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Friday, June 25, 2021

Tokyo Twins – Chapters 8, 9 and 10

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Tokyo Twins A serialized online story


Tokyo Twins looks at two issues –

what the roots of terrorism are, and what the end of terrorism might be.
One or two new chapters, in both text and audio, will be posted each week to Pakistan Times.

mp3 audio – Tokyo Twins – Chapters 8, 9 and 10

Chapter 8 – Superstition and allowance in Hebiyama.


Obá-chan watched Taya-san and Kaneko-san from the Japan Foreign Ministry, discuss their alternatives and tactics to find the girls; first on the list: Comb Hebiyama with agents and dogs.

“They are not in Hebiyama.” Obá-chan said. “It’s a place forbidden to them, and forbidden to you as well.”

“Pardon me?” said Taya-san.

“It’s…” Obá-chan paused, “haunted.” Obá-chan paused again, “occupied, you might say. And you do know what I mean.” she stated flatly and paused once again.

“I might be a physicist,” she continued, “an electronics engineer and a patent attorney, but I am also a grandmother. And I am sorry to say this: if you enter, even with the best of intentions, that bamboo sanctuary, you will bring great hardship upon my life and upon all the lives in this home. And I repeat: You do know what I am talking about.”

The men stared at her without a word.

“Would you care to give notice to the neighbors and get their opinions on this matter? Every body around here knows these – things – about Hebiyama, and most have felt this way for generations. And do you know why?” she paused.

“Perhaps you would like to test what affect these spirits might have upon your own lives? Your own families and futures? Surely you know what sits beside us in Hebiyama? And how many dozens of generations of my ancestors”, she paused, “and yours… are sitting-up right now across that bamboo forest taking notice as we speak.”

The men just stared.

“Fifty? Sixty? Seventy generations?”

The men were dumb founded.

“Then,” Obá-chan folded her hands in front of her, right over left. “Let’s not put a fox hunt in Hebiyama at the top of the list of ways to find the girls, okay? The girls are not in there. I can tell.”

She was walking to the door, and grabbed the door knob.

“Gentlemen?” she paused. “A thousand apologies for this inconvenience, and a thousand thank you’s for your help.”

? ? ? ? ?

“Who are you?” Katie asserted.

He let go of her arm, and took a couple steps back into the darkness.

“Who are you?” Katie repeated.

“I cannot tell you who I am at this time.”

“You’re an old man. I can run faster than you and turn you in.”

“Yes, you may.” he said.

“You’ll never get out of here.” Katie said.

“That, Katie, is another matter.”

The man moved toward his dark makeshift hut, pulled up a flap, and crawled inside.

Katie noticed the glow of a well hidden candle inside and followed.

“How do you know my name?”

“Is there anyone at the moment in Japan who doesn’t?”

“The television would never say our names.” she said.

“You’ve been blogged.”

Katie rolled her eyes.

“You can help get my mother and father back?” Katie said. “My brother?”

He was silent.

“Why are you here” she demanded.

He was silent.

“This is dumb. There are agents just beyond the opened window there… Surely you know this… I could scream no matter what your intentions are.”

“Yes you may.”

Katie took a long look at nothing into the glow inside the hut.

“Go retrieve your sister. Or not. Or go finish your homework and forget about this. Or not.” he looked in her direction, and continued. “Susan, right now, is crawling your path.”

He looked Japanese, all right, Katie thought, but he didn’t look like he had been working and drinking with the same salary men for eighteen hours a day, six days per week, every single month for the last 40 years of his life.

Then again, she wondered, what other look do I know? And on a sixty-five year old man in Tokyo Japan? This look, his look, was not the same. The muscles in his face sat differently somehow under his skin. His eye brows, hard to say, she thought. Soft. Relaxed. Accepting. But intense, she decided. No. His face is not intense. His entire presence is.

“Why the interest in us?” she said.

“ I cannot tell you at this time.”

“Are you crazy?” Katie said.

“Are you going to retrieve your sister?” he countered.

She looked hard at him.

“Or not.” he slowly added.

“Or maybe I go home like nothing happened.” she asserted.

“Aren’t you working on your math homework?

“Hmm.” she nodded. “Yes I am, if I am still alive after Obá-chan finds out.”

He smiled.

“Either way: we run, we stay,” said Katie, and she began shaking her head to measure her words. “We are big-time screwed. Susan is not going to return here with me. The moment she sees me, she’ll run home. And so will I.” Katie said, “Maybe.”

“And you’re allowed.” he smiled, “no maybe about it.”

“Yes she will,” Katie kept going, “Susan will run… What? What did you say?”

He was silent.

And she grabbed the flap and lifted and took off out the door.

She followed her way back up the hill as best she could, dodging fingers of moonlight.

