News from Home 21, Part III
11/16/2005 (updated 11/26/2005)

Over a quiet game of Piquet, Mr. Alphonso and I reflected on the extraordinary events of the previous morning. After the duel ended, Colonel Briggs was rushed in Sanchez’ car to the Emergency Department, where his severed nose was reattached, in a long and delicate procedure. He is apparently doing well, and when the stitches come out, he will have a scar, but at least he’ll also have a nose. I asked Mr. A about his choice of tactics, and he sighed, and said it was necessary to be dramatic, in order to avoid further bloodshed, and in order to defuse Briggs’ animosity. Mr. A explained that, during his Gaucho days back in Argentina, there were often fights amongst those macho characters, marooned in each other’s company for months at a time out on the Pampas. The outcome, if it did not end with a fatal stomach wound or a cut throat, was often decided by the severing of a body part, sometimes an ear, sometimes a nose. This was humiliation for the loser, but shame was more the intention; when some hothead was scarred in this way, every time he set eyes on the one who bested him, he would feel ashamed, and would not want to continue the feuding to its murderous conclusion. This had been Mr. A’s premeditated aim, to douse Brigg’s fury. “I knew he would never give up, boyo”, said Mr. A., “so I bring the ice,” He calculated that even a reattached nose would make the Colonel self-conscious enough. Mr. A. said that he found the whole thing quite exhilarating, was nervous at the beginning, but soon felt pretty invincible, and just bided his time. He said that his regular dose of Viagra seemed to help his fighting skills, or perhaps it was all in the mind….I asked him if he had any side effects from Viagra? He mentioned that his bowels were sometimes loosened, even to the point of liquid, and that could be embarrassing, especially during the carnal act, but it was worth it. I noticed that Anita, when she brought in the tea tray, was a trifle over-made up, and smelled of a potpourri of perfume counter free samples. He slapped her affectionately on the rump, and she merely giggled.

I asked Hashimoto if he had heard about the duel, and he said he had, and he thought it was an honourable way to settle differences, if occasionally bloody. He said he had once been over to Japan, in the days when he was a Kendo 4th Dan, and it was his habit to train at the Dojo of the Tokyo Police, who were known for practicing a fairly rough brand of Martial Art. He had witnessed a duel there, again illegally fought, between two unappeasable adversaries, armed with razor-sharp Japanese swords, who were determined to fight to the death; the fight was stopped, however, when someone lost an arm.

Hashimoto’s latest passion is for Topiary; he says it is the Western equivalent of the Way of the Warrior, requiring a sharp weapon, an unerring eye, and the patience of a saint. He has started on our front hedge, and the results so far are inconclusive; there are shapes, but what they represent I am not sure. Hashimoto says it is early days, and it is bad luck to reveal what the shapes represent before they become self-explanatory. I have annoyed the dickens out of him recently; I turned our rather sad-looking Japanese lantern into a mini-golf hole. I made a little door at the bottom that opens and closes, attached to a motor; when timed correctly, the ball passes through, goes down a tunnel, and emerges on the other side on a small green, where it can be putted. Bad timing or aim causes the ball to hit the door or hit the side channel, in which case it trickles down the less fortuitous tunnel, to putting hell. Honourable Sons #1 and 3 think it is the bee’s knees.

Hashimoto said this was not the correct use for a sacred object, and I asked if it could not be a dual-purpose thing, and wasn’t mini golf rather a Zen pastime? Did it not require the wielding of an exacting weapon, a keen eye, a sense of oneness with the hole, and the patience of a saint? He grunted, and admitted there was some truth to it, and perhaps Western culture was more useful and inward looking than he had supposed.