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In the opening chapter of Blinded by the Night, as Toyoda returns to the pub, he is greeted by the sight of a foreigner’s bare buttocks. The practice of dropping one’s pants, bending over and displaying one’s buttocks is called mooning.

In some cultures, mooning is a form of protest, contempt, or irritation; in others it is used to shock or amuse. Although mooning is usually considered impolite and offensive, it is practiced by a wide range of people from all sorts of backgrounds in different parts of the world.

There are numerous mentions of mooning throughout history. In 1346, during the Hundred Years War, hundreds of French soldiers mooned the English army at the Battle of Caen. This was a painful mistake for many of them because the English archers were armed with very powerful and accurate longbows, and they seized the opportunity for a free shot at the French buttocks.

Mooning was first recorded in North America in around 1524, when the Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano and his crew were mooned by Native Americans of the Abenaki tribe along the coast of Maine . Verrazzano was astonished by the “barbarous” behavior of the natives and called the state of Maine “onde la male gente” (land of the bad people). The Abenaki, however, had previous contact with Europeans and did not think very highly of them. Mooning Verrazzano and his crew was the Abenaki’s unequivocal way of telling the Europeans exactly what they thought of them.

According to legend, in 1534 the city of Nice in southern France was saved from the Turkish invaders by a local washerwoman, Catherine Ségurane, who mooned them from the walls of the city. Although there is no evidence to support this legend, the people of Nice celebrate Catherine Ségurane Day annually on November 25.

Members of the British royal family have been victims of mooning incidents in recent years. Queen Elizabeth II was mooned by a Maori while on a visit to New Zealand. Tame Iti, a Maori activist and serial mooner, claimed that mooning was a traditional Maori form of protest and not indecent exposure. And in 2000 an event called the Moon against the Monarchy took place outside Buckingham Palace in London. A large group of people gathered to protest against the Royal Family by mooning the palace, and some of them were arrested for doing so.

In the United States there is even an annual event to celebrate the practice of mooning. The Annual Mooning of Amtrak is now in its 28th year. The event started in 1979, when a man called K. T. Smith, who was drinking in The Mugs Away Saloon, offered to buy a drink for anyone who mooned the next train. What probably started out as a joke for a few fellow drinkers has turned into a carnival with thousands of participants each year.

Mooning has frequently featured in movies and television series. Marlon Brando in Last Tango in Paris responded to being kicked out of a dance hall by mooning the patrons. In the movie Braveheart, the Scottish army mooned the English just before the start of a battle. And two of televisions biggest stars, Homer and Bart Simpson, are enthusiastic mooners.

Sportsmen are also partial to the practice of mooning. The most famous mooning incident is English football occurred in the 1979 FA Cup semi-final, when Arsenal’s Sammy Nelson mooned the crowd to celebrate scoring a goal for both teams in the 1-1 draw. Mooning is often part of the after-the-game celebrations for American football or rugby teams. Rugby players usually accompany their mooning sessions with rousing choruses of obscene songs.

Rock stars—many of whom have behavioral problems—are also known for their mooning stunts. Ozzy Obsourne of Black Sabbath mooned the audience at the UK Music Hall of Fame ceremony in November 2005. The audience responded by giving him a standing ovation.

Although there are no gender prohibitions for mooning, it is usually practiced by men, and more often than not, drunken men. It can be fun, but it can get a person into trouble if practiced at the wrong time or place. Ken Mitsuda of the popular Japanese comedy duo “Tommys” was questioned by the police and severely warned by the Chinese authorities for mooning a group of tourists at a Buddhist temple on Hainan Island in China. He was obliged to write a letter of apology before being allowed to return to Japan.

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Party Tricks

The President lay on the king-sized bed staring at the ceiling. The first two days of his state visit to Japan had been a nightmare.

Somebody must have slipped something into my drink, he thought as he lay there struggling to cling on to his sanity, surely I must be imagining this bizarre chain of events. It can’t be real.

There was a knock at the door. The President looked around to see where the sound had come from. The knock came again, a little louder this time; then a voice called out: “Mr. President are you OK?”

“Fuck off!” screamed the President.

