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Friday, June 25, 2021

Tokyo Twins – Chapters 20, 21 and 22

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Chapter 20 – Meet ups and meet downs.

Kenji slipped out the window while now and elsewhere upon the earth – three and one half hours behind on Kenji’s watch – the boy named Jack O’Brien was negotiating with his ambassadorial captors.

“Look guys, I haven’t had a bowel movement in five days, and I’m gonna need some privacy to make it happen, and it’s a good idea for it to happen now; so do you mind… I’ll just walk behind that brush over there, and alone, please?”

The captors were holding Jack on a hilly and scratchy-dry patch of land about 200 meters from the checkpoint between India and Kashmir.

Jack was raising his eyebrows and smiling big and rapidly nodding his head.

The rifled soldiers surrounding Jack looked up at the man in the sunglasses, who nodded once his head in allowance.

And the captors, all five, watched Jack walk the 30 meters and then behind the brush; and they watched too an aging SUV pop out of pure dust and over a north ridge nearby and make a lateral bee-line for Jack and they heard the sounds
of a car door that opened and closed, and witnessed a semi-circle of dirt and dust clouds spraying off all four wheels like some organic curtain.

And they looked then at one another with mouths agape somehow knowing that for the remainder of their lives, they would never again set eyes upon the boy named Jack O’Brien.

? ? ? ? ?

“I like your timing.” said Jack.

“Almost caught ya with your pants down, huh.” said Lilu, Jack’s friend from school

“You wish, Lilu.” Jack said.

“Nothing we ain’t seen before, oh Jackie boy.”

“Hey, Fariishta . Sooooo good to see you guys.”

Jack was wiping with his shirt the sweat and dust off his face.

“Can’t believe you’re here.” Jack said, all eyes in shining, all voices cranked.

“It’s our meet up, Jack.”

“Yeah, we been watching ya.”

“From where?” Jack said.

“Just over ridge.” said Lilu.

“Slipped the guys on the other side a bonus.” Fariishta went on…

“Two hundred bucks.”

“Made their day.” said Lilu.

“Made mine too.” said Jack. “So, what’s on the agenda?”

“Ya mean besides you movin’ your bowels?” the girls laughed.

“Come on guys, give me a break.” Jack said.

“Remember that group trying to recruit us – over the net – several months ago?” Lilu said.

“That one from up around here? – secretive? – bunch a kids our age?” said Jack.

“That’s the one, Jackie boy.” Fariishta said.

“And we thought they were just kiddin’ around?”

“They’re not.”

“How many of ’em are there?”

“Thousands, my friend, thousands.”

“What the hell is going on?” Jack said.

“they hooked up with some lady from the outside.” Fariishta explained.

“…invited her up here.”

“and she’s now their leader.” said Lilu.

“Their leader? Where’s she from?”

“East Timor.”

“Where the fuck is East Timor.”

“You wouldn’t remember, but Lilu actually did her 10th grade thesis on East Timor.” Fariishta said.

“You’re right,” said Jack, “I can’t even remember my own 10th grade thesis.”

“Sure you wanna know, Jackie?” said Fariishta.

“Lay it on me, Far-away-girl,” Jack said, using his pet nickname for his friend.

“Okay. Listen up.”

“Wait a sec. What’s the situation with my parents?”

“Um… they youtubed a video in the wee hours.”

“It went out over the news wires.”

“Can I see it?”

“Ah. Yeah, but listen-up first.” Lilu said.

? ? ? ? ?

Later that night, still Saturday, Kenji flipped open his cell phone walking in the park near Shinjuku Station.

A woman tapped him from behind on the shoulder. And Kenji turned and smiled.

“Who needs cell phones? Good evening, Yamato-san.”

“We’ve been on the lookout for you, Sensei.”

“I wish you wouldn’t call me that.” Kenji said.

“You seem like a teacher to us.”

“Let’s see if we can keep our relationship on the same level… you know my name, Yamato-san.” Kenji said.

“Follow me; we’re taking another path down under.”

“Sounds right up my alley.”

And she led him by the hand through darkness and to a covered man hole.

? ? ? ? ?

