Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Journey

When the young airman's pregnant wife joined him in Japan, they spent their first night in the home of a generous but creepy lieutenant. He directed them to an upstairs bedroom, and, in the awkward fashion of Norman Bates, pointed out the amenities including the, uh, you know, bathroom.

After that, they were taken in by the young man's supervisor, Staff Sgt. Vic Takata. Their host was married to a flamboyant blonde from Texas, and she was loud, lusty and vulgar, and she seemed to think her main contribution to the war effort was to make single G.I.s feel envious of Takata and all the pleasures she shared with him. 

Several years seemed to pass in the Takata love nest before the young couple finally moved into their own house, new but unsteady, seemingly constructed of bamboo paper. It swayed when the wind blew, when a truck drove by, and when someone walked up the stairs. They loved it. It was the best house they had ever lived in, and it would be the best for a long, long time.
The couple's new house. The dog is Woodstock.

As the baby's due date drew near, the rain started up. The husband believed it was monsoon season. He had read about monsoons in school, but he associated them with India. Maybe it was a typhoon.

It rained every day. Grey skies, no lightning, dark clouds hurrying across the sky like bombers. Rain, all the time, rain, rain.

The young couple had found an old mini-car, a Cony, for $200, but it would not start in the rain. The husband had to ride to work with Vic who drove a dependable Toyota. 

Soon there was standing water in the streets, and even the Toyota protested. And the couple's baby began to grow restless in his own snug little home, and he moved and kicked and shoved, trying to find a comfortable position.

It rained till the water in the street outside their house was almost knee deep.

One afternoon, the husband was at work when the creepy lieutenant told him a call had come in, it was about his wife, she believed she was going into labor. 

Her OB, however, had to make sure she was experiencing real pangs and not just Braxton Hicks, fake ones, because the nearest military hospital was in Sasebo, 90 miles south, and too often young moms would make that long trip only to learn they just had gas or some such discomfort, and return embarrassed to Fukuoka.

It was Friday when the call came in. The husband was told to stay busy with his work until further notice. Somehow, arrangements were made outside the secluded top-secret compound where he worked, and after a while the lieutenant said it was time, and someone drove him home, then called a cab that somehow made it through the deluge and took him to the train station.

Off to Sasebo, where he would become a dad. 

Later, the young man would become a reader and writer, a searcher and sucker for symbols and myths. This scene he was living out now, a journey on a train through the rain was too trite to write about. What a cliche! 

Too literary to be authentic, to ring true. A character's rite of passage, his baptism into another life, a higher level of being. His past flying by out the rain-streaked train window, the juvenile foolishness, drinking himself sick with his Air Force roommates, the nomadic couple with no place to lay their head, all of it blurred by the speed of its passing, the rush to Sasebo, . . .

Would Sasebo be the Promised Land of milk and honey and a family, stability and peace, or the witch's house, fraught with danger, a dark night in the dark forest, requiring yet another crossing of the water?

But these ancient myths, though stale from overuse, were inaccessible to the young man on the train.

The rain just kept falling. Across from him, an American, a dense but talkative Navy career man, told an old Japanese couple about Japan. He said now that the bombs had been dropped and General MacArthur had helped rebuild Japan, the white man and yellow man could be friends again. He said Japan now had the largest population in the world. The old couple nodded, humoring him.

The train was really hauling ass, thought the young man who was about to become a father, racing for shelter from the rain, roaring, creaking, rocking, while the dipshit across from him, full of lies, jabbered away, as Sasebo drew closer and closer. 

A dad. Daddy? Father? Papa?

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