Scrolls is a new 'experimental' collaboration in progress by James C. Hopkins and Yoko Danno. One of us writes the first half of a sentence and the other follows up the rest of the sentence. The latter begins the next sentence and drops it halfway, which is taken over by the former. Writing thus in turn we draw 'picture scrolls' with words. There is no rule except that a scroll should consist of five paragraphs. When we start a scroll we never know how it will develop and end. We have set out for adventures in an unknown land without a map or a compass.


♠  Scroll 25


I've decided to stay on this island until the birds tell me that it's time to leave. Every day they come to the doorway and look inside the house as if looking for something. They have been building a nest under the eaves, using colorful pieces of thread, yearn and cloth from scraps of clothing that looks like they might belong to a prostitute or a Russian teenager. I imagine the birds waiting for just the right moment, then flying into the living room, littered with all kinds of clothes I'm collecting to send out to charities. The birds have been watching for my absence so that they can finally take over the house—they may get that chance soon.

This morning I set off for the other side of the island, carrying only a mystery book and a whistle. I had never been beyond the hills surrounding the paddy fields since I washed up on this island exactly one year ago, and honestly never had to desire to know what lay there. Something in the way that the birds were acting had shaken me into flying. The parent birds watched me as if they were urging their over-grown chick to leave the nest and, not wanting to crash to the earth just yet, I made threatening gestures with the mystery book and shouted at them.

As the birds flapped off into the jungle I noticed that, on the underside of their wings, bright red marks were flashing like alarms as they fled. When I was a child, I thought that I might some day become a valiant cop and chase after robbers with spirit. But the fact is that I have been evading birds' droppings or in fear of their excessive concern about raising their young for years. It is only since I landed on the island that I've been able to sneak out to this side without being watched by the parent birds.

I felt, finally, a sense of emancipation by the turquoise sea when I was finally able to plunge in naked and be swallowed by a different element. "No—they will never find me here," I thought as I swam to the sea bottom out of hunger for home. Surprisingly I felt no need of air and was soon surrounded by a school of parrot-fish who seemed to have taken me on as one of their own. "Oh well," I thought, flashing a lime green wing, perhaps I had actually turned into a fish, "I wanted to be a bright-colored tropical fish since my childhood." I went hunting for food with my new pals—the memory of sky dissolving into sea and only the colors remaining.

That night a boat passed overhead scattering something like brown-red liquid. My pals immediately responded to the drippings and flipped to the surface of the flashing sea, but when we arrived, we found only moonlight dancing across the waves. We were far from the shore and the birds' nest. There wasn't even a shadow of the boat over the horizon and not a breath of wind over the surface of the sea. As my friends swam in circles and launched for the impossible moon, I floated a few meters below the surface, where the moonlight deflected in all directions, shimmering, like a huge translucent veil. I no longer wanted anything more than to return to the sky, to chatter in the treetops, to fly again.

(Photo by James C. Hopkins: Koh Phangan, Thailand.