Improbable doorways, hello. I’m walking off a drunk — a stagger-stepped and deliberate go at keeping the ground in its place. Down the deserted road two miles, growing steadily more sure-footed, then left through the sleeping village and around the gate into Ikkyu’s old temple, which I’ve explored several times by daylight.
Nothing stirs. The white gravel path is just visible, and I crunch past the meditation hall. I approach the bell in its hillside hanger, an immense shadow in the shape of an inverted sake cup. I stab its three-ton chest with my big finger. Hey! You think you so smart? You come to my temple, at Shao-lin!
No answer. I crouch down, remembering the Noh play where a monk leaps into a bell to escape a serpent. I crab-walk under, then cautiously stand, groping the cold metal.
The ancient bell is noisy with breathing. Startled, I bang my head, and there’s the faintest of reverberations, echoing for several heartbeats. This is not a hat, I whisper. A hat. A hat.