“Katie-Susan-chan. Come here, girls.”

Katie and Susan O’Brien walked from their bedroom back into the living room and wrapped their arms and legs around their grandmother on the floor.

“Are you crying, Obá-chan?” said Susan.

“No.” Obá-chan said, tears streaming down her cheeks faster than she can wipe them off.

“Why is all this happening, Obá-chan?

“Girls. Listen to me now. Obá-chan may be taken away.”

“Because of Satchitananda-san?”

“Yes.” She paused and wiped her cheeks again.

“That’s not fair.” said Susan.

“Obá-chan ?” Katie said. “What’s going to happen to Mom and Dad? Their message on the television cannot be serious, can it?” continued Katie.

“I don’t… I hope not girls, but for now, just in case, I want you to promise me three things.”

“We know, Obá-chan.” Susan said.

“Okay. I trust you. You are good girls, and you will do so well in your national trials meet on Wednesday.”

“Somehow you know we will, Obá-chan.” said Susan.

And Katie was nodding her head. “That’s the one thing we can hang onto, Obá-chan.”

“Besides you.” said Susan.

Chapter 21 – East is not east, nor is west.

After their meal inside the mountainous hideaway near the border of Kashmir there was a knock on the door.

‘A’ gave ‘B’ the nod and ‘B’ found the old man returning for the dishes.

“Let him in,” ‘A’ said. And the old man, his head still covered began gathering the dishes on a board he carried in.

“Can we now, ‘A’-san, hear your story?”

“Mrs. O’Brien, there is nothing for you to know now. It is too late for that.”

“Never too late,” the old man mumbled to himself.

“Who is this old man who speaks up!?” ‘A’-san shot back. “Secure him, now. Next to those two. Put a hood on him, and put theirs back on, too.”

‘A’ stood watching the backs of her prisoners and feeling, just now, more nervous than angry.

“Go find out the background on this man.” ‘A’ said.

She had eaten behind her prisoners to keep her anonymity, and was pacing before them again.

“What is the telling of a story, Mrs. O’Brien,” she began saying, “to one so close to death? Will it carry on with you? For the betterment – or for the terror, perhaps – of souls in another realm?”

Mieko O’Brien began crying under her hood. And suddenly screamed out, “Why are you so angry?!”

‘A’ placed the end of an automatic rifle against Mieko’s forehead, and slowly leaned into the stock and barrel until her prisoner nearly fell over backward.

“You have no idea what anger is, Mrs. O’Brien,” she said, pulling the barrel away. “And you have no idea what causes it.”

“Can I say…” Mieko began.

“Quiet. You want my story. Here it is.”

‘A’ stood quiet for a moment and stared blankly at the back wall and shook her head.

“The name Pol Pot is one that everybody knows, is it not? The demon of Cambodia. A commiter of genocide. But who made conditions ripe for his crimes? You know, Mr. O’Brien, don’t you?”

Henry whispered the word and shook his head no.

“No. Of course not, Mr. O’Brien. How many brain-washed Americans do? The United States quietly conducted horrendous bombing in central Cambodia during the early 1970s. Tens of thousands were killed. Many more innocents perished in the aftermath… mostly children, from hunger and disease. And Pol Pot came along and organized the surviving suffering masses and continued killings of his own.

“The US news industry seized upon the demonizing of Pol Pot, without a twinge of self-reflection upon the desperate rivers of blood let loose, unseen, from 20,000 feet.

“Is there something more sanitary, or more sporting perhaps, Mr. O’Brien, about bombing from high altitudes entire populations of children, women and men compared to the manual slaughtering of these human beings with a machete?

“Here we have a disgusting set of facts just a bit too sour for the delicate palates of the American public, and far too rotten for the capital market wolves that guard the US Defense Industry to ever taste out loud in a quarterly financial report.

“What’s more disgusting if you can imagine the hideous possibility of such: As Pol Pot was doing his thing in Cambodia, the US was quietly directing genocide elsewhere in the world.”

‘A’ began to boil water for tea over a make shift wood stove.

“I don’t get the connections,” said Henry O’Brien.

‘A’ clenched her teeth and poured water into a pot.

