I could do with one of Bellamy’s meat pies.
— Reputed last words of the Right Honourable William Pitt the Younger (first Prime Minister of the United Kingdom)
Garth will consume a really large bowl of gyūdon. Rice with beef on top.
He inserts a 500-yen coin into the meal-ticket machine and presses a button. Since he can’t translate “hold the pickles,” the counter guy —who esteems Garth for respecting gyūdon — includes the crunchy red stuff, even though he knows it won’t be eaten. This is Japan.
Garth’s co-workers head for lunch in a different direction. Garth always calls out “fuck sushi” in one of his funny voices — sometimes like a question, sometimes like a dare. He is crap with chopsticks. When his necktie gets splattered, he’ll change it. But, hey, who really cares? Lunch fortifies him. “I fucking love everything about Japan,” he says all afternoon — in amusing voices — to every head that pokes itself into his corner office. Gyūdon to Garth is like spinach to Popeye. I fucking love everything about Japan.
Still, it wasn’t love that drew him to Tokyo. It was money, and also getting to run his own show far removed from head office. To-ky‑o, Shmo-ky‑o. Get the human relationships right and the rest will follow.
Phil, who’d been sent out earlier, wanted to ride his ex-pat package all the way to retirement. He and Garth were buddies.
“Uh, boss man, Chicago asked me to look into this mess.” He proffered a file concerning a claim from a Taiwanese supplier. “Geographic proximity, I guess.”
Garth skimmed through. The numbers were goddamn huge.
“We’re screwed. Royally screwed. They sent this because they need a scapegoat.”
“Look who signed off on this ancient term sheet.”
“Fuck.” Phil saw his own name, along with names of two colleagues who’d moved on years before. “They’ve been waiting for an excuse to ax me. They’ll serve up my head at the company cafeteria. But just mine, not yours.”
“Let me think.”
And Garth did think. He reread the file, and stalked through his digital rolodex. He stayed on the phone past midnight — nothing in writing. Garth knew lots of people who knew people. He called in favours and made immense promises, which were trusted.
By morning, the can had been kicked a couple of years down the road.
“How’d you ever do it?”
“That old Garthic magic leaves you in its spell / That old …” He sang in his funny Mel Tormé – esque voice, out of tune.
At home, Garth and his wife ate American food, and before bed they watched Netflix. On the weekend they’d stay by the lake at Nikko. This Christmas both kids will visit Japan for the first time.
During college Garth had been top-dog salesman at a used car lot, even though he only worked part time and hadn’t yet developed his full range of amusing voices. Every lunchtime he’d eat a Biggie Burger Deluxe. “I fucking love everything about used cars,” he’d say. And it was true.
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