Fiction: The Way of the Samurai
By Mitch Russell
I was four gin martinis deep when I told my wife I was becoming a samurai warrior. She laughed at me but I told her I wasn’t joking. I was serious. I told her I had read the entire Hagukure at work, and I hadn’t planned on it, but it spoke to me and now I was convinced. “I’m going to dedicate myself to the ancient ways” I said. “I’m going to study the ancient Japanese art of totally fucking shit up with a sword ha ha ha.”
She was laughing, I was laughing. We were having a good time. But like I said, I was dead serious. While we were all laughing I went back inside and poured myself another gin, but instead of coming back to the deck right away I started rifling through our kitchen drawers. I came back outside with the good knife held out in front of me, both hands clenched around the black wooden handle. I pointed it at our dog’s tennis ball out in the grass and said “throw me that tennis ball!” I said “I’m gonna slice it right out of the air!”
“No” she said, setting her drink down and getting very serious all of the sudden. “I’m not going to let you slice up the dog’s ball. Also that knife was expensive. Please put it away. It’s not safe.”
I said I was being safe. I was being totally disciplined about the whole thing. I admitted that I was hamming it up a little for conversation’s sake, but I expressed that I was legitimately moved by what I read in the book. I set our kitchen knife down on the table and plunked down in the lawn chair across from my wife. I told her I had learned that samurai lived their whole lives as if they were already dead. If you were a samurai, I explained, you were supposed to hold in your mind the thought of getting chopped up by swords, or smashed with hammers, or destroyed by hundreds of arrows, all the time, 24/7. The idea was, I said, if you were thinking of violent death every minute of the day, you wouldn’t be so afraid of it anymore. This way you could live without fear.
I said I thought that could be a helpful way for me to see things. I told her I had been trying it out around the house and at work and that it was helping me be less anxious. “I was just joking about the sword stuff” I said “but I have been thinking about death constantly.”
Then Jamie was quiet. She was quiet for a long time. I was starting to miss all the laughing from before. I started to change the subject to her upcoming birthday but she just shook her head, ignoring me entirely. She looked like she was trying not to cry.
Then she said “That’s what you think about all day?”
She leaned over the table with her head in her hands. She told me how hard she tried to make things nice for us. She told me that she was just trying to have a nice evening with me. We didn’t even have much time together these days, she said. She pointed out that I’d go back to work tomorrow, and she’d go back to work too, and then that would be that. She was hoping to have one semi-pleasant dinner with me but of course I had drank too much and I was just talking about samurai and chopping up tennis balls and apparently I was fantasizing about dying the whole time I was with her.
What was she supposed to make of that, she wondered. What was she supposed to say to me now?
She sat back in her chair. Neither one of us said anything or even looked at the other. I stared out into our muddy springtime yard trying to focus my vision, trying to think of a way to undo the last few minutes. I was scanning the utter blankness of my mind when I heard my wife say “I’m going inside.” Then I heard her go in. I heard the door shut behind her. Then I was alone with my knife and my tennis ball and my mug full of gin.
I thought about what it might be like to be pulverized by the arrows of my enemies. I thought about what it might be like to have every inch of my skin split open by blades. I thought about my head, and how my head was so much like a nut, and how it made all the sense in the world for a hammer to crush this stupid nut into pieces, letting the nut meat drip out from the shattered cracks to the ground, fertilizing the earth below.
Maybe a flower would grow in that spot.
Maybe something nice like that could happen.
Mitch Russell is an incredibly famous author writing under a pseudonym. Don’t tell anyone. You can read his junk in Rejection Letters, Maudlin House, and Functionally Dead.