Luckily, I cannot turn my head around 180 degrees. If I had, I no doubt would have been assailed by an angry cadre of young women knocking agitatedly on the glass door that led to the veranda, no doubt using the agitated knock as a warning shot before they began throwing large furniture and/or appliances through said door. On one hand, it was somewhat comforting not to see their angry faces, but on the other hand it was a clear case of what you can’t see sounding as dangerous as a rabid jaguar…on fire…with a lit tube of dynamite in its jaws. Eventually, the incessant Knocking of Doom got the best of me.
“Eri?”
“It’s locked,” she said, her voice still sounding serene because my hand was still resting on top of her mop-top head. Finally ripping my hand away from the safety of her crown and pivoting my neck at an angle that would make a circus acrobat cringe, I took a look at the door. Not those behind the door, mind you, I’m in no mood to gaze into the depths of Hell. No, I looked directly at the seam between the glass double doors, which I succinctly remember not having any lock that I could think of, let alone one that could be easily maneuvered. But oh, that crafty Eri had gone and improvised a lock of her own: a bokken, or wooden practice sword, rammed between the door handles, effectively blocking the door…but for how long? It’s only wood, for pity’s sake!
Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to ask Eri about the strength of the wood (or the construction, which can range from hickory or American white oak to cheap pressboard) because when I turned around, she wasn’t there. She was gone. Vanished. Poof. I don’t know where, and I don’t know how, but I was suddenly standing alone on the veranda listening to the beautiful sounds of the scene which know sounded like some kind of impending cobra hissing out a death sentence. Finally, with the combined efforts of Mei and Ami (or rather, their legs) the bokken shattered and I was set upon by a veritable deluge of pulchritude swearing dark oaths that were no doubt brought along by another meal with another open bar.
“Eri, ya dirty cheater!” Mei bellowed into the night, nearly pitching over the edge, “we hadda deal, no secret plans!”
“Shishterz before Mishterz!” Haru slurred drunkenly, still carrying some massive bowl of alcohol as colorful as, um, her clothing.
“At least share him with me,” Ai cooed serenly, a martini perched on her candy apple red fingernails. Ms. Arakawa just sat there looking stricken, while Cathy and Akira shared a tispy laugh riot over the entire scene, goading Eri on in her endeavours. Out of all of this, naturally, a stone-cold-sober Ami Ishii confronted me and, somehow, made it all my fault.
“Just what were you saying to her, Mr. Watanabe?”
The directness of this sudden inquisition, along with the few splinters of wood I was trying to pick out of my shirt, had me a little shaken.
“Wh, wha…? Me? What are you talking about?”
“You promise her some kind of paradise? Some kind of teacher wedding and little student babies or something? You fill her head will all sorts of false promises?”
Please! She wouldn’t even LET me speak!
“Like I believe that,” Ami sniffed, “and now she’s scared, and rightly so, because she’s got a couple of drunken fools ready to chase her into the night. I hope you’re happy.”
What are you even TALKING about, lady? Did you forget that SHE approached ME, and SHE used HER bokken to block the door? How could this possibly be my fault?!
“…I don’t know, but I know you’re responsible.”
Luckily, she walked away after that, because any more of that inane conversation would have had me eating my own head out of sheer frustration. The small army soon made their way out of the veranda on some kind of “search & destroy” or “search and reprimand very, very severely” mission, with Akira tagging along towards the end. He shot me a smile as they left that seemed to say “Hooray! They’re angry at someone else for a change!” and before I knew it I was stuck on the veranda with the army’s appointed guard, Ami Ishii.

Please, I’d rather have the death penalty!
What followed was a good ten minutes of icy, stony silence with Ami standing, arms crossed, brow furrowed, just…GLARING at me. Not wanting to start another head-biting spat, I stood my ground, keeping a resolute look on my face that tried to plead my innocence while also going “please don’t kill me with your eye lasers.” The sounds of the excursion, led by General Tanaka, swiftly died away within the cavernous house interior, and when it just seemed like it was going to be me, Ami, Ami’s glare, and the now-poisoned nighttime scene, Eri Ozawa crawled out from under the veranda like some kind of hippy spider and landed neatly back on the deck as if nothing had ever happened. I noticed that her usual poker face registered a bit of surprise at the sight of Ami, as she was probably certain no one was left, but as she realized that Ami would probably never implicate her in a case involving her and me, her face fell back into the typical blank slate as Ami began her, um, cross-examination, none too pleased at the evening’s goings-on so far.
And if I thought the evening couldn’t get any crazier… I should have known better.

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