From Jester To King LXII
By Simon Barget
So I’m sitting with the new housemates, well no I’m standing to be precise, I’m standing and they’re sitting, and they’re asking the usual questions like why I’m here in Japan, what I’m doing, what I do for a job back in London et cetera blah blah blah. And they’ve got one of those home-working things going on, where the beds double as work-stations and the boss doesn’t live there but acts like he does and he is this shrewish little man with this laconic disposition hardly ever saying anything, and I’m waiting for Leila to come back who’s staying there but works somewhere else, good old jovial Leila, and then this guy has two ultra-obedient Japanese employees at his behest, and they are of course very kind and soft and very subservient, they are especially kind to me, and I feel more than comfortable with everyone, overall it’s feel good that I’m there. And I feel even fairly at ease with the boss up to this point, that’s up until this fairly untypically large and burly young male Japanese employee turns up who I hadn’t expected at all and at some point they get to asking me what I get up to at home, all in this barely comprehensible Pidgin English and I say, you know, I do a little bit of this, a bit of that l a little betting, some writing, and I know, I sense that as soon as I open my mouth they’ve actually pre-judged me, like they just know I don’t really do anything of worth, which is not the done thing for the Japanese, who like things to fit snugly in boxes. And to my great shock and surprise the boss and the bury guy actually burst out laughing before I’ve had a chance to give a good account of myself, and my anger is not really because of this outburst, but more because I’d wrongly evaluated the taciturn boss to be soft and forgiving, basically non-judgmental and now it turns out he’s been mean all along. And then Leila walks in so I don’t have time to process it all, and she’s got back from work, and since I’m sort of thinking of working here, I want to know how much she’s earning but she won’t give me a straight answer at all, whether this is some confidentiality thing between her and this boss I cannot fathom, but it’s just plain annoying, and I just have to stand around and wait for her to do her thing till we go out to this party we’ve got coming up later. Oh yes, I remember now, I then say, do I have to speak Japanese to work here, and not only am I expecting a few compliments on my very scarce Japanese but they all laugh when they say of course you have to speak Japanese, and they emphasise you don’t do you, and they go on to say that no one does really so no one can work here either, which fact seems to make them grin like Cheshire cats, so pleased with themselves and bang goes my hope of sticking around here, my enthusiasm, from ten back to zero in an instant.
I didn’t really want to talk about my uncle again but do you remember the thing I reported when I was much younger when I shooed him out the house? Well something happened recently and I hope that my behaviour wasn’t influenced by the way I was then, I mean I hope I have acted independently of festering grudges, but we had the family Passover meal the other night, also known as the Seder, and my god was it enormous, we had people in the log house, mats and beds set up in the garden, we had tables and place-settings in gangways and corridors, in all there must have been fifty odd people. And bear in mind with my Dad passed away, my mother does everything, the cooking, the setting, the furniture moving, everything, and there’s uncle playing the giddy goat at the main table like he hasn’t learned anything, interrupting, being generally disruptive and disrespectful and I make no hesitation in turning to him and telling him right away and right up to his face that I am in charge here and if he doesn’t zip it right now then I’m going to move him to one of the outside tables, and you know what, he thinks I’m bluffing, I can see in his demeanour and just to show him I’m not I pick him up right there and then and start pushing him out, out of his chair, you know I’m almost baring my back teeth like a wild animal, and the way he goes moves from defiance to protestation, I mean the change is not pretty, I almost feel pity, protesting his innocence like a hurt child, that’s not to say I derive any pleasure from this, but I do notice that my sister is with me, supportive, and that I feel absolutely within my rights to cast out my uncle, and you know I can sense there’s still part of him that thinks I do not mean business, so I’m still shoving, shoving him out through the garden so that we can get on with the service in peace because really this is the least I can do for my hardworking mother. He really is the evil penny and now everyone seems to be cottoning on it. But I hope as I say I wasn’t swayed by the old memory, which is somehow still fresh.