“It’s better I find her and not the other way around.” she said out loud to herself. “It’ll give me a slight edge in this upcoming battle of the O’Brien twins.”

And with that precaution she fairly ran up the hill nearly reaching the ridge and the trail that headed back eastward, toward her bedroom window.

She felt movement in the bamboo stalks several meters down and east from where she stopped now,

trying to breathe, if not more lightly, then at least a bit more quietly.

“Susan!” Katie whispered loudly.

Katie watched the movement stop.

“Susan, stop it! No… I mean… Susan, don’t stop it. Get over here quick!”

Katie saw no movement, heard no sound.

“Oh, this is dumb. Susan! Get over here!”

“Here I am,” Susan whispered excitedly, loudly and from a direction that pointed a good 60 degrees north of the movement of bamboo Katie just saw.

“Susan! Stop! Katie said. “Don’t move! There is someone else here! I mean, right there, a few meters down the hill from you!”

And both girls now saw vigorous movement coming from the same area.

“Susan-Katie, Katie-Susan.”

“Ohmygod, it’s Obá-chan,” the girls said in concert. And each of them froze suddenly in her tracks.

Chapter 9 – The me, the mirror and the man.


“Katie-Susan! Susan-Katie!” Obá-chan said, continuing to bend and bat away the bamboo thickness.

“We’re dead.” Katie mumbled to herself and Susan, not so oddly, mumbled to herself the same.

“But not yet,” each continued in her mind, their feet moving now, in unison, reversing and spinning in mirror images, the first steps of their Shintaiso duet, one they had been practicing for months, to be performed in competition next Wednesday afternoon, only six days away.

They had practiced it so often, for so long, muscle memory now took over, even on Hebiyama: “Pivot inside-step, pause-and back-spin away one, two, three, spins step, two, roll inside, tumble-up and there’s the mirror, not of glass but eyes and faces, from one me to another.

Katie and Susan O’Brien intuitively let fly in formation the motions and movements themselves: pivot and spin, arms-up and tumble, head straight and roll, and there’s the mirror, no! not the mirror!

Appearing suddenly there popped-up out of moonlight right between their noses and poses, the stranger of Hebiyama, who grabbed a forearm from each, and raised his hands in victory.

“Obá-chan, here they are!”

“Send ’em home when you’re done!”

And Obá-chan, whose trickiness manifested more cleverly when structured in the mundane, started walking home.

“Wish you were our uncle right now… he’d set things straight, he’s the head of Fuji Television Network, you know, the largest television network in Japan!”

“I see,” said the stranger.

“I don’t think so,” said Susan.

“Nope.” said Katie. “In 30 minutes, he could have 50 live-feed cameras on trucks and helicopters crawling all over this place.”

“I quite agree with you.” the stranger said.

“Maybe you’re not getting this? Obá-chan is going to call him now!”

“Hmm. the stranger said. “I don’t think so.”

The girls just shook their heads in doubt, and gave him – the look – the look of confidence somewhere beyond human ego, and the old man smiled back – his own look – the look of knowing somewhere beyond human knowledge.

‘We have some things to discuss,” said the old man.

“Like what?” said Katie and Susan.

He paused. “Like you,” he said, “like your parents, like your brother, like your friends, your Obá-chan, and well, like I said, like you.”

“And you?” said the girls.

“And me.” the old man said.

“Who are you?” the one said.

What is your interest in us? said the other.

And how do you know Obá-chan?” said both.

“My name is Satchitananda.” said the stranger.

“Satchitananda?” Katie said. “That is not a Japanese name, and you are Japanese!”

“Yes, I am Japanese,” the old man said, now looking with intentional curiosity at the girls. “And many other things as well.”

“Like what?” said the girls.

“I’ve spent most of my life in northern India in areas around Kashmir.”

Kashmir!” the girls said.

The man stayed quiet.

“You have come to help our parents…”

The man stayed quiet, and just looked back at Katie and Susan.

“Then, why are you here?”

“I don’t know the answer to that question. Events coming to pass today are making circles with events from many years ago.” said the old man.

“What events,” said the girls.

“I cannot say at this time.”

“What’s the secret?”

“It is no secret.” he said.

“You will come to know all the unlikely yet natural closings of these circles only when they close.” he explained.

“Sounds like you’re describing what’s it’s like to throw your ribbon in the middle of a tumbling run,” Susan said, “praying like hell . . .”

Katie was shaking her head.

“You pray you catch it?” he said.

“Hmmm. Sometimes.” Susan said.

“Does it work? he said.

“Last ditch effort?” she paused. “Rarely.”

“How come?” the old man said.

“I don’t know.” Susan said.

“Have you ever looked into it?” he said.

“What do you mean?” said Katie.

“Looking into it?” he reflected and paused. “Watching it while it’s happening.”