“I’m just getting started.” she said.
Chapter 22 – Shinjuku down under again. A dead heat piano duet. A teaching on losing your career in Japan. And a parable of Buddha.
“You’re impossible.” said Yamoto-san.

“What?” Kenji said.

“And amazing.” she added.

“What?” he asked.

“You bring together people on the street from all over Tokyo, and for what?… mission improbable? Satchitananda-san my friend, we don’t even know what’s going on. Yet everybody’s happy about it.”

She moved in the night, still Saturday, through low branches of plum trees near Shinjuku Station. And kept an eye on her friend, Kenji.

“Okay. This is it. This is the place we’ve chosen. It’s outta the way. But it’s pretty much a straight slip into the sink.

“Let’s see,” said Kenji.

And Yamoto-san lifted and swung off to one side a sizable section of turf apparently fixed upon plywood, and then grabbed her friend by the hand and led him into the black interior of the earth.

And she said, “Don’t move while I reach up and slide this board over, humph, thank you, all done. I hope you know what you’re doing?” she went on, leading him half in crawl and half in slide into nothing at all but black.

“Well Yamato-san, let’s put it this way. It is unquestionably what we are going to do, and beyond that? I don’t have a clue.”

“Would it bother you,” she said, “if I told you I think you are lying through your teeth?”

She could feel Kenji’s smile in the dark.

“No. Not at all.” he said.

? ? ? ? ?

[In the Tokyo Metropolitan Sewer System below Shinjuku Station.]

“Let’s go over the plan on Tuesday morning around 9:00? That good for each of the nine coordinators?” Kenji said.

“Just the same old question for you, Satchitananda-san. What is being delivered?” asked one of the nine, with the rest shaking their heads out of frustration.

“The what is a who.”

“Huh?” they said together.

“There will be a who of two ,” said Kenji. And you will know them by a password.

“Which is…?” another voice called out to him.

“Which is I don’t know.”

“This is getting frustrating for us.” said another. “You’re asking us to do a lot here. And we really don’t know what’s going on.”

“And I commend you for your patience and dedication. If you’d like to know fully what this is all about, here is what to do: after your mission: go to the nearest TV and tune in Jifu Television Network.”

“And if we don’t?” someone asked.

“No sweat. Next morning, just consult any newspaper headline, radio news broadcast, or morning television show. It’ll all be there… No more questions? Good. I must be on my way.” Kenji said already at the secret exist.

“Wait! What’s the damn password!?”

“I don’t know!”

“How are we going to find these two people?!”

“I don’t know!”

“This guy’s too much.” a man said out loud.

“Where are you going?” asked another.

“I have a flute recital in the morning.”

“A flute recital? Well, knock `em dead,” Yamoto-san said in sarcasm.

? ? ? ? ?

Katie and Susan O’Brien awoke early Sunday morning and silently set up the computer, the microphone, double checked the settings, and told Obá-chan they had already eaten breakfast and did the cleaning up. Obá-chan headed back for the comfort of her futon. And the girls sat by the window, watching and waiting for their Uncle, the flautist, to arrive.

At nine o’clock there was no sign of him. At five minutes after nine, there was still no sign, except for the complaints and worries of nervous and impatient fourteen year old twin sisters.

There was back and forth in whines and moans.

One of them finally said, “Let’s get started.”

And the other said, “What if he doesn’t show up?”

And the one said, “Let’s not think about that.”

And the other said, “Okay.”

“Who’s gonna play grandfather’s lullaby?” said Susan.

“You play it, Susan. I’ll watch the recording… and the window.

“I’m too nervous to play it right now.” said Susan.

“Oh come on, Susan! Okay, I’ll play it… No wait.”

Now I’m too nervous.” Katie said.

“Okay. Loser plays it.” said Susan.

“Rock scissors paper.” They both said aloud and pumped their right hands three times.

Tie.

“Rock scissors paper.”

Tie again.

“Rock scissors paper…

Oh come on with this tie crap.” said Susan.

“Rock scissors paper.”

Tie.

“No use.” Katie said.

“That was four times.”

“Eew, four. Bad luck.”

