I wanted to take a moment to express my appreciation for your assistance last weekend with the cleanup from the flood. Your boys arrived and were so willing and eager. No mess was too big or too small for them.
With their help, we were able to clean out the entire place and then bring all the animals back. The boys were quite excellent with the cats and dogs.
I also would like to schedule a convenient time to continue our discussion of a collaboration between our veterinary clinics and your school with regards to pet sitting.
We have many dogs and cats that need socialization and housing until they can be properly adopted. This would also help your students to learn valuable lessons about the care of animals and to learn to put the needs of another being ahead of their own.
Again, thank you for your valuable time and I hope to hear from you soon.
—Letter to the headmaster of St. Catherine’s from a local veterinary group.
It was probably around 10 o’clock. There weren’t a lot of people out at the Sports Complex yet. Takahashi, with a chuckle, explained that it’s mainly lazy boys who get up, have a huge breakfast, then must go back and sleep it off.
Takahashi took Kato to find a nice spot under a big tree. He put the bags down and laid the blanket out. “It’s still a bit early to eat. How about we walk around the track for a while?”
“Sounds good,” Kato agreed. He did like walking.
As they walked around the track, Takahashi, again, was the first to break the silence. “Tell me about yourself, Kato-san. And not about how much you like to read Math books.”
Kato grinned and slapped Takahashi’s shoulder. “Shut up! I was nervous!” He joined in a good chuckle with Takahashi.
After a minute of silence, Kato began. “Well, my dad died before I can remember him. So, my mom took care of me. But she moved around a lot. Always chasing one boyfriend or the next, who didn’t necessarily want her when they found out she had a small child. I tried my best to behave and get A’s in school. But no matter how good I was, just the fact that I was there was enough to chase the boyfriends away.”
Takahashi smiled and patted Kato on the back. “Well, glad to have a smart uke to help me with my homework now.”
Kato shot Takahashi a smirk. “Uh huh.”
“How’d you end up here?”
Kato looked down at the track before him. “Nobody wants me.”
Takahashi remained quiet.
Kato looked up in the distance. “After mom died, I was shuffled off like luggage to my aunt’s home. I didn’t even remember ever meeting her. I knew I had one, but mom didn’t talk much about her.”
Takahashi put his hand on Kato’s shoulder, but still said nothing.
Kato continued, “It was hell there. My aunt didn’t want to take care of another kid, and her husband didn’t want to spend his resources providing for a kid that wasn’t his. My cousins were brats. I had to share a bed with the older one. He is 15 and a jerk. If I snored, he would push me out of bed, and I would hit the floor.” Kato sighed. “After a few times of that, I just slept on the floor all the time.”
Takahashi spoke in a kind, reassuring way, “Sorry to hear that, Kato-san.”
“Well, it wasn’t before long that my aunt found a way to get rid of her unwanted problem. She handed my care over to St. Catherine’s.” Kato’s voice began to get more bitter. A single, solitary tear rolled down his cheek. “So, here I am. In this fucking scary-ass hellhole, all alone.”
Kato was rather shocked at what next happened. Takahashi used his hand on Kato’s shoulder to signal him to stop walking. He then reached up and gently wiped Kato’s tear away with his finger. “You’re not alone, Kato-san. You have me. I will take care of you. You are my uke, after all.”
Kato was surprisingly touched at this. He quickly turned away, choking up a bit, and then started walking again. He was sure if hadn’t turned away, he wouldn’t have been able to stop the deluge of tears that were at the ready. Kato’s voice cracked a little as he asked, “How about you, Takahashi-san. Why are you here?”
“Well, I’m a problem child. I got into fights a lot growing up. My anger always seems to get the better of me. When I was in Grade 4, some boy made fun of me. So, I got up, went over to the bookshelf, grabbed a hardback, and then stood behind him while he wasn’t looking and smashed the spine of the book into his ear.”
“Wow.” Kato couldn’t figure out what else to say to that.
“Yeah, well that little fucker learned to shut his mouth around me.” Kato could still hear a tinge of anger in Takahashi’s voice. Does this guy ever let things go? he wondered.
“Minor fights here, and there. I broke rules. I earned the reputation of somebody you just don’t fuck around with.”
Kato figured Takahashi was silent for his story, he should be silent listening to Takahashi’s story.
“In ninth grade, someone was trying to bully me and at lunch I stabbed him in the leg with a chopstick. There was some minor bleeding but the way he carried on; you’d think I cut his leg off.”
Takahashi paused his story for a minute. He looked Kato in the eyes, then looked down. Kato was surprised. He’d never seen Takahashi look down before. He wondered at what Takahashi must be feeling.
“My parents were never there during all this. Dad owns a big business, mom works abroad. It felt like I was the only one who lived at my house.” Takahashi laughed to himself for a moment and looked up. “At least I learned how to cook and clean up after myself. I’m quite a good cook. I figured if I didn’t learn, I’d have to live off instant ramen. That didn’t sound appetizing.”
Kato asked, “How’d you get here?”
“Ah, when I stabbed that kid, I was expelled. My parents were furious. They found this place and enrolled me here.”
“Yeah, more like dumped me off here. At first, when I learned about seme/uke, I was determined to be nobody’s bitch.” Kato wondered at the term. Is this what an uke is? Somebody’s bitch? Is that what Takahashi thinks of me? Kato felt a little offended, and perhaps a little bit sad that, again, he didn’t measure up as a person in Takahashi’s eyes. Instead, he was just some property that belonged to Takahashi.
“I’m not a tall guy, so the taller ones tried to make me their uke. I made every one of those fuckers regret it. I was angry, I knew how to fight, and had nothing to lose.
Kato was uncomfortable with the aggressive and deadly tone that Takahashi suddenly took.
“You didn’t get expelled from here doing that?”
“No. My parents are wealthy backers and have invested heavily into this school. I get my fair share of canes, of course. My parents wouldn’t have it any other way. But for the big stuff, fights and things, they won’t expel me. They’ll make my life miserable, though. I guess, in the end, the only two ways I’m getting out of here is to graduate or die trying.”
An odd swell of pity rumbled around in Kato’s heart as he felt a little bit sad for Takahashi. That odd feeling also made him reach out and touch Takahashi’s shoulder. He looked up and into Kato’s eyes with a complex expression, then shrugged off Kato’s hand and started running.
Kato was perplexed at what just happened, so he decided to follow Takahashi. He kept pace behind Takahashi. Kato wasn’t a fast runner with his short legs, but he could keep up with Takahashi’s jog.
After about three laps, Takahashi simply yelled out at the top of his lungs and with a giant burst of speed, he ran with all his might for the fourth lap. Kato simply stopped. No way he was going to keep up with that.
After Takahashi came around the final lap, he ran up to Kato and stopped, completely out-of-breath. He paced around a bit, walking it off, glaring at Kato. A wolf. A tired, angry, lonely wolf cornered and in pain. A very dangerous animal, Kato thought.
After a minute of catching his breath, he wiped his brow with the bottom of his shirt and said, “Let’s go eat.”