Stepfather Step – Chapter 3

9 Mar

I blame Nishijima Hidetoshi for the delay in translating this chapter.

3.

It took me a week before I was able to get out of bed and even then I could only walk with a limp. Even though this Sake bottle combi’s motives were clear, I was still thankful to them for their care. The simple fact that they managed to nurse me back to health without calling a doctor and only using over-the-counter medication was enough for my gratitude. But this was also a terrifying week, especially when Tadashi suggested, “Let me help treat your dislocated right shoulder.”

“I know how to do it, let me handle this. I’ve been prone to shoulder dislocation since young. Every time I feel like it’s gonna drop, I can always push it back by myself so I’m an expert in it already,” he said rather happily.

“But that’s your arm and not mine you know.”

“Isn’t it the same for others? The anatomy should be similar.”

Unfortunately, he made this suggestion on the second night that I got hurt and at that time I couldn’t even go to the toilet by myself. Although they were kids, I still wouldn’t be able to ward them off if they ganged up on me together. Moreover this sake bottle combination have so many tricks up their sleeves it’s annoying.

“Don’t scream too loudly or we’d have to stuff your mouth with something.”

He was a ‘specialist’ at this after all and somehow managed to pop my arm back but I was still afraid. I decided that I will never hold on to the hand straps when I take the trains. What if my arm dislocates again and I forget it on the train?

My fever wouldn’t subside even till the fourth morning. Though my dislocated shoulder was ‘fixed’, my temperature still went up significantly. The twins laid on their stomach in front of the bed worriedly and frequently took out their ‘Family Medical’ book to study.

“There’s no directions on first aid for someone who’s fallen off the roof,”

“So we can only look at the portions on other injuries and just apply it flexibly.”

How can you treat a human being like some mock exam question?

“I don’t suppose you are covered by insurance?”

“Nah.”

“But what happens if you get injured on the job?”

I felt like answering ‘I’m an expert in breaking and entering, not somone involved in violent crimes of course I wouldn’t get hurt so easily’ but forget it. I think it’s better if I let these kiddos think I’m a scary criminal.

“I’ll go to an unlicensed doctor in such case. After all, stuff like gun shot wounds can’t be properly treated by a usual doctor.” Going to an unlicensed doctor part was true, I made up the rest. I had never touched a gun in my life. In the past when I was a proper salaryman, I worked in a company called ‘Oono Heavy Construction’ but since I quit, I had never been involved in any ‘heavy’ jobs. But the twins appeared rather touched after hearing my words.

“If your condition doesn’t get better, can you get that unlicensed doctor to come take a look?”

They really were naive kids.

Around midnight of the third day, one of them (if they don’t show the dimple on their faces, I wouldn’t be able to tell them apart) helped me change the ice pillow underneath my head and while looking at him take my pulse in all seriousness, I asked, “Aren’t you afraid?”

“Wait a moment.” He stared at the second hand of the clock and said, “I took it for 15 seconds which means … goodness, your heart rate is 128 beats a minute. Does that mean you’re talking in your sleep?”

“I’m very awake.”

“Does your chest feel stufy? You coughed earlier right?”

“Hey, I’m asking you something.”

“Hopefully it doesn’t develop into pneumonia, but can’t be helped since you were pretty drenched by the rain.” After he pretended not to understand me by changing the topic, he gave a smile and a dimple appeared on his left cheek.

Then he suddenly answered, “I’m afraid.”

“What?”

“Didn’t you ask if I was afraid?”

“I meant afraid of criminals.” I spoke slowly on purpose. “Get this straight, I’m a thief and like both of you thought, I have a criminal record. I could call my friends over for all you know and kill you two then make off with the valuables in your house. Do you understand?”

Left Dimple thought for a moment and sat up straight, revealing the ‘S’ design on his V-neck woollen sweater. So the one with the left dimple is Satoshi.

Finally, he answered in a small voice, “I’m afraid.”

“Then either you report this to the police or you let me go. If we continue like this, nothing good will come out of it.”

Satoshi turned his eyes to some place near the foot of bed and said, “We seldom think of the consequences of our actions.”

He gave a wide smile and turned back to look at me. “I guess this runs in the family.”

Their parents were probably the same sort.

“Moreover your condition doesn’t look too good at the moment. If you get up and move about, you might even die. I think you better get proper rest.”

I was well aware of this fact even without looking in the mirror. I haven’t felt this bad since I was fourteen. I almost died that summer from peritonitis resulting from a case of appendicitis.

“But you should count yourself lucky. If you had been directly struck by lightning, I doubt you would survive.”

“I wasn’t struck by lightning?”

“Of course. You fell onto our neighbour’s roof. Seems like it was the hook of the rope you threw out that ruined your plans. Wasn’t it made of metal? Oh yes, that rope dropped on the side of our house from the force and we kept it for you. Don’t worry, our neighbour didn’t discover anything.”

“Too bad it didn’t become Franklin’s kite,” I joked. (1)

He laughed and said, “He was lucky not to be electrocuted, that’s what my teacher said.”


The strange thing was, one of them would always stay with me even during the day. Today was Tadashi with the right dimple. I grabbed him and asked, “Don’t you need to go to school?”

