To: Newsletter
From: "Peter M. Rivard"
Subject: Who's a clever boy?


Hi, all,

      Greetings from the least-coordinated English teacher in Takefu (with all due respect to the colleague who received a concussion while being congratulated for winning a softball game, he was quite drunk at the time and so is disqualified from the present competition). I had a bad night last night. First, I washed my tub and bathroom. Then, while showering, I made a third or fourth unsuccessful attempt to remove a mixture of sunblock, sweat, and very fine volcanic dust from a relatively new and extremely comfortable shirt. Finally, my tasks for the evening mostly done, I prepared to put my incompletely cleaned shirt through one last cycle in my ineffectual washing machine before giving up on it. I brought my bottle of detergent, the top still off, out of the shower and settled it by the washer. However, as I passed my entryway (genkan, for those of you who've been here), I saw movement. A roach? (It's never a roach, but that remains my undying fear.) Some other thing with too many legs that followed me in an hour ago? Ah! (Bending over) It's just a grasshopper. (Squatting) I can get that easily. (Did my butt just brush against something?) There you go--you won't be jumping into my bed at two this morning. But what is that wet feeling against my foot? Of course, I'd bumped the bottle with my bottom, and now the little rug outside my bathroom and a big area of my mockwood floor were slowly succumbing to a sticky blue puddle. To fast forward, I found myself at the end of an overly-involved cleaning, compounded by an apartment too small to move around in and without space to put the things that had to be moved from their normal spaces and by the unwillingness of laundry detergent to be removed from solid surfaces. Finally, I had removed most of the mess and rinsed the rest into the concrete area of lowered floor just in front of my door. Joy of joys, I of course spilled a lot of water onto the just-dried floor while doing this, vastly improving my mood, but even this was survived, and finally I poured one last tub of water onto the concrete, opened the door, and flushed my troubles out into the night. Or so one would think. An open door, anyone will tell you, is an invitation to one who would accept it, and the one who accepted was a large black wasp. Still squatting perched on the edge of the wood floor above the concrete part, leaning awkwardly outward, I pushed the door open again with the plastic tub and gave one heroic swipe to urge the beast back out into the darkness. Balance failed me: I lurched toward the door; then pushing against it with the tub, I tumbled back into my own habitat. Flailing with the tub to support myself against the cupboard by the door, I instead shattered it under my momentum, and my hand went straight through to the cupboard, catching it by the thumb only. This did not, oh, my friends, it could not stop the fall of my body, and I hit the bathroom door with my shoulder. From inside, I heard a loud crash, and then another, and then a series, almost like a rain, of smaller impacts.
      The damage done (apologies to Neil Young): the thumb, in pulling away from its appointed place, transmuted some of my momentum into a lot of pain, and the shoulder and the bathroom door absorbed the rest--surprisingly painlessly, I might add. It was, rather, the bathroom that suffered. My bathroom consists of one giant molded piece of fiberglass--I kid you not. The doorframe took my momentum and distributed it all around the bathroom, which of course deformed considerably before bouncing back into shape. The cover to the ventilation fan shot off, the suction cups holding up two shelves and a towel rack released, the hatchway to the electrical/mechanical connections above the ceiling fell in, and through the hatch great and small clots of insulation, sheetrock, and sprayed concrete pelted and dusted every surface in the room. Other than my thumb, though, the damage was easily fixed--the cover and the hatch both fit back into place, and the debris on the floor and in the tub mostly flushed down the floor drain without further resisting me. So far, the plumbing seems to work well. The thumb, not so well.
      At least I can sleep in a bit tomorrow. Go-chu just called to tell me that they are cancelling the first two periods and starting at 10 tomorrow because of the expected typhoon (the logic of this escapes me, as I can't imagine that predictions are so precise as to know that in exactly this place conditions will be better at ten than at eight, but I didn't argue). Mrs. Sugimoto also asked me to bring my paper hamburgers, chickenburgers, and cokes, so I know I'll be playing "Hamburger Shop" with the innumerate first years--always fun, and easy for me (my English being already quite strong).

O genki de ("Be well"; and I urge this for myself as well as for others)

Peter

PS--Only you "Heloise"-types need read any further. Suggestions are requested for removing not only the aforementioned volcanic dust, sweat, and sunblock mixture from a shirt, but also an iridescent green (from some sort of algae growing in a volcanic hot spring) from a pair of dark pants, and a brown stain composed of algae, mud, and various minerals (also from the hot springs) from a pair of underwear. The pants and shirt are some sort of teflonized microfiber nylon, and the underpants are, I think, polypropylene mesh. Laundry detergent, spot remover, and even the stuff I used to clean soap scum off my bathtub have not worked. For anything that doesn't involve volcanic dust or hot springs, I heartily recommend the new wonder nylons (Nycott, Supplex, etc.), by the way--feather light, comfortable, breathable (like walking around naked), and so far indestructible. They've easily shed regular dirt, sweat, and stains in hotel sinks and dried out in a few hours. Hence my strong desire to save them.

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