Eldridge and the Cage
© Copyright 2017 · John F. Rychlicki III · Leilah Publications · All Rights Reserved ·

For Frau Immel and Sifu Robert

Once there was a terrible man full of despair and violent loneliness.  Angered at losing his job he took to drinking and numbing himself by washing away all his emotions in bottles of alcohol.  Passersby scoffed at him in disgust, he remained trapped in a world that refused to recognize him or acknowledge his suffering and hopelessness.  Each night jobless, half sober he would wander deeper into the city’s shadows and underground indiscretions.  One night he found himself in the familiar numbness of hopelessness, self-hatred, and anger.  The man of despair could not feel, could not love, could not die.  He found himself chasing the creeping shadows at the edge of the city’s urban sprawl.

He came upon a mans small and modest house, smelling the scent of a fine meal being prepared.   The man of despair crept up to the window, and  spied another man eating alone inside at the table, reading a book.  He quietly but clumsily made his way round to the back yard, unclasped the gate and crept to the back door.   With a *click* he found the back door was unlocked and open.  He quietly crept inside making his way to the kitchen.

Stepping slowly until he reached the kitchen doorway, the man of despair rushed and attacked the man sitting at the table.  The man in the home quickly immobilized him with a form of martial art called Jeet Kune Do.  The man who was eating dragged the half-conscious man of despair into a makeshift cage.  The man of despair cried out “I’m going to kill your ass!  And your family!”

“I live alone, have no family my friend.”  The man of the house said.

“Let me out!  Bastard!” The man of despair said.

“Are you hungry?  Is that why you came into my home?  Do you have nowhere to go?”  The man of the house said.

“Fuck you!  What do you care, die!  Just kill me.  Kill yourself, I don’t care! Let me out!” The man of despair said.

“My name is Shimoda.”  The man of the house said.  “What’s yours?  I won’t harm you.  Here, let me get you something to eat, friend.”  Shimoda went to the kitchen counter and prepared him a sandwich with fruit, handing it to the man of despair through the small spaces between the bars of the cage.

“Here, eat.”  Shimoda said.  “You know, in case you’re wondering, it’s called Jeet Kune Do.”  Shimoda offered.  “That’s how I immobilized you.”  He smiled warmly.

“Kill me, or I’m gonna’ kill your ass.  Just kill me I don’t care anymore.” the man of despair said.

“Why?” Shimoda asked.  The man of despair was silent and cried, shaking his fists in the air, wincing in a deep pain that drowned him in his own mind.

“I had a companion but he was killed.  He was a wolf and I built that cage for him when I first met him.  He was wild for a time.  Then he got out and would come a visit me time to time.  Eventually he just came and went as he please, though I don’t ever think this was home for him.  He was too wild but curiosity overcame the beast.  I named him Scooby.  Don’t think he liked it.”  Shimoda chuckled at his own joke.

“I can’t do this anymore…too tired…just die….just let me die…kill me….” the man of despair whimpered.

“Tell you what friend, you can leave in the morning or stay with me and learn.  I could use another student.  Sleep on it.”  Shimoda lit a candle as the man of despair passed out.  He dimmed the lights and watched over him throughout the night, as the man of despair twisted and turned his body unnaturally from the nightmares that danced into his mind all night.

Had he gone mad?  He saw what looked like shadows dancing around Shimoda, smiling and cackling at him with the most horrid black faces.

For several days and nights, Shimoda took care and fed the man of despair, each morning asking him, “Good morning friend, I made you breakfast.  Do you still want to kill me?”  The man of despair’s reply was always the same:  “When I get out of this cage, I’m going to kill you, and myself.”  Shimoda would nod, and tell him about Jeet Kune Do.

“Jeet Kune Do, you see, has no definite lines or boundaries — only those you make yourself.” Shimoda said to his guest, who sat in a former wolf’s cage, huddled, listening and slowly letting curiosity take hold.

Shimoda continued his lessons the entire day and throughout the night.

“Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it.”  The man of despair listened intently.

“Everything gets returned.  See…your mind is stuck…returning to each cause of pain, each moment where someone hurt you, or you hurt someone else.  You keep going back.  Jeet Kune Do is the way through.”

Eventually the man of despair broke down mentally, sharing how he was a man of cruelty, addiction, anger and loneliness; his family had left him.

The man of despair sobbed and trembled.  “My name is Eldridge.”

“Do you want to stay with me, and learn?  You can work around the house, earn your keep and stay.  Learn, and have your own return.”  Shimdoa said.

Eldridge nodded.

“The door to this cage is unlocked.” Shimoda said.  Eldridge stared in disbelief.

“The door to your cage is unlocked.  I never had a lock for Scooby the wolf.  I never locked it when I put you in.”    Shimoda replied.

*Step out of your cage.  Stop imprisoning yourself in yourself.  God bless you all.