I love my sister now. I don’t think I did before. I didn’t know who she was, what she could do. I never really thought about her as a person. All I remember is fighting with her. It wasn’t as though we hated each other or anything like that, we just used to fight. It was always my fault, I used to tease her, say when the adds were on TV, I’d get the remote control and hold it over her head so she couldn’t reach it or steal her seat the minute she was out of it. She used to go crazy, punching and screaming at me. I’d make her so mad all she could do would be to scream out “MMMuuummm” at the top of her voice, then I’d cop it.
I guess we sort of liked each other. I never really thought about her much, she was just Susie. Susie with the long blonde hair and brown eyes who used to cry when she couldn’t figure out her maths homework. Susie who hated having her photo taken or wearing shoes. Susie who was crazy about horses even though she’d never ridden one. Back then she was just my sister, not part of my life. It’s like she died and came back to life for me.
Sensei tells me today that I’m to go to the grading! Only two days to practise and they’re school days! I’ll never be ready, I’ve only just learnt the last kata. I should have realised he was up to something from the way he was smiling at me tonight. No warning, he just slaps me on the back when I’d finished sparring with Cassie and tells me “I’ll see you at the grading, Mr Ryan.” I don’t even have time to panic, I’ll just have to do it.
Brad and Toby turned up at training today. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw them. They stomped in with their shoes on and slouched around. Then Sensei walked up to them and shook their hands! I’d like someone to tell me what’s going on. They worked at the back of the hall with the other ungraded people so they didn’t come near me which was lucky. Brad is big but he doesn’t know how to carry himself. Toby is a nothing person. Thin, wiry body and clothes that hang off him like he’s a scarecrow.
After class I ran straight to Sensei and told him I couldn’t train with them but all he said was that the dojo door is never closed. I started to argue but he said “James? You should know the rules.” So I stopped, I know not to argue with him when he calls me James. He’s tied my hands, I can’t touch them but I can’t get away from them. Brad obviously doesn’t want to be there. He slouches around the place and smirks at everything Sensei says. Whatever happened to “We are respectful and courteous?”
Sensei told us another story tonight. I couldn’t help but look over to Brad and Toby while he was telling it. Toby kept his eyes on Sensei the whole time as though he was too scared to look away. Brad had his normal bored expression on his face, he wasn’t even looking at Sensei. This is the story Sensei told us, another traditional karate story.
THE THREE SONS
In old Japan there was a famous grand master of the sword who had taught each of his three sons in the way of the samurai. He realised that his life was drawing to a close and he would have to choose one of his sons to be his successor. He decided that he would set a test to determine which son to choose. He placed a wooden pillow above the doorway to the room so that when the door was opened the pillow would fall.
He first called in his eldest son. This son came immediately but stopped for a moment just outside the room. Then in a swift movement he opened the door, lifted the pillow, walked into the room, turned around and placed the pillow above the door again. He approached his father and respectfully bowed.
The second son also came immediately at his father’s call. This son pulled the door open but realised the pillow was about to topple, he caught it in time and placed it back above the door. He looked at his father questioning with his eyes but he held his tongue.
Then the father called his third son. After a short time the father called again and the sound of running could be heard. The young son burst into the room and the pillow fell onto his head. As it bounced off he drew his sword and struck the pillow so that it fell in two pieces onto the floor. He was very pleased with his quick response and smiled at his father.
To the first son the father bowed low and said “You have trained well and show that you understand the true meaning of the martial arts.” The father then unsheathed his sword and presented it to this son. He had chosen his successor.
The father turned to the second son and said “At the moment you do not know enough but you show the right spirit. You must learn to train your mind as well as your body.”
Finally, the father turned to his third son and said quite bluntly, “You may be fast and strong but you know nothing and have learnt nothing.” With those words he took the third son’s sword and cast him from the house with a warning not to return until he understood.
* * *
Tonight while Sensei was talking to us I felt I was being watched and when I looked up sure enough Allison was looking at me. But it was strange, it was as though she was looking straight through me so I felt like turning around to see what she was looking at. Then she looked away as though she hadn’t been looking at me at all. So now I’m wondering whether I imagined the whole thing.
The karate camp is coming up in December. It’s in the bush at a camp near Kurrajong. Sempai Wayne said he would be able to give me a lift out there but I want to get there myself. I’ll get the train and then walk through the countryside for about three kilometres. I can pretend I’m a wandering monk looking for a mountain monastery. I’m so excited I’m almost depressed about it, if you know what I mean. I’m so excited I can hardly stand it. I’ll try to talk to her, sit near her, get her to laugh at a joke or something if I can think up one decent enough to tell her.