There was a moment’s silence, then again the voice: “It’s me, Mr. President, the Secretary of State. Can I come in?”

The President hauled himself off the bed and plodded over to the door. He hesitated a moment, then opened it to let the Secretary of State enter.

“You look tired, Mr. President, why don’t you lie down,” said the Secretary of State.

“I was lying down,” said the President, “until you started banging on my door. What’s up now?”

“I’ve just been speaking to the ambassador about tomorrow’s schedule. He suggests a breakfast meeting with the Prime Minister to discuss the balance of trade.”

The President looked incredulously at the Secretary of State and said, “Discuss the balance of trade at breakfast with the Prime Minister? The last time I had a meal with him, and that was dinner this evening, in case you don’t remember, it was like the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party!”

“Yes,” said the Secretary of State, “the Prime Minister is quite a character!”

“Quite a character?” said the President, “You can say that again without any fear of hyperbole! “

The Secretary of State was just about to repeat the statement when the President stopped him. “His tailor must be quite a character, too!  I couldn’t believe my eyes when he walked in wearing that red coat with the silk collar and black satin breeches with the matching stockings and patent leather pumps. I was so transfixed on his lower attire that it was a good few minutes before I noticed his white butterfly tie and white gloves. He looked as if he were off for a night in the Moulin Rouge in nineteenth century Paris rather than a formal dinner in the twenty-first with the most powerful leader on earth.”

“Yes,” said the Secretary of State, “his sense of dress code is rather idiosyncratic.”

“More like idiotic than idiosyncratic!” shouted the President. “If my tailor decked me out like that I’d send him to Texas for a lethal injection.”

“Well, you know that he’s a fan of Le Petomane, don’t you?” asked the Secretary of State.

“No, I fucking don’t!” snapped the President. “I’ve never heard of the Pederast or whoever he is!”

“Le Petomane was one of the great vaudeville entertainers in Paris at the fin de siecle. He used to play to packed houses every night at the Moulin Rouge. Even members of the complex mix of European royal families turned up to see him. Apparently his live shows were so explosive that women frequently fainted from laughing fits—they wore tight corsets in those days—and one man is rumored to have died of a heart attack brought on by laughing so much.”

“What was his party trick?” asked the President. “Did he dress up like a transvestite and tell heterosexual jokes?”

“No,” said the Secretary of State, “he farted?’

The President sat down slowly and stared at the Secretary of State. “Did you say he farted?” he asked.

The Secretary of State nodded. “Yes Le Petomane was not his real name. That was Joseph Pujol. Petomane is French for fartiste. You see, he was what we could call anal ventriloquist.”

The President shook his head and looked blankly out of the window at the neon Tokyo skyline. He jumped and looked around when the he heard the Secretary of State start speaking again.

“According to the ambassador,” said the Secretary of State, “the Prime Minister is an anal ventriloquist with an awesome repertoire. “In fact,” he continued, “the ambassador was telling me of an official reception he attended at which the Prime Minister unveiled his talent.”

“I have also experienced the Prime Ministers party tricks,” growled the President, “and that was just yesterday.”

The Secretary of State ignored the Presidents ire and continued, “The ambassador said that he can produce an amazing range of sounds through his rectum. He can quack like a duck, bark like a dog, meow like a cat, neigh like a horse….”

“And he can fart like a horse, too,” interjected the President. “Pass me that bottle of valium. I had better get to sleep before I go mad.”

The Secretary of State handed him the bottle and then looked on in amazement as the President gulped down a dozen tablets.

“And as for the fucking ambassador,” said the President, “where the hell did he come from? Which nincompoop had a lapse of sanity long enough to appoint him?”

The Secretary of State coughed. “Eh, you did, Mr. President.”

“Me?” screamed the President, jumping up too quickly for a man who had just taken an overdose of tranquilizers. “What was I doing at the time, sniffing glue?”

“Not as far as I could see,” said the Secretary of State. “In fact, I clearly remember you telling me that you thought the ambassador was a genius.”

“Well,” said the President, “there must be some truth in the maxim that there is a thin line between brilliance and madness. You weren’t in the car with him yesterday on the way in from the airport. I was! The buffoon never stopped talking about his birthday presents. He even had a catalog with him and he asked my opinion on what present he should choose.”

