Should I, or shouldn’t I?
What to do?…what to do?…
Usually, a quandary represented the right thing to do versus what I would eventually end up doing.
I knew I was going to get caught when I tried shoplifting a pair of cool bell bottoms from a store. My buddy and I did not count on the store employee being a long-distance runner. He chased us down after leading him on a mad chase to get to Dee’s house.
My ass still stings from that one.
In our tiny Japanese village, there were only a handful of houses that had running, or hot water, and we were one of them.
But keeping with my mother’s insistence that we absorb as much of the culture of our host countries as possible, we would go to the communal bathhouse that stood in the center of town.
Everyone would eventually make their way to the bathhouse, and you could see the high chimney smokestack belching smoke from noon to midnight. Whenever our family would go to the bathhouse, usually on Sunday, it was big news for the entire population of Nakagami-Akashima.
My mother was a buxom woman, and her frame brought out many admirers, both men and women.
This short story represents a quandary I had as a young boy.
Taken from the preface for the letter Q in my book Emotions: Not your Mama’s ABC’s!:
…Reminds me of the very first job I ever had. I was five years old when I befriended Johnny. We became best friends as we were the only American children living in the tiny Japanese village of Nakagami-Akashima. Our “compound” held four American families and Johnny was my next-door neighbor. We both held down the same “job.” We were hired by a local papa-san (anyone older than my brother was a papa-san to me) as his, for lack of a better word, slaves.
Actually, we were subcontractors, performing services for compensation. On Saturday, we would go early in the morning on his dusty wooden cart pulled by two small, but old, brown donkeys. There was a small patch of woods and Johnny and I would fill the entire cart with wood, some pieces even too big for our little spaghetti-arms to hoist. Papa-san would sit in the cart barking orders and drinking whiskey. After what seemed like days, the cart was loaded and back we went to the village. Invariably, papa-san would have to wake us up from our exhausted sleep.
Turns out the wood was for firing the furnace for the community bathhouse, as there was no internal plumbing (outside of our compound) in the entire village.
Everyone in town would eventually make their way to the bathhouse.
Papa-san asked Johnny if we wanted ten-yen (about two cents) or something else. Now ten-yen might not sound like much, but it might as well have been ten million dollars to us. We could literally live for weeks off that kind of cash. Sno-cones, candies. We could get a hundred pieces of candy!
Here is where the quandary part comes in.
The “something else” papa-san offered was the opportunity to go up on the narrow, rickety bamboo walkway he had constructed his drunk-ass self. From up there you could look down on the entire bathhouse and all the naked girls, or so he claimed.
Johnny and I had a decision to make, one that could possibly be life-defining. After the torture of loading wood all day, this was really a no-brainer.
My buddy smiled at me as he flipped his ten-yen piece, dreaming of the sweet treasures to come.
He looked really small down there from the walkway.