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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Tokyo Twins – Chapters 11, 12 and 13

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[My apologies for such a long delay since my last post – I have no reason or excuse to offer.  – tommy]

Tokyo Twins – Chapters 11, 12 and 13

Chapter 11 – The flow of a brother’s fate.

Kenji went to his knees and held his arms around his sister and sobbed with her and felt her arms embracing his shoulders and back and younger brother and older sister became quiet of words within and they held this silence in silence hearing only their breathing combined.

She spoke first, “There must be a reason why you are here now. No one returns home after fifty years without something overwhelming guiding their return.”

“Yes,” he nodded.

“You know, then, Kenji-san, what is happening in our lives right now?”

“Yes,” he nodded.

“How do you know?” Obá-chan said.

“Let’s move over here to my camp and talk.” Kenji said, “the agents don’t come around until a bit a later…”

Obá -chan interrupted, “they know I’m at work and the girls at gym.”

“but they’ll return, and they mustn’t see me.” Kenji said.

They walked to his geodesic bamboo hut and sat down inside.

“I entered the country illegally. There was no time to get a passport,” Kenji said, “they are not looking for me – yet – but soon will be, and I cannot yet be found.”

“How did you enter Japan?”

“Contacts of mine in India and in Kashmir made arrangements for my… um, delivery.

“Kashmir?!” Obá-chan said.

“Yes, Kashmir.” Kenji said. “I have been living there for forty years. In areas controlled by both Hindus and Muslims.”

“This is where Mieko and Henry have gone missing!” Obá-chan said.

“Yes,” Kenji said.

“This is where Mieko and Henry have already visited and returned from several times!”

“Yes,” Kenji said.

“And you were aware of their visits?”

“Yes,” Kenji said.

“But you were never introduced.” Obá-chan surmised.

Obá-chan didn’t have to ask Kenji why he, himself, didn’t make the introduction to Mieko and Henry in Kashmir.

He was old enough when he left Japan to know how these things work. His history, his story, his existence dropped out of sight and sound among family members and friends after the first year or two of his disappearance.

They learned he was last seen boarding a freighter in Tokyo Bay headed for some place on the west coast of India. It seemed to be what Kenji wanted. He left willingly. In safety. All were happy to know this, but after he departed, they could not bear the pain of wondering about him out loud to each other.

His story was simply never passed on.  Mieko and Henry were unaware of his existence.

“Please tell me, Kenji-san, how all this came about,” Obá-chan said.

Kenji, his back straight and head and shoulders looking relaxed, shifted his weight a bit, sitting on haunches.

He began talking, measuring carefully his words in Japanese, his long sleeping native tongue.

“I first settled in India, in the state of Gujarat, in a city called Ahmadabad. There was a wonderful man I met on the boat that took me out of Japan.

“He was from Gujarat. His name was Tapan Majmudar. A trader of spices and cotton fabric. And a student of someone whose name I had never heard before. Mohandas Gandhi.”

“Gandhi.” Obá-chan repeated.

“Yes.” Kenji continued. “With kindness and patience,
Tapan Majmudar got me to tell him my story.  He listened to me word for word, and would often stop me to clarify one point or another as my story unfolded, or to ask me a question to further his own understanding.  I was speaking to him in a language he had only recently begun learning in order to do business in Japan. He trusted me, and I him, I had never heard a foreigner speak Japanese.

“He took me home with him to his family in Ahmadabad. I began learning Gujarati, the regional language, and Hindi, a more nationalized language of India. Soon after I was introduced to people at the Gandhi ashram near Ahmadabad on the Sabarmati River. Gandhi had been assassinated eight years before my arrival, but his students and his teachings lived on.

“I soon began living as a community member at the ashram.
It was a good place for me, One’-san.” Kenji continued, “I learned about Satyagraha, living a simple life that accepted every human being, regardless of who they were or what they believed.

