The old tower shifted and then crumbled during the earthquake, obstructing the great road. The starving pilgrims looked like scared black foxes in the twilight. One pilgrim sat down in the rubble, and whispered to nobody in pariticular, “What an impasse! Now we shall have neither wisdom nor excess!”
One teacher walks the long road of heavy burdens. The teacher must remember to walk this straight road of gravel and dust and enjoy the wayside grass. The stations will remain indefinable. The teacher will walk with purpose. The teacher must remain clean shaven on his skull and face. The rice cakes must remain fresh and edible. The robes must gently flutter in the wind. It must be sunny. The sky will remain open for seasonable hours. The teacher may follow the bailiff but he may not be the bailiff, regardless of moonlight or rain. The roadside grass will be reasonable even if the blades are full of mystery. It is forbidden for him not to be grave and light-hearted. It is forbidden for him to forget. And if he should encounter a skull upon the roadway, he shall remain silent and wait until the bones speak or laugh.
They waited by the roadside for the coach, dressed well and animated. They were trying to convince a wanderer, a shabby man, who seemed to combine fresh youth and exhaustion in his features, manner and expression, to remain with them until the road coach arrived. They spoke of the rewards, the sites to see along the great highway and the comforts of the coach. The wanderer looked around at the wind blowing through the golden barley, at the racing clouds, and at their long afternoon shadows in the dust. There was something deeply painful in his eyes. Growing up, he started to say, as though launching into an epic while gazing into them plaintively. Then he just laughed, shrugged, and disappeared into the grain fields. Now and then they saw his shadow shapeshifting among the glimmering stalks. The road coach appeared in the distance, trailing a cloud of dust.