Ki by Chris Green
I have just taken a photo of the blue sea with the bank of cloud over the dark headland, when the stranger with the mirror sunglasses appears out of nowhere. He asks me if I am a professional photographer.
‘Not at all,’ I say. ‘It’s only a Canon PowerShot. But there are some spectacular views here.’
‘It’s perfect on a day like today,’ he says ‘Usually though, it’s blowing a gale up here. Have you not been up here before?’
‘No.’ I say. ‘I’m a visitor to these parts. I come from the city.’
‘Can I take a look?’ he asks.
I pass him my camera.
‘You’re right,’ he says. ‘That is an excellent photo. Good composition and it’s really sharp. I see your camera has the internet. Could you send me the picture?’
It seems an odd request from someone I do not know. Why doesn’t he take his own photo? I notice he has a camera. But I agree with his request. He gives me his details and I send an SMS. It appears his name is Ki. It sounds oriental. He does not look oriental. And he speaks with RP English.
‘Thank you for that. In return for your generosity, something good will happen to you.’
This seems an unlikely premise, but it seems easier to play along with him.
‘I hope so,’ I say. ‘I’ve had a run of bad luck lately.’
‘It will, Richard,’ he says. ‘And when it does, you will remember me. Then, if each time you take a good photo, you send it to me, you can expect further instances of good fortune.’
It remains unsaid, but somehow Ki leaves the suggestion that, by default, if I don’t send him photos, something bad might happen.
On the drive home, Ki remains a lingering presence. I have the disturbing sensation that he is still with me. It’s as if he is sitting beside me or perhaps crouching in the back seat. I imagine I can hear the rustle of his coat or feel his breath on my neck. But of course, he is not there. At least, he is not there in the physical sense. But something is wrong. Perhaps I have not been getting enough sleep lately, or I have had too much coffee today. Perhaps I shouldn’t have taken the flask with me on my walk.
To distract myself, I switch the radio on. They are discussing a new film called Travelling Light starring Quentin Thief and May Welby. This offers little comfort. The film is about the transmigration of souls. I try Classic FM, but they play Brahms and Sibelius, neither of whom could be described as relaxing. Radio 2 has some mindless quiz and Radio 1 is unlistenable to anyone over the age of seventeen. I settle on an Errol Garner CD.
When I get home, in amongst the junk mail on the mat is a letter informing me I have won a year’s membership of The Jazz Bass, one of the city’s top jazz venues. What a pleasant surprise! Membership to this exclusive establishment normally costs over a hundred pounds. They have all the top jazz artists when they are over here from America. To be honest, I can’t remember entering a competition. But of course, this is a most welcome development. When she gets back from Singapore, I will be able to introduce Susie to live performances by some of the greats. I’m sure she will begin to appreciate jazz and stop referring to it as a bunch of buglers all playing different tunes.
I am not one to believe in supernatural mumbo-jumbo, but later in the day, I get a text from Ki that simply says, Do you believe me now? Could there be a connection between his promise of good fortune and The Jazz Bass membership? But even if there is, why should I let the creepiness of it stop me from enjoying this unanticipated bounty? How deeply do I need to get involved in Ki’s mind games, if this is what they are? Is there a way perhaps to go with the flow and see what happens?
I am kept awake by rogue thoughts. In the morning I decide to take the day off work and take my camera to the zoo. In times of confusion, it can be cathartic to see how animals, free from the burden of the need to achieve, go about their day. I get some awesome close-ups of the gorillas, including a candid one of the alpha male munching on a melon. He seems to be posing for me. I send the photo across to Ki. I’m not sure what to expect, but I suppose deep down, I expect an acknowledgement from him. I do not get one.
When I return home this time, our cat Seamus, who has been missing for three months, is there, waiting on the doorstep. I am so relieved to see him, and he seems pleased to see me. Despite my scepticism about occult forces, I find myself wanting to attribute Seamus’s reappearance to Ki. I consider thanking him but resist the temptation. Instead, I send him a photo I took of a midsummer sunset at Westward Ho. This is one of my favourites. I’m certain he will like it. Again, I get no acknowledgement.
The following day, I let him have a photo of the wolf moon I took last January. Still nothing from Ki. I wonder if I should stop playing his game. But the niggling thought that it might bring me bad luck threatens to take hold again. What is happening to me that I can even be thinking in this way?
I decide to be bold and leave it a day or two with no communication with him to see what happens. Meanwhile, I finally get through to Susie. She tells me she has been busy. I give her an update on recent developments.
‘If you think I’m going anywhere to watch banjo players and trumpeters in stupid hats playing out of tune, Rick, you’ve got another think coming,’ she says. ‘And I can’t imagine why you like that flea-bitten old tomcat. Who is this Ki, anyway? Next, you’ll be telling me there are griffins in the garden or that you’ve been out looking for unicorns in the woods.’
I resist the temptation to tell her it’s been so long since she attended to the raised beds she planted back in the Spring, there probably are griffins in the garden.
‘Anyway, Rick. What I’ve been meaning to say is that I have to stay in Singapore for a while longer. In fact, I may be here indefinitely.’
