purposes of informing you of our evaluation of several contending factions in German political life
who can now be expected to step forth and engage in no-holds-barred disputation for spot
evacuated by Herr Bormann.
'Briefly, the notables. The foremost, Hermann Göring. Bear with familiar details, please.
'The Fat One, so-called, due to body, originally courageous air ace in First World War, founded
Gestapo and held post in Prussian Government of vast power. One of the most ruthless early Nazis,
yet later sybaritic excesses gave rise to misguiding picture of amiable wine-tippling disposition
which our government urges you to reject. This man although said to be unhealthy, possibly even
morbidly so in terms of appetites, resembles more the self-gratifying ancient Roman Caesars whose
power grew rather than abated as age progressed. Lurid picture of this person in toga with pet lions,
owning immense castle filled with trophies and art objects, is no doubt accurate. Freight trains of
stolen valuables made way to his private estates over military needs in wartime. Our evaluation:
this man craves enormous power, and is capable of obtaining it. Most self-indulgent of all Nazis,
and is in sharp contrast to late H. Himmler, who lived in personal want at low salary. Herr Göring
representative of spoils mentality, using power as means of acquiring personal wealth. Priinitive
mentality, even vulgar, but quite intelligent man, possibly most intelligent of all Nazi chiefs. Object
Of his drives; self-glorification in ancient emperor fashion.
'Next. Herr J. Goebbels. Suffered polio in youth. Originally Catholic. Brilliant orator, writer,
flexible and fanatic mind, witty, urbane, cosmopolitan. Much active with ladies. Elegant. Educated.
Highly capable. Does much work; almost frenzied managerial drive. Is said never to rest.
Muchrespected personage. Can be charming, but is said to have rabid streak unmatched by other
Nazi's. Ideological orientation suggesting medieval Jesuitic viewpoint exacerbated by post-
Romantic Germanic nihilism. Considered sole authentic intellectual of the Partei. Had ambitions to
be playwright in youth. Few friends. Not liked by subordinates, but nevertheless highly polished
product of many best elements in European culture. Not self-gratification, is underlying ambition,
but power for its use purely. Organizational attitude in classic Prussian State sense.
'Herr R. Heydrich.'
The Foreign Office official paused, glanced up and around at them all. Then resumed.
'Much younger individual than above, who helped original Revolution in 1932. Career man with
elite SS. Subordinate of H. Himmler, may have played role in Himmler's not yet fully explained
death in 1948. Officially eliminated other contestants within police apparatus such as A. Eichinann,
W. Schellenberg, et al. This man said to be feared by many Partei people. Responsible for
controlling Wehrmacht elements after close of hostilities in famous clash between police and army
which led to reorganization of governmental apparatus, out of all this the NSDAP emerging victor.
Supported M. Bormann throughout. Product of elite training and yet anterior to so-called SS Castle
system. Said to be devoid of affective mentality in traditional sense. Enigmatic in terms of drive.
Possibly may be said to have view of society which holds human struggle to be series of games;
peculiar quasiscientific detachment found also in certain technological circles. Not party to
ideological disputes. Summation: can be called most modem in mentality; post-enlightenment type,
dispensing with so-called necessary illusions such as belief in God, etc. Meaning of this so-called
realistic mentality cannot be fathomed by social scientists in Tokyo, so this man must be considered
a question mark. However, notice of resemblance to deterioration of affectivity in pathological
schizophrenia should be made.'
Mr. Tagomi felt ill as he listened.
'Baldur von Schirach. Former head of Hitler Youth. Considered idealist. Personally attractive in
appearance, but considered not highly experienced or competent. Sincere believer in goals of
Partei. Took responsibility for draining Mediterranean and reclaiming of huge areas of farmland.
Also mitigated vicious policies of racial extermination in Slavic lands in early 'fifties. Pled case
directly to German people for remnant of Slavic peoples to exist on reservationlike closed regions
in Heartland area. Called for end of certain forms of mercy killings and medical experimentation,
but failed here.
'Doctor Seyss-Inquart. Former Austrian Nazi, now in charge of Reich colonial areas, responsible
for colonial policies. Possibly most hated man in Reich territory. Said to have instigated most if not
all repressive measures dealing with conquered peoples. Worked with Rosenberg for ideological
victories of most alarming grandiose type, such as attempt to sterilize entire Russian population
remaining after close of hostilities. No facts for certain on this, but considered to be one of several
responsible for decision to make holocaust of African continent thus creating genocide conditions
for Negro population. Possibly closest in temperament to original Fuhrer, A. Hitler.'
