Prompt 24: A Thief’s Tale – 501 Prompts

501 Prompts is me trying to be confident in my abilities and working on my creative writing.

Here’s how it works: prepare an idea, write for 20 minutes, edit, upload it and move on to the next. It’s open to all genres, topics and experiments with storytelling.

Enjoy this week’s prompt!

The Prompt

Ryokan, a Zen master, lived the simplest kind of life in a little hut at the foot of a mountain. One evening a thief visited the hut only to discover there was nothing to steal
Ryokan returned and caught him. “You have come a long way to visit me,” he told the prowler, “and you should not return empty-handed. Please take my clothes as a gift.”
The thief was bewildered. He took the clothes and slunk away.
Ryokan sat naked, watching the moon. “Poor fellow,” he mused, “I wish I could have given him this beautiful moon.”

The Moon Cannot be Stolen, Zen Koan

My Story

The night was a complete bust, and all Kuroki had to show for were the poor clothes of a monk. Back in his dirty shack in an impoverished district of the city, he threw them into a corner and left to find another unlucky fool.

During the next years, Kuroki stole and extorted, lied and cheated when he wasn’t drinking, often doing both at the same time. The thief made a name for himself among the shady subjects and general scum of the city and gathered a considerable amount of riches in his small shack. His encounter with Ryokan was long forgotten when one night, Kuroki’s luck turned on him.

A group of thugs ambushed him in the alley outside his home. Stars burst into his vision as a mighty blow to the head threw him to the ground. They kept pummeling and kicking him while Kuroki writhed in pain and tried to protect his head.

By the time the beating stopped, his body was numb, and he slipped in and out of consciousness. He lay on his back, unable and unwilling to move, staring through swollen eyes up into the night sky. The metallic taste of his own blood lingered in his mouth. The new day was already dawning when Kuroki returned to life.

They had ransacked his hideout and taken everything of value. Amidst the wreckage, Kuroki found the shabby robes of the monk and put them on because his clothes were torn and bloodstained. Fearing others sensed a chance for revenge, Kuroki took to the road and left the only place he had ever known.

He lived a miserable life begging for food, occasionally stealing from unsuspecting victims. At night he dreamed of reconnecting to his former glory. He gave it another try in a faraway city but got caught by the guard. “You have come a long way to steal from me,” said the lord, “and everyone should see you for who you really are.” At dawn, the executioner chopped off Kuroki’s right hand.

The thief’s spirit was as broken as his body, and he drifted across the country. The owner of an inn had pity and gave him a room to stay in for the night.

One of the patrons mistook Kuroki for a traveling monk. “Share your wisdom with us, master.” Confused about the sudden interest, Kuroki jumped to his feet and ran out interrupting a fight among drunk farm hands outside. By accident, one of them stabbed Kuroki in the eye. The dispute was settled but the former thug lost half of his sight.

Rumors about a peaceful monk putting himself in harm’s way for the benefit of the people made rounds in the region. For the first time in Kuroki’s life, kindness and generosity greeted him wherever he went. At first, sharing his experience sounded hollow to him, but soon the words rang true revealing a deeper meaning buried in his life’s choices.

Many years later, his path took him back to Ryokan’s little hut at the foot of the mountain under the full moon. The monk, now an old man, was sitting outside, watching the night sky. Kuroki bowed and sat down next to him. They remained silent for hours before Ryokan spoke.

“I knew you would return. How has life treated you since the last time we met?”

Kuroki told him in great detail about his journey, and the old master listened. When his story ended, the monk smiled.

“Isn’t the moon beautiful?”

Kuroki bowed his head to hide the tears running down his cheeks.

“I can see that now, master.”

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