Johnny America




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.” 

“Why us?”

“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.

Filed under Fiction on November 8th, 2019

Care to Share?

Consider posting a note of comment on this item:


Previous Post


Next Post


Join our Irregular Mailing List

For very occasional ramblings, word about new print ephemera, and of course exciting investment opportunities.