The Foreign Office spokesman ceased his dry, slow recitation.
Mr. Tagomi thought, I think I am going mad.
I have to get out of here; I am having an attack. My body is throwing up things or spurting them
out — I am dying. He scrambled to his feet, pushed down the aisle past other chairs and people. He
could hardly see. Get to lavatory. He ran up the aisle.
Several heads turned. Saw him. Humiliation. Sick at important meeting. Lost place. He ran on,
through the open door held by embassy employee.
At once the panic ceased. His gaze ceased to swim; he saw objects once more. Stable floor,
Attack of vertigo. Middle-ear malfunction, no doubt.
He thought, Diencephalon, ancient brainstem, acting up.
Some organic momentary breakdown.
Think along reassuring lines. Recall order of world. What to draw on? Religion? He thought,
Now a gavotte perform sedately. Capital both, capital both; you've caught it nicely. This is the style
of thing precisely. Small form of recognizable world, Gondoliers. G.&S. He shut his eyes, imagined
the D'Oyle Carte Company as he had seen them on their tour after the war. The finite, finite world .
An embassy employee, at his elbow, saying, 'Sir, can I give you assistance?'
Mr. Tagomi bowed, 'I am recovered.'
The other's face, calm, considerate. No derision. They are all laughing at me, possibly? Mr.
Tagomi thought. Down underneath?
There is evil! It's actual like cement.
I can't believe it. I can't stand it. Evil is not a view. He wandered about the lobby, hearing the
traffic on Sutter Street, the Foreign Office spokesman addressing the meeting. All our religion is
wrong. What'll I do? he asked himself. He went to the front door of the embassy; an employee
opened it, and Mr. Tagomi walked down the steps to the path. The parked cars. His own.
It's an ingredient in us. In the world. Poured over us, filtering into our bodies, minds, hearts, into
the pavement itself.
We're blind moles. Creeping through the soil, feeling with our snouts. We know nothing. I
perceived this . . . now I don't know where to go. Screech with fear, only. Run away.
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Laugh at me, he thought as he saw the chauffeurs regarding him as he walked to his car. Forgot
my briefcase. Left it back there, by my chair. All eyes on him as he nodded to his chauffeur. Door
held open; he crept into his car.
Take me to the hospital, he thought. No, take me back to the office. 'Nippon Times Building.' he
said aloud. 'Drive slowly.' He watched the city, the cars, stores, tall buildings, now, very modern.
People. All the men and women, going on their separate businesses.
When he reached his office he instructed Mr. Ramsey to contact one of the other Trade Missions,
the Non-Ferrous Ores Mission, and to request that their representative to the Foreign Office
meeting contact him on his return.
Shortly before noon, the call came through.
'Possibly you noticed my distress at meeting,' Mr. Tagomi said into the phone. 'It was no doubt
palpable to all, especially my hasty flight.'.
'I saw nothing,' the Non-Ferrous man said. 'But after the meeting I did not see you and wondered
what had become of you.'
'You are tactful,' Mr. Tagomi said bleakly.
'Not at all. I am sure everyone was too wrapped up in the Foreign Office lecture to pay heed to
any other consideration. As to what occurred after your departure — did you stay through the
rundown of aspirants in the power struggle? That comes first.'
'I heard to the part about Doctor Seyss-Inquart.'
'Following that, the speaker dilated on the economic situation over there. The Home Islands take
the view that Germany's scheme to reduce the populations of Europe and Northern Asia to the
status of slaves — plus murdering all intellectuals, bourgeois elements, patriotic youth and what not
— has been an economic catastrophe. Only the formidable technological achievements of German
science and industry have saved them. Miracle weapons, so to speak.'
'Yes,' Mr. Tagomi said. Seated at his desk, holding the phone with one hand, he poured himself a
cup of hot tea. 'As did their miracle weapons V-one and V-two and their jet fighters in the war.'
'It is a sleight-of-hand business,' the Non-Ferrous Ores man said. 'Mainly, their uses of atomic
energy have kept things together. And the diversion of their circus-like rocket travel to-Mars and
Venus. He pointed out that for all their thrilling import, such traffic have yielded nothing of
'But they are dramatic,' Mr. Tagomi said.
