Intermezzo, part three
Reina had mentioned something about Grandfather's Kabuki troupe the last time we spoke, and to be honest, I think it's a great idea. So does Grandfather when I ask him about it.
"So, you want to try your skill at Kabuki, do you? Well, we can always use another geisha in the chorus."
I blink. This isn't quite all that I'd hoped for. "Uh... no lines?"
He gives me a look. "Shun-chan... we've been doing this particular play for several weeks already. All the speaking parts are cast, naturally. And while you look much more the part of Sakurahime than my old friend Shimobayashi," and here I wince at the very thought of old Mr. Shimobayashi as an onnagata, "he is my old friend, after all, and he does know the part backwards and forwards. And yes, he even looks the part, once he's in makeup and costume." I think Grandfather is trying to emphasize this... it's not like I'm keeping my disbelief a secret.
"Shun-chan... you know how it is." His smile is warm, his tone placating. "You've got to start at the bottom sometimes. Think of it as pantomime."
And he's not kidding about the pantomime bit. I'll bet Marcel Marceau never had to wear this much makeup all at once. It feels like a mask glued to your face. It's very uncomfortable, and I've worn pancake enough times to be able to say that. I'd really like to think that you don't have to slather it on this thick for television or movie acting.
It's no wonder that even old Mr. Shimobayashi can pass himself off in the role, though. Between all the makeup and the elaborate costumes, anyone can be anyone. Put him and Grandfather and I in the right amount of this stuff, and you wouldn't be able to tell us apart from looking at us. Of course, I'm told some of you gaijin seem to have trouble telling us apart as it is...
Once onstage, it's all I can do to keep from cracking up. It's not enough that our faces are painted to the point of looking like Pierrots in kimonos, the grimaces that go along with each line... I tell ya! Eyes crossed and rolling, mouths twisted into pretzels... you know, the real acting job, for me, is keeping a straight face at all the carryings on. I suppose I really should be prouder of my country's theatrical heritage, but after all my studies in Western drama, this looks rather odd in comparison. I notice that my peers evidently agree with me - there isn't a one in the audience. I think I'm the youngest person here by maybe twenty years.
I'll be honest with you, though... this is not the sort of acting gig I want to make a career out of. Or have you figured that out by now? Actually, I suppose once I got past the makeup, the costumes, the all-male cast (well, that's not so bad; I know I'd never be hurting for parts) and the fact that everyone on the stage and in the audience is at least thirty years older than me, I suppose I could live with it. As a last resort.
Once the performance is over, all I do is change kimonos. This one, for working at the ryokan. On my way to the front, I run into Reina in our section of the ryokan. I half-expect to find him in leather chaps and a ten-gallon hat, swaggering bowlegged off to his room. Thankfully, that's not the case. Leather, yes; chaps, no. A black leather jacket over a plain white tee-shirt and black jeans. He's got his hair slicked back in a... what's that style called? A DA?
Anyway, he's definately got the James Dean look down... right down to the...!
He looks up at me. "Onii-sama?"
I reach over and take the cigarette dangling from his lips (still unlit, thankfully) and break it between my fingers with a muffled snap. "Y'know, women get an extra ten years on us as it is. Why make a bad situation worse, hmm?
"Not only that, but you ought to be relieved that Im the one that caught you with that thing. You know Mom and Dad would freak if they saw you smoking."
He blinks, and his eyes open wide. I take back what I said about having the complete James Dean look; those puppy-dog eyes don't fit.
"Your point being?" On the other hand, he's got the attitude down pretty well.
I close my eyes and sigh. Well, if he really wants to shock the folks, that's his prerogative.
And then I hear the bell from the front. We've got company. "Look, Reina... we'll talk about this later. Right now, I've got work to do, okay?" He smirks, pleased that he's off for the day. Kami knows Mom and Dad would never let him work in that getup. Still...
"By the way... nice jacket, ototo-chan..."
He smiles, and continues on to his room.
"Welcome to the Kisaragi Ryokan. My name is Shun, and I'm your... hostess." As much as I kid Mitsuru-sempai about hesitating to refer to me with a feminine pronoun around Suka-chan, calling myself a 'hostess' has always been a difficult thing for me. The word has other, less savory, connotations than the one I'm trying to use, after all. This may not be Tokyo, but we've got hostess bars here in Shizuoka, too.