“Mind you,” said the President, struggling to keep his eyes open, “it is probably just as well he waffled on about his birthday presents because it distracted my attention from his necktie, which was one of the most ridiculous neckties I have ever seen in my life. And believe me, I have seen quite a few ridiculous neckties in my life. In fact, when I was young, spotting ridiculous neckties was one of my hobbies.

The Secretary of State raised his eyebrows and looked hard at the President, who was starting to lapse into sleep. It must he the medication, he thought, he doesn’t normally talk like this.

“By the way,” said the President, squinting at the Secretary of State’s purple and pink necktie, “where on earth did you get that necktie? I’ve been meaning to ask all day.”

The Secretary of State turned crimson and nervously fingered his necktie. “It was a present,” he answered.

“You are not a poof, are you” asked the President.

“Good Lord, no.” said the Secretary of State.

“Well, whoever gave you that necktie obviously thinks you are,” said the President, and then he fell asleep.

© Charles R. Pringle 2007

All rights reserved

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“Who the hell does that fucking left-winger think she is?” said the prime minister, as he slumped into an armchair. “The trouble with these commies,” he continued, raising his right buttock off the chair to cut loose with a rasping fart,” is that they are all wind and no substance.”

“I hope that was only wind,” whispered Takeuchi, the prime minister’s private secretary, to a young colleague. “The last time he followed through with the substance, I had to take his pants to the cleaners.”

The prime minister settled back in his seat. “Who’s ever heard of a prime minister having to apologize for making a little joke?” he growled. “That’s the trouble with people today. No fucking sense of humor. Political correctness is a load of shite! Besides, it’s true. The horse did get an erection as she walked past. Millions of people saw it on television. And the horse had to be withdrawn from the race.”

“That the horse was withdrawn from the race,” said Takeuchi, “is beyond dispute, Prime Minister, but I don’t recall noticing that it had an erection.”

“I noticed it,” snapped the prime minister.

“Unfortunately, the video recording does not show the horse in a state of arousal,” responded Takeuchi.

“Videos can be doctored,” snarled the prime minister, his eyes practically on fire.

“But, Prime Minister,” said Takeuchi, “I was sitting next to you when the race came on TV. In fact, you even told me that you had word from a good source that the horse was going to win the race and that you had placed a bet on it. Besides, the horse was withdrawn from the race before the leader of the opposition walked past. And the official statement from the race track puts the withdrawal down to a leg injury.”

“Bollocks!” screamed the prime minister. “It was that frigging mini skirt that got the horse withdrawn. “Why, even Nancy practically got a hard on when she walked past—and he’s a puff!”

Takeuchi sighed. He knew that it was pointless to argue with the prime minister; so decided to get on with the business. “We have to resolve the situation with the female opposition member of parliament before it gets out of hand.”

“Bullshit!” growled the Prime Minister. “The woman must be an absolute fool if she thinks that she can take legal action against me unless I apologize publicly for making a little joke? He eased himself up and again farted violently. “She’ll have to prove that I said it.”

“But you did say it at the press conference,” said Takeuchi.

“I was speaking off the record, so those bastards had no right to quote me.”

“But, Prime Minister,” said Takeuchi, “I’ve told you many times that if you speak off the record, you should make it very clear in advance. It’s no good saying it after you are quoted in the newspapers.”

“She shouldn’t be in politics if she can’t take a joke,” responded the Prime Minister. “And if she doesn’t like jokes, she shouldn’t have joined a party which is the laughing stock of the whole country. Socialism went out of style with the ridiculous mini skirt she wears—and that was twenty-five years ago.” He let go with another explosive fart.

“In any case, Prime Minister,” said Takeuchi, “I recommend that you be careful about what you say from now on.”

“Balls,” screamed the Prime Minister. “I’m the Prime Minister, so I can say any fucking thing I want to.”

“There is also the comment you made about her breasts. That got on the front pages, too.”

