Kafka on the Shore is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother ...(more)
The Boy Named Crow
So you're all set for money, then?" the boy named Crow asks in his typical sluggish voice. The kind of voice like when you've just woken up and your mouth still feels heavy and dull. But he's just pretending. He's totally awake. As always.
I review the numbers in my head. "Close to thirty-five hundred in cash, plus some money I can get from an ATM. I know it's not a lot, but it should be enough. For the time being."
"Not bad," the boy named Crow says. "For the time being."
I give him another nod.
"I'm guessing this isn't Christmas money from Santa Claus."
"Yeah, you're right," I reply.
Crow smirks and looks around. "I imagine you've started by rifling drawers, am I right?"
I don't say anything. He knows whose money we're talking about, so there's no need for any long-winded interrogations. He's just giving me a hard time.
"No matter," Crow says. "You really need this money and you're going to get it--beg, borrow, or steal. It's your father's money, so who cares, right? Get your hands on that much and you should be able to make it. For the time being. But what's the plan after it's all gone? Money isn't like mushrooms in a forest--it doesn't just pop up on its own, you know. You'll need to eat, a place to sleep. One day you're going to run out."
"I'll think about that when the time comes," I say.
"When the time comes," Crow repeats, as if weighing these words in his hand.
"Like by getting a job or something?"
"Maybe," I say.
Crow shakes his head. "You know, you've got a lot to learn about the world. Listen--what kind of job could a fifteen-year-old kid get in some far-off place he's never been to before? You haven't even finished junior high. Who do you think's going to hire you?"
I blush a little. It doesn't take much to make me blush.
"Forget it," he says. "You're just getting started and I shouldn't lay all this depressing stuff on you. You've already decided what you're going to do, and all that's left is to set the wheels in motion. I mean, it's your life. Basically you gotta go with what you think is right."
That's right. When all is said and done, it is my life.
"I'll tell you one thing, though. You're going to have to get a lot tougher if you want to make it."
"I'm trying my best," I say.
"I'm sure you are," Crow says. "These last few years you've gotten a whole lot stronger. I've got to hand it to you."
I nod again.
"But let's face it--you're only fifteen," Crow goes on. "Your life's just begun and there's a ton of things out in the world you've never laid eyes on. Things you never could imagine."
As always, we're sitting beside each other on the old sofa in my father's study. Crow loves the study and all the little objects scattered around there. Now he's toying with a bee-shaped glass paperweight. If my father was at home, you can bet Crow would never go anywhere near it.
"But I have to get out of here," I tell him. "No two ways around it."
"Yeah, I guess you're right." He places the paperweight back on the table and links his hands behind his head. "Not that running away's going to solve everything. I don't want to rain on your parade or anything, but I wouldn't count on escaping this place if I were you. No matter how far you run. Distance might not solve anything."
The boy named Crow lets out a sigh, then rests a fingertip on each of his closed eyelids and speaks to me from the darkness within.
"How about we play our game?" he says.
"All right," I say. I close my eyes and quietly take a deep breath.
"Okay, picture a terrible sandstorm," he says. "Get everything else out of your head."
I do what he says, get everything else out of my head. I forget who I am, even. I'm a total blank. Then things start to surface. Things that--as we sit here on the old leather sofa in my father's study--both of us can see.
"Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions," Crow says.
Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn't something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn't get in, and walk through it, step by step. There's no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That's the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.
And that's exactly what I do. I imagine a white funnel stretching up vertically like a thick rope. My eyes are closed tight, hands cupped over my ears, so those fine grains of sand can't blow inside me. The sandstorm draws steadily closer. I can feel the air pressing on my skin. It really is going to swallow me up.
The boy called Crow softly rests a hand on my shoulder, and with that the storm vanishes.
"From now on--no matter what--you've got to be the world's toughest fifteen-year-old. That's the only way you're going to survive. And in order to do that, you've got to figure out what it means to be tough. You following me?"
I keep my eyes closed and don't reply. I just want to sink off into sleep like this, his hand on my shoulder. I hear the faint flutter of wings.
"You're going to be the world's toughest fifteen-year-old," Crow whispers as I try to fall asleep. Like he was carving the words in a deep blue tattoo on my heart.
And you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You'll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others.
And once the storm is over you won't remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won't even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won't be the same person who walked in. That's what this storm's all about.
On my fifteenth birthday I'll run away from home, journey to a far-off town, and live in a corner of a small library. It'd take a week to go into the whole thing, all the details. So I'll just give the main point. On my fifteenth birthday I'll run away from home, journey to a far-off town, and live in a corner of a small library.
It sounds a little like a fairy tale. But it's no fairy tale, believe me. No matter what sort of spin you put on it.
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