News From Home 12, Part I
12/16/2003 (updated 2/8/2004)

It’s gone again! The Japanese shrine/lantern/garden ornament…I came out of the French windows this morning, heading for a favourite reading spot, a little iron bench behind the azaleas, just out of range of the cordless ‘phone - and as I passed the place where it should have been – it wasn’t! Not a trace. No footprints, no signs of struggle, just an octagonal patch of dead grass, and a lack of ornament. I am puzzled in the extreme. Who could be bothered to remove it, is my first question – and having gone to the trouble, why? I never liked the darned thing to begin with, but now that it’s gone, I rather miss it – how perverse we humans are! And I don’t think it was me doing it in my sleep, but of course I have no way of really knowing that. Hashimoto arrives early, and I point out the obvious to him, and invite his comments and interpretation. He smiles and nods sagely, and then pulls down a rake and starts going at the dead leaves. This is too inscrutable to bear. “Hashimoto” I said, “I appreciate that some things are beyond words, but if you know something about this, you must give me a clue.” He paused in his sweeping, looked me square in the eye (possibly for the first time ever), and explained that it was an oriental thing, an Eastern thing, and why should I expect any different, with an Oriental holy object and all? He said he didn’t think I was ready for it, but he was going to level with me - the shrine was STILL THERE, even though we couldn’t see it. It hadn’t gone anywhere; it had merely oscillated onto another plane of existence for a while, so there was nowhere else to go to look for it. It would stay there for a spell, and then probably come back. Or not. He said that his own cousin had once done the same thing in Yokohama, disappeared for a few days and then come back as if nothing had happened, and AS IF NO TIME HAD ELAPSED! The date on his watch was from three days earlier! This was all a bit much to swallow, so I made my excuses and drifted away to my bench to contemplate for a moment. Perhaps it was the same people who do the crop circles, leaving no trace of effort, no signs of manufacture – why it almost makes you believe in aliens…

We have decided to hire a housekeeper. Mrs. RT is far too busy these days raising a family and juggling a job or two to have time for all things domestic. We interviewed someone who seems perfect for the job, by the name of Witherstock – she would not allow us to use a first name, or even Mrs., Miss or Ms. – she explained that her family had been in service for hundreds of years; indeed, there was a Witherstock who was page-boy to Sir Percy of Rutland at the Battle of Crecy. She said she knew how to run a household and keep things all shipshape, and was sure she could give satisfaction. She looks a little sour, and occasionally has that faraway look of someone dreaming of lost love or better times, but already she has reorganized the kitchen. Mrs. RT was shocked and somewhat put out to find her silverware moved to a different drawer, her tea towels put into the airing cupboard, and her favourite dinner service taken off the dresser and put into storage. I said she should be patient and allow Witherstock time to get her bearings and stamp her personality on the house. She does, after all, seem a model of efficiency.

I was not looking forward to the next task. Witherstock has to live somewhere, and the only room left is the guest house, which means I have to tell Georgio his couple of days lodging which turned into six months is at an end, and he has to move on. He seems surprisingly upbeat when he answers my knock on the patio door, and as I slowly, painfully, home in on the punch line, his frown of concentration turns into a rare smile, and he raises his hands to stop me in mid-sentence. He says he was planning to move anyway, at some time in the next few days, and today was as good as any. He would call Mavis and get a key to her apartment. Now I know they had been canoodling a bit, and I shouldn’t have been surprised, but somehow I had never taken Mavis for a girl capable of monogamous moments, and certainly not cohabitation. But was that not a slight twinkle in Georgio’s eye, a bit of a roll in the top-heavy gait? Georgio expressed his new mood best himself, when he said, with Slovakian agricultural insight, that he’d been too long milking a chicken, and now it was time to get eggs from a cow.