Scene: A Japanese restaurant. Father and Daughter enter and sit at table.
Father: What a pleasant surprise. Lunch with my daughter. And not a nut cutlet in sight.
Daughter: Don’t be facetious.
Father: Usually you take me to one of those holistic vegetarian establishments. But here we are in an authentic Japanese restaurant. (confidentially) You know foreign food doesn’t agree with me, don’t you ?
Daughter: I thought it was about time you expanded your horizons.
Father: I prefer good old fashioned English cuisine. Bacon and egg, Chicken Tikka Masala…Do they serve beans on toast ?
Daughter: No. Anyway, it’s not going to be a long lunch. I’ve got an appointment at 2.
Father: A short lunch date. Now, what does that mean I wonder ? Let me guess. Do you require money ?
Daughter: Nothing could be further from my mind.
Father: I brought my cheque-book along.
Daughter: Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you but I merely decided to invite you to lunch.
Father: In that case, I apologise. It’s just that I’ve been your father for 25 years and I’m not used to such adult behaviour. (raises empty glass) Bottoms up. To our new adult relationship…a relationship in which we can enjoy one another’s company without you trying to fleece me for hundreds of pounds. It would make a wonderful toast, if we each had a drink…However, I’m also a pragmatic businessman and I can sniff out an ulterior motive from fifty yards. Let me see – is there news you wish to impart ?
Father: Good news or bad news ?
Daughter: Decisive news.
Father: Oh dear…that sounds ominous…Perhaps I’d better order drinks after all. Waitress!
Waitress appears. A Japanese geisha.
Waitress (English regional accent): Moshi moshi! (she bows) Before you order you may wish to know that we have a variety of chopsticks for you to choose from – ordinary chopsticks, medium sized plastic chopsticks, and super-sized wooden chopsticks. The super-sized chopsticks are flat and rounded at one end, like a little spoon. We find that this limits the amount of food that falls down a customer’s front whilst eating. Alternately, you can use western-style cutlery. It’s entirely up to you!
Father: Do my ears deceive me or is that the exotic sound of an authentic Japanese waitress in an authentic Japanese restaurant! (to Waitress) Where do you come from, my dear ? Tokyo? Nagasaki ? Bromsgrove ? Ashby-de-la-Zouch ? Am I getting warm ?
Father: Just an observation. Well, it does advertise itself as an authentic Japanese restaurant.
Waitress: You don’t have to be Japanese to work in a Japanese restaurant.
Father: No, but presumably it helps.
Daughter (to Waitress): We’d like to order.
Father: Drinks first. I need my mid-day shot of alcohol.
Daughter: I’ll have a mineral water.
Father: And I’ll go native - a glass of sake…that’s pronounced “saa-kay” - and a cup of green tea….not Brooke Bond or Typhoo but authentic green tea, the kind of tea that authentic Japanese people drink…
Waitress (flippant): I’ll see what I can do…
Father: Thank you.
Waitress (caustic): You’re welcome.
Father: The pleasure’s all mine.
Daughter: Will you stop being so sarcastic ?
Father: Well, this place should be prosecuted under the trades description act. I expect authentic Japanese people to serve me in an authentic Japanese restaurant. Where’s the chef from, I wonder ? Belfast ? Basra ? The Solomon Islands, perhaps ?
Daughter: Do you want to hear my decisive news or not ?
Father: Yes, yes…put me out of my misery. Tell me your decisive news. I’m all ears.
Waitress enters with drinks.
Waitress: One mineral water for you madam, one glass of “saa-kay” and one cup of Japanese green tea for you, sir. (aside, to Father) You’ll be pleased to know that I’ve just spoken with chef and he tells me he’s from the Hokkaido region of Japan. The Hokkaido region lies to the north of the country and is famous for its rivers, spas, and serene and panoramic countryside. Call me when you’re ready to order.
Hands out menus. Exits.
Father (shouts after her): Well at least somebody here is from Japan! (to daughter) Bloody cheek of her! Hokkaido region my backside. Cheers!
Father drinks his sake in one.