'His prognosis was gloomy. He feels that most high-placed Nazis are refusing to face facts vis-
vis their economic plight. By doing so, they accelerate the tendency toward greater tour de force
adventures, less predictability, less stability in general. The cycle of manic enthusiasm, then fear,
then Partei solutions of a desperate type — well, the point he got across was that all this tends to
bring the most irresponsible and reckless aspirants to the top.'
Mr. Tagomi nodded.
'So we must presume that the worst, rather than the best, choice will be made, The sober and
responsible elements will be defeated in the present clash.'
'Who did he say was the worst?' Mr. Tagomi said.
'R. Heydrich. Doctor Seyss-Inquart. H. Göring. In the Imperial Government's opinion.'
'And the best?'
'Possibly B. von Schirach and Doctor Goebbels. But on that he was less explicit.'
'He told us that we must have faith in the Emperor and the Cabinet at this time more than ever.
That we can look toward the Palace with confidence.'
'Was there a moment of respectful silence?'
Mr. Tagomi thanked the Non-Ferrous Ores man and rang off.
As he sat drinking his tea, the intercom buzzed. Miss Ephreikian's voice came: 'Sir, you had
wanted to send a message to the German consul.' A pause. 'Did you wish to dictate it to me at this
That is so, Mr. Tagomi realized. I had forgotten. 'Come into the office,' he said.
Presently she entered, smiling at him hopefully. 'You are feeling better, sir?'
'Yes. An injection of vitamins has helped.' He considered. 'Recall to me. What is the German
'I have that, sir. Freiherr Hugo Reiss.'
'Mein Herr,' Mr. Tagomi began. 'Shocking news has arrived that your leader, Herr Martin
Bormann, has succumbed. Tears rise to my eyes as I write these words. When I recall the bold
deeds perpetrated by Herr Bormann in securing the salvation of the German people from her
enemies both at home and abroad, as well as the soul-shaking measures of sternness meted out to
the shirkers and traitors who would betray all mankind's vision of the cosmos, into which now the
blond-haired blue-eyed Nordic races have after aeons plunged in their — ' He stopped. There was
no way to finish. Miss Ephreikian stopped her tape recorder, waiting.
'These are great times,' he said.
'Should I record that, sir? Is that the message?' Uncertainly she started up her machine.
'I was addressing you,' Mr. Tagomi said.
'Play my utterances back,' Mr. Tagomi said.
The tape transport spun. Then he heard his voice, tiny and metallic, issuing from the two-inch
speaker. '. . . perpetrated by Herr Bormann in securing the salvation. . .' He listened to the insectlike
squeak as it rambled on. Cortical flappings and scrapings, he thought.
'I have the conclusion,' he said, when the transport ceased turning. 'Determination to exhalt and
immolate themselves and so obtain a niche in history from which no life form can cast them, no
matter what may transpire.' He paused. 'We are all insects,' he said to Miss Ephreikian. 'Groping
toward something terrible or divine. Do you not agree?' He bowed. Miss Ephreikian, seated with
her tape recorder, made a slight bow back.
'Send that,' he told her. 'Sign it, et cetera. Work the sentences, if you wish, so that they will mean
something.' As she started from the office he added, 'Or so that they mean nothing. Whichever you
As she opened the office dour she glanced at him curiously.
After she had left he began work on routine matters of the day. But almost at once Mr. Ramsey
was on the intercom. 'Sir, Mr. Baynes is calling.'
Good, Mr. Tagomi thought. Now we can begin important discussion. 'Put him on,' he said,
picking up the phone.
'Mr. Tagomi,' Mr. Baynes' voice came.
'Good afternoon. Due to news of Chancellor Bormann's death I was unexpectedly out of my
office this morning. However — '
'Did Mr. Yatabe get in touch with you?'
'Not yet,' Mr. Tagomi said.
'Did you tell your staff to keep an eye open for him?' Mr. Baynes said. He sounded agitated.
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'Yes,' Mr. Tagomi said. 'They will usher him in directly he arrives.' He made a mental note to tell
Mr. Ramsey; as yet he had not gotten around to it. Are we not to begin discussions, then, until the
old gentleman puts in his appearance? He felt dismay. 'Sir,' he began. 'I am anxious to begin. Are
you about to present your injection molds to us? Although we have been in confusion today — '
'There has been a change,' Mr. Baynes said. 'We'll wait for Mr. Yatabe. You're sure he hasn't
arrived? I want you to give me your word that you'll notify me as soon as he calls you. Please exert
yourself, Mr. Tagomi.' Mr. Baynes' voice sounded strained, jerky.