“Rock scissors paper.”

Tie.

“What’s our record?”

“Rock scissors paper.”

Tie.

“Thirteen.”

“Been a long time ago.”

“Rock scissors paper.”

Tie.

“We were eight. Remember?”

“Rock scissors paper.”

Tie.

“Yeah, over the Pacific, right?”

“Rock scissors paper.”

Tie.

“Fifty thousand feet.”

“Rock scissors paper.”

Tie.

“Yeah! We drew a crowd in coach class!”

“Rock scissors paper.”

Tie.

“That was fun.”

“Rock scissors paper.”

Tie.

“Wait. How many was…”

“Ten.” said Katie.

“Rock scissors paper.”

Tie.

Eleven.

“Rock scissors paper.”

Tie.

Twelve.

“Oh wow.”

“Rock scissors paper.”

Tie.

“Thirteen.”

Here we go.

“Rock scissors paper.”

Tie.

“Fourteen.”

They stopped.

“New record.”

“That’s weird.”

“Ya know what?” Katie said.

“What?” said Susan.

“I think I can play it now.”

“Me too!” said Susan laughing.

“I’ll take the bass.” said Katie.

“Good. I got the top. Let me just hit the record button here on the screen. Ready? Just a sec.” Katie said.

And Katie and Susan O’Brien sat at the piano and stretched their arms and wrists and hands and in syncopation, breathed and sighed aloud, nodded their heads in eye contact, and began to play their American grandfather’s lullaby at a slow and yearning pace, pace. Quietly they sat a few moments when finished.

“Grandpa calls it a ‘Negro Spiritual’.

“Yeah.”

“What black slaves might have sung..”

“..to sooth themselves at night.”

“I think he did write lyrics for it.” Katie said.

“I don’t think so.” said Susan.

“Doesn’t need `em, does it?” said Katie.

“It’s soothing enough without words.”

“Yeah.”

“Still no Uncle Flautist.”

And Susan began playing from memory the melody from Satchitananda and his flute.

“That’s it!” Katie said. “That’s it. Good. Keep it going. Don’t stop the recording.”

And Katie began filling in with a sparse and wandering and waltz-like bass line. And the two continued playing Uncle Kenji’s theme, over and over, moving their heads in slow motion up and down, and losing track of time.

“You remembered,” came a voice from behind them.

“Satchitananda-san!”

“Uncle! Where have you been?”

You remembered, girls. Very good.”

“How did you…?”

“I’m sorry, Katie and Susan… I was outside listening the whole time, wondering how you might solve this problem, and then wondering if you’d remember the other melody or not?”

The girls gave Kenji big, serious frowns and angry eyes.

“Very good. I’m proud of you. It’s not easy to remember the things we hardly know when we’re under the gun, is it?” said Kenji.

“No, it’s not easy.” the girls said.

“But you did remember, and then you acted on it.”

“Yeah.” the girls said.

“Very good.”

“What about your flute? Will you play for us?”

“Oh. Um. Unfortunately for me, at least, it’s not easy to remember even the things I know well when I am under the gun. You’re way ahead of me on that, girls.”

“Which means what about your flute?” Katie said.

“Which means I lost it.” Kenji said. And paused. “What’s already recorded sounds wonderful, girls. Perhaps that is enough?”

“Alright.” said Katie. “Susan, let’s get it edited and converted.”

“Uncle Kenji, look!” Susan said. “People in Hebiyama!”

“And dogs!” said Katie.

“It’s okay.” Kenji said.

“They’ll find you!” said Susan.

“It’s okay. I’ll go out the front door. I better go now.”

“What if they…?”

“It’s okay. I’ll meet you on the train a bit later.”

“How?” said Katie.

And their Uncle Kenji was already gone.

? ? ? ? ?

“Our careers are sunk.” said Kaneko-san.

“That or tanshinfunin,” added Taya-san.

“Tanshinfunin.” Kaneko was shaking his head. “I’d rather be dead.”

“What is tanshinfunin?” came a voice from the back seat.

The agents swung around their heads and shoulders and there was Kenji lounging in the back seat, feet up and head rested on the window.