Daughter: I’ve decided not to marry Bruce.
A moment. Father grimaces at the aftertaste. Then:
Father (still reeling from the sake): Bruce ?
Daughter: Yes. Bruce.
A moment as he recovers.
Father: Bruce Bruce ?
Daughter: Yes, Dad. Bruce Bruce. My boyfriend for the past eighteen months. Surely you remember Bruce. You humiliated him at Christmas…twice!
Father: Yoga teacher Bruce ?
Father: But that’s terrible! I like Bruce.
Daughter: And he likes you…in a strange, sadomasochistic kind of way…
Father: Bruce is a fish-lover.
Daughter: I know.
Father: I’m a fish-lover!
Daughter: I know.
Father: He’s got a beautiful aquarium.
Daughter: I know…I’ve cleaned the damned thing out enough times…
Father: It’s got artificial sunken treasure in it. And a miniature golden cannon. Are you sure you’re doing the right thing ?
Father: What does your mother say ?
Daughter: Mommy doesn’t like Bruce.
Father: I know she doesn’t. That’s one of the reasons why I like him.
Daughter: Oh, for goodness sake…
Father: Well, I’m sorry. I was married to your mother for nearly twenty five years and not once did we agree on a single thing. Holidays, dinners, garden furniture – you name it, your mother and I would disagree about it. I don’t see why we should start agreeing with one another now. What doesn’t she like about him ?
Daughter: I really don’t know. Look, the fact is Bruce and I have split up and I wanted to tell you.
Father: Well, this is awful news. Awful! I like Bruce…Bruce is a young man – a fish-lover! - who’s going places. I must say, I’m not pleased about this. Not pleased at all!
Waitress: Would you like to order now ?
Father: Yes. What’s the dish of the day ?
Father (to Waitress): Oh, have you no shame!
Waitress (bemused): I’m sorry ?
Daughter (to Waitress): I’ll have tempura. The seafood…
Father (to Daughter): You as well! My own flesh and blood!
Daughter (to Waitress): Take no notice of my Father. He’s upset.
Waitress: You don’t say…
Father: (consulting menu) What’s this ? Shabu-Shabu ?
Waitress (uncertain): Meat…and stuff.
Father: What kind of meat and “stuff” ? Is it offal ?
Waitress: Offal ?
Father: Yes. Innerds. Organs.
Waitress: I don’t think so…
Father: Well, what does it look like ? Is it a kebab ?
Waitress: Not quite a kebab…
Father: Shabu-Shabu. To me, that sounds like Japanese for kebab. They have kebabs in Japan, don’t they ?
Father: But it’s definitely got meat in it ?
Waitress: Yes. And noodles…I think…
Father: You think ?
Waitress: I haven’t been working here very long.
Father: Well, that does surprise me.
Waitress: Would you like me to ask the chef ? I’ll get him to print off a list of ingredients.
Father: No thank you very much…..I’ve got an important meeting at 9am tomorrow morning. I’ll have the meat and stuff…..the Belfast noodle delicacy…..and tell the chef no salt. Shabu-Shabu without salt. My doctor says he’s concerned about my high blood pressure…
Waitress (caustic): Thank you for your order.
Waitress gathers menus, exits.
Father: We should have gone to Pizza Hut…at least there you know what kind of mush to expect…
Daughter: I’m also pregnant.
Father: Pregnant with what, my dear ? Expectation for your tempura ? Personally I wouldn’t get your hopes up…
Daughter: You’re not making this very easy…
Father (suddenly): Oh! Pregnant pregnant ?
Father: You mean, you’re with child ?
Father: You mean, you’re with child ?
Father: Nurturing another human being ?
Father: What does your mother say ?
Daughter: Mommy’s outraged.
A moment. Then:
Father: Darling – I couldn’t be happier for you!
Leans across table and kisses her.
Daughter (tearful): Thank you…
Father: A grandfather! At my tender age! How exciting! The aromas of babyhood will once again fill my house…This calls for a celebration!