“I only said that they were great, pendulous things, and it’s true. They are huge. I wouldn’t mind if someone said that I had a whopping chopper. In fact, I would be very pleased. Nobody’s ever said it though. I’m not like Setoyama. People say that to him all the time, and they are not kidding. He’s got an incredible dick. Have you seen it?”

Takeuchi, who was a bureaucrat not a politician, did not answer, instead he changed the subject.

“I hate to bring this up, Prime Minister, but the opposition have called for a session of the Diet tomorrow to discuss the Jusen business. I think we should have a cabinet meeting to plan our strategy for this business.

The Prime Minister glared at Takeuchi. “It’s that bloody woman again,” he snarled. “First she accuses me of sexual harassment, then she implies that I’ve been taking bribes.”

“I think you are overreacting, Prime Minister,” said Takeuchi. “She didn’t accuse you of taking bribes, at least not directly.”

“Like hell she didn’t. She said that there were certain member of the Diet guilty of taking kickbacks from big business, especially the construction industry. Then she asked me if I were happy in my new house.  If that is not an underhand accusation, I don’t know what is. Everybody knows that my new house was not a bribe, it was a birthday present from one of my best friends.”

“Who just happens to be the president of one of the largest construction companies in Japan,” said Takeuchi. “And one week after your birthday his company was awarded the contract to build the new government training center.”

“Whose fucking side are you on,” asked the Prime Minister, “mine or hers?”

“Yours, of course, Prime Minister.”

“You didn’t hear me threaten to sue her for her accusations, did you?”

“No, I didn’t,” said Takeuchi. “But I heard you call her a horse-faced lesbian with a dick for a tongue. So did about five hundred others who were present in the Diet this morning.”

“Well, she is a lesbian. Everybody knows that.”

“I understand you logic, Prime Minister, but just because she is forty-eight years old and still single doesn’t mean that she’s a lesbian. Besides, last week you said that she had serviced the entire shadow cabinet after their Christmas party. There seems to be a contradiction there somewhere.”

The Prime Minister farted aggressively. “By the way, have you made reservations for the Yanagi tonight? I’m having a drink with Setoyama and Nancy.”

“Yes,” sighed Takeuchi. “I confirmed the reservation this morning. Would you like me to arrange for your driver to collect you when you are ready to go?” He got no answer, so he turned around. The prime minister was fast asleep.

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Chapter 3—Hair, There, and Everywhere

[This story is serialized so if you wish to read the chapters in order, please go to the categories: humour, nonsense, books, characters or Japan.]

By the time the elevator arrived at the fifteenth floor Mr. Horie was practically ecstatic. A quick telephone call to the company president was all it had taken to organize an impromptu meeting of all company executives and senior managers. Now they were all shuffling along to the executive board room, and he, Kenji Horie, was practically guaranteed a speedy promotion into an executive position.

In the executive directors’ room, Horie quickly introduced Yasuda and briefly told all present that their guest had a proposal that would rejuvenate the company. Everybody bowed. Yasuda flashed a blinding smile, swept a long strand of hair around his head and strode over to the table. He placed his briefcase on the table and stepped back. All eyes went to the case.

Yasuda’s smile took on a slight sleazy tone as he stepped up to the table,  opened the case, and threw a hairball into the middle of the table. The clock struck eleven. Every single man around the table stretched forward to get a closer look at the hairball. They all shot back in their seats when Yasuda started speaking.

“The merkin,” said Yasuda, pointing to the hairball, “has been stashed away in museum basements for too long. It’s time to bring it out of the dark and dank storerooms of history and put it where it belongs.” He paused and took a long swig of water. All eyes went back to the hairball. “And the merkin,” he continued, “belongs in the pants of every young woman in this country!”

Ono almost choked as he tried to stifle his laughter.

Horie thought he was hallucinating. I must be hearing things, he thought. What the hell is he talking about? He started to sweat. He noticed that Ono, who was standing by the door, was smirking. That bastard, he thought, he’s set me up. I’m in the shit. What the hell is this fucking madman going to say next? When Yasuda did start speaking again, Horie almost started crying.

