Books: Brrm! Brrm! — Chapter 11 |
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He soon changed his mind about that. After all. Lilian had given him the go-ahead. As his new dictionary of English idioms explained, the go-ahead was not the same as the come-on, but it was still an invitation. On the day after Lionel’s flatwarming party the stock market crashed. The day after that, Lionel asked Suzuki about the possibility of sleeping on his floor.

‘I won’t forget this, Akira,’ said Lionel as he moved in. ‘Always said you was a white man at heart.’

Big physically if not in spirit, Lionel, even with the few belongings which his creditors allowed him to retain, crowded the room to the point where Suzuki felt he might as well be back in Japan, but before the week was out Mrs Thelwell had transferred her attentions from her tenant to his new guest. Lionel took to spending most of his evenings in her part of the house, leaving Suzuki feeling more energetic than he had for some time. His relationship with Jane Austen had similarly ceased to be carnal. Regularly after his day at work, he called on her at her flat, where, with precedent-breaking reliability, she was always to be found at the appointed time. It had been agreed between them that she would concentrate on her article, which would principally consist of an interview with Suzuki. When he came to call, her notebook would be open on the table. She would be holding a pen. She would switch on her tape-recorder and interview him.

‘Um, what’s your favourite colour, then?’

Suzuki was less worried by such questions than he might have been. They were the kind of questions that Japanese journalists always asked even in the most heavy intellectual magazines. The truth was that for the moment Suzuki wanted nothing from her except peace. He didn’t care by what medicines her new-found tranquillity was being achieved. It was odd that she was allowed to give herself her own injections, but no doubt the famous National Health Service knew what it was doing. Suzuki’s only thought was of how to disengage, and this would have been so even if a liaison with Lilian had not been in prospect.

‘Are you sticking it into Miss Tiddlytits, then?’

Suzuki reached out to switch off the tape-recorder. ‘No,’ he said truthfully, because he hadn’t as yet. He still found it hard to believe he ever would. Perhaps he would find out the day after tomorrow.

The next evening he called on Rochester-san for a scheduled mutual language lesson and found his host transfigured. Rochester-san was wearing a purple velvet lounging jacket. There were candles burning. Beyond and below the balcony, the long ornamental lake was already filling up with the reflections of the dormitory blocks, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and the strange theatrical complex in which Hamlet was unable to see Polonius, Claudius and Gertrude even when they had neglected to conceal themselves behind the arras. Alas.

‘This one’s a Krug. Hold your glass close while I pop the top. Nothing’s too good for the Man from Japan.’

‘You are very generous.’

‘Least I can do. Still can’t believe my luck. There I was at an editorial meeting with fuck-all to say and then when the financial editor was droning on about the economy I just said I’d been hearing from my Japanese contacts that a big market shift was just around the corner.’

‘Did they listen?’

‘Ah, that’s where the deputy editor made his big mistake. Editor wasn’t there, of course. Up in Sheffield watching a snooker tournament. But the deputy editor and the financial editor had a fine old time taking the piss out of these Japanese contacts of mine. Got the whole meeting falling about. So everybody remembered it. And when the market went zonk and we didn’t predict it, the editor got to hear that I’d known in advance. Through my Japanese contacts, right? So now I’m going to be the deputy editor.’


Omedote. Is that what you say?’

Omedetō gozaimasu.’

‘You bet. Have another. Nothing’s too good for my Japanese contacts.’

An opulent if indigestible catered meal having been sent in, they ate by candle light, with Chopin Nocturnes unspooling softly from the speakers in the crowded bookshelves.

‘First thing I’m going to do as deputy editor,’ said Rochester-san over a large brandy, ‘is I’m going to publish that excellent little poem of yours on the book page. With a photograph.’

‘I’m unworthy of such an honour.’

‘Don’t you believe it.’

Rochester-san tried to kiss him afterwards but Suzuki politely declined. Instead, they just danced.