Kansai Cowboy Chapter 8

I was on the phone with Jason Reudelheuber-Katz when Julie arrived at the house. She looked relieved. She had taken her last final for the semester. She looked at me and smiled. I hadn’t told her I was going to Japan. Lacey went to take her hand and they were about to walk out the door. Jason interrupted my concentration: “There is a great anime, called First! Madchen, have you heard of it?”

I didn’t know what Jason was talking about. I put up my finger at Julie, asking she wait, before leaving. “What? I’m sorry I don’t understand,” I said to Jason. I looked at Julie and shrugged my shoulders. As she picked up Lacey, I heard her say to her “Papac has been on the phone a lot, hasn’t he?” Lacey just nodded her head in agreement.

Jason, in Japan — just out of bed, couldn’t see Julie nor detect my wanting to get off the phone — kept on going: “It’s an animated show. Well, it’s based on a manga — a comic. It’s one of my favorites. The creator, Fukuda Riki — I’m sorry, I mean Riki Fukuda — I’m so used to using names the Japanese way, he’s a great artist, but doesn’t give many interviews, a mystery man, like Shirow Masamune — I mean, sorry, I mean Masamune Shirow. You might have heard of him.”

“I haven’t,” I said. This is pretty much how the whole conversation had been going. He’d reference a ton of stuff that I did not know a lick about, using a bunch of Japanese terminology that I couldn’t understand one iota of. Every time I told him about what I wanted or needed to do, he would interject with more jargon. He sounded knowledgeable and seemed to have a good handle on the language but I began to wonder if I needed another translator — for him. Then there was my daughter standing in the doorway with Lacey, pointing at her wrist like there was a watch there, insisting she had to go or something. “Look, Jason, I need to go. You gave me some good info, but I’ll be sure to call you first thing when I arrive, okay?” I saw Julie tilt her head at that comment.

“Yeah, sure, sure. Sounds good. Glad I can help you out. As I said, I’ve been meaning to go to Osaka because of um, you know, those collectables. I really want to make a run by Den-Den Town, you know?”

“Right, right. Well, I’m glad this gives you an excuse to do that but I gotta go.”

“Right on, right on. Yoroshiku onegai shimasu.”

“What?”

“That’s Japanese. It’s kind of hard to translate exactly but you say it after you meet someone or your looking forward to something or if you are kind of asking for someone to show you kindness — there’s a lot of different uses for it.”

“I’ll — ” I looked at Julie, arms now crossed. “I’ll try to remember that. See you when I get there.”

Hai.” Jason said followed by the usual “goodbye”.

“Who was that?” Julie asked as I hung up the phone.

“Oh, that was um, well, his name is Jason Reudel — some sort of German sounding name. Long name. Hard to remember.” I pulled out the card Bruce gave me. “Oh yeah, Jason Reudelheuber-Katz. I didn’t get to ask why the long name but you know, I had other important things to talk about.”

“Who’s he again?”

“Jason? Oh, he’s an English teacher who lives in Japan. Hiroshima…where we dropped the bomb remember?”

“And you’re going to meet up with him? Where? Is he — he’s not coming here is he?”

I looked at Lacey then I looked towards the floor, hands in my pocket. “No, I’m…I’m going to Japan. Jason is going to help me out.”

“You’re going — I can’t believe what I’m hearing. Why? Why? I don’t — what is going on?”

“I’m going to Japan. That’s what’s going on.”

“But…why?” she asked with a pained look.

I tried to explain about Bruce and Cheyenne and his debt and making the promise to Agatha but she would have none of it. She just put her hand up to stop me from talking. “I thought you wanted to know why. Is that how you talk to your husband when he gives an answer you don’t like? Is that what he gets to come home to from the battlefield?”

“Daddy…” she said her voice trembling.

I tried to remind her that her finals were over and that Mac was coming back but she just put up her hand again. She then, on the verge of tears, crossed her arms, thought for a moment, took Lacey by the hand and walked out the door.

Like she was a little child running away.

“Julie…” I said strolling after her.

She put Lacey in her car seat before she would even acknowledge my presence. When she turned to look at me, I saw a stare. A stare that I hadn’t seen since — well, since before my wife passed. It was the same stare the same evil eye my wife gave me when I angered her. Different than staring down a drug lord, full of expectation and disappointment. Manipulative, basically. “What?” I asked. “Your finals are over, Lacey is taken care of, Mac is coming back. I don’t get it.”

Julie just shook her head and got in the driver’s seat. My day had bookended with me demanding answers from folks trying to escape in their vehicles. I walked around to the passenger’s side and tried to open it. It was locked. She then rolled down the windows, and looked at me puzzled. “What?” she asked.

The window was all the way open. I reached my hand in, unlocked the door and sat my butt down in her passenger’s seat. Julie seemed more confused than threatened (like Bruce earlier). “What is it? What are you doing?” she asked.

“Papac, are you coming with us?” Lacey said. That made me smile. Briefly.

“No honey, at least I don’t think so.” I looked at her mother. “I think there’s some confusion on our respective roles here. Now I know why you might be upset…”

“Daddy?”

“Yeah?”

“Don’t interrogate me. You know why I’m acting like this.”

“No. Really, I don’t. I swear.”

“Mama…”

“What about her?”

“She told me — she told me before she passed to take care of you.”

“Well, now. Like I’m some type of damn child…”

“No, she — ” the tears started. “She told me about what she said to you before you retired. About it being enough? I thought maybe you’d listened to her…for once. All those times you weren’t there when I was growing up. I thought you could at least be there for Lacey…”

“I’m here. I won’t be gone for long.”

“Maybe…maybe.”

“Come on Julie. It ain’t like that.”

“I’ve seen your badge next to Mama’s picture. Don’t think I haven’t. You loved your job. I thought you left, I thought because the action was too much and even mama said something…”

“That ain’t the reason. There wasn’t enough action. I left because of all the…” I looked at Lacey. Realized I needed to watch my language. “I left because of all the BS, you know? FBI, ATF, DEA — all those alphabet soup agencies taking credit for everything. I’d had enough.”

The tears leaked out of Julie’s eyes, her hands gripping the steering wheel. With her eyes focused on something else she just said, “I thought you’d had enough too.”

“You don’t think I have?”

“I remember those nights when the phone would ring. I never saw anything. The phone would ring, you would answer, then I’d hear your boots clicking on the ground and the screen door slamming shut. I knew you wouldn’t be there in the morning. Mama would make me breakfast and say the same thing every time: ‘Daddy had to go to work early.’ She always put on a brave face.”

“I know,” I said and stepped out of her car. I then looked back at Lacey through the open window. “But I gave my word Julie. I gave it to W. He’s on his deathbed. Could meet the maker anytime. Anytime…” I started my walk back towards the house.

I then heard, “Hey daddy?”

“Yeah?” I asked looking back at Julie. Her hands now caressed the steering wheel like she was nervous. I started to walk back towards her. “What is it, honey?”

“Is this what I can expect?”

“Expect from — what?”

“Can I expect this from Mac? When he gets back? Will he just be itching to get back in to it?”

I knew the answer. I knew the answer wouldn’t please her. I looked down at the ground and said, “I don’t know honey. Every man handles things differently.”

“I’ve heard stories. A woman at church told me that her husband just watches the news and gets angry every time he sees a terrorist or something like that? He won’t sleep. He just talks about wanting to go back and kill the ‘bad guys’. He won’t — he’s just different. He can’t settle down…”

“I know the type.”

“I think I do too,” she said and drove off.

Women.

Continued in Chapter 9