50. Redemption

(The delay in postings to this blog is the result of yet another quarrel between the two staff members in charge of the site. This time, Mrs. Doyle and Mr. Kikuchi have managed to find disagreement over something more topical than how to divide a lunch bill that includes asymmetrically-shaped food (see previous post). Their most recent falling out has been over Obamacare, with Mr. Kikuchi, a Japanese citizen who has come to take for granted the socialist nightmare of affordable health care, supporting the President’s initiative, and Mrs. Doyle, a free-spirited, some would say mentally unstable, woman who came to the 1960s a few years too late and has been trying to catch up ever since, opposed to President Obama’s plan and supporting instead her own healthcare program that relies almost entirely on magnets and raw garlic. At any rate, they have agreed to disagree and to get on with the reassembly and posting to this site of the recovered manuscript of missing American Eddie Trombone in the hope that this may lead to someone coming forward with information regarding his whereabouts. –Gerard K. Dirkins, U.S. Ambassador).  

I was at the end of my rope.

Which I then tied to a light fixture on the ceiling.

I had tried it all–immersion, flashcards, textbooks, tutors, vitamin drinks, Nigerians (all meticulously cataloged in previous postings to this damnable blog –G. K. Dirkins).

I tugged gently on the rope to make sure it was attached securely, immediately bringing down the light fixture and several small pieces of ceiling. I stepped off the stack of point cards I was standing on, untied the rope from the light fixture, then stepped back up, crouching over again so that I could fit in the small space left between my apartment’s ceiling and the 30-centimeter-tall, trembling tower of typically tri- but occasionally bi-folded business-card-sized loyalty oaths*, a stack of anonymous promises and non-binding commitments to forever patronize and remain eternally faithful to a single coffee grinder, tea merchant, gas station, bakery, barber, bookstore, video rental shop, home electronics megamall, Chinese restaurant, curry restaurant, fake French bistro, vegetable stand, futon seller, tofu peddler, half-priced haberdasher and hawker of artificial leather attachés, shoe store, foot masseuse, cigarette counter lady, and weird beer store guy who is never at the counter when you walk in but comes out from the backroom where he is doing what? tending rare mushrooms? mulling cold fusion? selling beer through a narrow slot to people in another, parallel, universe?

I had tried it all. Had tried it all but was still hopelessly unable to put my thoughts into Japanese, which was especially alarming given the relatively unpretentious and unembellished, some might say simple-minded or imbecilic, nature of my thoughts.

I slipped the noose over my head and reached up to tie the other end of the rope to a wooden beam I could see through the hole where my light fixture used to be. The rope was now quite taut, which would have been dangerous except for the fact that I was trying to hang myself, which made it I guess fortuitous. Smiling uncertainly at what I thought might be irony, I leapt from the top of the point cards, bumping my head on the ceiling, and landing instantly, flat-footed and unhanged, on the floor of my apartment, with my head, as usual, nearly touching the ceiling.

It is extremely difficult to hang yourself in a Japanese apartment.

I removed the noose from my neck and sat down, two actions that attempted in reverse would have actually accomplished my original goal, and aimlessly surveyed my now toppled and trodden upon tower of tragically unrequited store credit, and it was then that I realized I could not kill myself. Not because I was still young and the world was full of promise, not because life was something sacred to be zealously safeguarded, and not because I had finally counted my blessings and had come to realize how truly and profoundly fortunate I was, but because I could see that all I needed was one more smudgy black stamp on my Sumihara Coffee Shoppe point card to reach redemption, a redemption explained in detail on the back of the card in a language that had frustrated me to the point where I had just tried to hang myself, failed, and now sat looking uncomprehendingly at.

Japanese point cards, the sheer number of which have been blamed for rising sea levels on the main island.

Japanese point cards, the sheer number of which have been blamed for rising sea levels.

Still, redemption is redemption, I reasoned, and, because I was illiterate, my mind was freed to imagine all kinds of prizes Mr. Sumihara might bestow on me in gratitude for my having bought coffee beans from him for the previous three years. Five kilograms of free coffee perhaps, a spiffy new coffee cup, a coffee table, a color TV, a car maybe, a new car with a sun roof, or maybe a trip to Hawaii.

“A trip to Hawaii with a new car and a sun roof!” I shouted, “and a spiffy new coffee cup!”

My neighbor Nishihara-san banged on the wall. “Nani o yutteruno?!”

I grabbed my grubby Japanese-English pocket dictionary, knocking over the empty beer bottle resting on it, and tore at the pages.

“Sukui!” I shouted at the wall, tears streaming down my face. “Sukui!”

And before I knew it, Nishihara-san’s visiting Christian sister was sitting next to me with a Bible. I didn’t even hear the front door slide.

“You are looking for redemption?” she said in a beautiful lilting English, and held the Bible up.

“Yes,” I said, and showed her my point card.

She let out a long, low whistle.

“That’s a lot of coffee,” she said.

I didn’t whistle because I don’t know how to, and also I don’t think you’re supposed to whistle at the Bible.

“Your Bible is also very nice,” I replied.

 (Mrs. Doyle informs me this nonsense about point cards and redemption will be continued in the next posting. I’d ask her why she bothers with this ridiculous project, but am just happy to have her leave my office because of the overwhelming garlic stench and the fact my fillings hurt whenever she is nearby, possibly because of the strings of neodymium supermagnets she has begun wearing around her neck and wrists.  –G. K. Dirkins).

 *The mention of tri- and bi-folded point cards places this writing most likely near the end of the previous century, as most point cards now are not folded at all, but rather single plates of plastic with some sort of magic coating that records points awarded at the time of purchase. In fact, my younger staff members tell me point cards are now being replaced by something called “apps” on a contraption called a “smartphone,” or “sumaho,” as the Japanese say in their never-ending and inscrutable drive to not be understood beyond their shores. –G. K. Dirkins

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