The ashram was a spiritual place, not because of rituals or practices – Gandhi’s principles were not so much thoughts and forms as actions: of courage, of nonviolence, of truth. Gandhi called this Satyagraha, the manners in which we act are of greater value than the results of our acts.” Kenji said.

Obá-chan engaged Kenji with an insight, “The ends don’t justify the means.”

“Correct, Oné-san,” Kenji said, “universal words of common sense, and universally ignored in our common actions,” and he continued, “I felt accepted there, and unconfined, and free from the expectations of others, from the pressures of society and culture, I began to feel relaxed about the drama of my childhood.”

“You seem quite relaxed, Kenji-san, and you stutter no more.” Obá-chan said.

“I do sometimes,” Kenji said, “but the entire issue
gradually lost its significance as I began using other areas of my brain to learn new cultures and new ways of interacting with people, and new languages.” Kenji paused now and looked with a smile at his sister.

“You must be thirsty, Oné-san, would you like a glass of water?” Kenji said.

“I’m sorry, Kenji-san, I should be the one asking you.” replied Obá-chan, “it’s still early, let’s sneak into the house through the girls’ room and make some tea.”

Inside, Kenji felt at home but Obá-chan, although elated to see her brother, felt anxious to hear more.  He sat at the dining room table while his sister began to boil a pot of water.

“So how did you get to Kashmir?” she asked.

“I’m sorry for the long story, One’-san, I will try to make it short.”

He paused a few moments while his sister brought a fresh pot of green tea and two cups to the table.

“My first Japanese green tea in fifty years,” he smiled.

And Obá-chan was feeling too filled with emotion to reply.

“Gandhi wanted an India that was free and undivided. An India where Muslim and Hindu lived and worked together peacefully, as one national family. As you know, this did not happen. In 1947, India was granted her independence, but cut in two by politics and religion.

“There was India, free at last, and there was Pakistan too, and free as well, but now these sibling states turned immediately to war with each other.

“This situation saddened me so completely, Oné-san. My friends were of all faiths, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist… I also began speaking Urdu, the language of Muslims in the area. Perhaps because of my childhood, perhaps because of Gandhi’s influence, I felt a responsibility to make a difference.

“In 1961, a friend of mine took me to Mumbai, or Bombay as you might still call it, to meet and to study with an obscure spiritual teacher named Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj.”

“I have not heard that name.” Obá-chan said.

“He was a humble man,” continued Kenji, “a cigarette maker, with a profound spiritual knowledge, not so much politically oriented like Gandhi’s, but deeper and more personal on the level of one’s heart.

“Nisargadatta lived and spoke a complete knowledge that was utterly simple, yet powerful, and easy to apply. This knowledge did not conflict with what I had learned at the ashram in Ahmadabad.

“On the contrary, for me, it made Gandhi’s principles of Satyagraha so much easier to live.” Kenji continued.

“I lived and worked in Mumbai for the next several years to be closer to my new teacher.

“As I felt progress within me, I changed my name – this was not required, merely something I wanted to do. My name is now Satchitananda.

“I followed in my teacher’s footsteps, and did as he did early in his spiritual growth, and I went north to live in the Himalayas.

“Nisargadatta gave me his blessing to do so, and warned me it would not be a permanent relocation.

“And he was right.

“After a few years of living a very simple life in the Himalayas devoted constantly to the peace and joy and love that surprisingly kept growing more and more inside of me, I left the mountains, and traveled to Kashmir, a beautiful and enchanting land, and a boiling pot of ignorance and hatred between two cultures, two peoples I had come to know and love: Hindus and Muslims.

“I have worked alone between these people for the last 40 years in a personal effort to unite them or at least to make things a little better.

“And I am afraid that I have failed. And now, my niece Mieko and her husband Henry, have fallen victim to the hatred between these people.

“So, you know who has them, and where they are?”

“I do not know, Oné-san,” Kenji said. “A group who wants attention has taken them only because of their nationalities. A Japanese and an American. A married couple. And they intend to use them to put forth a message.”