Is Susie cheating on me? Has she found someone else? Is she even in Singapore? It’s only been a couple of days, since I stopped sending photos to Ki, but is this development down to him? Here I go again. Where are these crazy ideas coming from? Perhaps Susie is right. Perhaps I am losing it. It’s absurd. Ki couldn’t possibly have that kind of power over my life. We are looking at a series of coincidences. He probably hasn’t given me another thought since his original text message.
There is a knock at the door. It is Ki. How can he have found out where I live? And why is he still wearing his mirror sunglasses? It is dark.
‘I knew you wouldn’t mind if I called around,’ he says. ‘I received all the photos you sent. Sorry, I haven’t had time to thank you. But I wanted to let you know in person that something very special is going to happen tomorrow. I can’t tell you what it is, but I think you are going to like it.’
My thoughts vacillate between belief and disbelief in Ki’s abilities. Not only whether he had anything to do with the developments, good and bad, but why would he bother? Who was it that said everybody must give something back for something they get? In my experience, people rarely do favours for total strangers without the thought of recompense. What could Ki’s interest possibly be? And why would serendipity depend on my sending him photographs?
Wouldn’t it be easier simply to accept an element of sorcery? I have long suspected that there are many things going on beneath the surface that we are not privy to. So many things cannot be easily explained. Dark matter, tetra neutrons, the Wow signal. Lightning strikes, the Amazon rainforest geoglyphs, the mysterious 1938 time-traveller. Sixth sense and intuition. The soul. How do we make sense of it all? Integrated fields of energy? A quantum computer simulation? Dancing tetrahedrons? A glitch in the matrix? An all-encompassing hologram? Is there a master plan or is it all just random noise?
There again, if the changes are going to be beneficial, as Ki says they are, why would I want to complain? Gift horses, mouths and all that. Perhaps it’s not why, why, why, perhaps it just is. So can I discount Susie’s dampener on proceedings for now? Ki may have had nothing to do with this. Things have not been good between us for a long time. It’s probably time to move on to pastures new.
What will his surprise be? Ki suggested it will be something special. Yet, ahead of me is the prospect of an ordinary working day for me at BackBeat Music Supplies. A few people will drift in and try out guitars and pianos. Perhaps someone will express an interest in buying one. But this is usually as far as it goes. Very few actually go through with their purchase. The prices tend to put them off. Will this be the day that someone buys a Steinway Grand? Or might a top rock band come in to order new Fenders? Could the commission on the sale be the bounty that Ki is referring to? Perhaps the Blackhouse Colliery Band has had a windfall and will call in to replace all their brass instruments. That would bring me a colossal amount of commission.
Considering how few people play the instrument, I am surprised by how many people bring cellos in to be restrung. We only sell about two cellos a year, yet restringing the instrument appears to be one of the most popular services at BackBeat. It is a fifteen-minute job, but if you have not done this before, it can be tricky. You need to prime the bridge and neck of the instrument with graphite and take care to thread each string properly. A full-size cello is around four feet tall and difficult to transport. The lady struggling to manoeuvre hers through the door can’t be much over five feet tall. I help her with it. I introduce myself, and she tells me her name is Charlotte Rose. Normally customers would need to book their restringing, and leave the instrument with us. But under the circumstances, I agree to do hers while she waits. There are other factors that influence my decision. With her shapely figure, her cascading dark hair, her eyes the colour of topaz, and her dazzling smile, Charlotte Rose is stunning.
‘Ki hinted that you might be accommodating,’ she says with a glint in her eye.
Did she just mention Ki? Perhaps she didn’t, but anyway, I am getting used to surprises. I guess at some level I had already connected this ray of sunshine with my mysterious benefactor. Who he is or how and why he is doing what he is doing are becoming irrelevant. You could spend your life questioning why things turn out the way they do, and in the meantime, forget you are meant to be living it.
I am a little out of practice with romancing, but after Charlotte and I have been chatting for a while about Yo Yo Ma, Haruki Murakami, Rene Magritte Miles Davis, and Marilyn Monroe, I pluck up the courage to ask her to come with me to see The Simon Somerset Sextet at The Jazz Bass on Saturday. She says she would love to come. She loves jazz and The Simon Somerset Sextet are one of her favourite bands. She particularly likes Once in a Blue Moon and the one on the Cool Vibes album that Kenny Parker plays the soprano sax on.
‘It’s called Is This Love Or Am I Dreaming?’ I say. ‘It’s one of my favourites too.’
‘How exciting!’ she says. ‘I’m already looking forward to the show. It’ll give me the chance to wear my new red dress.’
Susie is still in Singapore, but things are going swimmingly with Charlotte Rose. I haven’t seen Ki for a while though. I keep forwarding photos, of course, but if it weren’t for the fact that Charlotte has met him too, I would have to ask myself if he really exists. My friend Otis, who I sometimes have a drink with in The Gordon Bennett thinks I am spinning him a yarn. Otis is a bit of a sceptic about most things. Perhaps he is not the best judge. But Django at work though doesn’t believe in Ki either. He thinks I am crazy. He likens him to the imaginary friend you might have as a child. I remind him of all the good fortune that has come my way. Isn’t that proof enough? Despite the doubters and his prolonged absence, I still feel as if Ki is close by. At times, I can almost see him or hear him, or reach out and touch him. It is as if he is part of me.
Copyright © Chris Green 2021: All rights reserved