“You mean visualizing it? Like doing a tumble or a throw in your mind?” Katie said.

“Is that what you do?” he said.

“Of course,” said the girls.

“Hmmm,” he said. “During your tumble or throw, which one do you observe: the visualization or the action.”

Susan glanced away to think. “I don’t know,” she said.

Katie shook her head slowly in doubt.

“Perhaps this is something to look into.” he said.

“But didn’t you just say you don’t even know why you’re here?” Katie said.

“Yes.” he said. “I did.”

“Perhaps this is something for you to look into.” Susan said.

The old man looked at the girls. “Some things, when you look into them seem knowable, some things are not.” he said.

“How do you know which is which?” Katie said.

“You look into it.” he smiled.

“What’s the point, then?” she said.

“Life.” he said.

“And achievement?” she Susan.

“Yes.” He nodded.

“And learning new routines?” Katie said.

He nodded again.

“And fear?” the girls both said.

“And fear.”

“And pain?” Susan said.

“And pain.”

“And death?” Katie said.

“Yes,” he said.

“What’s this have to do with getting our parents back?” said Susan.

“Will you do me a favor, girls?” he said. “Will you return home now and get some sleep. And if it’s possible, return here tomorrow night?”

“Why?” the girls said.

“There might be more things to talk about.” he said.

“How about now?” Katie said.

“How about now, it is time for bed.” he smiled.

“What about Obá-chan? What about these government men?” the girls said.

“Try not to worry about Obá-chan. And try not to worry about these government men.”

“What about our mother and our father and our brother!”

“Let’s discuss that tomorrow night.”

He felt his cell phone vibrate in his pocket.

“Yes” he said, lifting up to his ear the flip part of the phone.

“No,” he answered to the person on the other end, “the coast looks clear for tonight. Let’s everyone keep our positions… Contingencies, events… could boil-up any day, any hour. Thank you, my friends,” and he closed the flip part of the phone and smiled at the girls.

“Good night and dulci del sueño.” He said.

“Sounds like Spanish.”

“Hmmm,” he nodded.

“Hmmm,” the girls replied and found themselves stepping quickly outside the stranger’s shelter, and even more quickly up the hill, across the ridge and home.

? ? ? ? ?

Obá-chan returned to the house and the men were waiting.

“I am sorry. False alarm.” Obá-chan explained to the two men from the Japan Foreign Ministry.

The girls were just playing out back and I couldn’t see them.

“May we speak to them now?” the men said.

“Heavens no. They’ve had a very rough day, and they are deeply asleep. Would tomorrow morning be okay?”

Chapter 10 – Older sister younger brother.


Katie and Susan O’Brien paced in an anxious trance around their bedroom soon after returning from the jungle and from the stranger, Satchitananda.

They heard the government agents talking between themselves from their car in front of the house.

The news about their missing parents in Kashmir was twenty-four hours in the past, and what felt like a nightmare yesterday was now feeling real, with a life of its own.

They felt physically and emotionally disoriented, anxious and afraid. Grief was setting in – a new experience for them – the feeling of an unbreakable loss, nourished without pause by an overwhelming loneliness it carried on its back. And new to the girls, too, a feeling of panic was knocking at their door.

Susan and Katie looked at each other and nodded slightly and stepped slowly from their bedroom and down the hall and into the living room where Obá-chan was quietly sitting on tatami flooring, and slightly rocking her body out of a similar sense of panic and despair.

She moved a cup of hot tea away from her and looked up at the girls entering the room, their faces blotched in places from crying, pale in places from fear.

“What is the news about Mom and Dad?”

“How much danger are they in?”

“When will they come home?”

And for a moment, through the stress, they failed to conceal, with conditioned cultural reticence, the lynch pin holding in place their pain:

“if indeed they ever do…” Katie murmured.

“…ever do come home.” finished Susan.

“Why is all this happening at once.” Susan said in tears. “National Trials are next week; training is not going well.” she continued.

“This man in Hebiyama – he says he is Japanese?” Katie added.

“With a foreign sounding name? from Kashmir?” Susan said.

“Perhaps he is the one responsible,” Katie said, “for our parents missing.”

“And how, Obá-chan, do you know him.” she went on.

“When did you meet him and talk with him, and how could he possibly help our Mother and Father – or our brother Jack – from a tiny bamboo national forest in Tokyo Japan!?” Katie said.

“And these government men,” followed Susan, “I’m confused. You, Obá-chan, are protecting Katie and me, and also a total stranger in the forest next door.”

“And from who, from what?” Katie said.

“The Japanese government?” said Susan. “And you, Obá-chan – our only connection to family in this house right now – Obá-chan, you must be hurting so much right now. You are not yourself.” Susan finished talking.

Obá-chan motioned with both hands and pulled the girls up close to her.