“So Mieko and Henry are in great danger.” Obá-chan stated.

“Yes,” replied Satchitananda , Mieko and Henry are in great danger.”

Chapter 12 – Green tea and treats uneaten.

They were drinking-in long silences – unselfconscious – over cups of loose green tea.

Obá-chan put out a plate of rice crackers short bread cookies and semi-sweet chocolates and these remained as they were, untouched, unlike those who sat at the table.

“No green tea for fifty years,” Obá-chan repeated her youngest brother’s words.

“Well, none this special,” he said.

“None this special existed even here during post war years until… after…” Obá-chan hesitated.

“My departure,” Kenji said.

“How does it happen, Kenji-san, that we… ? oh, I’m sorry…” Obá-chan said, “Satchitananda.”

“You, Oné-san, can call me whatever you like.”

“Thank you, Satchitananda-san,” Obá-chan started again, “how… how can such things happen? We are simple people. You too, hmmm, Otóto-san?”

Obá-chan addressed Kenji, in the honorific, as younger brother, the only name she ever called him growing up at home.

He smiled at how the sound of this word coming from her voice invoked a long ago sense of sweetness, for his older sister, deep and shimmering, now pouring out inside him, unforgotten, untouched unknown by time.

“ ‘How does it happen’ I was going to say, Otóto-san,” Obá-chan was speaking at sub-slow now: monotone, whispering and thoughtful, connected to herself.

“I am seventy five years old, too old, I used to pray for too much life as this right now. How is it that opposed and infinite feelings overwhelm me…, of loss… of joy?

“I used to pray if I were to live to old age I would not be one so built to run on such a rich admixture of fuel. I am so delighted, stunned, you are here, and also lost, broken, incomplete. My daughter is missing, and somehow I’ve gone missing too.”

Kenji was nodding almost imperceptibly with every word she spoke.

“I am so sorry, Otóto-san, this should be a time of great celebration… not a time of pain and confusion.”

She filled again the pot and added a pinch more tea then set the pot aside.

“How is it, Otóto-san, in the eyes of the Divine, when joy and hopelessness walk hand in hand? Hmm?  Are we not the most insane of anything at all in God’s creation?”

She tipped the pot into her brothers cup. He lifted the pot from her hands and tipped it likewise into hers.

“You are still Japanese, Otóto-san.”

He smiled.

“I am sorry to go on about me, you must be exhausted, though you do not look it. When did you arrive in Japan?”

“Six days ago.” he said.

“Six days ago?” she repeated. “Where did you go? What did you do? Wait. Six days?” Obá-chan was applying the duration, now, to happenings in Kashmir, “How long has this been going on?”

“In spite of news reports yesterday, Mieko and Henry were taken nearly two weeks ago. When I heard about it, I began my journey here.”

“I do not understand, Otóto-san, why you would leave your space on earth just as your own family… and in your own front yard,” she stopped and covered her mouth and lowered her head.

“I came here without weighing the pros and cons of where I should be, Oné-san.”

“But what can you possibly do here?” she said.

He looked quietly at her.

“Did you come here without even a plan?” she said.

He smiled. “There are plans coming together, Oné –san, though none that required unpacking upon my arrival in Japan.” he said.

“Back to my earlier question, then, Otóto-san, for the past six days where have you gone, what have you been doing?

“I made friends at Tokyo Station, and Ueno Station, and quite a few in Shinjuku.” he said.

“Friends.” Obá-chan said – a bit skeptical.

He nodded his head. She only shook hers.

“Let’s go back even earlier. Why and how did my children go missing in Kashmir?”

“There are two groups who claim responsibility: one Muslim. one Hindu.” he explained.

“That’s absurd.” Obá-chan said.

“Yes it is, Oné-san. It is indeed absurd, and unfortunately also true.” he said.

