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Sato the Builder
By C. E. West

4th Place - 2009 Samurai Fiction Contest

Genre: Ghost Story / Comedy

 

 

Sato the Builder, of Nakamura village, stood on a wooden ladder set against the side of an expansive wooden structure, weaving straw into the thatched roof.  The day before, a band of Samurai tore through his town in an orgy of destruction, perhaps on the way to a coming battle; bad for the village, great for Sato the Builder.  Sato loved to build things, particularly when he is being paid to do so.  The owner of the building he was currently working on was Ochichi, the town Madame, who always came up with creative ways to settle her expenses with him.  Nakamura village, being a mere rice ball’s throw from the highway, was a common stop for travelers, and as such, Ochichi was never short of business for her ladies, nor gold, rice, or wine.

A sound from below the ladder brought Sato out of his reverie.  Below, Kichinosuke, the town drunk, shuffled into view.

“Sato, what are you doing up there?  There’s nothing to drink up there!”

“Kichi, go away, I’m trying to work!  Too bad you never pay your bills, I’m sure Ochichi would have been more than happy to provide you with a fat bottle of wine and a fat sow for your bed.”

“If I were a Samurai, I’d cut you down from that ladder like the piddly tree monkey you are.  But I’m not, so I’m leaving now.  And I won’t be back.  Take that, Sato monkey.” Kichi shuffled away.  Sato shrugged, and went back to work.

A few minutes later, the shuffling sound of drunken footfalls interrupted Sato.  Sato looked down into the plump red face of Kichi again.

“Sato, what are you doing up there?  There’s nothing to drink up there!”

“Kichi, we just had this conversation, and you left.  Why are you back?” said Sato, unable, or unwilling, to hide his annoyance.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.  But if I were a Samurai I’d have to take issue with your tone, and cut you down like the piddly tree monkey you are.  Lucky for you I’m not a Samurai!” yelled Kichi, shaking his fist drunkenly at Sato. “I’m leaving now.  And I won’t be back.  Take that, Sato monkey.”  Kichi shuffled away yet again.  Sato scratched his head, sighed, and went back to work.  A few minutes later, the now too familiar sound of Kichi’s drunken footsteps came up from below.

“Sato, what are you doing up there?  There’s nothing to drink up there!”

Sato didn’t respond.  He simply glared at Kichi.

“Hey, I’m talking to you, you piddly tree monkey!”  Kichi put his hands on his bloated hips and glared up at Sato.  “If I were a Samurai, I’d take offense at your silence, and cut you down like the piddly tree monkey you are, but, well, I’m not, so I’m leaving now.  And I won’t be back.  Take that, Sato monkey.”  Sato regarded Kichi with something between disdain and confusion.  He was at a loss.  Kichi waddled away around the corner and was gone.  Sato sighed again, and went back to work.  About ten minutes later, Sato heard the shuffling gait again.  He didn’t bother to look.

“Sato, what are you doing up there?  There’s nothing to drink up there!” 

Sato twisted around on the ladder and leaned down towards Kichi.

“SHUT UP!” He screamed.  Kichi staggered backwards, apparently taken aback for a moment, and then his face twisted into a mask of anger.

“If I were a Samurai, I’d cut you down from that ladder like the piddly tree monkey you are for your insolent tone.  But I’m not, so I’m leaving now.  And I won’t be back.  Take that, Sato monkey.” Kichi shuffled away.

“By the GODS! What is WRONG with that fat BASTARD?” Sato screamed into the air at no one in particular.  He began hammering a post into place with his wooden mallet most violently.  Over the sounds of his mallet-blows, he heard movement below.  It was Kichi. Again.

“Sato, what are you doing up there?  There’s- Ooofff!”  Sato hurled his mallet at kichi, striking him square in the right eye, knocking him flat to the ground.  Sato climbed down the ladder, picked up his mallet, and kicked Kichi in the ribs for good measure before climbing back up to the roof.  He shifted another post into place, and began working again.  After a few minutes Kichi came to.  He staggered to his feet, and covering his swelling right eye with both hands, he yelled up at Sato, “If I were a Samurai, I’d cut you down from that ladder like the piddly tree monkey you are.  But I’m not, so I’m leaving now.  And I won’t be back.  Take that, Sato monkey.” Kichi staggered away, barely keeping his feet.  Sato began hammering again with wide, wild blows, the only apparent purpose being to release some of his annoyance, anger and aggression.  Moments later, Kichi staggered into view below him, one arm cradling his ribs, the other one rubbing a severely swollen eye.

