(I find myself once again having to apologize for my staff’s tardiness in posting to this site, a site about which, by the way, I continue to have deep misgivings. It seems the more I read about this Trombone fellow, the less I wish to see him found. And frankly speaking, I can’t help but feel the time and energy being put into this project by my staff would be better placed almost anywhere, doing almost anything else. Except possibly what they are doing now, which is speaking to each other on a video call using their new iPhone 4 mobile phones, which brings me back full circle to my apology and the reason for it, which is that Mrs. Doyle and Mr. Kikuchi have been so preoccupied with these recently purchased mobile phones that the Teach Yourself Japanese manuscript went entirely ignored until I threatened to take down this site, a bluff I am glad they did not call as I have absolutely no idea how this web internet thing works. The site was set up by some unpleasant know-it-all from the I.T. department who smells like electrical tape and tuna fish sandwiches, and I’d rather not have to call him up here again.
So my staff pulled some rumpled pages out of the box in Mrs. Doyle’s cubicle and managed to throw something together before quickly returning to their precious iPhones. When I pointed out how silly it was to make video calls to each other since the partition between their adjoining cubicles was only one meter high, they responded by sliding down in their chairs until they were nearly sitting on the floor and continuing their video calls from that ridiculous position, giggling occasionally and making sarcastic remarks about me using some sort of clever code.
Losing my composure a bit, as I am apt to do when people giggle nearby, I reminded Mrs. Doyle that the Consulate is still waiting for the report on her nearly two-month investigatory trip to Chicago to uncover the records of Eddie Trombone’s birth. She replied that she has been writing the report, but doing so on the tiny iPhone keyboard, which has proven to be more difficult than she thought. It is a very small keyboard, and Mrs. Doyle does have unusually large hands and thick, utilitarian fingers. At any rate, she promised to have the report finished soon, but then as I walked away I swear I could hear that giggling again.
In the meantime, and without further ado, let me burden you gentle reader with the latest installment in Mr. Trombone’s never-ending, long-winded tale, Teach Yourself Japanese. . . . –Ofc. Dirkins)
I had been suspended for two weeks from Joyfull English simply because I was not familiar with every little nuance of that offshoot of English spoken in England, which, along with some awkwardness I admit I may exhibit when speaking Japanese or dealing with the delicate sensitivities of children, led me to tell a child of roughly two feet in height that his mother was a bad, possibly an evil, woman. (see previous chapter)
Owen, on the other hand, was suspended for murder.
Owen had highlighted this charge in the long list of offenses found in the “Happy Joyfull Life: Teacher Support and Guidelines for Dismissal.” He did this using a yellow highlighter marker that he had stolen from Joyfull, an offense surprisingly only 4 lines down from Murder, which was itself second only to the number one, top offense at Joyfull–“Contact With a Labor Union.”
“A fortnight,” Owen said.
“You don’t know what a fortnight means, do you?”
“Four . . . ,” I ventured, studying Owen’s face for some clue. “Four . . . ,” I began again, “. . . nights . . .”
“In a fort?” Owen offered cruelly.
“Yes!” I blurted, relieved. “Four nights in a fort.” I noticed too late Owen’s smirking sneer. Or sneering smirk. He has both.
“You’re an idiot.”
“I’m an . . . “
“So it’s not four nights in a fort?”
“Maybe in America, where you have forts and a smaller vocabulary. In England it means two weeks.”
“It was reduced to espionage.”
“Oh, I see,” I said, not seeing at all.
“And that was reduced to cruelty to animals.”
After another two hours and three 2-liter drums of Kirin beer, or three hours and two 3-liter drums of Asahi, I forget, Owen finally explained. It took such a long while because of all the beer and also Owen’s exceptionally wry, some would say pointlessly self-involved and ultimately unfunny, sense of humour.