“Would you not have been the ideal negotiator, Otóto-san, with your experience, your connections
had you stayed?”

“I am known, yes, by many in both cultures, Oné-san, as one who favors harmony and community over separation and security. In the eyes of some younger groups, however, I am old school and disconnected from what they believe is real.” Kenji said.

“I’m grateful you are here.” Obá-chan said, “and so utterly confused. I am worried, too, about the girls, Katie and Susan. They are dedicated young athletes, with a crucial national competition just six days from now.

“Do they just wipe the feelings of this devastation from their minds, pretend it’s not happening, train like little robots for hours on end, and compete like heartless soldiers?

“Please understand, Otóto-san, I want them to do well. And Katie and Susan want to win. But the shock of this I don’t believe has hit them yet. When it does, I am worried how they’ll react, and what affect it might have on them, not just for the competition, but for the remainder of their lives. Surely, Otóto-san, you understand this, do you not?”

“Would you allow me, Oné-san, to spend some time with them this evening,
and perhaps the next few evenings, if they are agreeable, of course.”

“Don’t worry about that. Any chance to do anything, a bit different in their day is a rare luxury for them, and you do, beyond your blood connection, have perhaps something they need right now.

“What is that, Oné-san?”

“I don’t know.” she smiled looking away with a hint of gotcha back.

He thought a moment, “It is not youth, per se, nor inexperience or folly that misguides them now and then, even of these kidnappers in Kashmir.” he said.

“Kidnappers?” Obá-chan interrupted, “they are not kidnappers. they are terrorists, Otóto-san!”

“Perhaps, Oné-san, you’ll allow a continuation of that important topic soon, but allow me to say this. Youth are given little room on this planet to manifest the beautiful wisdom they must hide inside themselves. Children in this world have power unmeasured, unmapped… have reservoirs of knowledge and love and intuition… to which the older of us are blind. And yet… what hurts them as children keeps hurting them as adults… That night… do you remember, Oné-san?, as we walked to safety… the whole family?

“I feel so badly about what happened to you.” Obá-chan said.

“Well… I am not referring to me… someone else in our family was also badly hurt that night, and that pain is not only buried, it is sadly buried alive and boiling under a pressure that, true, may never explode, yet does keep the one who suffers from living, and loving, and being themselves. And out of adulthood ignorance, keeps them seeking relief by spreading their pain around.”

“Who? What? What happened? Who is it?” Obá-chan said.

“Will you do me the favor of allowing this story to unfold on its own a bit more before you learn the details?” Kenji said.

She tilted her head and squinted her eyes.

“And one additional favor, Oné-san. Please tell no one I have returned?”

“What about the girls? Obá-chan said.

“Tell them who I am right now.” he said.

Obá-chan squinted a bit harder.

“Tell them I am Satchitananda.”

And with that he almost made her smile.
Chapter 13 Part 1 – Big breakfast.

“Have you seen or heard anything suspicious
in this wooded area?”

Kaneko-san and Taya-san were trying to get a word in edgewise while the girls prepared for school and the day.

“Excuse me, but no discussion at breakfast, gentlemen.  And not because you are here,” Obá-chan said. “The girls need their breakfast, and a good one. And excuse me for saying so, but it looks as though you could use more than just a little breakfast yourselves. Both of you. Have a seat… Katie-chan, would you please grab tea cups for the gentleman…
Natto with your rice? Kaneko-san?”

“No thank you.”

“You Taya-san? You’re a Tokyo lad.”

“Yes, please, um…”

“You can call her Obá-chan.” Susan said. “She’ll like it.”

Obá-chan tried concealing her smile but it was too late.

“Yes please… Obá-chan,” Taya-san said.

The men sat charmed and barely eating.

“There’s mackerel, there’s melon, there’s ume-…, Susan-chan, hand Kaneko-san the umeboshi.”

The skin on Kaneko-san’s face grew tight and his eyes stood suddenly still.