'I give you my word.' Now he, too, felt agitation. The Bormann death; that had caused the
change. 'Meanwhile,' he said rapidly, 'I would enjoy your company, perhaps at lunch today. I not
having had opportunity to have my lunch, yet.' Improvising, he continued. 'Although we will wait
on specifics, perhaps we could ruminate on general world conditions, in particular — '
'No,' Mr. Baynes said.
No? Mr. Tagomi thought. 'Sir,' he said, 'I am not well today. I had a grievous incident; it was my
hope to confide it to you.'
'I'm sorry,' Mr. Baynes said. 'I'll ring you back later.' The phone clicked. He had abruptly hung
I offended him, Mr. Tagomi thought. He must have gathered correctly that I tardily failed to
inform my staff about the old gentleman. But it is a trifle; he pressed the intercom button and said,
'Mr. Ramsey, please come into my office.' I can correct that immediately. More is involved, he
decided. The Bormann death has shaken him.
A trifle — and yet indicative of my foolish and feckless attitude. Mr. Tagomi felt guilt. This is
not a good day. I should have consulted the oracle, discovered what Moment it is. I have drifted far
from the Tao; that is obvious.
Which of the sixty-four hexagrams, he wondered, am I laboring under? Opening his desk drawer
he brought out the I Ching and laid the two volumes on the desk. So much to ask the sages. So
many questions inside me which I can barely articulate. . .
When Mr. Ramsey entered the office, he had already obtained the hexagram. 'Look, Mr.
Ramsey.' He showed him the book.
The hexagram was Forty-Seven. Oppression — Exhaustion.
'A bad omen, generally,' Mr. Ramsey said. 'What is your question, sir? If I'm not offending you
'I inquired as to the Moment,' Mr. Tagomi said. 'The Moment for us all. No moving lines. A
static hexagram.' He shut the book.
At three o'clock that afternoon, Frank Frink, still waiting with his business partner for Wyndam-
Matson's decision about the money, decided to consult the oracle. How are things going to turn
out? he asked, and threw the coins.
The hexagram was Forty-seven. He obtained one moving line, Nine in the fifth place.
His nose and feet are cut off.
Oppression at the hands of the man with the purple knee bands.
Joy comes softly.
It furthers one to make offerings and libations.
For a long time — at least half an hour — he studied the line and the material connected with it,
trying to figure out what it might mean. The hexagram, and especially the moving line, disturbed
him. At last he concluded reluctantly that the money would not be forthcoming.
'You rely on that thing too much,' Ed McCarthy said.
At four o'clock, a messenger from W-M Corporation appeared and handed Frink and McCarthy a
manila envelope. When they opened it they found inside a certified check for two thousand dollars.
'So you were wrong,' McCarthy said.
Frink thought, Then the oracle must refer to some future consequence of this. That is the trouble;
later on, when it has happened, you can look back and see exactly what it meant. But now — 'We
can start setting up the shop,' McCarthy said. 'Today? Right now?' He felt weary.
'Why not? We've got our orders made out; all we have to do is stick them in the mail. The sooner
the better. And the stuff we can get locally we'll pick up ourselves.' Putting on his jacket. Ed moved
to the door of Frink's room.
They had talked Frink's landlord into renting them the basement of the building. Now it was used
for storage. Once the cartons were out, they could build their bench, put in wiring, lights, begin to
mount their motors and belts. They had drawn up sketches, specifications, parts lists. So they had
actually already begun.
We're in business, Frank Frink realized. They had even agreed on a name.
EDFRANK CUSTOM JEWELERS
'The most I can see today,' he said, 'is buying the wood for the bench, and maybe electrical parts.
But no jewelry supplies.'
They went, then, to a lumber supply yard in south San Francisco. By the end of an hour they had
'What's bothering you?' Ed McCarthy said as they entered a hardware store that dealt on a
'The money. It gets me down. To finance things that way.'
'Old W-M understands,' McCarthy said.
I know, Frink thought. That's why it gets me down. We have entered the world. We're like him.
Is that a pleasant thought?
'Don't look back,' McCarthy said. 'Look ahead. To the business.'
I am looking ahead, Frink thought. He thought of the hexagram. What offerings and libations can
I make? And — to whom?
The handsome young Japanese couple who had visited Robert Childan's store, the Kasouras,
telephoned him toward the end of the week and requested that he come to their apartment for
dinner. He had been waiting for some further word from them, and he was delighted.
