(There simply is no excuse for the recent delay in postings to this site. But here is one anyway. Mrs. Doyle is working on a novel. When she first told me this, I thought she was using the word “novel” in the adjectival sense, and so I waited for the following modified noun phrase, expecting something like “cocktail recipe,”“rumba dance step,” or “skin moisturizer.” But there followed only a slightly awkward silence while I parsed the sentence. Then, once grasping the grammar of the thing, I found myself confused by the meaning. “A novel?” I asked in a way that would be condescending if Mrs. Doyle weren’t so inferior to me. Yes, she said, a novel. During working hours, I asked, at the taxpayers’ expense? The taxpayers would in the end be the beneficiaries of her foray into the arts, she countered, as their lives would be immeasurable enriched by her poignant insights and clever turns of phrase. While I was relatively confident Mrs. Doyle’s preoccupation with any novel would place an undue burden on her colleague Mr. Kikuchi which could then result in dangerous security lapses similar to the time an overworked and flustered Mr. Kikuchi issued student visas to three fugitives wanted for their part in violent activities by the Aum Shinrikyo religious cult, I knew that if stood my ground I would most likely be the target of yet another frivolous legal challenge (I still do not understand why I cannot require my staffers to vote for a candidate of my choosing) and Mrs. Doyle would probably just wind up getting financed by some lefty arts council that would eventually talk her into putting something into urine. So I decided not to stand in the way of Mrs. Doyle’s literary undertaking. Consequently, readers may see less frequent postings to this site of missing American Eddie Trombone’s recovered manuscript Teach Yourself Japanese, but at the same time they may one day come across a new novel by our very own Mrs. Doyle in their local bookstore. It’s a classic win-lose scenario, in exactly that order.
-U.S. Consular Ofc. Gerard K. Dirkins)
Honesty is the best policy, some poor schlub once said a minute and a half after running out of options.
Back against the wall, lies scattered on the pavement like small-caliber shell casings, hammer now clicking against the empty chambers of his imagination. The jig, as it were, officially up.
Honesty is the best policy.
Moral relativism. Relative moralism. Your relative’s morals, the one who came last Christmas, stayed too late, and then, hand to God, actually tried to sell you a watch, and not in the metaphorical sense but in the Korean sense, a Rolex with a second hand so loud you could actually hear it in the next room.
If not the best policy, certainly the policy of last resort. Religion in the proverbial foxhole.
So I went ahead and wrote.
I, Edward “Eddie” Trombone, borrowed the book Teach Yourself Japanese from the Chicago Public Library, and shortly thereafter transported said book outside the city limits of Chicago, beyond the County of Cook, across the great prairie lands of the United States, or maybe the Canadian Rocky Mountains, I don’t know which because of all the clouds and also I fell asleep halfway through United Airlines’ screening of Back to the Future, winding up about 12 hours later in Japan with only one week left to return an already dog-eared copy of an outdated book that did me no good anyway so . . .
Let me start again.
I, Edward “Eddie” Trombone apologize for stealing a book from you. I returned it many months, okay one year, later. I am a bad man. The Public Library is a sacred trust. Even the Chicago Public Library. Okay, maybe not so sacred as other libraries, like a public library in some city or town in New Hampshire, if they even have cities or towns in New Hampshire (I’ve never been there, and for all I know they have small city-states like 12th century Italy) but you know what I mean. Different tax base over there. Higher salaries. Less crime. If they ever had an earthquake or murder of a black pedestrian by white policeman, the ensuing riots would probably not even be proper riots. People would probably just wait in their well-appointed living rooms until the morning news shows gave them the all-clear.
I’m just kidding, of course.
There are no black pedestrians in New Hampshire.
I, Edward “Eddie” Trombone am sorry.
Not because there are no black pedestrians in New Hampshire, as I have had almost nothing to do with the sort of social engineering that has resulted in the comparatively small percentage of black people in New England (if New Hampshire is even part of New England, which it probably is but I’m not sure because looking northeast from Chicago, everything is New England, including Norway and, at certain times of the year, Jupiter). Certainly, in the idyllic rolling hills and painfully self-aware rustic villages through which putter weathered Volvos and BMWs adorned with the state’s license plates cheerfully suggesting we all “Live Free or Die,” there must be at least some black pedestrians strolling past the windows and shops of Concord, few as they may be. Black people, that is, not Concordian windows or shops, of which there are way too many, including an abundance of those which seem to defy the sort of economic gravity that anywhere else would bring crashing to earth such enterprises as Birthday Balloons Are Us, The Organic Sandal and Moccasin Outlet, Teddy Bear Heaven, and Candles! Candles! Candles!
No, it’s not my fault there are no black people in New Hampshire, and besides, I got other fish to fry. I began again, on a fresh piece of paper,
I, Edward “Eddie” Trombone, am sorry . . .
. . . for so much, I thought, overcome suddenly with melancholy and despair. I put down the pad of Winnie the Pooh stationery that the local stationery store lady gave me instead of money for “teaching English” to her two grandchildren when all I really did was look after the two apparently orphaned rugrats while grandma stepped out on her husband who for the first three months I mistook for a pile of laundry heaped on a chair before a portable TV set that had never been turned off. The pile coughed one day, causing me to draw a long purple line along the length of my nose with one of the shop’s blueberry-scented pens I had been sniffing at.
I put down the stationery covered in Eeyores and looked out my window at the familiar nighttime jagged and sagging silhouette of apartment buildings, snack bars, Chinese restaurants, and liquor stores.
“Wabi-sabi,” an old woman shrieked through my screen door, causing me to draw a long, purple, blueberry-scented line along the thigh I had my writing hand resting on. “Look so sad!”
It was the grandmother, in a short black dress, high heels, and dark, sheer stockings. She was pushing her two kids into the apartment.
“Here?” I asked. “Now?”
“Onegaishimaaaaaaaaaasu,” she sang over her shoulder as her heels clicked along the rough concrete of my apartment building landing. The clicking slowed as she lowered herself down the broken and nearly vertical steps, picked up again once she hit the street, then disappeared in a burst of karaoke as the snack bar door opened and swallowed her up.
One of the kids, the boy, came over as if to comfort me. Once up close, he pulled out a tube of wasabi and aimed it at my face. I flinched, and watched the strand of lumpy green condiment sail by. It landed noiselessly on the open pad of stationery, thickly underlining and casting a glaucous gloom on the single, lonely sentence above.
I, Edward “Eddie” Trombone, am sorry.
(“This Trombone fellow stopped here?” I asked Mrs. Doyle when she showed me this latest installment. “No,” Mrs. Doyle replied, “he goes on another couple pages about this letter he’s writing to the library. But I really do need to get back to my novel.” I felt a tightness in my chest as I searched for an appropriate response, but was distracted when I overheard Mr. Kikuchi registering a visiting group of Japanese Boy Scouts to vote in the next U.S. presidential election. So until next time, when I suppose we will learn more about this letter of Trombone’s.)