“Well, uncle, what did you think of him?（Ano hito no koto dō omotta? あの人のことどう思った?)”
“I take it it’s Professor Keyes you’re talking about.”
Sakurai-san sighs (tameiki wo tsuku, ため息をつく). “I’ll tell you what I think of him, Madoka-chan. The next time you have an impulse (shōdō, 衝動) to invite one of your fired ex-professors to write for my magazine . . . don’t! That’s what I think of him!”
“You didn’t hit it off? (Hanashi ga awanakatta no? 話が合わなかったの？)”
“Are you really having an affair with the guy? (Hontō ni ano hito to tsukiatteiru no ka? 本当にあの人と付き合っているのか？) He’s old enough to be your — “
“I know what he’s old enough to be. Don’t let it worry you(Shimpai shinakuttemo ii yo, 心配しなくってもいいよ). To tell you the truth, I think he’s tired of me. I never hear from him any more. Just imagine,” she says, smiling, “what that does to my confidence!”
“I’m sure you’ll get over it. Listen. I thought professors were supposed to be open-minded (henken no nai, 偏見のない), but he . . . I mean, I’d been looking forward to an honest and frank discussion with him (socchoku na hanashiai, 率直な話し合い), and I ventured to pose the question whether democracy is necessarily the best system for all times and all places — and the next thing I know he’s branding me a fascist! He submits an article full of rants against cell phones, the Internet, everything modern; I ask him to tone it down and he storms out of the place in a rage! To hell with him! (Koitsu nante kutabare! こいつなんてくたばれ！)”
“Give him a chance, uncle, he’s had a rough time (fundari kettari, 踏んだりけったり). He was one of the best teachers at the school, and they forced him out (risutora shita, リストラした) because . . . well, he’s a historian, his subject is the past, and not many people are interested in the past in these futuristic days of ours, so enrollment in his classes was down and budgets are tight (yosan wa kitsui, 予算はきつい). Maybe that’s why he hates cell phones and the rest. They’re symbols (shocho, 象徴) of what ruined his career.”
“Mom, can I go to school in America?”
“Hisashi-kun and Yu-kun in my class are going to study in America next year, and I . . . ” He breaks off, seeing the ghastly expression on his mother’s face.
Reiko regards the boy in stony silence. She speaks at last, in a voice barely above a whisper. “Peter, listen to me. One thing you need to learn is when to approach a person and when not to. I have finally (yatto, やっと) managed to get your grandmother to bed (obāchan wo nekashitsuketa, おばあちゃんを寝かしつけた). She’s getting worse (akka shiteiru, 悪化している), and with neither you nor your father lifting a finger to help, I’m thinking I’m going to have to quit my job in order to look after her full time. Speaking of your father (otōsan to ieba, お父さんと言えば), as you can see, he’s not home and I have no idea (kentō mo tsukanai, 見当もつかない) where he is, or when he’ll be back, or even if he’ll be back, or if I’ll open the door to him if he does come back. And you choose this moment . . . “
“All right, I’m sorry.” He slinks out of the room. Reiko sinks into a chair.
“I can’t go on like this much longer. I can’t, I don’t have the strength. Listen to me, I’m talking to myself (hitorigoto wo itte iru, 独り言を言っている). That’s a sure sign of madness, they say (kyōki no kehai, 狂気の気配). Quit my job (shigoto wo yameru, 仕事をやめる) — is it possible? I’ve been a teacher for 32 years, I’m a good teacher — even if the administration would be more than happy to get rid of me (oharaibako ni shitai, お払い箱にしたい), which to me is proof (shōmei, 証明) that I really do know my business. How many other teachers, I wonder, are still in contact (renraku wo toritsuzukete iru, 連絡を取り続けている), as I am, with students they taught 20 and 30 years ago? And to give it up, give up my life’s work . . . of course, my mother raised me, made sacrifices for me, and I’m grateful (on ni kiru, 恩に着る), but . . . but how much of her own life does a child owe a parent? How much . . . “
“Would you like some tea, mother?”
“Kimika! You startled me (Dokitto shita, ドキッとした).” Did she hear me muttering to myself? What will she make of it?
“He’ll be home soon.”
“But where is he?”
“I don’t know, dear.”
Fiction series “Keyes Point” appears on the first Bilingual page of every month.