A little early he shut up American Artistic Handcrafts Inc. and took a pedecab to the exclusive
district where the Kasouras lived. He knew the district, although no white people lived there. As the
pedecab carried him along the winding streets with their lawns and willow trees, Childan gazed up
at the modern apartment buildings and marveled at the grace of the designs. The wrought-iron
balconies, the soaring yet modern columns, the pastel colors, the uses of varied textures . . . it all
made up a work of art. He could remember when this had been nothing but rubble from the war.
The small Japanese children out playing watched him without comment, then returned to their
football or baseball. But, he thought, not so the adults; the well-dressed young Japanese, parking
their cars or entering the apartment buildings, noticed him with greater interest. Did he live here?
they were perhaps wondering. Young Japanese businessmen coming home from their offices. . .
even the heads of Trade Missions lived here. He noticed parked Cadillacs. As the pedecab took him
closer to his destination, he became increasingly nervous.
Very shortly, as he ascended the stairs to the Kasouras' apartment, he thought, Here I am, not
invited in a business context, but a dinner guest. He had of course taken special pains with his
attire; at least he could be confident of his appearance. My appearance, he thought. Yes, that is it.
How do I appear? There is no deceiving anyone; I do not belong here. On this land that white men
cleared and built one of their finest cities. I am an outsider in my own country.
He came to the proper door along the carpeted hall, rang the bell. Presently the door opened.
There stood young Mrs. Kasoura, in a silk kimono and obi, her long black hair in shining tangle
down her neck, smiling in welcome. Behind her in the living room, her husband, with drink in
'Mr. Childan. Enter.'
Bowing, he entered.
Tasteful in the extreme. And — so ascetic. Few pieces. A lamp here, table, bookcase, print on
the wall. The incredible Japanese sense of wabi. It could not be thought in English. The ability to
find in simple objects a beauty beyond that of the elaborate or ornate. Something to do with the
'A drink?' Mr. Kasoura asked. 'Scotch and soda?'
'Mr. Kasoura — ' he began.
'Paul,' the young Japanese said. Indicating his wife. 'Betty. And you are — '
Mr. Childan murmured, 'Robert.'
Seated on the soft carpet with their drinks, they listened to a recording of koto, Japanese thirteen-
string harp. It was newly released by Japanese HMV, and quite popular. Childan noticed that all
parts of the phonograph were concealed, even the speaker. He could not tell where the sound came
'Not knowing your appetites in dining,' Betty said, 'we have played safe. In kitchen electric oven
is broiling T-bone 'steak. Along with this, baked potato with sauce of sour cream and chives.
Maxim utters: no one can err in serving steak to new-found guest first time.'
'Very gratifying,' Childan said. 'Quite fond of steak.' And that certainly was so. He rarely had it.
The great stockyards from the Middle West did not send out much to the West Coast any more. He
could not recall when he had last had a good steak.
It was time for him to graft guest gift.
From his coat pocket he brought small tissue-paperwrapped thing. He laid it discreetly on the
low table. Both of them immediately noticed, and this required him to say, 'Bagatelle for you. To
display fragment of the relaxation and enjoyment I feel in being here.'
His hand opened the tissue paper, showing them the gift. Bit of ivory carved a century ago by
whalers from New England. Tiny ornamented art object, called a scrimshaw. Their faces
illuminated with knowledge of the scrimshaws which the old sailors had made in their spare time.
No single thing could have summed up old U.S. culture more.
'Thank you,' Paul said.
Robert Childan bowed.
There was peace, then, for a moment, in his heart. This offering, this — as the I Ching put it —
libation. It had done what needed to be done. Some of the anxiety and oppression which he had felt
lately began to lift from him.
From Ray Calvin he had received restitution for the Colt .44, plus many written assurances of no
second recurrence. And yet it had not eased his heart. Only now, in this unrelated situation, had he
for a moment lost the sense that things were in the constant process of going askew. The wabi
around him, radiations of harmony . . . that is it, he decided. The proportion. Balance. They are so
close to the Tao, these two young Japanese. That is why I reacted to them before. I sensed the Tao
through them. Saw a glimpse of it myself.
