Sakawa MONOGATARI


II   ACQUISITION

Toil and moil


At 11.00 o'clock in the morning on Mother's day *), we went to the care-house Helios to pick up my mother-in-law.
She laid down on her bed. She had no mind to do anything. It took a certain twenty minutes to talk her upright. First circumstantial moving to the toilet for a new diaper. After an hour or so the operation was completed, we could borrow a wheelchair and drove to the close small harbor Kochi Kan Ko, where a cheerful Sunday-market had been organized. We bought yakkitori, chotaro kai, large shells in strong pastel-colors, yellow, blue and pink, as well as bonito, still fresh, caught that morning.

I quickly brought the purchases to our apartment and afterwards we drove by car to our dear fish-restaurant Kaiko. It will close this month. Economy. It was busier than usual and several persons still waited on their turn. The female-owner, who saw us entering with the wheelchair, called spontaneously: "I got your reservation- please proceed." Not a bit of a reservation, but with adequate dignity we walked through the establishment to 'our' table. After lunch we took Setsuko-san to our home. Due to her Alzheimer, by the way also a Japanese word, everything was new. Sometimes she sees me as my brother [which I don't have]; another time she asks Fumika, her daughter, which kind of relation she has with her and who she might be. She looks in disbelief, hearing Fumika's claim being her true daughter.
With a certain regularity the world demonstrates it's bizarre angles to Fumika and me. Setsuko-san has a permanent wonder about really anything.
Anyhow, we tried -Fumika in the first place- to give Setsuko-san an agreeable day on Mother day -and not only then, by the way.

In the evening Fumika announced, that Monday would be a beautiful day. I decided to drive to Sakawa with my two weeks earlier bought 8 years old hako ban, a white Suzuki-van [108.000 km], suitable to keep all our heavy agricultural tools, hats and boots, chairs, cool box and a mattress to toil and moil a full day again.
This drudging is a fair 'man-to-man'-battle -no machines!- against impertinent, obstinate and unwelcome green. My big antagonists are tussocks of at least one meter in diameter with razor-sharp, meters-high grass. A small part of our ground I strip laborious from a twenty-centimeter carpet of inextricable roots of all kinds of green riff-raff. I started to put stones instead. Notably the larger stones are heavy and everywhere, but not where I want to put them. This toiling is my higher-form-of-happiness, including my condition in the evening when I cannot utter a word anymore, feeling stiff muscles that I had no idea I lodged them.

The sun shone on my Panama-hat, birds sang, frogs croaked, being a feast to the ear, a snake glides dignified it's way and suddenly was invisible, a salamander kept laying down immovable at the bottom of a shallow, small puddle. While above it, I washed actively brown clay from my hands. Everything works as it should and behaves according to its nature.
Weeks earlier I put Mexican avocado-kernels in the ground, here and there. An experiment. Suddenly I remembered this while depositing stones. Spontaneously I dropped my work and went down to the east edge of our plot. There [still?] was nothing visible. In the lower situated stream, which is our east-border, the water rustled with quite a speed: music ! I stood dreaming looking in the direction of the fast streaming water. Time stood still. Did something move at the side ? Hey ??? For some time I did not believe my eyes, but actually I saw a turtle clumsily walking, half submerged, against the powerful current. Easy about 40-centimeter, I estimated. What a beauty !! I melted. Internally I jubilated. I got the impulse to 'assist', but understood in time the "townishness" and primness of my idea. This was not an old woman that had to be guided to the other side of a busy road. This occurs for centuries, if not longer. What I saw, had to be that way. The image has been burnt into my memory and Alzheimer c.s. will have a hard nut to crack to blot this out.

Fumika sometimes stayed with her grandparents around 1967, the celestial latitude being within 10 — 15 kilometer from Sakawa. She remembers, that she borrowed a small wooden boat from the neighbors and quite often took a turtle out of the water to play with it. There were many of them. The photo of the river and that boat has been put into one of her albums; a peaceful scenery.

How happy I was that day, so unhappy Fumika was that day, proved after dinner. She also had a severe migraine.

