The Humble Abode of The Kimono Dragon
The front door was flung open and, hanging onto the door handle for support, The Kimono Dragon staggered in. His grunt was constricted by the pain in his abdomen, it squeezed itself out from him in a long, thin moan. He swam his way through the dark room like an injured fish. Instinct led him to the kitchen counter. Biiiiitch. He whined as he reached around the section of wall that joined to the counter. His hand found the bottle of sake. He readied himself to lift it but found that he couldn’t, or rather that it was a bit sore to do so, so he tilted the bottle onto the rim of its base and dragged it slowly back towards him.
Holding the bottle by its neck, he turned from the counter and drifted to a cabinet in the living room. He ran his finger along the waxy spines of his DVD collection before picking the one at the very end. He let a childlike sense of wellbeing warm him as he held it. Prompted by a surge of pain he took the DVD with him and moved towards the blue pilot lights of the DVD player. After inserting the DVD he limped to his old faithful, a plush leather Lazy Boy seated just meters from the TV screen. A combination of pleasure and pain struck his body as he collapsed into the chair.
Aauughh fuck. He closed his eyes. He knew what he had to do. Slowly he pushed himself out of his comfy seat. Placing a hand on the low coffee table, he leaned forward and stubbornly, not wanting to overexert himself, stretched across it to grab the remote. From his awkward, strained position he looked up at the screen, tilted the remote in its direction and pressed the ON button. The screen remained black but began to wickedly illuminate the space before it. His thoughts and body movements jarred to a halt as he caught a horrifying glimpse of himself in its awakening screen. His posture beneath his grimy kimono appeared crippled and weak, blackened blood caked half of his long snout, above which glared his desperate, tired eyes. It was at this point he thought that the traditional method of standing up to fetch the remote might have been preferable. Shuddering, he fell back into the Lazy Boy.
Alone in the dark room, his silhouette set against the now pallid blue square of the TV screen, The Kimono Dragon felt blood seep from the gash in his abdomen. He swigged from the bottle of sake and gritted his teeth. The glorious, crimson lettered menu of Steven Seagal’s Out for Justice, appeared on the screen.
Earlier that day
Outskirts of Shaolin City
They were knelt in a row before their sensei. The Kimono Dragon, like the other students, was silently undergoing his own personal suffering that resulted from sitting on his knees for an extended amount of time. They periodically shifted their weight from one side to the other, back and forth until every inch of their legs from the knees down ached. The sensei was still. His face, like the rest of his body, seemed to be forged into a weapon. He had high, sharp cheekbones, dead black eyes, a muscular jaw and oily black hair tied back into a ponytail. His skin was a peculiar brick red. He would often refer to himself as a demon from a different time. Nobody had questioned it.
“Budo, the way of the warrior, does not end once you leave this dojo. It is a path, it must be practiced in every moment.” The sensei’s expression darkened into an evil, knowing grin, as he looked at one of the students directly. “Yes, even in your worst nightmares.”
The student laughed nervously.
“To become, you must practice. To practice, you must train. To train, you must learn. To learn, you must know nothing.”
The Kimono Dragon had heard countless variations of this speech from his sensei over the years. To become, you must train. To become what though? He thought of his own path. A stumbling uphill climb driven by the vague notions of greatness and self-worth that sat further above. He tried to picture what exactly was there, on the sunny side of the summit, shielded from his perspective but suggested by the peak’s golden lining, but couldn’t. Only a feeling, or rather an imitation of a feeling arose in him. Insubstantial and transitory in its imagined form, the concept once formed immediately deflated and left him empty and sad. The wished feeling was solace. And as sure as the sun would set every day, and the peak’s foreboding silhouette would pierce the bleeding sky, the chill of failure that lived in the shadows would be stretched across everything by dusk. The Kimono Dragon, forfeiting his hopes, knew he would arm himself once again with a bottle of sake to warm him through the night. He steeled himself back on the words of his sensei.
“Only then can you receive the supreme ultimate, mastery of yourself, everything you wish to become.”