Daughter: I’m glad you’re not angry…
Father: Angry ? Why should I be angry ? The bringing of new life into the world…
Daughter: It’s all a bit of a shock…a bit daunting…
Father: Of course it is! Every parent-to-be feels a bit daunted. I was daunted. Oh yes…morning, noon and night. Daunted, daunted, daunted. And as for your mother, well, daunting is your mother’s middle name.
Daughter: That’s where I’m going…this afternoon…for a check-up.
Father: Oh yes, I remember…the check-ups…the scans…the tests you have to negotiate…and then there’s the waiting…the carrying…the mood swings…the cracked nipples…the midnight cravings for a hot dish of Shabu-Shabu…and then suddenly, before you know it, you’ve hit the home straight - those final months…the excitement as you near the finish line…as you prepare for his imminent arrival…
Daughter: Or, possibly, her arrival…
Father: Things to buy…things to do…oh! - the list is endless. Have you made a list ? I made a list. Cot was top, then pushchair, nappies, creams and gels…investment bonds…shares…pension scheme. Now, remember what I’ve told you: you can never ever be too early starting a pension scheme…
Daughter: I’ve seen the most exquisite cot…
Father: …the rattle, the protective gates to stop him from falling down the stairs…
Daughter: Dad! Will you stop referring to my unborn child as a he!
Father: So much to think about…you could quite easily get rid of 750 pounds just for starters…
Daughter: I’ve made some calculations…
Father: Parenthood doesn’t come cheap.
Daughter: It’s more than 750…closer to a 1000…
Father: A 1000 ?
Daughter: Yes, but I didn’t invite you here for a hand-out….I can manage…I’ll be OK…I’m saving 12 pounds fifty a month.
Father: Are you sure ? I’d love to help.
Daughter: No, I’ll be fine…
Father: I can give you 1500 if it would make things easier.
Father: More ?
Daughter: No…I don’t want more!
Father: I’ve got my cheque book handy…
Daughter: I can manage…
Father: It’s right here in my inside pocket…next to my heart…
Daughter: I’ve told you…
Father: 1750 ?
Daughter: Stop it!
Father: Would that be enough ?
Daughter: (A moment…then) I think 1500 should cover most of it.
Father: I thought you said you didn’t want money ?
Daughter: Vouchers will do.
Father: Ha! Touche! 1500 it is.
Daughter: Thank you, daddy.
Father: You’re welcome.
Daughter: To be honest, things are a bit fraught…financially…
Father: Of course they are. They will be. Until Bruce returns.
Daughter: Bruce ?
Father: Yes. Bruce. The fish-loving Yogic aquarium-designer. Look, I understand what’s happened. He’s run off into the hills, hasn’t he ?
Daughter: Hills ? What hills ?
Father: The great mythic hills where all men run off to in times of crisis. You told Bruce you were pregnant, Bruce got dizzy and ran off into the hills…
Daughter: Dizzy ?
Father: Of course he did. When your mother told me she was pregnant I too suffered the most horrendous bout of dizziness…
Daughter: Bruce didn’t get dizzy.
Father: Well he’s not going to admit to being dizzy. No man does. But we all get dizzy. In fact, the very words are enough to induce a mild seizure. “Darling…I’m pregnant.” See ? I’m feeling slightly faint already and I’m sixty years old.
Daughter: Dad - Bruce didn’t get dizzy. And he hasn’t run away to any mythic hills.
Father: Men do all kinds of strange things when they learn fatherhood is about to be thrust upon them…Some go off for a short while…in a sort of trance-like state…and wander aimlessly from village to village…others are not seen for years…a friend of mine camped out in the forest…they eventually found him smeared in mud and eating the pupae of the lesser known Waxed Moth…
Daughter: As far as I know Bruce hasn’t gone anywhere…
Father: After your mother broke the news I lay beneath a giant oak tree for days listening to The Lark Ascending on my portable cd player…
Waitress enters with two plates of food.
Waitress: Tempura for the lady…and Shabu-Shabu for you…
Father (staring at plate): Oh, my god! (puts handkerchief to mouth, turns away, looks again) Oh, good heavens above...