“Good morning.” Kenji said smiling. “What is tanshinfunin?”

The agents were opened-mouthed and stunned silent.

“Well?” he said.

“How did you…” Kaneko-san started.

“I’m sorry, gentlemen. I asked first.” said Kenji.

“Don’t you move.” said Taya-san.

“Do I look mobile? Now please. Do tell.”

“We’ll get transferred to the boondocks forever…” Kaneko-san started saying, “that’s tanshinfunin.”

“What are you doing?” Taya barked at Kaneko.

“He’s answering my question.” Kenji said. “Please continue.”

“You get put away… from your family, your friends, in some office far away from home…”

“Ouch.” Said Kenji.

“At least six hours by bullet train away from home.” Kaneko-san added.

“…for two, three years.” said Taya-san. “A punishment we may have nipped in the bud,” he continued, “thank you for turning yourself in.”

“Thank you for the explanation, Kaneko-san. Gentlemen? I’ll be on my way. Now, if you’ll look for just a moment at the chaos taking place in Hebiyama…”

And behold, there was Obá-chan in her robe and sneakers, stomping through the bamboo stalks and waving her arms and screaming with profound articulation at the agents and dogs covering the bamboo jungle.

The agents in the car turned around to look. Then turned back around once again to speak to Kenji, but Kenji was already gone.

? ? ? ? ?

“I don’t see him.” Katie said.

“Come on, we either hop on this train, or we’ll be late for practice.”

Katie and Susan slipped through the closing doors of the train at Fuda Station, and with their gear bags slung over their shoulders, they leaned and bumped their way in search of standing-room through the crowded car of Sunday shoppers headed for Shinjuku.

Each grabbed with one hand an empty handle from the ceiling and each grabbed with the other, her sister’s palms and fingers, weaving what they held into one.

And in and out of the clack and rhythm and intermittent shuffles of the train, upon the eyes of Katie and Susan and on the muscles of their cheeks and foreheads, fear and despair were again gaining ground.

“There you are,” came the voice of Satchitananda.

“And there you are!” the girls said breaking into a smile.

“Are you alright?”

“Yes.” said Katie.

“No.” Susan said.

“Okay. No.” said Katie.

“What is it you’re feeling?” Kenji said.

And at once the girls began to cry in wordless sobbing and half-muttered agonies, then gasping for a breath, then sobbing. Kenji looked at and put his arms around and squeezed the shoulders and heads of his two grand-nieces.

“Let’s take a pit stop at Shimotakaido Station, and get ourselves a drink, and a tiny bit of rest.” said Kenji.

And Katie and Susan O’Brien sat on a bench without discretion and with little effort to gain some control over the sobs yet began to settle down a bit, when Kenji returned with hot green tea for all.

“We can’t really stop, Uncle Kenji. We’re almost late.”

“Katie and Susan, tell me now, what it is you’re feeling.”

“I don’t know.” said Susan.

“We’re afraid.” Katie said.

“Yeah. Okay. No kiddin. We’re afraid.” Susan said.

“I understand,” said Kenji.

“Our mother and father may be killed in two days.”

The girls squeezed harder on their hands.

Kenji remained silent.

“What can be done?” said Susan.

“How can you stop one person from taking the life of another person?”

They looked at Kenji’s eyes and could see some kind of understanding, and could see his willingness to talk about it.

“Hmm. Good question.” Kenji began. “Let’s get up and continue to the Setagaya Line, and we’ll talk along the way.

“Many years ago, I was lucky to hear a story told to me by a young saint traveling alone through the mountains of Nepal where I was in silence for quite some time.”

“Young saint?” the girls asked.

“He was sixteen or seventeen years old.” said Kenji.

“How did you know he was a saint?” Katie asked.

Kenji chuckled and shook his head.

“I don’t know. I just knew he was.”

“And he told you a story…” Susan said.

“Yes. This young saint said that Buddha was once traveling alone through land that was new to him. And in this land there lived a vicious mass-murderer whose name was Angulimala, and whose favorite target were those unfortunate individuals he happened to discover traveling alone.