Yes! He saw him again. A silhouette stood atop the peak. His features were obscured by darkness but he knew who he was from his ponytail and the oriental, tasselled jacket he wore. The mountain was now a mound of bodies, of evildoers, dope pushers, abusers of the environment and of the native peoples, of fat cat businessmen who illegally maintained monopolies, no longer abiding by the free market principles of Ayn Rand, of whom he was a fan. Yes, his heart flickered frenetically, a beacon of hope in his darkest moments. He felt his resolve harden, his aspirations were reaffirmed, he would continue his training – in all things.
The sensei placed his palms together and inhaled a powerful breath in preparation to end the class. He suddenly turned to face The Kimono Dragon and said in a softer tone, “And remember to find stillness in yourself.”
But The Kimono Dragon’s mind was elsewhere.
Upon leaving the dojo, The Kimono Dragon pathed through the dusky streets in a direction that did not lead home. There was no definite destination in mind yet his strides were purposeful. His slit-like pupils stared straight ahead from behind a forced squint. This narrowed field of vision shielded him from the perplexed gawks of those he passed and allowed him to begin his submersion.
The Kimono Dragon turned his head deliberately one side to the other, as he did every so often, to take in the environment. He performed the movement with gravitas. Raising an eye ridge, he affected the inward-smirk of a seasoned detective coming across an all too familiar scene. Few could hold eye contact with The Kimono Dragon when he adopted this expression. Those who could he would think about for minutes afterwards, usually in a combat scenario. It appeared that he was going in the right direction. The streets grew progressively more squalid the further he ventured into The Slums of Shaolin. The number of cheap Asian restaurants occupying a given block had tripled since he had last looked around. Sick neon puddles of oil gleamed at their feet, sitting stagnantly beside the open gutters. Illegal wiring webbed across the low sky. A pretty Thai woman was watching him from the doorway of a massage parlour. His eyes continued past her to the building’s XXX’d sign – Hmmm… I haven’t been there before – He cursed himself for breaking character and turned his head stiffly forward, clenching his jaw against the stirring in his loins.
The sounds of muttering rang off the walls of a particularly sinister alley to his left, causing him to stop. He tilted his head in its direction, took a breath, and followed the noise of injustice.
The voices came from behind a dumpster placed against the right wall of the alley. As he approached the dumpster he called out in a strange Brooklyn accent, “Anybody seen Richie?”
Three men stepped into view. From their ostentatiously placed tattoos he could tell two of them were local gangsters. One of them, wearing cheap torn jeans and a grey tank top, walked forwards in meandering steps. His arms were held supposedly politely behind his back. He leaned his torso forward and looked The Kimono Dragon up and down. “No, Mister, I have never heard of such a person, but I suggest that you leave this area and never come back. This is a dangerous place.” He over-enunciated his words, crudely attempting to polish his rough accent. The Kimono Dragon ignored him and shifted his head to face the other two. He again called out, “Anybody know why Richie did Bobby Lupo?”
The gangster had also turned to face his cronies, his expression was twisted into something between disgust and disbelief. The Kimono Dragon moved passed the first man and peered around the dumpster. Needles, pipes, and a dark substance in crinkled tin foil sat on an upside-down bin lid. He looked up at the man who now stood in front of him. A beanie was pulled low over his face, hiding his eyes in shadows. His mouth was harsh and grimy.
“Whatta we got here huh?” The Kimono Dragon remarked.
“You better get the fuck out of here before I put a fucking hole in that fucked up head of yours”
The Kimono Dragon was unfazed. He continued in a slack-jawed, Christopher Walken-tinged drawl, “I noticed a lot of boxing memorabilia, we got some gloves over here…” He gestured to the bin lid, “pictures everywhere…” He flicked his hand at some graffiti on the opposite wall. “Who’s the boxer?”
The man in the beanie had opened his mouth to say something but it had become momentarily paralysed in confusion. The Kimono Dragon turned to eye the man in the tank top, who was squinting diagonally upwards in search of a coherent train of thought. He heard a foot scrape heavily across the ground. He whipped his head around. The third man, a large man in an even larger trench coat waddled forward. His beady furrowed eyes were framed by a silly middle parting and moustache. His meaty fists were balled tightly.
