Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Top 50 Shed Sequences: the garden shed scene from The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea by Yukio Mishima translated by John Nathan

Yukio Mishima
Warning: This sequence is not for the faint-hearted. Please do not read if you are squeamish or easily upset by violence. It is taken from the Vintage Classics Kindle Edition. 

Thirteen year old Noboru is meeting up with a gang of friends...

'But they all loved a large shed in the garden in back where they could go without passing under the butler’s eye. Except for a few logs and some shelves full of tools and empty wine bottles and back issues of foreign magazines, the floor of the shed was bare, and when they sat down on the damp dark earth its coolness passed directly to their buttocks. 
After hunting for an hour, they found a stray cat small enough to ride in the palm of Noboru’s hand, a mottled, mewing kitten with lackluster eyes. 
By then they were sweating heavily, so they undressed and took turns splashing in a sink in one corner of the shed. While they bathed, the kitten was passed around. Noboru felt the kitten’s hot heart pumping against his wet naked chest. It was like having stolen into the shed with some of the dark, joy-flushed essence of bright summer sunlight. 
“How are we going to do it?” 
“There’s a log over there. We can smack it against that—it’ll be easy. Go ahead, number three.” 
At last the test of Noboru’s hard, cold heart! Just a minute before, he had taken a cold bath, but he was sweating heavily again. He felt it blow up through his breast like the morning sea breeze: intent to kill. His chest felt like a clothes rack made of hollow metal poles and hung with white shirts drying in the sun. Soon the shirts would be flapping in the wind and then he would be killing, breaking the endless chain of society’s loathsome taboos. 
Noboru seized the kitten by the neck and stood up. It dangled dumbly from his fingers. He checked himself for pity; like a lighted window seen from an express train, it flickered for an instant in the distance and disappeared. He was relieved. 
The chief always insisted it would take acts such as this to fill the world’s great hollows. Though nothing else could do it, he said, murder would fill those gaping caves in much the same way that a crack along its face will fill a mirror. Then they would achieve real power over existence. 
Resolved, Noboru swung the kitten high above his head and slammed it at the log. The warm soft thing hurtled through the air in marvelous flight. But the sensation of down between his fingers lingered. 
“It’s not dead yet. Do it again,” the chief ordered. 
Scattered through the gloom in the shed, the five naked boys stood rooted, their eyes glittering. 
What Noboru lifted between two fingers now was no longer a kitten. A resplendent power was surging through him to the tips of his fingers and he had only to lift the dazzling arc seared into the air by this power and hurl it again and again at the log. He felt like a giant of a man. Just once, at the second impact,  the kitten raised a short, gurgling cry. . . . 
The kitten had bounced off the log for the final time. Its hind legs twitched, traced large lax circles in the dirt floor, and then subsided. The boys were overjoyed at the spattered blood on the log. 
As if staring into a deep well, Noboru peered after the kitten as it plummeted down the small hole of death. He sensed in the way he lowered his face to the corpse his own gallant tenderness, tenderness so clinical it was almost kind. Dull red blood oozed from the kitten’s nose and mouth, the twisted tongue was clamped against the palate. 
“C’mon up close where you can see. I’ll take it from here.” Unnoticed, the chief had put on a pair of rubber gloves that reached up to his elbows; now he bent over the corpse with a pair of gleaming scissors. Shining coolly through the gloom of the shed, the scissors were magnificent in their cold, intellectual dignity: Noboru couldn’t imagine a more appropriate weapon for the chief. 
Seizing the kitten by the neck, the chief pierced the skin at the chest with the point of the blade and scissored a long smooth cut to the throat. Then he pushed the skin to the sides with both hands: the glossy layer of fat beneath was like a peeled spring onion. The skinned neck, draped gracefully on the floor, seemed to be wearing a cat mask. The cat was only an exterior, life had posed as a cat. 
But beneath the surface was a smooth expressionless interior, a placid, glossy-white inner life in perfect consonance with Noboru and the others; and they could feel their own intricate, soot-black insides bearing down upon and shadowing it like ships moving upon the water. Now, at last, the boys and the cat, or, more accurately, what had been a cat, became perfectly at one. 
Gradually the endoderm was bared; its transparent mother-of-pearl loveliness was not at all repellent. They could see through to the ribs now, and watch, beneath the great omentum, the warm, homey pulsing of the colon. 
“What do you think? Doesn’t it look too naked? I’m not sure that’s such a good thing: like it was bad manners or something.” The chief peeled aside the skin on the trunk with his gloved hands. 
“It sure is naked,” said number two. 
Noboru tried comparing the corpse confronting the world so nakedly with the unsurpassably naked figures of his mother and the sailor. But compared to this, they weren’t naked enough. They were still swaddled in skin. Even that marvelous horn and the great wide world whose expanse it had limned couldn’t possibly have penetrated so deeply as this . . . the pumping of the bared heart placed the peeled kitten in direct and tingling contact with the kernel of the world. 
Noboru wondered, pressing a crumpled handkerchief to his nose against the mounting stench and breathing hotly through his mouth: “What is beginning here now?” 
The kitten bled very little. The chief tore through the surrounding membrane and exposed the large, red-black liver. Then he unwound the immaculate bowels and reeled them onto the floor. Steam rose and nestled against the rubber gloves. He cut the colon into slices and squeezed out for all the boys to see a broth the color of lemons. “This stuff cuts just like flannel.” 
Noboru managed, while following his own dreamy thoughts, to pay scrupulous attention to the details. The kitten’s dead pupils were purple flecked with white; the gaping mouth was stuffed with congealed blood, the twisted tongue visible between the fangs. As the fat-yellowed scissors cut them, he heard the ribs creak. And he watched intently while the chief groped in the abdominal cavity, withdrew the small pericardium, and plucked from it the tiny oval heart. When he squeezed the heart between two fingers, the remaining blood gushed onto his rubber gloves, reddening them to the tips of the fingers. What is really happening here? 
Noboru had withstood the ordeal from beginning to end. Now his half-dazed brain envisioned the warmth of the scattered viscera and the pools of blood in the gutted belly finding wholeness and perfection in the rapture of the dead kitten’s large languid soul. The liver, limp beside the corpse, became a soft peninsula, the squashed heart a little sun, the reeled-out bowels a white atoll, and the blood in the belly the tepid waters of a tropical sea. Death had transfigured the kitten into a perfect, autonomous world. 
I killed it all by myself—a distant hand reached into Noboru’s dream and awarded him a snow-white certificate of merit—I can do anything, no matter how awful.'

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John Davies aka Shedman