“In Renaissance Italy merkins were extremely popular.” Yasuda’s voice sounded to Horie as if it were amplified. “In fact, they were the best selling fashion accessory throughout the 15th and 16th centuries.” Again Yasuda took a drink of water. “For practically two hundred years merkins were flying off the shelves. Merkin designers, developers and merchants were superstars of the era. They were some of the richest men in the world.”

Horie sneaked a glance at the company president. His face was blank, as was the face of every other director present. But Horie knew that behind the masks, they were all as confused as he was.

“The rebirth of the merkin should start here, in Japan,” said Yasuda. “Women today are more hygienic than they were in the seventeenth century.” He chuckled. “In those days the women had crabs here,” he said, vigorously scratching his crotch.

Horie amost fainted.

“They had crabs there,” continued Yasuda as he raised his left arm above his head and scratched under the armpit. “In fact,” he continued, “the dirty buggers had crabs everywhere.” He scratched his head with both hands, moved on to both armpits, and he finished off on his crotch. The directors, mouths hanging open, stared at Yasuda in disbelief at what they were witnessing.

Then the president coughed and looked at Horie, who followed the president’s eyes to the furry object and then on to Yasuda. He knew what was expected, and there was no way he could avoid it.

“You say it’s called a merkin,” said Horie.

Yasuda turned slowly to where the question had come from. He placed his hands on his hips and inhaled deeply, inflating himself like a poisonous blowfish. Ono felt like dancing. Horie was about to get a kick in the teeth and he, Ono, although vicariously, was about to deliver it.

“Of course it’s a merkin,” said Yasuda. “What does it look like? A fur frigging hat?

Horie almost choked. Around the table mouths dropped even further and expressions of shock and horror replaced those of astonishment.

“Er, no,” said Horie. “But what exactly is a merkin used for?”

The tension in the room started to rise as Yasuda focused on Horie. “A merkin,” he said at last, “is a pubic wig. What do you think it’s used for? Wiping your sweaty brow?” He took a handkerchief from his pocket and threw it at Horie. “That’s for wiping your brow.”

Instinctively, Horie took the handkerchief, wiped his brow and then continued. “I’ve never heard of a merkin before. Why would anyone want a pubic wig?”

“You’ve never heard of a merkin?” Yasuda was incredulous. “That’s why this company is going down the drain. If I were your boss, I would grab you by the short and curlies and drag you around the room until you wished you were wearing a merkin!” He clenched his fist at crotch height in Horie’s direction and skipped backwards miming the scene he had just described.

“The merkin,” said Yasuda as he leered at the young lady serving green tea, “enables even the most hirsute females to shave their private parts and maintain a canopy of modesty at the same time.” The young lady almost dropped the teapot. Yasuda continued. “Hairs can get stuck in your teeth. I’m sure you’ve all suffered this embarrassment before. But if there are no hairs around the object of attention, you eliminate the problem of having to dental floss a short and curly out of your teeth.”

The young lady turned quickly and hastily left the room. Yasuda paused while his greedy eyes followed her legs out of the room.

The company president coughed to attract Yasuda’s attention. “Mr. Horie is a little old fashioned,” he said. “Why don’t you explain the ….. er ….. merkin to him?”

Three minutes later, Yasuda’s laptop was set up and he was ready to begin his presentation. “The merkin,” he said enthusiastically, “was invented in Egypt toward the end of the Third Dynasty.” With a click of the mouse 2600 BC appeared on the screen.

“Merkins were first used by the pharaohs but eventually the custom was taken up by all well-born Egyptians. They achieved the highest popularity during the Twenty-first Dynasty, which was about 1000 BC.” Another mouse click produced a time-flow chart of Ancient Egypt.

“In fact,” said Yasuda, as he fished around in his briefcase, “this belonged to the royal lady Istemerken, wife of the High Priest Merkhenperre.” He threw a sorry-looking piece of matted fur onto the table. “It’s almost three thousand years old.”

One of the executives leant forward until he almost touched it with his nose. His nostrils flared and the pupils of his eyes seemed to dilate before he pulled back in horror.