About a couple of weeks ago, working on our land in Sakawa, our neighbors, the Yamamoto's, came along for a chat. Little put out feelers of sorts, kind of probing around. On a certain moment I asked the neighbor whether he possesses a chain saw.
In our new house we had like two fireplaces. I want to cut about 50 trees on our connected, wooded mountain-slope and have them sawed into useful pieces. We gesture in the air from where-to-where our property lays. Yamamoto-san falls silent. Later on he asks Fumika to show more precise on the spot to show where our west-borders are. We know that pretty well, because the ground-broker showed us those twice comprehensively. " But from here until over-there is OUR lot; we planted valuable hinoki....."
Silently we assumed, that the inhabitants of the hamlet near our ground, did not have arranged their affairs clearly enough. Fumika promised to propound this case to the broker. So she did the other day. He promised to check the matter, but also was quite busy. Fumika is a patient human being, so that matched well. After 2 weeks -I was toiling making myself happy in Sakawa- Fumika had decided to drive to the land-registry's-office in Ino. There it was officially proven, that 'our' mountain-slope was not at all connected to our rice-fields, on the contrary. There were five plots of other owners, which were bound at the West Side of our property. A flat piece ume-field, about which the broker insisted by all means this being our property, moreover proved to be burdened by a huge mortgage. We already had cleaned this field pretty much and cut several trees. Our mountain proved to be situated much further than explained to us. The broker sold us territory, which we did not buy. Fumika takes by the way also neat copies of the land-registry's-office to the broker's office. He was not present and did not give any sound, that day.
I fall silent after Fumika's report.
I explode.
I feel so sorry for Fumika, the darling.
I start with my usual recipe- passionately writing down the details in wild movements on paper, a draft for a letter up in arms.
Fumika calls an acquainted broker in houses who gets into his car immediately to call in on us. There is a deliberation of 2 1/2 hours. The broker cannot believe his ears. He leaves at 23.00 p.m. He anyhow made a moral contribution. I start typing my letter, full of explosives. One hour later I fax three pages to the broker's office. I play the taiko. It's bedtime, but we are still raving; our brains work on full capacity. I pour a chochu with ice for Fumika and I take a glass of red wine from a 1.8-liter paper pack of Suntory. The other morning we wake up pretty early. Fumika's migraine is still most active. We drive to the kencho, the provincial office, section juta ku-ka, an advice of Fumika's broker-acquaintance. Two men take more than one-hour time in order to listen. Fumika has a systematic, well-substantiated story and shows drawings, original property documents, which we just took from our bank-vault and information from the land-registry's-office. The bureaucrats make copies extensively. I hand a copy over of my fax-letter to the broker. Unfortunately I cannot participate in the conversation, so much the better. My dramatic contribution consists of a well-placed deep sigh, chronically truculent looking and another time landing a clenched fist on my knee. The men understand the matter and fast find in between internal information about the broker and his company. After 2 hours both civil servants conclude laconically, that they lack power....and that problems with mountains are dealt with by another section
I commit burglary vehement....
            ... does the kencho cover a cheating broker ? ?
            ... your choice is this one: are you choosing for justice or for crime ? ?
            ... I refuse to participate in your desk-dance ! !
The civil-'servants' keep silent, charmingly laughing the frustrations away and nod that they understand. The senior gives a short word to the junior, who returns a moment later with a city map and an address: the Kochi-broker-association has a consulting hour for complaints on Friday afternoon.
We leave. Our power is also limited.
By all means I want to visit the broker's office, though I have no plan. Fumika stipulates that she will stay in her car. She had enough for today. A quarter of an hour later I enter the office with a lot of hubbub. Two kind young females greet me sweetly. I put my original fax-letter on the counter, give a punch on it with my fist and shout with large volume, that I want to speak to the broker NOW. Not rehearsed, not planned, only boiling. All of a sudden he stands in front of me in his shirtsleeves. Superfluous, provoked, I shout that I am extremely angry. He asks me to come to his office together. I tell him to inform Fumika first about this and run down the staircase with large steps instead of taking the elevator. Down at the car I tell her how I did. In the meantime also the broker arrives running. Italian situation ! I shout uncontrolled, vehemently gesticulating, that he has to be honest with me. Then Fumika and he get mixed up in an intense Japanese conversation. I am out and therefore I also take some steps back physically. Most likely steam rushes out of my ears and nostrils.
After a five minutes deliberation Fumika signs me, hardly noticeable, that everything has been settled. We get into the car. the broker, still in shirtsleeves, stands lost on the large parking lot and bows deep during out departure. As a return I bow icy. Days before Fumika and I had some brainstorming about a satisfying solution. The result was: selling back our mountain under the condition that a new owner cannot claim the right of way on our ground. That was one of the reasons to buy the supposed connected mountain-slope. Furthermore the broker has to pay the once-only acquisition-tax and the normal annual tax, as well as the costs of the land-registry office: ¥ 5.500 That afternoon Fumika calls the kencho and informs them about the verbal promise. They already did contact the broker-association. It was decided to wait-and-see.
Fumika feels, that as a woman she was not able to get the broker into moving and that a furious 'male-ape' worked as a wake-up-call. Pure biology ?
The next day the postman brings a registered, though not signed letter from the broker in which he confirms the appointment. That same evening I put everything again on paper in English; Fumika makes an adjoining Japanese translation, typed. By fax and the next morning also by mail. That morning the broker also confirms our conditions by fax. An appointment is made with the notary for the week after. Our hanko has to be taken from the bank. Again 1 day later a deliveryman brings a large box with cakes.
¥ 2.000 says Fumika slightingly.
Drudging might not always be a form of happiness, it is a blessing anyway.

We don't know what to say anymore.
I am caught by reflex-like fits of laughter, and fortunately can get Fumika also into it.
We are dog-tired. Satisfied also.

We reward ourselves the next day with a visit to a special issue-office of the summerdreamjumbo, a large, half annual national lottery. In front of the office in east Kochi, Takasu, that carries the image to bring good-luck [one assumes, that regularly, lottery-tickets which are bought here, bring prices], two long queues of people of all kind has been formed. I see at each of them a 'thinking-cloud', which contents easily can be guessed. I spend ¥ 12.000: I keep my fingers crossed !

Alzheimer can be seen as a blessing: no more fighting, forgetting what has been bought! appointments don't exist anymore. Each time only: "Who are you ?" & "Where am I ?" The Alzheimer-as-a-blessing-thesis can also be parried: by memory a lot of narration can be done and through my dear memory I can feel the desire to see our turtle again.


And the broker?
Tell me...who the hell is he! Did we once meet him somewhere ?

27 05 2006


*) 14 05 2006/05/27

World's events are faster than my speed of translating this story from my native language, Dutch, [Nederlands] into English.
On the 25th of May 2006 at 6.00 a.m. we got an emergency call from Helios that Setsuko-san had to be brought to the brand-new hospital in Kochi east, the Iryo Center.
She had her second heart attack within nearly 10 months. Hours later only we had the opportunity to see a fragile human being connected to tens of wires and tubes, surrounded by screens, showing graphics, tellers and bottles, her wrists tied, her brows frown, a machine keeping her breathing and so on.
The only solace was a correct doctor who explained many details and quite a large staff surrounding her in the I C.
Words fail; tears take over.


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