“You a boxer? Tough guy?” The man nodded slowly. “Really?” He continued nodding. “What could you do?”
The man threw a punch. The Kimono Dragon slipped past his arm, deflecting the blow, and rammed his elbow into the bridge of his nose. The man let out a yelp as he flopped to the ground.
“That was a grave error of judgement.” The voice of the sly man sounded behind him. “Our business associates, his comrades, will be very upset. You are now in a world of trouble I’m afraid.”
The Kimono Dragon adjusted his position in the alley, bringing the two gang members within his limited field of vision. The intensity in his eyes was betrayed by his ludicrous, rapid head swivels. The gangster moved his hands from behind his back, one of them held a long hunting knife. The man in the beanie had lifted his baggy hoody up from his hip and was reaching for the black butt of a gun.
“Let me show you something.” The Kimono Dragon stared at the man who was reaching for his gun. Holding his own hand in the shape of a gun, he raised it in front of his face and began to rapidly slide his other hand back and forth across its finger-barrel as if he was unloading imaginary bullets. Once again the man in the beanie was dumbstruck.
“Here’s my gun. Fair game now okay” He awkwardly stretched out the “ee” and the end of “okay”. He then looked at the man with the knife, more for dramatic effect than for confirmation. “And here’s my badge!” He mimed throwing his finger gun to the ground before gripping the lapels of his kimono with both hands and thrusting them forward. “This is your trophy. This is your trophy! Okay.”
He tried to control the breaths that fluttered euphorically in his chest.
The man was aiming his gun at The Kimono Dragon’s snout. “You’re nothing but a delusional lizard wearing a fucking kimono, and now you’re gonna die.”
The vicious words seemed to strike him in his gut. The Kimono Dragon felt his composure shatter. He couldn’t breathe in. His eyes were gripped in thoughtless anxiety, they stared vacantly at the ground. A nauseating wave of sadness had hit him. No…he’s…wrong? His lowered gaze drifted across to an arm. He followed the arm’s length to its hand. In it was a bloody knife, half of it still in his stomach.
Train to become. The words of his sensei boomed in his mind.
He sucked in a breath. A fresh sensation of fear shook him awake. He trapped the man’s arm with his left hand, keeping the knife in his gut. With his other arm he scooped under the man’s elbow, locking the joint. He then shifted to his left whilst pivoting to his right, popping the man’s elbow and flinging him in the direction of the other gangster. The gun went off. Blood splashed on The Kimono Dragon’s face. The man had let go of the knife and become limp in his hands. The beanie’d man was training his gun onto The Kimono Dragon. Dropping the lifeless body, The Kimono Dragon lunged forward and grabbed the inside of the gun-bearing wrist. The gun fired again, this time the bullet ricocheted along the alley. He then spun around the man’s arm and, controlling his elbow with his other hand, he directed the man’s face into the ground. Bssshhhhkk! The man lay with his arse in the air, his weight was supported by his face and his knees.
“Motherfucker you knocked my teeth out.” came the gurgled murmur.
The Kimono Dragon briefly surveyed the grim scene. Leaning against the alley wall, he closed his eyes and pulled the knife out of his gut, immediately applying pressure to the wound with his other hand. He began to limp down the alley towards the main street, muttering a few lines to himself.
The Humble Abode of The Kimono Dragon
The Kimono Dragon took another gulp of sake. Sedated, alone, unshakably sad, his tired eyes stared at the screen. Steven Seagal’s character passes in front of a purple neon sign reading “BROADWAY”, his eyes were darting side to side. He looked unsurprisingly composed after having beaten up an entire barful of scumbags. In a horrendous Brooklyn accent that was more than slightly off, he calls out “Anybody seen Richie?” The Kimono Dragon mouths the words along in silent synchronicity. “Huh? I’m gonna keep coming back ‘til someone remembers seeing Richie!”