“A salty plum with your fermented bean curd never hurt anyone, did it Taya-san?” Obá-chan said.

“Thank you, Obá-chan.” he said, and grabbed an umeboshi for his natto, his head and eyes still a bit lowered.

“Now gentlemen, I believe you had some questions for the girls?”

The men in concert put down their bowls of rice, their hashi, sat up straight a bit and grabbed their napkins on their laps with both hands.

“Katie-Susan-chan. Have you seen or heard anything suspicious in this wooded area?” Taya-san said carefully.

“Sir, we don’t go in there. Obá-chan says it’s haunted.”

“That’s not our question.” Kaneko-san interjected.

Obá-chan raised the muscles above her eyes.

“Have you seen or heard anything suspicious?” Taya-san said again.

“If a place is haunted, sir, with all due respect, would it not continually emit rather odd sounds and visions?”

“I don’t know.” Kaneko-san said.

“Well this haunted place, Sir, is no different than others. We’ve grown used to it over the years.” Katie said.

“And they’ve grown used to us.” said Susan.

“We seem to get along just fine,” Katie said. “nothing suspicious.”

“Just the normal haunted stuff…” Susan added.

“Good morning everyone.” Kenji from the back hallway suddenly walked into the room.

The girls looked at each other with big eyes and turned away.

Obá-chan quickly gathered herself.

“You’re looking a bit sleepy this morning, dear cousin.” she said,

“Oh, gentlemen? Allow me to introduce our cousin visiting from Guam, Sachinosuke Mori. Dear cousin, these men from the Japan Foreign Ministry are helping us during our crisis.”

“An honor to meet you,” Kenji said, “with great hopes of making a good relationship.”

“How do you do, Mori-san.” the men said.

“Welcome to Tokyo.”

“We must be off, Obá-chan.” said the girls getting up and grabbing their schools packs and shintaiso gear.

“And I must be off for an appointment in Shinjuku.” said Kenji.

“Come on girls, let’s walk together to Fuda Station.”

“No breakfast, dear cousin?” Obá-chan said.

“No thank you, I ate early this morning.” he said and followed the girls out the door moving backward, bowing a bit up and down until he shut the door still facing those whose company he was leaving.

“You are not our cousin, are you, Satchitananda-san?” Katie said.

“No, I am not.”

“Why did you come in and allow yourself to be seen?” Susan said.

“I am hiding.” he said.

The girls shook their heads.

“Well?” he said. “Sometimes it is easier to hide something in clear view.”

“Even yourself?” Susan said.

“Sometimes especially yourself.” Kenji said.

They walked for ten minutes mostly in silence.

“We can talk again tonight?” the girls asked.

“I look forward to it.” said Kenji.

“In Hebiyama?” Susan said.

“Yes,” he said.

Chapter 13 Part 2 – Down under and the big inside.

Kenji stood outside Shinjuku Station and turned around.

“Ah, Edo-san.” he said.

“Can you come with me, Satchitananda-san?”

Edo-san was in her late fifties and probably as familiar with Shinjuku Station as its builders were.

He followed her around to the busy south exit, but not out the door.

She led Kenji to a wall beneath a staircase drumming currently and loudly with the footsteps above of a thousand commuters on the fly.

She slid back a large panel of sheet metal, enough for them to slip into and behind, and led him by the hand through damp and dripping walkways lit barely by too few low-watt incandescent bulbs, and then down a narrow flight of stairs, and then another more dark, and then another completely black.

She knocked a couple times on one of the walls, apparently made of wood. There was movement from the wall, and a hand came over the hands they held, and said, “Good to see you.”

And the three hands moved together through many steps of void until a line of light appeared at the bottom of something somewhere.

And then opened up a cavernous room, if you can call it that, where women and men gathered in smiles and nods, and bows here and there.

“Where are we?” Kenji asked.

“Welcome to the Tokyo Metropolitan Sewer System.” said Edo-san.