“We take turns going.”

“You mean both of you play the same person even in class?”

“How’s that possible? Me and Satoshi go to different schools. We just take turns taking leave to stay at home.”

It’s simply a waste of tax payers’ money to have two schools in such a remote small town! Perhaps one was a branch campus? Tadashi seemed to read my doubts and said, “The neighbouring town has a lot of big communities and high-rise apartments so there are many schools there as well but most of them are new. We used to attend the same school in this town but the teachers kept getting us mixed up and we found it inconvenient too so Satoshi transferred to another school in the neighbouring town.”

Though they casually said that they ‘took leave from school’, they didn’t look like lazy students. Even when sitting near my bed, they would flip through reference books or memorise English vocabulary using flashcards.

On the fifth night, I asked them not to look after me any more as my fever had already gone down but Satoshi insisted on staying up with me. I woke up in the middle of the night from severe pain in my waist and saw him covered with a jacket and asleep on the chair beside the bed. I quietly sat up to peek at Satoshi and saw an English textbook on his lap. There was a pocket size Japanese-English dictionary on the bedside table.

Come to think of it, I haven’t observed a kid of this age from such a close distance since I became an adult. Feels so fragile and defenseless, no different from an infant. How old will you need to be before your sleeping face matures … I couldn’t help thinking of such meaningless questions.

What exactly happened with their parents? Weren’t they worried at all? Were they so busy with chasing after their own happiness that they had no time to think of Tadashi and Satoshi?

Satoshi mumured something in his sleep and curled his body as if he was cold. I’m not looking for excuses but it must have been because of my fever. If my temperature had already gone down, how was it possible for me to reach for the Japanese-English dictionary? And I would not have flipped to the page on ‘gifu’ (義父). The first definition was ‘father-in-law’. Bah, what’s this thing on law, how unlucky. ‘Stepfather’ was written below with ‘keifu’ (継父) indicated beside in brackets.

Stepfather? Sounded like a father who only knew how to dance, not much use in that. And did ‘stepfather’ meant a father that continues? My thoughts started running wild again. (2)

I must still be running a fever. Most definitely.


The morning a week after I fell, I carefully got out of bed and walked towards where I could hear the twins talking and ended up in the kitchen. One of them was in his uniform and the other was washing the dishes at the sink.

“Smile!” Once I opened my mouth, the brothers turned back at the same time to give a toothpaste advert worthy smile.

“Today’s Satoshi’s turn to stay home?”

“Yes.”

“I’m already fine, both of you should go to school.”

The twins looked dejectedly at each other as if they had gotten a scolding. Then Satoshi asked me in a small voice, “Are you leaving?”

I wanted to answer ‘yes’ and fact was I intended to do so but I simply couldn’t say it even though I couldn’t explain why.

I guess it was because of honour. In any case, it was a fact that they saved me.
“Not yet,” I sighed and the twins immediately brightened up. Tadashi wiped his hands dry on his apron and asked, “You must be hungry. You’ve only had porridge so far. Anything you want to eat? I can make it for you.”

“Yes, yes, Tadashi is very good cook, anything you want to eat …” Satoshi suddenly stopped mid-sentence and his expression froze. He sneaked a look at Tadashi and pleaded for help with his eyes.

“Uhm …” Tadashi started speaking too, “Uh, yea …”

“Where’s the passbook?” I prodded.

“I’m not asking for your ration booklet so stop pretending you don’t know.” (3)

Satoshi asked ‘what’s a ration booklet’ as he walked to the dining room and returned quickly. Judging from his movements which were without hesitation, he should be clear on what I meant.

He handed me a blue passbook under the name of Sono Masao. When I opened it, it was filled with a long list of numbers, all of which were withdrawals. I checked against the calendar beside me and the transaction dated yesterday was a withdrawl of 98,000yen (~USD1,200).

“The housing loan was deducted yesterday,” said Tadashi.

The balance was 10,411 yen (~USD127).

“We delivered newspapers for a while,”

“But we had to stop after our schools discovered it.”

I leaned against the door as I closed the passbook and tried not to look at the twins.

“Go to school.”

I guess there’s no other way.

“I’ll go get my wallet. As for what to do from now on, we’ll talk about it later.”

1) http://www.codecheck.com/cc/BenAndTheKite.html
2) The kanji ‘kei’ (継) in ‘keifu’ means to continue/succeed. ‘fu’ (父) means father.
3) During and post WWII, food was rationed by the Japanese government and each household was given a ration booklet.

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4 Responses to “Stepfather Step – Chapter 3”

  1. Anonymous March 10, 2012 at 8:31 AM #

    Thank you again! I was happy to see this posted although I can’t read it know since I’m super busy with exams. I’ll make sure to get back to you right after this hell week. :))

    • J March 10, 2012 at 11:49 AM #

      All the best for your exams! 🙂

  2. Anonymous March 12, 2012 at 6:33 PM #

    This is random.. But thought I’d stop by to tell you that I love your new layout and colors 🙂 -Fia

    • J March 13, 2012 at 1:31 AM #

      Thank you dearie!

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