This morning it’s a group of beginner's, made up of six housewives ranging in age from their late thirties to early fifties.
When the oldest of the group, Mieko, asks me how I spent the weekend, it is tempting to say that it was spent lying naked on a wooly throw rug tossing about with a girl I'd just met. I tell her, instead, that I spent Sunday studying Japanese, which produces a cackle of praise from the students. Mieko says she respects me and wishes her husband were as diligent as I was.
The woman should be careful of what she wishes for.
Mieko then tells me that her own weekend was horrible.
"Really?” I say. “Why's that?"
"Finished dinner, my husband . . . "
"After dinner," I correct.
"After dinner," I repeat. "Not finished dinner, after dinner."
"I see. Thank you." MIeko looks down at her notebook, studies what she has prepared for today's lesson, then starts over: "Finished dinner, my husband . . ." I tap the surface of my desk to convey my irritation. The message seems to get across. "Oh, I'm sorry," she says. "After . . . After dinner, my husband . . . How do you say . . . chidori ashi?"
It's thanks to good old Mie that I know chidori ashi, literally chicken legs, means stagger. "My husband staggered," I answer.
Mieko says she doesn't understand.
"Your husband, he was drunk, right? Yopparai, right?"
"Yes, very, very yopparai," she says, laughing.
"Okay then, he staggered."
"Sutahgah . . . ?"
"Yes, staggered. He staggered."
"What does that mean?"
I feel like a dog chasing its own tail.
"What does that mean?" she asks again.
"Staggered? You're husband was drunk. He staggered. Chidori ashi."
"Yes, yes. Chidori ashi. How do you say that in English?"
I'm am this close to going losing it. "Chidori ashi means Stagger."
"Chidori ashi equals sutahgahdo." This really is how they speak English here.
"Oh, I see, I see. Thank you. Finished dinner, my husband staggered . . ."
Excerpt from A Woman's Nails. To read more here.
© Aonghas Crowe, 2010. All rights reserved. No unauthorized duplication of any kind.
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
A Woman's Nails is now available on Amazon's Kindle.