“Nice digs.” he smiled.

“We like it.” she smiled back.

And the two removed their shoes and set them by a line of a couple dozen more, and walked across make-shift carpet flooring and sat down.

“Would you like coffee or green tea?” A new voice spoke. But not a new face.

“Ah, my friend Yamoto-san from Harajuku, how are you,” Kenji said. “Tea would be nice.” he added.

It was a loose group, Kenji thought, unpretentious, self-knowing. He was impressed, but not too surprised. He could feel an energy coming off this group he had often felt among the poor, hard to describe, he thought, but easy to feel…

He sat watching his new friends.
Hmm. He smiled a thought. These are unself-serving people – and for no reason – and unattached, unattached to the very thing they have the most to give. Must be love, he smiled.

Who’d a thunk it, or even made it up: This unlikely and delicate palette for compassion, and more unlikely still, for joy, among the poor?

There were, naturally, he thought, those among this group of twenty-five, that figured this Kenji guy for nothing but crazy. A comfort to know, he smiled to himself, some reputations, well earned, never change.

He stood up and stood still a moment, looked around and got a nod from Edo-san across the room.

“Hello and thank you all for coming.” Kenji began. “Gives us a chance to touch base. Wasn’t aware many here are already good friends. Thanks to each of you for meeting with me over the past week.

“Each of us knows now, what actions to perform…when and if the party does break out.

“It’s the outcome of these actions that I am here to discuss with you today.

“Only a couple of you, carry our delivery on its final steps, but each of you carries it for some distance, so each will know exactly where our package is being delivered.”

Kenji stopped and reached into his bag and unfolded something for a moment, then displayed before the group a large print of a building.

“Jifu Television,” someone said.

“Their headquarters.” said another.

“Down by the river.” it was added.

“Good, good, good,” Kenji said. “Each of you has my cell number. Feel free to contact me anytime, and thank you for coming here today.”

“Question please, Satchitananda-san?” Someone asked.

“Yes.”

“Satchitananda-san, it’s been mentioned by more than a few of us sitting here in this room… how can I say this… several of us have become aware that the dates and times when each of us individually or in small groups first met with you… these points in time are, well, not only close together, they are identical.

Kenji looked at them.

“Can you comment?”

The question came from Yamoto-san.

“Is that so?” Kenji said.

“It’s very strange, can you explain it?” Yamoto-san added.

Kenji paused. “I’m sorry.” he said. “I cannot explain it.”

There was silence in the group and people looking at one another.

“Satchitananda-san?”

“Yes.”

“One more question?”

“Yes.”

“What is it exactly we’re delivering?”

Kenji paused again and smiled.

“Oh yeah.” he said.

Chapter 13 Part 3 – Unless you’re movin’ on down the line.

On a train going north from New Delhi to the northern frontier of Kashmir, a young man of sixteen squirmed about while trying to sit, trying to sleep, from this long train ride, and from his longer journey the past 48 hours.

It was dawn already again, a dark crimson sun rising slowly onto his shoulder through the window and then too quickly into blinding flash.

“Not a bad time to wake up,” he mumbled in his thoughts, “if you’re not dying to get some sleep.”

He wrapped his long arms around his feet and ankles and pulled his knees up-under his chin.

“I don’t give a shit who says what,” he started back in with himself. “You got my parents, you got my parents, you got my parents, you amazingly stupid… …” and so forth.

He sat and slowly shook his head, focused his gaze on nothing, and stared into the relief of a daydream.

For a moment the sky inside his head was blue, blue but awaiting the storm of his own anger to continue slapping him up and down.

“I better eat something.”

And he got up, walked forward to the next car and looked for coffee or a snack or maybe real food.

An old man suddenly stood up, his back to the boy, his legs spread into the aisle.

Jack tripped and fell over the old man’s ankle to keep from knocking him down, and landed face up and spread eagle, arms and legs tangled with tourists.