“Merkins were popular in Persia by the middle of the 10th century BC. We know this from the works of Xenophon, the Greek writer, who described the shock he received the first time he saw one. He was in a brothel in Ecbatana, the capital of Media in Persia, where he was guest of Cyrus II, who was also called Cyrus the Great. After the gentlemen had consumed a great deal of wine, the dancing girls came in. Xenophon stood up to relieve himself but stumbled and as he fell he grabbed at one of the girls. Her merkin came off in his hand, and he fainted with shock. When he came to, he was still holding the merkin. The other guests were howling with laughter and Cyrus explained what had happened.

Greece 401 bc appeared on the screen and Yasuda continued. It wasn’t long after Xenophon arrived back from Persia that the merkin took off in Greece. Practically everyone wore a merkin. If you don’t believe me, take a good look at the genitals next time you see a Greek statue. There’s not a single pubic hair on any Greek statue. If that isn’t proof, then I don’t know what is.

The company president nodded in agreement with Yasuda and the other executives followed suit.

“Of course,” continued Yasuda, “the Spartans didn’t wear merkins, and we all know what happened to them, don’t we?” Everybody nodded. “They literally buggered themselves out of history. Spartan pederasty was legendary throughout the ancient world. It is a well-known fact that in all their battles, the Spartans never once managed to take any male prisoners. Their enemies all fought to the death. Mind you, we can’t blame them, can we?” Everybody shook their heads.

A crude image of a man bent over a table with a dozen men lined up behind him appeared on the screen. “That’s what would have happened to anyone foolish enough to let himself be captured by the Spartans. And they didn’t have Vaseline in those days!”

One of the executives winced, another turned crimson.

“The Romans conquered Greece in 146 bc and one of the first things they did was to start wearing merkins. In fact the Romans took the merkin to a new level,” continued Yasuda. “Messalina, the nymphomaniac wife of the Emperor Claudius, was known to have a whole wardrobe of merkins. She liked natural hair, and had pubic hair imported from all the fringes of the empire. She had black merkins made with hair shipped from India, flaxen and red haired merkins from Germany, as well as fair hair from Gaul. She was reported to have been meticulous in her selection when she went on her romps in brothels: one day she would pose as an Indian princess, the next as a slave from Germany.”

By now Horie was convinced that he had gone mad or had fallen asleep and was in the middle of a bizarre nightmare. He took his pen out of his pocked and stabbed himself in the leg. His scream distracted everyone temporarily; then they all focused their attention back on Yasuda.

“The Romans,” said Yasuda, “were notoriously cruel. But they were also ingenious, especially when it came to inventing excruciating punishments. And there was no Roman emperor with more imagination than Caligula, who was a drunken pervert. He used to murder his enemies by stuffing a merkin down their throats.” He paused to absorb the horror his words had induced, and he reacted with an obscene smile before continuing, slowly and deliberately. “Moreover, gentlemen, he never used a clean one. No, not Caligula! He would scour the brothels looking for the dirtiest and smelliest merkins he could find.”

Yasuda paused and a collective shudder when around the room. “Christianity was the downfall of the merkin,” continued Yasuda. “The Council of Constantinople in AD 692 issued an edict excommunicating Christians for wearing merkins, but this did not stamp them out: it only drove the wearers underground. In fact, as a result of this edict, a secret society sprung up, and it still exists today. It has rather a sinister reputation, unfortunately, for it is believed that this organization wields an extraordinary amount of political and economic influence. And now and again the ugly head of intolerance rears up and the members have suffered horrific persecution.”

Horie noticed the company president was fully focused on every word that Yasuda said. And he seemed to be nodding in agreement with the madman or he was on the verge of falling asleep, something he did in practically every meeting.

The next visual appeared. It was a visual of what looked like the beard of Leonardo da Vinci. “As I have already told you,” continued Yasuda, “the renaissance saw the second coming of the merkin—everybody wore one. This is the one worn by the greatest artist and scientist of the time.” He then rattled off the names of a dozen historical characters who had been patrons of the obsolete hairpiece.

Horie stared at the screen, totally bewildered about what he was seeing and hearing. It is peculiar, he thought to himself, that every merkin Yasuda displayed seemed to resemble the beard or moustache of the man who wore it. Nietzsche, Stalin, Hitler and Salvador Dali all wore merkins that resembled their moustaches, while the merkins worn by Confucius, Marx, Freud and Abraham Lincoln were all styled after their beards.