Waitress: Is there something wrong ?
Father: Do you honestly expect me to consume that…that gastronomic atrocity?
Waitress: I’ll have you know, sir, that chef only uses the finest ingredients.
Father: It’s winking at me! I can see its mournful eyes. Madam - it’s beginning to wag its tail!
All three stare at the plate.
Waitress: It’s only a shrimp…it must have fallen in to the pot by mistake…into the beef and noodles…Shabu-Shabu…
Father: I don’t care what its name was, poor, innocent creature!
Waitress: It’s a Japanese speciality.
Father: Away! Be gone with it! Oh foul bringer of disease and indigestion! I think I’m going to be sick!
The Waitress takes away the food. Father retches with handkerchief against mouth.
Daughter: Bruce didn’t get dizzy or run off to any hills because Bruce isn’t the father.
Father (still retching): Isn’t the father ? But he’s your boyfriend. He’s got a miniature golden cannon in his aquarium. Of course Bruce is the father. You’ve conjoined, haven’t you ?…or were you inseminated ? Oh no…I’ve read about this kind of thing in the The Daily Mail…it’s science gone mad…what have they done to you ? What’s in there ? Don’t tell me – I couldn’t stand it! My daughter’s child is half human, half pro-biotic neuronal being!!
Daughter: Do I have to spell it out to you ? I’ve been seeing somebody else.
Father ends his retching.
Father: Somebody who’s not Bruce ? You and…another ?
The waitress enters. She carries a letter on a plate.
Waitress: Chef has asked me to give you this.
Father: Ah. A complimentary starter. Wasabi-flavoured rice paper. Hmmm. Delicious!
Stuffs the letter into his mouth.
Daughter: Daddy – I think you’re supposed to read it, not eat it!
Father takes letter out of mouth, opens and reads.
Father (reading): “My sorry very much…you no like Shabu-Shabu…I cook nicely next time…for wedding.”
Pause. Then, to Waitress:
Is your chef offering me a proposal of marriage ?
Daughter: Not you, daddy! It’s me he wants to marry.
Father: You ?
Father: Why ? Because you’re the only one who hasn’t complained about his wretched cooking ?
Daughter: It’s the chef’s baby. The chef’s name is Yoshi. That’s why I brought you here. He wanted to cook you something special and then ask you for my hand. The chef is the father of my child!
Waitress (indicating daughter’s womb): Authentic Japanese.
Father (to Daughter, pointing to Waitress): And who are…who is…?
Daughter: She’s married to Yoshi’s brother. She’s pregnant too.
Waitress (indicates own womb): Authentic Japanese.
Father: So you…and you…and him…and his brother…
Daughter: Daddy. I don’t want you to get upset. I know you liked Bruce but that’s over now.
Father: What does your mother say to all this ?
Daughter: Well, to be absolutely truthful…she’s pleased.
A moment. The Father considers. Then:
Father: Has Yooki…
Father: …got an aquarium ?
Daughter: I don’t think so.
Father: Will Yashi…
Father: …cherish you and love you…and attend to your emotional – and, er, financial - needs ?
Daughter: Yes! We’re going to concentrate on building up the business. Then, one day, maybe we’ll go and live in Japan…who knows ?
Father: And how did your mother react to that ?
Daughter: She likes the idea of me going to Japan…she’s always wanted to visit Tokyo. You’ll be able to visit too. Broaden your horizons. Are you angry with me ?
A moment. Then:
Father: My dear, dear sweetheart…for the first time in twenty five years I think your mother and I have found something we can agree about.
He kisses her hand.
Waitress: Are you ready to re-order now ? Only we close in six hours.
Father: Tell your chef that I’d like bacon and egg sushi with a side dish of noodles and chips in a vinegar sauce, topped with a Heinz baked bean pancake roll.
Waitress: I’m sure that can be arranged.
Father: And waitress ? Tell Yaki…
Daughter & Waitress: Yoshi!
Father (hands on heart): …please, go easy on the soy sauce!