(Recent events have resulted in an unavoidable delay in postings to this site. I’m referring of course to the three-week leave of absence taken abruptly by Mrs. Doyle for the purpose of returning to Chicago to dissolve a marriage it seems had completely slipped her mind. Turns out the all too often overly gregarious Mrs. Doyle had overly imbibed on the trip she took to Chicago last year at taxpayers’ expense to look into the birth records of Edward Trombone (see chapter 13), and upon returning one early morning to her room at the Heart of Chicago Motel, located roughly an hour’s drive from anywhere that might remotely be considered “the heart of Chicago,” Mrs. Doyle met, married, and consummated in the space of three hours and almost certainly not in that order, a man she mistook for the motel’s concierge. I include a photo of the motel here so the reader may get a better understanding of just how overly Mrs. Doyle must have imbibed to think an establishment like this would have a lobby, let alone a concierge.
“I always wanted to be with a French man,” Mrs. Doyle offered in explanation so cryptic it made even less sense the second time around, when I repeated it slowly to myself.
At any rate, I offer my apologies for not better supervising the small staff here at the Osaka U.S. Consulate. As for the resultant delay in postings to this site, however, I must say that I, for one, was not terribly concerned, as I have come to the conclusions that, one, it is unlikely this Edward Trombone fellow will ever be found, and two, that’s probably a good thing, as my distaste for this shiftless ne’er-do-well increases with each new posting. Nevertheless, I am bound by my duties as Consular Officer to conduct a search, no matter how halfhearted, for any citizen of the United States. I furthermore find myself continuously coaxed and cajoled by staff members Mr. Kikuchi and Mrs. Doyle, who seem intrigued by Mr. Trombone’s mysterious disappearance, and absorbed in the tale that has been unfolding from his recovered manuscript as it is pieced together and published on this site. My two staff members even managed to extract from me a promise to ask you, gentle reader, to consider reacquainting yourself with the manuscript published thus far by reviewing all chapters beginning with the very first one. So I am doing so here, now, but also proposing, as possibly more attractive alternative, a vigorous poke in the eye with a sharpened stick. Up to you. –Consular Officer Gerard K. Dirkins)
Halfway up the staircase and I could hear the creaking and clatter of what sounded like ropes, cables, pulleys, large insufficiently-oiled iron hinges, and other ancient anachronistic acoustics. I moved slowly up the last four stairs, bewildered by the scene that gradually unfolded with each nervous step. Just as I reached the top of the staircase, an enormous object flew past my ear, nearly knocking me back down the stairs. I stumbled, grabbed the wobbly handrail, and turned to watch an elderly man sail into the distance on a leather harness suspended by wire cables connected to tracking that ran in an oval along the ceiling of the large room that took up the entire second story.
The man, who I judged to be in his 90s, lay on his stomach in the leather harness while flapping his wings and kicking his feet. He took a turn at the far end of the room at such a high speed that the harness swung out wide, bringing his wagging limbs and leather-swaddled pot belly to within inches of the wall.
“Te to ashi no rehabiri,” the woman at the desk said, seeing how I was staring at this swaying, soaring senior. Arm and leg rehabilitation. She smiled when I looked down at her, like she had explained something.
I turned at the sound of the cables buzzing along the tracking behind me, and ducked just in time to avoid the purple-faced, wheezing Superman as he completing another loop around the room. I watched him once more sail down the length of the room, over the heads of about 30 other assembled seniors whose ages if tallied would bring us to within earshot of The Big Bang, each ancient outpatient connected to, strapped against, enveloped in or otherwise engaged with some mechanical device that could have easily found a place in a Vincent Price movie.
One of the devices in fact I was almost certain was centrally featured in the iconic 1961 film The Pit and the Pendulum. I watched as the massive pendulum swung slowly back and forth, each time grazing the stomach of the hapless woman strapped to the bench below. Fortunately, the huge razor sharp blade from the Hollywood movie had been replaced with what looked like a headrest from a 1973 Oldsmobile Cutlass, which had been wrapped in gauze and covered with some sort of jelly-like substance.
“fukubu no rehabiri,” the woman informed me. Abdominal rehabilitation. She shook her head gravely. “kekko hidoi.” Pretty severe. I smiled back so she would stop looking at me.
There was a row of aged individuals along one wall that could have easily passed for a 4 pm Early Bird Special line outside any Denny’s, Gold Coin, Howard Johnson’s or other so-called family-style restaurant known for their senior-friendly service, reasonable prices, and uniquely tangy and tepid version of what only an American might recognize as coffee. The elderly in the line here, though, were not leaning on walkers or seated on the corners of Chicago Sun-Times newspaper vending machines, but rather were reclining on vinyl-covered lounge chairs, their eyes pinched shut while wires attached to their limbs delivered, from a large machine bolted to the floor behind them, a steady rapid-fire series of electric shocks, causing their muscles to involuntarily twitch and a dewy film of perspiration to collect on their foreheads.
This was therapy the subjects here took part in voluntarily and without the sort of pesky legal release forms that would almost certainly be required in the United States whenever attaching someone who has not been convicted of a capital crime to a device for the purpose of conducting electricity. The sort of release form that would probably also be required for a ride in the giant pulsating worm in the middle of the room. The worm, or cocoon, or sleeping bag, whatever it was, was wrapped around a man from eyebrows to ankles, leaving visible only his bald head at one end and bare feet at the other. As the device inflated slowly, and the man’s scalp and soles reddened, the scene was not unlike watching an enormous pastry-wrapped cocktail weenie rise in the oven. I looked to the woman at the desk, but she just shrugged her shoulders.
This room, this entire building, was one of the largest seikeigeka in Osaka. This Japanese word was not in my small Japanese/English dictionary, so I tried looking it up in the other direction, from the English. I tried “maltreatment.” No. I checked “madhouse,” “faith-healing,” “purgatory,” and finally “insurance fraud.” Nope.
The woman at the desk noticed me thumbing through my dictionary. “Orthopedics,” she said, using for exactly the second time in her life the English she had been studying for the past 50 years on Japan’s NHK national TV network, the first time having occurred during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, when she told a young man from Chester, England not to eat the small cellophane packet containing mildly poisonous, moisture-absorbing beads that had thoughtfully been included by the manufacturer of the bag of rice crackers to keep them crisp, tasty, and free of mold.
“But there are no children,” I smirked.
She seemed perplexed, then after a moment smiled brightly and said, “No, no, orthopedics. A pediatrician is a children’s doctor. You are a . . . ” and here she stumbled, searching for a word. “. . . a moron! You are a moron.”
She noticed me look down at my feet.
“No! That is a podiatrist. A foot doctor is a podiatrist, a children’s doctor is a pediatrician, and this is an orthopedic hospital. For bones and muscles and etcetera.”
“Oh,” I replied sheepishly.
“And you are here for what reason?”
“I was late in returning a book.”
Dead silence, then an approaching buzzing noise. I ducked to let Superman fly by.
Dead silence again.
“I was very late.”
“There was an attempt on my life.”
She smiled at this, which I found unsettling.
“By the Chicago Public Library. Agents of the Chicago Public Library found me here in Japan. They found me on a busy street in southern Osaka. They pushed me into the path of a bus. They tried to kill me, tried to make it look like an accident! They are still here! They’re all working together! The Public Library, the CIA, the CTA, the . . .”
“The paper please.”
I was confused.
“In your hand. The paper from the doctor.”
I handed her the paper the doctor had scribbled on during our two and a half minute consultation.
“Please follow me,” she said, walking toward the pulsating worm.