[Writing] [Fiction] Mythology Workshop #2 — The Kitsune

Posted: October 4, 2013 in Fiction, Prompts
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Mythology Workshop 2 — Here In My Cauldron:  Pick any mythological figure. The task is to craft a RECIPE. The piece needs to include various ingredients, be them mythological ingredients (ex. a dragon’s tooth) or real life ingredients. The emphasis should be on something that is actually edible or drinkable. The ingredients chosen and mixed need to represent the mythology figure that was chosen. The medium of the work is to be chosen by the artist.

— prompt via The 13th Floor Paradigm

I tried to do a lot of research before making any references or using any foreign language words. I’m sorry if I butchered anything. I’m a white, American woman. I have no flavor or yummy heritage and it makes me sad. Also, this kind of went off on a tangent before I could wrangle it back. Hopefully, that doesn’t make it less interesting. The recipe that I’m referencing is a simple Pickled Plum Rice Ball.

“So, what are you making for the potluck?”

The question was the furthest thing on my mind, but I suppose I needed to do something for it. The occasion was a big one in our family. My great-grandmother was coming to visit for the winter and I really was looking forward to it. I just hadn’t had a lot of time to do anything lately. Between deadlines and meetings at work, I’d been swamped with other things and I just didn’t have time to make a homemade meal. I know my great-grandmother and something store-bought wouldn’t be good enough for her. Well, not because she wouldn’t like it, but because I just couldn’t stomach plopping down some store-bought, super-salted food in front of the woman that had taught me how to prepare a home-cooked meal.

“Miko, are you even listening to me?”

“Yes, Ine, I just… I’m not sure. Sorry.” My sister had been rattling on for so long that I’d forgotten about what we were even supposed to be talking about. I’d been so lost in my thoughts on what to cook and how ashamed I was I hadn’t been cooking for myself these last few months. Fast food was just so much easier. “When will hii-obaachan be in?” She preferred that we spoke and referred to her in Japanese, but that took a lot of effort. Had it not been the fact that she came to visit every winter, I’d probably have already given up on continuing my Japanese at all. I only put out the effort for her anyway.

“Tomorrow. Mom said about five, but delays always happen. I’d be at the house around then and wait. I’m actually looking forward to seeing hii-obaachan this year though.” I could hear my sister holding back and trying not to squeal with delight, “We have so much to catch up on.”

I shifted the phone in my hand as I searched through my cabinets for something I could fix that wasn’t boxed, “You got engaged. I’m sure she’ll be thrilled.” That didn’t say much for me. I was the eldest and still not married. That bothered my great-gran just as much as it bothered my mom, probably more.

“She’ll understand once she sees what you’re doing. The photographs you’ve been taking will speak to her and she’ll be happy for you.”

I turned around and looked at my tiny kitchen. I don’t think my hii-obaachan had understood me in ten years. It wasn’t even the language barrier that kept us apart anymore. It was a generation gap too large for me to get my point across with a catapult. She was a traditional woman that believed that a woman was a homemaker. She was meant to care for the traditions of the home and the hearth. I just couldn’t stand that. I was a liberal woman in a time when women were celebrated. I needed to do my own thing. “I guess I’ll whip together some simple rice balls tonight and then really try to crank something out during the week to save face. I can say that I was saving my best cooking for when she was well rested.” I shuffled through the cabinet and pulled a couple items from way, way in the back. “I’ve got the rice and nori. That’s all I need, isn’t it?”

“If there’s one thing about you that I’ve always loved, Miko, it’s your ability to make a bad thing look like it isn’t really all that bad.” She giggled a bit, “I’d add some umeboshi so it would look like you put a tiny bit more effort into it than that.”

I rolled my eyes, but, thankfully, Ine couldn’t see that. I ended the call quickly so that I could stop feeling like I was the inferior child. Part of me really did believe in the family traditions, but part of me was unwilling to compromise who I was just for them. There was no way I was going to be able to win the argument, as far as my family was concerned, so I just accepted it and went on. I took a breath and went back to the cabinets in order to hunt down those damn pickled plums.

I told you to be prepared for this. You knew she was returning and, yet, you resist. It will be the last time you can make amends with her.

I didn’t turn around. I knew what would be waiting for me when I did. I had started seeing the white fox more frequently lately. I hadn’t seen her since childhood, but, for some reason, she had reappeared. I had always attributed her to my imagination and stories from my family, but this was as real as the as the cabinet I was sorting through.

