubtless, lest the impression gets exaggerated, but to give praiseworthy to God that our body’s reactions to danger sometimes can act as a radar, if one pays attention to it.)(Evil in the world always comes of ignorance, and at times good intentions.)) At this point, Nippon was not in a state of mind to call anything vice or virtue; the soul of the murderer is always blind…
Chapter Four ((The Mongolian) (end Chapter))
With a drawn knife, the hired killer, known in his field as, the Mongolian, stood ready leaning alongside the City’s train depot, by San Juan de Miraflores. Nippon had stepped off the train, at the metro, turned and went down the steps, to the next level, the street level, hymning, and within a minute the hymning had died out. The Mongolian had followed him, both disappearing within the short hallway between the two floors. The killer did his duty (to an unquiet heart), dragged the body into the deeper shadows of the stairway. Everything appeared quiet; hence, he noiselessly crept into the faintly heard footsteps of the public, where eight million voices collided, with two million automobiles, all being discharged and scattered into the air.
In conclusion, the Anthills of Lima remained as it had always remained and endured, as did with its inhabitants, carrying on with their humdrum lives as before, as Nippon would have put it: the unconscious to the conscious. The core of his soul had it a voice, other than an impulse or intuition: it would have said: ‘It wouldn’t have hurt him to change a tad.’ Yet Nippon, he was impervious to such considerations as to change his habits.
And but for, Nippon he felt he was one who had broken loose from the repetitious life, which to him was no life at all, or if it was it had to be lived his way? Who’s to say? And the writer’s society, who made sure they were not cut off from Paris, and the rest of the outside world, that they were accepted with a more or less an upper grade status than the self-publisher, they too felt relief, and justified in their actions, and that it should be sustained at all costs, the end justifying the means. Oh they would accept the outsiders alright, as long as it did not inconvenience or interfere with their established mores or habits, long established under the blue dome of their sky, that being, all of Peru if not the world.
As for that indifference Nippon showed to mankind, for his Cherry Park Neighborhood, those residents, it was a flail, a wave of God’s hand that took place as they read about his death in the newspapers: not only of him was the curse of the black hand of death marching forward, but for the threshing, and death of his family, mercilessly being the result of Nippon’s irrelevance to mankind, perhaps to God too; and this of course was to them the unpardonable sin; and often too often-as with his family-they are punished simply for being attached to the bearer of bad fruit.
Written between 3-9-2016 & 3-19-2016/ by Dennis L. Siluk, Dr. H.c. © Copyright, 3-2016
“The Anthills of Lima”