Let's just hope this gaijin family doesn't make that connection. I size them up. The parents look to be in their mid-forties, and happily married. I doubt they're here for the hostess bars. Meanwhile, the boy with them has got to be my age if he's a day. Probably older, in fact... and damn if he's not sizing me up in turn!
The husband returns my bow. "Hajimemashite. O'Fallon Michael desu." His Japanese has an English accent to it, and a bit of a drawl. They're Australians, I suspect. Anyway, he seems to know his way around the culture a bit. Well, after all... he's staying at a ryokan rather than the Hilton, ne?
I smile, and take several of the bags. "This way, please," and I lead them to their rooms. It's something I've been doing for years, but for whatever reason, I feel a bit queasy this time around. Maybe I should have asked to rest awhile after getting back from the theatre - maybe those hot lights took more out of me than I thought.
Once at Mr. & Mrs. O'Fallon's room, I point out where the futon, the slippers and yukatas are stored and leave them to their own devices. "Your room is right next door, uh..."
"Call me Jim." He looks like Shinobu-sempai when he smiles, except his smile is large and toothy. Come to think of it, that's not how sempai smiles at all. What is it that reminds me of him?
"All right, Jim-san..." and I lead him to his room.
"Just 'Jim,' please. Arigato, Shun-chan." I'm hoping that he's being too familiar simply because he doesn't understand Japanese well enough to use the right honorific.
I'm wrong. There's suddenly a hand on my shoulder. "You know, you're very pretty. Is there somewhere we could go for tea once you... get off?"
I peel his hand from my shoulder, and turn to face him. "Jim-san..."
"Ah-ah-ah. Just 'Jim.'"
I ignore him. This is no time to be casual. "Jim-san, I'm sure you're a very nice young man, but I don't ever..." yes, I have to pause here, too, "get off work here. This is my family's ryokan, so I --"
"Live here?" His eyes light up. "Even better. Maybe some time this week you can show me around. Maybe you could even show me your room."
He is my guest, I am his host. Hostess... whatever. I can't slap him. Not yet, anyway. At least I can turn my back on him. "You know where everything is, Jim-san. Enjoy your stay..." And I try to walk out.
"Wait, Miss Kisaragi!" Oh, now he's going to be formal, is he? I stop, but I don't turn around.
"What is it?"
There's that hand on my shoulder again. Forget what I said about formal. And the other hand is on my hip, now! "Could you help me set up my futon?" He begins rubbing my shoulder, while his other hand slips down to my crotch. That DOES it!
I turn to swing at him... and miss completely. He's not where I expected him to be; he's backed up about five feet away from me in a matter of a split second, and is staring at me in horror. "Y-y-y-y-you're... a..."
I put my hands on my hips and glare at him. "Go on, say it. I'm a guy. You satisfied, now?"
There's not much else I can do but spin on my heel and stalk out. I hope he doesn't tell his parents about this. Then again, would he tell him how he found out? I almost snicker.
You know, I'm actually starting to miss Ryokuto.
And not to worry, folks... We'll be getting back to the academy with the next installment. By the way, I should apologize for these things taking so long. Things are busy at the Ucchan these days (but whose life isn't busy, ne?), and I'm starting to run out of background. I've acquired most of the Koko wa Greenwood manga from various places, but I can't really read it, so while I'd like to put some manga episodes into this (with EP's particular spin put on it, obviously), I can't always tell what's going on. If anyone can direct me to some good translations, I'd really be quite grateful.
Oh, and it may be quite some time before we get to Igarashi Miya, after all. She doesn't show up until volume 8 of the manga, and believe it or not, I'm still (for the most part) only on volume 1 yet.
By the way, sorry about that fellow Jim. I meant no slur on Australians (slight grovelling toward Skuld-sama and Kun-chan) aside from the fact that I suspect they be most likely to 'go native' in Japan. Relative proximity breeds familiarity, the way I figure it. And maybe I shouldn't have written this so soon after watching "Cruel Intentions"... although Jim's even less subtle than that creep Sebastian. Now there's a movie worth fusing into a fanfic - Shampoo as Katherine, Mousse as Sebastian, and Akane as Celia. Granted, you'd have to tweak the story to fit the characterizations, but still... can'tcha just see it?
Anyway, that's all in terms of a status report. Until next time, ja!
Disclaimer: Koko wa Greenwood is the creation of Yukie Nasu, and all characters and situations therein are the property of her and Hakusensha Inc., Victor Entertainment, and the Pierrot Project. No infringement is intended.