You can try to ignore my warning, but you can’t.” Her voice was soft as she relayed the message in perfect Japanese. “Mend your family and make it whole again. Give up these foolish dreams and come back.

“My dreams are not foolish!” I slammed my fist against the counter and refused to reply in Japanese. I wanted to ignore her and hope she went away, but the kitsune was right. I would never be able to ignore her. Not when she was sitting in my kitchen and staring through me like she did. “Things aren’t the same as they were when she was a girl. I can live my life how I choose rather than how it is chosen for me.” I turned to face the kitsune. She had settled comfortably in the space between my kitchen and living room, blue eyes watching me with an unblinking stare. That had always unnerved me as a child.

Miko…” The kitsune spoke without moving anything. It was like she could bridge a gap between my mind and her’s, but I was never able to do it. I don’t think I really wanted to anyway. “You have an obligation—.

“I have no obligation to anyone or anything, let alone your mistress.” Something inside was just so angry at this creature, though she was only the messenger. Wasn’t there an old idiom about not shooting the messenger? Well, in this case, I wished I could’ve done so. “If my family has served your mistress for so long and had such a good streak, then why can’t she let me do my own thing as a reward?” Prosperity as a gift from a god was not really a gift. It required servitude for generations and I wasn’t about to give my life to something that was doing just fine on its own.

Your family’s prosperity is its own reward.” The kitsune yawned and flicked its tail a bit, as if bored with the conversation already. “I brought you this news as a show of my master’s good faith. Inari wishes only to see you happy, healthy, and prosperous.

“Inari only wishes to see me enslaved like the rest of my family.” I did not believe in this benevolent being of rice, kindness, and mercy. Mercy wasn’t enslavement, even if I had to be willing to return in order for it to succeed. I was in such a huff about it all that I couldn’t think straight anymore. I didn’t want this thing to be here anymore. I wanted it to go away and never return.

If the fox could have rolled its unblinking eyes at me, I think it would have. “I have delivered my master’s message. Do with it what you will, but heed it well. Make amends with your great grandmother before it is too late. If you do nothing else for my master, do that, and we will never bother you again.” The white fox stood and stretched as if it was ready to go, “When you are ready to accept us, we will be listening. You need only call out and we will be there.

I blinked and the kitsune was gone.

Word Count: 1,334

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  2. Oloriel says:

    This was a fantastic story to read!
    I loved that I did not only learn something mythologicaly new, but also culturaly and it is what makes it an extra delight.
    I loved that you included the culture-age-generation gap dilemas, doubts, pros and cons and I like how you made it all fit into a mythology theme.
    One thing I also must note is that it is very easy to read and live the story in head because of the way you wrote it. For example, the reaction of the character to the appeareance of kitsune is exactly visualy as it is writen – making it very easy for the reader to be there. The way the character talks is also very relatable and makes the story a smooth read.
    The kitsune looks at the same time very timid but very scary, at least that is how it looked to me.
    The story poses interesting questions and personal dillemas that I am sure many of us expirienced at least once in our lives which gives the story that extra piece of value (it does not feel just like a story, an empty talk). I also liked the way you ended it, unclear, making a person wonder what is it that is going to happen next, is there anything going to happen next, is this it and why?
    – One small remark that I have is the switch between “mistress” and “master”. it can throw a nitpicker like me a little bit out of the loop while reading making me retrace my reading steps and check if I read stuff correctly.
    This was a fantastic story, really. i hope you had fun writing it just as you did with the last one 😀

    • I’m sorry that it took so long for me to reply. When you left the reply, I was in the middle of preparations for my wedding. I didn’t really have time to make any replies and, since returning from our short honeymoon, I haven’t felt like replying to anyone. I’m finally getting around to everything, because I felt like I couldn’t put it off anymore.

      I’m very glad you enjoyed the story. I put a lot of research into the background of the deity and the kitsune spirit itself. I wasn’t totally sure how to put it into context and I was afraid that I had chosen something beyond my league.

      As for the gender switching, I did it intentionally. In my research, I found that Inari isn’t actually just a female deity. Inari can be either sex or sexless and so I chose to just have them both refer to the deity how they were most comfortable. Miko referred to Inari as a female as it was the women who were indentured into servitude. The kitsune referred to Inari as a male. I thought it would be confusing, but it was an artistic choice. So was writing in the first person. I haven’t done that in a very long time.

      I did enjoy writing it and I hope that I can contribute to the third even though I just found that it was over. 😦