What would it be like, he wondered, to really know the Tao? The Tao is that which first lets the
light, then the dark. Occasions the interplay of the two primal forces so that there is always
renewal. It is that which keeps it all from wearing down. The universe will never be extinguished
because just when the darkness seems to have smothered all, to be truly transcendent, the new seeds
of light are reborn in the very depths. That is the Way. When the seed falls, it falls into the earth,
into the soil. And beneath, out of sight, it comes to life.
'An hors d'oeuvre,' Betty said. She knelt to hold out a plate on which lay small crackers of
cheese, et cetera. He took two gratefully.
'International news much in notice these days.' Paul said as he sipped his drink. 'While I drove
home tonight I heard direct broadcast of great pageant-like State Funeral at Munich, including rally
of fifty thousand, flags and the like. Much 'Ich hatte einen Kamerad' singing. Body now lying in
state for all faithful to view.''
'Yes, it was distressing,' Robert Childan said. 'The sudden news earlier this week.'
'Nippon Times tonight saying reliable sources declare B. von Schirach under house arrest,' Betty
said. 'By SD instruction.'
'Bad,' Paul said, shaking his head.
'No doubt the authorities desire to keep order,' Childan said. 'Von Schirach noted for hasty,
headstrong, even halfbaked actions. Much similar to R. Hess in past. Recall mad flight to England.'
'What else reported by Nippon Times?' Paul asked his wife.
'Much confusion and intriguing. Army units moving from hither to yon. Leaves canceled. Border
stations closed. Reichstag in session. Speeches by all.'
'That recalls fine speech I heard by Doctor Geobbels,' Robert Childan said. 'On radio, year or so
ago. Much witty invective. Had audience in palm of hand, as usual. Ranged throughout gamut of
emotionality. No doubt; with original Adolf Hitler out of things, Doctor Goebbels A-one Nazi
'True,' both Paul and Betty agreed, nodding.
'Doctor Goebbels also has fine children and wife,' Childan went on. 'Very high-type individuals.'
'True,' Paul and Betty agreed. 'Family man, in contrast to number of other grand moguls there,'
Paul said. 'Of questionable sexual mores.'
'I wouldn't give rumors time of day.' Childan said. 'You refer to such as E. Roehm? Ancient
history. Long since obliterated.'
'Thinking more of H. Göring,' Paul said, slowly sipping his drink and scrutinizing it. 'Tales of
Rome-like orgies of assorted fantastic variety. Causes flesh to crawl even hearing about.'
'Lies,' Childan said.
'Well, subject not worth discussing,' Betty said tactfully, with a glance at the two of them.
They had finished their drinks, and she went to refill.
'Lot of hot blood stirred up in political discussion.' Paul said. 'Everywhere you go. Essential to
'Yes,' Childan agreed. 'Calmness and order. So things return to customary stability.'
'Period after death of Leader critical in totalitarian society,' Paul said. 'Lack of tradition and
middle-class institutions combine — ' He broke off. 'Perhaps better drop politics.' He smiled. 'Like
old student days.'
Robert Childan felt his face flush, and he bent over his new drink to conceal himself from the
eyes of his host. What a dreadful beginning he had made. In a foolish and loud manner he had
argued politics; he had been rude in his disagreeing, and only the adroit tact of his host had sufficed
to save the evening. How much I have to learn, Childan thought. They're so graceful and polite.
And I — the white barbarian. It is true.
For a time he contented himself with sipping his drink and keeping on his face an artificial
expression of enjoyment. I must follow their leads entirely, he told himself. Agree always.
Yet in a panic he thought, My wits scrambled by the drink. And fatigue and nervousness. Can I
do it? I will never be invited back anyhow; it is already too late. He felt despair.
Betty, having returned from the kitchen, had once more seated herself on the carpet. How
attractive, Robert Childan thought again. The slender body. Their figures are so superior; not fat,
not bulbous. No bra or girdle needed. I must conceal my longing; that at all costs. And yet now and
then he let himself steal a glance at her. Lovely dark colors of her skin, hair, and eyes. We are half-
baked compared to them. Allowed out of the kiln before we were fully done. The old aboriginal
myth; the truth, there.
I must divert my thoughts. Find social item, anything. His eyes strayed about, seeking some
topic. The silence reigned heavily, making his tension sizzle. Unbearable. What the hell to say?
Something safe. His eyes made out a book on a low black teak cabinet.
'I see you're reading The Grasshopper Lies Heavy,' he said. 'I hear it on many lips, but pressure
of business prevents my own attention.' Rising, he went to pick it up, carefully consulting their
expressions; they seemed to acknowledge this gesture of sociality, and so he proceeded. 'A
mystery? Excuse my abysmal ignorance.' He turned the pages.