“But it is not only famous historical figures that can wear a merkin,” said Yasuda. “Anybody can, and everybody should. I’m wearing a merkin as I speak to you right now.” Then, to everyone’s surprise, he dropped his trousers, pulled off his merkin and threw it into the middle of the table beside the other two. Then, totally exhausted, he slumped into a chair and sighed.

For a split second there was a tangible silence, then, almost simultaneously, the entire management team stood up and started applauding wildly.

Yasuda was invited to lunch in Le Grand Coq, the exquisite French restaurant that was haunt of the aristocracy and corporate elite. The lunch was a boisterous affair, and the only topic of conversation was the merkin. That is until Horie finished his third glass of Chateau Neuf de Pape and, in the loudest possible voice, suddenly began talking about the female pudenda.

The restaurant fell silent; the head waiter tugged at his bow tie and looked nervously around at the other guests; Baron Ozeki, a distant relative of the Emperor, threw his knife and fork down and stormed out swearing never to come back; the cook came out of the kitchen to see what all the excitement was; and Keiko Ono giggled behind her hand while her latest lover, the president of a large construction company stood up and threatened to smack Horie on the nose.

Yasuda took the ancient merkin out of his pocket and threw it across the room. A photographer from Good Morning Shinbun, the newspaper with the largest circulation in Japan, and an even larger reputation for scandal and smut, reached for his camera and snapped a shot just as the merkin landed on the chin of the irate executive. The photograph appeared on the front page the next morning with the caption “Van Dyke or Van Dick?”

The executive issued a summons against the newspaper for libel, but withdrew it when he discovered that the photographer also had a shot of him with his hand up the skirt of Keiko Ono during their lunch.

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Chapter 2 -From Despair to Delight

[This story is serialized so if you wish to read the chapters in order, please go to the categories: humour, nonsense, books, characters or Japan.]

It is hard to believe that until recently the merkin was entirely unknown in Japan. Its meteoric leap from the trashcans of history into the pants of millions of young Japanese women and onto the glossy pages of dozens of magazines is entirely due to the tireless efforts of one man: Tadashi Yasuda. Of course, luck was on his side.

On that steaming-hot August day, the kind of day that smells thrive on, Yasuda had endured a harrowing train journey into central Tokyo from his home in the suburbs. A middle-aged man on his right farted at regular intervals while a young lady on his left, who constantly fiddled with her mobile, had such rancid breath that he at first thought she had farted too. He would have gladly given up his seat and moved to where the air was a little fresher, but the train was so packed that he couldn’t move at all. Every now and then, as the train lurched and all those standing were thrown around, he had to press his head back against the window to avoid contact with the crotch of a man whose trousers had suspicious-looking stains around the flies.

Shortly before Yasuda walked in to the building at 10 AM, Shinji Ono had just experienced another loud, public rollicking from his boss The general manager of the design department hated Ono; and the feeling was mutual.

Ono had been told to meet the visitor in reception and tell him the meeting was cancelled. It was a task that Ono did not enjoy doing. His boss knew this, that’s why he had ordered him to do it.

As the elevator went down, Ono’s anger started rising. He just wished he had the guts to thump his boss on the nose and walk out of the company. The idea was appealing. The writing was on the wall; the company was going downhill fast and he would be out of a job soon anyway; so he decided to go out in style. It was just a question of getting the timing right. The next time that little bastard belittles me in public, he decided, I will drop him.

The elevator stopped and the door opened. Ono stopped fantasizing about beating up his boss and stepped into the lobby, where Yasuda, drenched in sweat, was waiting. There was an insolent, menacing air about Yasuda, and Ono took an instant dislike to him. Suddenly he began to feel glad that he had been delegated to turn him away.

“My name is Ono,” he said, smiling, as he approached Yasuda. “I’m afraid that Mr. Horie, the manager of the design section is unavailable, how can I help you?”

Yasuda’s smile, about as sincere as that of a circus clown, seemed to peel away in slow motion. His reaction was totally unpredictable. “Unavailable?” he practically screamed. “If he was going to be unavailable, why didn’t the bastard call me and cancel the frigging meeting.” Ono was momentarily stunned. He had never been spoken to like this before by anyone other than his boss.

