Chapter 26 – Space and time and what’s still missing.
Kenji sat on the curb on Sunday afternoon about two miles from Shinjuku Station on a narrow village back street crowded with village houses of both modern and traditional Japanese design.
He hadn’t seen this street since he left Japan in 1956, nor this tiny parcel of real estate deeded to his family centuries ago for their service to an early Tokugawa Shogunate.
He felt his cell phone vibrate with a call he’d been expecting sooner or later.
He flipped it open and said, “do I remember this correctly? that our own great grandfather was samurai?”
“You should leave Japan now.” answered the other voice. It was Takunosuke Mori, his eldest brother, the president of Jifu Television Network.
“And was he not put to death?”
“Why are you in Japan?”
“A samurai forced shamefully to drink poison?”
“What can you possibly hope to accomplish.”
“In his very own house, right here, on this property?”
“Where are you?”
“…for his opposition to war…?”
“You must leave Japan”
“Do you remember…”
“I only telephoned to tell you to leave.”
“What happened that night…”
“I am not discussing it.”
“While our family was walking to safety…”
“This is not the time.”
“To avoid the coming bombs.”
“I said this is not the time!”
“I don’t remember.”
“Then why does your voice sound like it happened yesterday.”
“Only because of you, our sister – a prominent attorney! – is under house arrest.”
“Would you like to know why I am here?”
“I wonder. Would this new Japan…”
“With all she has forgotten…”
“Listen to our great grandfather now…”
“What new Japan?”
“The one built upon this rubble.”
“Where are you?”
“Sitting on the curb outside your house.”
“I am calling the police.”
“And I am calling the frogs.”
Fariishta and Lilu with their friend Jack O’Brien, sat near their vehicle by a stream under cover of tall thick trees just within the boarder of Kashmir.
Lilu was relating some history of East Timor. Fariishta was filling in details about the woman known as ‘A’. She had never chatted with ‘A’ directly on the Internet early that school year, but did so extensively with several of her close followers.
Lilu flipped open her laptop, and warned Jack that what he was about to see would be quite painful. And then she ran the video from a file downloaded from YouTube.
Jack sat quietly when it ended.
“Is she serious?” he said.
“I think we can talk her out of it, Jack.” Fariishta said.
Jack looked at the ground. “Where are they,” he said.
Taya-san and Kaneko-san, the Foreign Ministry agents, sat as usual in their car parked in front of Obá-chan’s house late Sunday afternoon, and to an audience of each other and to the blank exhaustion they both were feeling, they discussed and worried about the day.
“We’re just doing our jobs.” Taya-san was shaking his head and saying with a sigh.
“But you don’t really know that, do you…?” came a voice from the back seat.
There was Kenji, as he was that morning, lounging with his legs stretched across the seat and head against the window.
The agents quickly turned their heads, and this time pulled out their fire arms and aimed.
“…that you are really doing your job?”
Kenji ignored the pointed weapons centimeters from his face, and continued talking slowly and with eyes that smiled.
“Do you really know what you are here for, what it means to do your job? You guys go to the Shinto shrine on New Years day… You go the Buddhist temple when a loved one dies.
“But sometimes you find yourself in temple or shrine when there’s actually no reason to be there… Right?
“Somewhere inside you, sometimes, you feel that life is bigger than who you are. And you visit these places, not because it’s your job, but because you feel connected to some bigger picture, some bigger life, and because perhaps you’d like to feel more connected, and feel more peace of mind?
“Given the miracle, the feeling you have from time to time of this bigger picture, how do you know you are “just doing your job”? how do you know your job is not much bigger than this?”
“Stop talking and don’t move.” Taya-san said slowly.
“I am not here to hide, I am not even here to visit, and I don’t expect you to understand because I’m not even sure I do, but I am here to do what little I can to help save the lives of the mother and father of Katie and Susan O’Brien. So please. Give me until Tuesday night, then both of you, Kaneko-san and Taya-san, can personally take me into custody.”
The agents continued staring at Kenji.