'Not a mystery,' Paul said. 'On contrary, interesting form of fiction possibly within genre of
'Oh no,' Betty disagreed. 'No science in it. Nor set in future. Science fiction deals with future, in
particular future where science has advanced over now. Book fits neither premise.'
'But,' Paul said, 'it deals with alternate present. Many well-known science fiction novels of that
sort.' To Robert he explained, 'Pardon my insistence in this, but as my wife knows, I was for a long
time a science fiction enthusiast. I began that hobby early in my life; I was merely twelve. It was
during the early days of the war.'
'I see,' Robert Childan said, with politeness.
'Care to borrow Grasshopper?' Paul asked. 'We will soon be through, no doubt within day or so.
My office being downtown not far from your esteemed store, I could happily drop it off at
lunchtime.' He was silent, and then — possibly, Childan thought, due to a signal from Betty —
continued, 'You and I, Robert, could eat lunch together, on that occasion.'
'Thank you,' Robert said. It was all he could say. Lunch, in one of the downtown businessmen's
fashionable restaurants. He and this stylish modem high-place young Japanese. It was too much; -
he felt his gaze blur. But he went on examining the book and nodding. 'Yes,' he said, 'this does look
interesting. I would very much like to read it. I try to keep up with what's being discussed.' Was
that proper to say? Admission that his interest lay in book's modishness. Perhaps that was low-
place. He did not know, and yet he felt that it was. 'One cannot judge by book being best seller,' he
said. 'We all know that. Many best sellers are terrible trash. This, however — ' He faltered.
Betty said, 'Most true. Average taste really deplorable.'
'As in music,' Paul said. 'No interest in authentic American folk jazz, as example. Robert, are you
fond of say Bunk Johnson and Kid Ory and the like? Early Dixieland jazz? I have record library of
old such music, original Genet recordings.'
Robert said, 'Afraid I know little about Negro music.' They did not look exactly pleased at his
remark. 'I prefer classical. Bach and Beethoven.' Surely that was acceptable. He felt now a bit of
resentment. Was he supposed to deny the great masters of European music, the timeless classics in
favor of New Orleans jazz from the honky-tonks and bistros of the Negro quarter?
'Perhaps if I play selection by New Orleans Rhythm Kings,' Paul began, starting from the room,
but Betty gave him a warning look. He hesitated, shrugged.
'Dinner almost ready,' she said.
Returning, Paul once more seated himself. A little sulkily, Robert thought, he murmured, 'Jazz
from New Orleans most authentic American folk music there is. Originated on this continent. All
else came from Europe, such as corny English-style lute ballads.'
'This is perpetual argument between us,' Betty said, smiling at Robert. 'I do not share his love of
Still holding the copy of The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, Robert said, 'What sort of alternate
present does this book describe?'
Betty, after a moment, said, 'One in which Germany and Japan lost the war.'
They were all silent.
'Time to eat,' Betty said, sliding to her feet. 'Please come, two hungry gentleman businessmen.'
She cajoled Robert and Paul to the dining table, already set with white tablecloth, silver, china,
huge rough napkins in what Robert recognized as Early American bone napkin rings. The silver,
too, was sterling silver American. The cups and saucers were Royal Albert, deep blue and yellow.
Very exceptional; he could not help glancing at them with professional admiration.
The plates were not American. They appeared to be Japanese; he could not tell, it being beyond
'That is Imari porcelain.' Paul said, perceiving his interest. 'From Arita. Considered a first-place
They seated themselves.
'Coffee?' Betty asked Robert.
'Yes,' he said. 'Thanks.'
'Toward end of meal,' she said, going to get the serving cart.
Soon they were all eating. Robert found the meal delicious. She was quite an exceptional cook.
The salad in particular pleased him. Avocados, artichoke heart, some kind of blue cheese dressing .
. . thank God they had not presented him with a Japanese meal, the dishes of mixed greens and
meats of which he had eaten so much since the war.
And the unending seafoods. He had gotten so that he could no longer abide shrimp or any other
'I would like to know,' Robert said, 'what he supposes it would be like in world where Germany
and Japan lost the war.'
Neither Paul nor Betty answered for a time. Then Paul said at last, 'Very complicated
differences. Better to read the book. It would spoil it for you, possibly, to hear.'
Documents you may be interested
Documents you may be interested