A master carpenter


A master carpenter

Grateful Crane

It was a cold snowy day.
Nobody except a girl in shabby kimono with a parcel wrapped with furoshiki was plodding along the road leading to a prison.
Her footprints were soon covered in snow.
At last she saw the building surrounded by fences.
She stopped walking for a while and looked up the high fence as if she wanted to see inside.
Actually she was thinking about her father who was staying inside.
Her father used to be a good carpenter.
The girl remembered the happy days she spent with her parents.
But one day her father fought with a man after drinking too much and killed the man by mistake.
That was like a bolt from the blue for his wife and daughter.
Their lives were changed dramatically.
She knew that the happy days with her parents wouldn’t come again.
She wiped her tears away and resumed walking toward the gate of the prison.
She asked a guard at the gate,
“Would you do me a favor?
Could I see my father?
He is serving time here.”

“Sorry, young lady.
But you should have come here a bit earlier.
You know today is the last day of the year.
So the visiting hour is a bit earlier than usual.
And we have New Year holidays.
Please come again on January 4th.”
The guard’s voice sounded very cold.

“Sir, I’d like to give this parcel to my father.
So I only need a short time.
Would you, please?”
she was pleading in a tearful voice.
Just then the chief of the guard happened to pass by.
“What are you doing here at this time of the day?
You should go home and have hot meal with your family,”
he said to her gently, and looked at her desperate expression and shabby clothes.
She said,
“Thank you for your concern.
My father is serving here, so I’d like to see him, and give him this parcel.
If you can’t let me in, would you hand it to him instead of me?”

She removed the snowflakes from the parcel and held it out to him.
The chief, who felt sorry for her, said to her,

“The rule is the rule.
We allow no exceptions.
But—um, all right, I’ll hand it to him for you.
Count on me.
Now that it’s getting dark, stop crying and go home, young lady.”

Her father was in a solitary cell, because he was always disregarding the rules, and caused trouble with warders.
His heart was becoming rougher and rougher and his behavior becoming violent.
But when he got a parcel, he felt something warm from it.
He untied the furoshiki, and found a letter and a box in it.

My dear Father,
I must tell you something.
My mother finally left home.
People talked behind our back and ignored us.
So she had a hard time.
She decided to move somewhere to start a new life.
She told me to come with her.
But I said I would wait for you to come home.
I’m alone.
But I won’t cry.
Please come home as soon as possible.
Today is the last day of this year.
I wanted to get something for you.
But I don’t have any money.
This is the only thing I could give you as a present.
It must be cold in jail.
Take care not to catch a cold.
With love,
Your daughter

The father hastily opened the box.
In it he found a bunch of hair.
His daughter had been proud herself of her hair.
He could imagine how hard it’d been to cut off her beautiful hair.
In fact she cut it in order to encourage him.
He took it out from the box, smelt it, and held it to his teary cheek.
The daughter’s love for her father seemed to have melted his warped heart.
He gradually changed his attitudes.
Soon everyone around him noticed the changes.
At first they were just surprised.
Then they started treating him as if he were a totally different person.
He had been a violent man in the prison.
But since then he became obedient.
Finally he was known as one of the well-behaved model prisoners.
Several years later, he finished serving his term, and came home to where his daughter was waiting patiently.
People still acted coldly toward him because of his criminal record.
But he didn’t lose his heart.
He decided to work hard and not to indulge in drinking again.
His new life with his daughter had just started.
“Long long ago, there lived a little girl with her parents in a suburb of a town.”
An old woman is telling a story to her granddaughter.
She is going to tell the little girl the memories of her own father who was once a prisoner because he’d killed a man.
But after he finished his serving, he worked hard as a carpenter.
People finally called him ‘a master carpenter.

The end