Angulimala was famous for collecting the thumbs of his victims on a necklace he wore around his neck.

He was determined to collect one thousand pairs of thumbs on this necklace. And it just so happened that on the auspicious day when he was but a single pair of thumbs short of his dream of one-thousand, he met a lone traveler in this land. And this traveler happened to be Buddha.

Angulimala directly approached Buddha and with a big display and loud voice stood before him and proclaimed, “I am the feared and vicious Angulimala, famous for murdering nine hundred and ninety-nine people and collecting their thumbs on this necklace you see here. All in a proud and glorious effort to have a proud and glorious necklace of one thousand pairs of thumbs, and you, poor soul,” Angulimala said, drilling his intimidating stare upon the eyes of Buddha, “are at last my final victim.”

“Is that a fact,” responded Buddha, not biting at the bait that dangled before him to capture his anger or his panic or his fear.

And Buddha continued with a calm and friendly voice, “Isn’t that interesting. Me. Your final victim.” The words were spoken quietly, directly, and with compassion and respect: “Now then, Angulimala-san, I stand here patiently, I stand here honored to welcome you, and to be delivered whatever it is you wish to do to me. You may attack me at your will.”

And for the first time in his murderous life, Angulimala was struck by the understanding, and alas – the compassion! – of his murderous ways.

And from the power of Buddha’s opening heart, Angulimala fell to his knees sobbing helplessly like a child who was feeling loved and feeling it all brand new.

Buddha comforted the murderer until he was able to stand up again and invited Angulimala to walk along with him.

Angulimala did so. In fact, he did so for quite some time. And after seven or eight years of walking with Buddha, Angulimala became, like his teacher, enlightened.

And soon was sent away by Buddha to walk alone and to instruct those he might find along his own path.

And one day Angulimala happened unwittingly upon a village he had forgotten had suffered many deaths at his very own hands years before.

And the people of this village recognized him as the murderer that had taken away so many of their loved ones, and they attacked him, and Angulimala fell to his knees in surrender to these people as they beat him.

And Angulimala remained surrendered and curled upon the ground during this vast and furious beating brought down upon him by a considerable majority of people in this village.

After a time, the people became exhausted of their beating and their passion, and then also became bewildered at the surrender of this vicious mass-murderer, and his acquiescence toward them and of their venting anger.

So the people of the village stopped their beating of Angulimala. And let him lay there in a great pool of blood while their victim simply continued to ask for nothing but their forgiveness.

Angulimala survived the beating and resolved to remain in and serve the people of this village.

Years later, many people from that town became enlightened through Angulimala`s patient and artful teachings.

And that is the story of “Buddha and Angulimala” told to me by this young saint as he was walking through Nepal many years ago.

“What was his name, the name of this saint?” Katie asked.

“I later heard some people refer to him as “Punditji. They say he was born and raised and lives now in the city of Bangalore, India.” Kenji said.

“Now?”

“Yes.” said Kenji. “Oh! And here you are, your destination. And please forgive me, girls, I will remain aboard and will see you at home this evening.”

“But… but…”. the girls tried to speak.

“Have a good practice.” Kenji said.

And the girls tripped out of the train car, and the doors of the train car closed, and the train itself was fading from view, as was – in a disappearing window –
their uncle’s smiling face, and then the girls remembered they forgot to lift their arms or to raise their voices to wave or to say goodbye.

“We didn’t even…” Katie started saying, shaking her head and throwing up her hands.

“… no, we sure as hell didn’t.” said Susan.

And the two began kicking pebbles beneath them

Yet quickly feeling better, and so noticing it in surprise, neither, of course, had foreseen the sudden “what-is-this?” emptying-out of something stuck inside, something old and dark and dense. And then creating “what-is-this?” anew, some ancient and quiet and familiar vacancy now expanding in a lively wakefulness inside each of them.

? ? ? ? ?

author’s note: The parable, above, is adapted from a talk given by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar years ago as part of a verbal commentary containing thirty public talks on the Bhakti Sutras. The parable, though not repeated verbatim from Sri Sri, does contain, Sri Sri’s own dash of knowledge often not apart of this ancient and often told parable.

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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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