“Sato-“ Kichi began, but was cut off by a violent blow from Sato’s mallet to the mouth.  Kichi’s teeth shattered against the mallet, and he collapsed in a heap at the base of the ladder.  Sato took a step back and swung a kick into Kichi’s back with a crunch.  He rolled Kichi away from the bottom of the ladder and shoved him against the side of the building.  Kichi was apparently still breathing, but he didn’t seem to be doing very well.  Sato wiped the sweat from his brow, sighed deeply, and climbed back up the ladder and continued his repair job on the roof.  After about an hour of blissful hammering and fixing, he heard Kichi moan from below.

“If… I were… a Shaamurai, I’d cuhh you down from… dat ladder like the piddly tree monkey you are… urgh.. for your dishonor and violence…” Kichi puffed weakly, “…but…I’m not, so I’m leaving now...  And…and…I wonn… be back.  Take that…Sato monkey.” Kichi dragged his beaten body away from the side of the building.  Sato half watched in disturbed fascination while hammering as Kichi rolled and slithered like a broken child’s toy around the corner and out of sight.

Stupid, stupid Kichi.  Let me work! He thought to himself.  He moved the ladder over a few feet, and began repairing another section of the roof.  A while later, he heard the sounds of something being dragged across the dirt.  Sato dimly assumed in the back of his mind that it was a sack of rice being dragged across the ground, until he heard a hoarse voice yell up weakly from below.  It was Kichi.

“Shaatoh, huhhhuhh…what… ahh youhh gooing up… dere?  Dere’s noshing to,” Kichi coughed weakly, and spit out a thick goo of blood and broken teeth “…dringg up dere!”  Sato looked down to see Kichi, his head swollen grotesquely, his tongue blood red and lolling out of his bruised and bloody mouth.  Sato climbed slowly down the ladder, and stood in front of Kichi.

“Leave me ALONE!” He howled at Kichi, and swung the mallet in a wide underhand arc, catching Kichi in the side of the head with a glancing blow. Kichi went limp.  He appeared to be dead.  Sato began stomping Kichi’s corpse madly. Bones broke beneath his straw sandals with sickening crunches.  After he had his fill of destruction, he climbed back up the ladder, and went back to work.  At last, he was almost finished with his repairs.  He was fantasizing about drinking a warm bottle of sake with one of Ochichi’s ladies when he heard a gurgling from below.  He looked down to see Kichi’s bloated corpse slowly twisting its head around to look up at him.  Blood bubbled and gurgled from its mouth.  It seemed to be laughing.  It heaved once, spewing a line of foamy blood across its face, and threw its broken arm over its head across the ground at an odd angle, pointing to the corner of the building that he had been going back and forth to during the day.  Then the corpse was silent again.

Sato looked at the pointing hand, and then to the corner of the building, and climbed down the ladder.  He stepped over Kichi’s corpse, and walked slowly to the corner of the building.  He could hear noises that he hadn’t been aware of before.  He could smell smoke.  As he came to the corner, he paused, and then looked around.  He was immediately hit in the face by a blast of heat.  He was greeted with an image of hellish destruction.  The village was burning, and corpses were strewn about like shredded rag dolls.  A band of samurai that Sato recognized from the previous day was burning the village and cutting down everyone in their path.  As he looked around and took in the scene, he noticed a mallet in the grass nearby – an identical copy of the one in his hand.  He walked slowly to the grass, and picked up the mallet.  It was his mallet.  And then something else caught his eye.  There were two corpses obscured by the tall grass.  He moved closer to look, and recoiled in shock.  One was Kichi, who was supposed to be on the other side of the building beneath his ladder.  But the other corpse was more disturbing still.  It was Sato himself.

Sato was a simple builder, and the day’s events were just too much to bear.  He was at a total loss as to what was happening around him.  All he knew was that he had a roof that needed repairing, so he turned his back on the burning village and broken bodies, and returned to work.