The wife's rear is facing the master -- What's this? Disrespect? There's no particular disrespect here. Etiquette, or lack thereof, is the subjective call of the parties involved. The master thinks nothing of lying there, chin propped in his hands, facing his wife's rear. The wife, for her part, thinks nothing of planting her rear end, in all its grandeur, directly in front of the master's face. There's no impropriety whatsoever. The two of them, within a year of their marriage, had thrown aside convention and discarded the constraints of matrimonial protocol. -- So what is the wife, with her rear end toward the master, up to? Taking advantage of the day's fine weather, she's scrubbed her long straight hair with funori and raw egg, draped it over her shoulders and down her backside, and is quietly at work with her needle, sewing a child's vest-shirt. In fact, she's brought her mousseline cushion and sewing box out onto the veranda to dry her hair, orienting her rear end toward the master in all due respect. Or it may be that the master came out after and set his face in proximity to her rear end. To continue from earlier, an abundance of black hair flutters loosely, and tobacco smoke weaves through its midst. The master gazes intently as the chance interaction sends shimmers through a heated haze. Smoke, however, does not linger in place but naturally rises upward. The master's eyes, fixated on the spactacle of smoke mingling with hair, are forced to follow suit. Starting at the wife's haunches, he slowly follows it up her back, over her shoulders, and along the nape of her neck. When it finally clears her neck and arrives at the crown of her head, an astonished gasp escapes his lips. -- There on the crown of her head, the head of his sworn partner for life, dead in the center, is a large round bald spot. Furthermore, the time of day is just such that the sun's warm rays bounce off the bald surface and hit him full on. Caught in the glare and taken aback by this unexpected discovery, the master stares blankly, oblivious to the blinding rays that stream through his open pupils. The first thought to enter his mind is of a candle tray, the one that adorned his family's Buddhist altar, an altar that had been passed down over generations. His family belonged to the Pure Land school, whose adherents had long been known to lay out extravagant sums for their household altars. Among his childhood memories is an image of their double-doored shrine, overlayed in thick gold leaf, rising in the dim light of the valuables room. Suspended within was the candle tray, with its faintly burning flame visible even in daylight, contrasting clearly with its dark surroundings. The wife's bald spot immediately evoked the memory of this tray, seen so often as a child and indelibly impressed on his subconscious mind. Within a minute, though, the tray had faded away, replaced by recollections of Kannon's pigeons. Kannon's pigeons and the wife's bald spot would seem to bear nothing in common, but the master drew an intimate connection. Again going back to his youth, he would always buy peas for the pigeons on visits to Asakusa. It was two copper coins for a dish of peas, and the dish was of red earthenware. That earthenware, both in color and size, resembled the wife's bald spot.