Jack shut his eyes tight a few seconds, embarrassed, then opened them up to an unknown smile on a face twelve inches from view, on a face that should really not have been there, on a face that made him forget where he was.

“Hmm..” the old man said and stood, “thought I’d seen everything.”

“Well you ain’t, so move along, grandpa.” the kid reacted.

“Grandpa?” the old man smiled.

The kid nodded a bit, determined, and looked at the old man, then stared away.

“You’re American.” the old man said.

“Sarcasm don’t work here, pops..” the kid said.

“Hmm. Am I hearing American English? And spoken native? Let see. Somewhere around – not-quite-Minnesota – what’s that state called… Missouri, I think? Kansas? No. Are-kansas.”

“Iowa.” Jack said.

“Iowa! that’s right. I always forget about Iowa.”

“And it’s Arkansas. Not Are-kansas.”

The old man nodded his head to think, “Iowa City?”

“Des Moines.” Jack said.

“Born and raised?”

“Born there. Learned English from my father.”

The old man paused. “and from your mother?” he said.

The old man reached down with both hands, waited for the kid to grab on and pulled.

“Maybe the same thing as you.” the kid said.

The old man dipped his head briefly to the side against thin air.

“Or not.” he said in native street-level Japanese.

“Or not.” the kid responded in kind and smothered a knowing smile.

“What’s upsetting you?” the old man said, concerned, his voice trailing up in the end.

“At the moment?” Jack mumbled at the side of his mouth, “Having company.”

“My company? Pardon me?” the old man said. “Come, let’s sit down.”

Jack sat down, frustrated, embarrassed, exhausted. Silent on the outside, raging on the in.

“What brings you to this neck of heaven? School trip?” the old man smiled. “Well. I thought for a moment I might have broken through here.” The old man took an intentional breath and dipped his head again, “Long trip ahead. I’m in the next car if you need anything.” the old man started getting up.

“I’m Jack O’Brien.” Jack said and forced his hand forward.

The old man paused.

“I am Satchi…” The noise from a brief tunnel drowned out the word.

“Pardon me.” Jack leaned his head forward. “All I heard was Sachiko… and I do believe that is a girl’s name?”

Satchitananda. he annunciated this time.

“Ah, sa chee tow a na n da – san, desu i yo, ne.” Jack said.

“So desu ne.” Kenji responded. “Yoroshiku.”

“Same to ya,” Jack responded in English. “One a your parents from India, or what?”

“You still hungry?” Kenji said. “Come on. Let’s eat. It’s the best thing about taking the train in India.”

“What.” Jack said.

“You haven’t noticed?”

“What.”

“The incredible food sold at every stop! Right along the tracks. Just for us. Come on. The train’s slowing down. We’re stopping in a few moments.”

And they sampled in healthy amounts the charming and lively masalas of northern India and the curds and pickles and nan. A lady offered gulab jammins for dessert, maybe later for a snack, she insisted.

“No thanks,” Jack said, but Kenji stopped and dug into his pocket to buy a small tin.

“So, what’s your story, Satchitananda-san?”

The old man sat working a tooth pick with his mouth and spoke. “I have lived in this part of the world, in these cultures, for a long time and though it’s not necessary to say so to an experienced and capable young man, allow me, Jack O’Brien, to offer my assistance to you at least over the following couple days to where ever it is you’re going.”

“I think perhaps I can find help enough from nearly anyone sitting around us.” Jack said.

“Quite true, my friend. Quite true.” He paused, his mouth still at work on the pick. “… except for that gentleman three benches back – don’t look – beige linen suit… sunglasses… interested in your every move.” Kenji stopped.

“What.” Jack said. “You trying to scare me.”

Kenji looked patiently at him.

“Yes I am.” he said nodding and went on, “Is it working, Jack O’Brien? Enough to make you stop and consider what it is you’re doing?”

– end of chapter 13 –

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tommyschmitz
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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