Cutlass and Bobo were roused awake by the scent of hibachi prawns, spiced chicken and sliced Kobe steak sizzling on the Hibachi. They had both been dozing from the effects of Saki and Max’s storytelling.
“What perfume!” Bobo rhapsodized as he and Cutlass sat up and saw the grill. “How in the world did you manage to find Kobe beef in Mexico?”
“Bobo,” I said, lifting my eyebrow, “this is the home of the famous caterer Max Saltwater. Connections!”
“Of course,” Bobo mumbled rubbing his eyes.
“Tea?” I offered.
“Not if there’s any Saki left!” Both he and Cutlass held out their Saki cups.
I poured another round and heaped our bowls of rice with the grilled delicacies.
Lots of smacking, slurping, ooh-ing and aah-ing.
Bobo asked looking at me, “O.K., so now we know all about Max’s background in garnishing school, and Tokanada’s history. What did you do in Japan while Max was whittling vegetables?”
When their bowls had been filled a second time, Bobo asked looking at me, “O.K., so now we know all about Max’s background in garnishing school, and Tokanada’s history. What did you do in Japan while Max was whittling vegetables?”
I shifted on my cushion and loosened the obi around my waist. “I used the time to find my Japan.”
“Which was?” Cutlass asked, digging into his bowl with lacquer chopsticks.
“As you can imagine, Max was deeply entrenched in his studies. That left me with lots of free time. It was a wonderful opportunity to paint the many charming scenes in the Tokyo Botanical Park with watercolors.”
“Do you still have the paintings?” Cutlass asked.
“May we see them?”
“If you wish.” I hitched to my feet, encumbered by my kimono. I brought out a portfolio covered in Japanese rice paper with fans printed on it, and spread the paintings out on the floor. I had painted red cutleaf Japanese maples lining a path, wisteria vines hovering over a pond, a white egret silhouetted against dark green yew bushes, cherry trees in blossom, stone pagodas.
“Hmmmmm,” Bobo said, tapping his cheek with his finger and nodding. “Quite good! I can almost smell the cherry blossoms.”
My mind traveled back almost 40 years to when I did these. It was a great time – I was young and free in an exotic foreign land, Max was studying something he loved, we had our futures ahead of us. I must have looked wistful.
Max said, touching my arm. “You look far away.”
“I am. I was just remembering dear Sakura.” I looked at Cutlass and Bobo. “A friend who I met one day while painting in the park.”
“Oh?” Cutlass said. “Intriguing. Do tell!”
I thought about the first time I saw her and her four sisters, as she called them, gracefully strolling over a red, curved footbridge. I shuffled around in the paintings, found the one I was looking for and pulled it out. The scene of the four girls was there.
“Ladies in traditional Japanese dress,” commented Bobo. “I just love the way you’ve captured the reflections of the kimonos and colored umbrellas in the stream below!” He wiped his hands on his napkin, then picked up the painting. “So one of these girls became your friend?”
“Yes,” I said, tapping the image of the first girl.
“Hmmmmm,” Cutlass said. “The kimonos look expensive. The ladies must have been from wealthy families.”
I ran my finger over the image of the girls. “Well, you’re right. The clothes were expensive but the girls did not come from wealth.”
“Surprising,” Cutlass said. “How could they have afforded such expensive clothes?”
“Well, you see,” I said, taking a deep breath, “the kimonos are uniforms. The women are geishas”
Both Cutlass and Bobo gasped, eyes wide. “You knew geishas?”
“Not only that,” I said, maybe a bit smugly but I didn’t care. “They taught me traditional Japanese dance! But that’s the story for dessert.”
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