“My car is off the road,” said Yasuda, “impounded, actually, so I had to travel here by bloody train. Do you know what it’s like on these damn trains?”

Ono shook his head, unable to get the words out, although he knew exactly what the trains were like. After all, he traveled in by train every day.

“It’s like sitting inside a pair of underpants,” said Yasuda, his voice starting to rise, “Dirty bloody underpants. There is every possible stench you can imagine in there, and some you don’t even want to think about.”

The reception area went totally silent. The three receptionists were standing to attention with their heads bowed. A group of visitors waiting for their appointments looked on in bemusement. And the security guards fussed around in the background, unsure of how to respond to a situation that, while not yet threatening, was highly unusual.

“Please accept my humble apologies,” said Ono. “You have every right to feel angry at being inconvenienced.” He bowed deeply.

“Of course I fucking have,” snarled Yasuda.

And that is when the idea hit Ono. He nearly leapt into the air with joy. He could have kissed Yasuda. The offensive man was becoming more and more appealing with every foul phrase he uttered. He quickly assessed the opportunities for revenge. This man, he thought, was perfect. He was just the kind of character his boss needed to meet. He would play a little trick on Mr. Horie to teach him a lesson.

“Now that you are here,” said Ono, “perhaps you could tell me the nature of your business. In the meantime Mr. Horie might become available and you could be able to meet him after all.”

“I’m here to make a presentation on a merkin,” said Yasuda.

“A merkin? What’s a merkin?” said Ono.

Yasuda’s brow furrowed, and his nostrils dilated as he inhaled deeply before replying: “A merkin’s a pubic wig!”

Ono coughed to stifle his laughter. He had never heard of anything so insane in all his life. “Does Mr. Horie know that your presentation is on a …… a merkin?”

“Not yet,” said Yasuda. “He only knows that I have a product that can revitalize this company and spread its name around the globe.”

The man is the perfect weapon for my revenge on Horie, thought Ono. He guided Yasuda to a reception room and asked him to wait while he spoke again to Mr. Horie. He called from the lobby and told his boss that the visitor had a sensational idea that would turn the company around. Horie did not ask what the idea was. He just told Ono to take Yasuda immediately to the directors meeting room, and that is just what Ono did.

© Charles R. Pringle 2007

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All the characters in this absurd story are fictitious and any resemblance to any person living, dead or not yet born is purely coincidental. Any person living, dead or not yet born who resembles any of the characters in the story is, was or will be in need of serious counseling.

Chapter 1 — Another day just like any other

 

It was eleven o’ clock on a sweltering mid-August morning in Tokyo. Despite the heat, life had to go on as usual. On this particular day, the Metropolitan Police Force was raiding the facilities of a pseudo religious group suspected of having manufactured condoms out of thin air. In the Diet, the Prime Minister, his face a raging red, was hurling obscenities at a female member of the opposition. The Minister of Justice, at eighty-seven the fifth eldest member of the Cabinet, had forgotten the reason for the press conference, and to the astonishment of over a hundred journalists, was rambling on about the number of women he had seduced. In a café in Akasaka, the Foreign Minister, his hand resting limply on the thigh of an excessively handsome young man, was smiling lasciviously at the young waiter who had just brought him his morning coffee. Meanwhile, in Washington D.C. a buxom young lady blew a kiss towards the president as she left the Oval Office, and he pulled his trousers up. It was three o’clock in the morning in London, and the Palace security trained machine guns on an intruder who had just climbed over the fence. The were astonished to see that the intruder was the husband of the Queen, who explained that he had been to a reunion of his naval buddies and had forgotten his key. They were even more surprised when, just before he set off for the front door of the palace, he turned and asked them if they had ever played a party game called musical cocks. And, back in Tokyo, the senior managers of Suriku Garu, the world’s largest producer of hair products and cosmetics, were staring with bewilderment at the hairball Tadashi Yasuda had just thrown into the middle of the table around which they were sitting.


© 2007 Charles R. Pringle

All rights reserved

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