“Oh. Almost forgot. You guys seen my flute?”
The agents looked at each other and stepped from their car to talk privately and while doing so kept their eyes on Kenji, or so the evidence of their senses told them. After a moment of talking, they opened the back door to formalize their arrest, but Kenji was already gone.
Chapter 27 – What in the hell is going on here?
Katie and Susan O’Brien walked with their coach and walked with confusion from Gotokuji Station on the old Setagaya Line, to where their coach had a home-stay arrangement just three stations north of the gym.
An elderly couple welcomed them at the door, a quiet, calm, half-smiling man and woman in their late seventies who offered Katie and Susan and their coach the same tender presence and unconditional acceptance they clearly had for each other.
They asked the three girls to be seated and without query or comment began bringing in steaming big bowls of homemade soup and tempura and noodles and salmon and rice and fresh ikura and pickles from Kyoto.
Katie and Susan and their coach hadn’t noticed until this moment how hungry they were. And with bowing heads to the old couple, and with gochisousamadeshita’s of real gratitude coming from all three, they ate and enjoyed without speaking another word.
After dinner the girls cleared the table and began the washing up, and insisted the old couple sit down and enjoy cups of hot green tea.
But the woman left the room and shortly returned to pull Katie and Susan by the hands to a huge hot bath she had awaiting them.
And now the girls sat tiredly and alone on futons in candle light in a bedroom on the second floor and pulled goose-down blankets over their shoulders and arms and over their blue flannel jammies, and exhaled glowing motions of condensation through their teeth that chattered on this unseasonably cold night for Tokyo in spring.
“Are we nervous, Katie, or are we cold?” said Susan.
“Too much of both, I think, right now.” Katie said.
Today, the girls reflected, was at once, the best of days, and one of the worst as well.
“Welcome to our new life, Katie.”
“What?” Katie said.
“Everything’s the same and everything is different. and nothing of either feels real any more.” said Susan.
“It’s like somebody just comes along without our permission and dumps a new batch of flavor and ingredients into stew pots we’ve been tending to each and every day of our lives.”
“No fair.” said Susan.
“And there is no removing this stupid new flavor.” Katie said.
“There is one thing we can do.” Susan said.
“What’s that?” said Katie.
“We can do well on Wednesday, at the national trials.” Susan said.
“Yep, you know it. I really want to do well. And maybe more so right now with all this crap going on.” Katie said.
“Yeah, me too. I want it even more right now.” said Susan.
“Even if it doesn’t make us feel any better.” she added.
“Yeah. I never thought of that.” said Katie.
“Just don’t anybody talk to me about Tuesday night in Kashmir.” Susan said.
I can’t make myself… even imagine thinking about that.” said Susan.
“Hmmm. Yeah.” Katie said.
“But I do wonder,” Susan paused and added with a tiny sneer of a smile, “what our father would have to say about all this?”
Katie recognized her cue and sneered the smile back, then coughed a moment to clear her voice box, and sat up straight and pulled her chin down close to her chest, and in mock formality, and low pitched voice Katie put forth loudly, and in perfect English her father’s favorite phrase, now famous and spoken with ease among neighbors and local merchants, among the milk and mail carriers, and even more among their Tokyo middle school piers:
“What in the hell is going on here?”
“Oh!” Katie muffled her hand across her mouth, still talking: “I said that too loud.”
The girls busted out laughing.
“Wait a sec, Katie. You hear that?” said Susan. “What.”
“There’s someone at the window!” Susan said.
“It’s Satchitananda-san!” Katie said.
“Wait! Shhh” said Susan. “There’s someone also knocking on our door.”
“Yes, is that you, Sensei?” Katie said.
“Yes.” the coach responded.
“Um, we’re meditating, Sensei? Could you please give us about ten more minutes?
“We’re what?” whispered Susan.
“Ten minutes, girls. Then we need to talk.”
“Okay, Sensei!” Katie said, and motioned her head to Susan in the direction of the window.
“Let’s get him inside.”