It all began with a plan that came to Owen on the train. Well, actually you could say it all began when the ruling class in England plucked the gray glob of coal mining from its sweaty, pink tongue and stuck this now hard and no longer sweet bit of detritus beneath a metaphorical table in some metaphorical roadside caff, subsequently leaving Owen’s father to deal with his thoroughly unmetaphorical unemployment and its accompanying unavoidable self-reflection which Owen’s father nevertheless managed to avoid through drink and the turning of his depression outward, as anger, toward his only son, Owen, who left England for so many reasons that he ran out of room on the back of the mimeographed call to action leaflet put out by the National Union of Mineworkers.
And it was then, on the train, when it came to him. Looking across the subway car at the opposing bench, Owen watched a young woman who was holding the splayed end of a small bundle of her hair no more than five centimeters from her face, causing her eyes to cross as they moved quickly from strand to strand searching anxiously for split ends, which she would then expertly pluck with her razor sharp red pincer fingernails.
Owen had of course seen this countless times, and each time it awakened in him a generalized contempt for all things facile and insubstantial. Like morning news shows and children’s toys. Like koala bears and proverbs. “Two birds with one stone,” a voice said inside Owen’s head, and just like that, a plan came all at once and fully formed to Owen so perfect it fired the soggy synapses in his nervous system that would have caused him to smile had those muscles not atrophied and died years before. Still, it was the closest he had come to joy in a long time, even if that could not be determined from the outside, and Owen set about working out the details of his inspired, wholly evil plan with something like enthusiasm.
It began with Owen starting a rumor among the young women in his English classes that the definitive cure to the ravages of split ends was the application to those split ends of fresh koala blood. It had to be fresh, and it had to be from a koala, Owen confirmed over and over to the ensuing barrage of questions. The rumor spread like proverbial wildfire, and practically overnight the very same young Japanese women who had been travelling to Australia to cuddle, nuzzle, and pose for pictures with that country’s endearing and iconic koalas were now surreptitiously bleeding the furry creatures dry with concealed hypodermic needles and syringes. The Australian government finally stepped in, choosing at first not to stop the practice but to regulate it by attaching the koalas to tubes and selling the blood to tourists. Pressure from animal rights groups finally put a stop to this institutionalized bloodletting.
Subsequent investigations into the efficacy of koala blood treatment for split ends revealed it to be without merit, though oddly it was found that koala blood did have potential as a hair growth rejuvenator for male pattern baldness, signaling quite possibly the beginning of the end for the cuddly koala. “The future of the koala is in peril,” Friends of the Koala wrote in their latest press release. At the top of the release was a clock with the time set at three minutes to midnight, an idea the group got from the nuclear disarmament movement, meant to indicate in this case the level of threat to the koala. The press release was reprinted verbatim by a group calling itself Koala Freedom Front and also by a small boutique magazine called Exotic Cuisine, but was largely ignored by the rest of the world.
At any rate, some clever investigative reporter eventually tracked the story back to Owen, who came home after a full day of classes to find a clutch of reporters from half a dozen countries camped out in front of his building. The mob began to advance, but was suddenly cut off by a taxi that came to a screeching halt directly before them. Mr. Inoue leapt from the backseat to, Owen thought wrongly, save him. Holding up his hand to stop the reporters and smiling broadly, Mr. Inoue announced that an internal investigation did indeed find Owen to be the instigator of the koala incident and, in what Mr. Inoue imagined to be a master stroke of spin and corporate damage control, he promised that Joyfull English would publicly execute Owen within 24 hours, adding that there would be soft drinks and childcare available.
Later, upon learning that public executions by private companies were technically not allowable under the laws of Japan, Mr. Inoue relented, giving Owen a two-week suspension instead. Police were eventually called to the Joyfull head office when more than 1,000 thirsty single parents showed up with their children. Mr. Inoue was adamant, though. No execution, no free soft drinks. He was a stickler like that.
(Japanese have a saying similar to “two birds with one stone.” It is “isseki nichou.” This means, “one stone, two birds.” Also, a full count in Japanese baseball is not “3 and 2” but “2 and 3.” I heard they are going to change the full count in Japanese baseball this year to the American style. I do not think they will change the birds and stones. -Asst. Offc. Kikuchi)