“My dear Katie and Susan, I wish I could explain this to you, and everything else that has happened the past couple days,” she was moving her head in doubt, “but Satchitananda – our new next door neighbor – may be some hope for saving your mother and father… and your brother Jack.” Obá-chan explained.

“We don’t get it.” said Katie and Susan together, half angry and half crying.

“Listen to me, girls…” Obá-chan said quietly, “Obá-chan does not understand this either, but the fact that Satchitananda is here at all, is, in itself, a miracle, and he is here with some purpose, and we will understand these things in time, and probably sooner than later.”

Obá-chan continued, “Promise me, Susan. Promise me, Katie… Three things: You will go to school, you will continue Shintaiso training daily, compete well next week, and you will study hard.

“Satchitananda wants to see us tomorrow night after training.” Katie added.

“Yes, I know.” Obá-chan said.

“You trust him? You don’t even know him!” Katie said.

No one knows him! And he is… what… a homeless person!” Susan argued.

Obá-chan pulled her hair back with her hands and looked at the girls, “I do realize that your Obá-chan should not be the one receiving these wise words of caution.” She paused, “especially from her own fourteen-year-old granddaughters,” Obá-chan said. “But I trust him.” There was a dash of reverence in her voice. “I am asking you to trust him, too.”

“Why Obá-chan?” Susan urged.

“Obá-chan, how can we.” Katie cried.

And the three sat in silence for two, three minutes staring into hopelessness.

“I don’t know.” Obá-chan said. “But I do know this: Already, out of this chaos and suffering, some kind of miracle has been let loose.”

“We’re lost.” the girls said.

Obá-chan took a deep breath, “You are not lost, Katie and Susan, this miracle, perhaps, is headed your way. Come…” she said and held their hands again. “Come… let’s offer rice and sáke to your great grandmother.” Obá-chan said.

And they moved to the Buddhist area of the living room where a photo of Obá-chan’s mother, long passed away, reminded them of her constant presence, and soothing influence, in the household.

“Give your undying strength, great grandmother, to your grand daughter, Mieko, who is in danger. To her husband Henry in danger too. To your beautiful great grand daughters, Susan and Katie, and to their older brother, Jack. And to this man who lives in the jungle… to this man… give him strength. “

She covered her face in her hands. As did the girls. All weeping. All consumed by the moment and by grief, and now all hugging tightly.

? ? ? ? ?

Earlier in the day, shortly beyond noon, Obá-chan cleaned off her desk, filed her working folders, shut off her workstation, and told her assistant she’d be gone the remainder of the day.

When she boarded the Yamanote Line at Tokyo Station two blocks from her office, she was making an unprecedented and unthinkable return home while daylight of any sort still shined.

“This is impossible, under any circumstances,” her assistant stopped to think a moment: “It has been twenty-five years, maybe thirty, since she even ate lunch anywhere else but at the table in the kitchen of her own law firm! And now she’s leaving the office?”

? ? ? ? ?

Yesterday morning, Obá-chan had caught a glimpse

of the stranger in Hebiyama from her dining room window as he cut and gathered bamboo.

This glimpse of the stranger invoked some feeling of peace and quiet inside of her. Normally, she’d have dismissed the event. Now, twenty-four hours later,

with life turned upside down, she had to check this out.

As purely as she was dedicated to her work, and the logic and discipline that drove her successes in the field of law, she acted, too, on her intuitions, not a knowledge born of study or experience, but a knowingness born of her feelings, of people, of places and things.

This knowingness was of precious personal value to Obá-chan over the years, whenever it made its unexpected appearance, and whenever it did not.

? ? ? ? ?

She arrived home from her usual walk from Fuda Station, threw on a pair of baggy pants and athletic shoes, walked out the front door and turned directly into the bamboo wall of Hebiyama.

“This is a simple program,” she thought, “I am going to meet the stranger of Hebiyama.”

And she had not walked a dozen paces when she heard the voice from somewhere calling to her, “Oné-san, Oné-san. (What one calls one’s older sister in Japan, without fail.)

She stopped and stood and she knew at once, unseeing, for no good reason, who was calling her name.

She fell to her knees sobbing deeply and felt a hand lay upon her shoulder and she turned around.

“Oné-san, I am your brother, Kenji,” the man said.

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Tommy Schmitz is a writer in Des Moines, Iowa. He Grew up in Cincinnati's west side, spent nine years in the corporate world, then seventeen years running his own consultancy, mostly to automobile machinery makers in Japan, China and the US. He lived in Tokyo from 1992 to 1999. Besides serving auto industry clients (Toyota, Honda, Denso, Robert Bosch, Mitsubishi) he was the first non-Japanese accepted by the government as a paid advisor to Japanese small and medium sized companies. (Chushokigyochou, Division of JETRO and MITI).
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