You Only Live Twice (James Bond #12)

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04.03.2019

Bond asked Tiger how his presence and mission had been explained. Tiger said that it would have been of no use lying to the priest who was a shrewd man, so he-had been told most of the truth. The priest had expressed regret that such extreme measures were contemplated, but he agreed that the castle across the sea was a most evil place and its owner a man in league with the devil. In the circumstances, he would give the project his blessing and James Bond would be allowed to stay on the island for the minimum time necessary to accomplish his mission.

The priest would invite the Suzuki family to accord him an honourable welcome. Bond would be explained away to the elders as a famous gaijin anthropologist who had come to study the Ama way of life. Bond should therefore study it, but the priest requested that Bond should behave in a sincere manner. ‘Which means,’ explained Tiger with a malicious grin,’that you are not to go to bed with the girls.’

In the evening they walked back to the jetty. The sea was a dark slate colour and mirror-calm. The little boats, bedecked with coloured flags which meant that it had been an exceptional day’s fishing, were winging their way back. The entire population of Kuro, perhaps two hundred souls, was lined up along the shore to greet the heroines of the day, the older people holding carefully folded shawls and blankets to warm up the girls on their way to their homes where, according to Tiger, they would be given hot basin-baths to get back their circulation and remove all traces of salt.Itwas now five o’clock. They would be asleep by eight, said Tiger, and out again with the dawn. Tiger was sympathetic. ‘You will have to adjust your hours, Bondo-san. And your way of life. The Ama live very frugally, very cheaply, for their earnings are small – no more than the price of sparrows’ tears, as we say. And for heaven’s sake be very polite to the parents, particularly the father. As for Kissy…’ He left the sentence hanging in the air.

Eager hands reached for each boat and, with happy shouts, pulled it up on the black pebbles. Big wooden tubs were lifted out and rushed up the beach to a kind of rickety market where, according to Tiger, the awabi were graded and priced. Meanwhile, the chattering, smiling girls waded in through the shallows and cast modestly appraising glances at the three mainland strangers on the jetty.

To Bond, they all seemed beautiful and gay in the soft evening light-the proud, rather coarse-nippled breasts, the gleaming, muscled buttocks, cleft by the black cord that held in place the frontal triangle of black cotton, the powerful thong round the waist with its string of oval lead weights, through which was stuck an angular steel pick, the white rag round the tumbled hair and, below, the laughing dark eyes and lips that were happy with the luck of the day. At that moment, it all seemed to Bond as the world, as life, should be, and he felt ashamed of his city-slicker appearance, let alone the black designs it concealed.

One girl, rather taller than the rest, seemed to pay no attention to the men on the jetty or to the police launch riding beside it. She was the centre of a crowd of laughing girls as she waded with a rather long, perhaps studied, stride over the shiny black pebbles and up the beach. She flung back a remark at her companions and they giggled, putting their hands up to their mouths. Then a wizened old woman held out a coarse brown blanket to her and she wrapped it round herself and the group dispersed.

The couple, the old woman and the young one, walked up the beach to the market. The young one talked excitedly. The old one paid attention and nodded. The priest was waiting for them. They bowed very low. He talked to them and they listened with humility, casting occasional glances towards the group on the jetty. The tall girl drew her blanket more closely round her. James Bond had guessed it already. Now he knew. This was Kissy Suzuki.

The three people, the splendidly attired priest, the walnut-faced old fisherwoman and the tall naked girl wrapped in her drab blanket came along the jetty, the girl hanging back. In a curious way they were a homogeneous trio, and the priest might have been the father. The women stopped and the priest came forward. He bowed to Bond and addressed him. Tiger translated: ‘He says that the father and mother of Kissy Suzuki would be honoured to receive you in their humble abode for whose poverty they apologize. They regret that they are not accustomed to Western ways, but their daughter is proficient in English as a result of her work in America and will endeavour to convey your wishes to them. The priest asks if you can row a boat. The father, who previously rowed for his daughter, is stricken with rheumatism. It would be of great assistance to the family if you would deign to take his place.’

Bond bowed. He said, ‘Please convey to his reverence that I am most grateful for his intercession on my behalf. I would be most honoured to have a place to lay my head in the home of Suzuki-san. My needs are very modest and I greatly enjoy the Japanese way of life. I would be most pleased to row the family boat or help the household in any other way.’ He added, sotto voce, ‘Tiger, I may need these people’s help when the time comes. Particularly the girl’s. How much can I tell her?’

Tiger said softly, ‘Use your discretion. The priest knows, therefore the girl can know. She will not spread it abroad. And now come forward and let the priest introduce you. Don’t forget that your name here is Taro, which means “ first son”, Todoroki, which means “thunder”. The priest is not interested in your real name. I have said that this is an approximation of your English name. It doesn’t matter. Nobody will care. But you must try to assume some semblance of a Japanese personality for when you get to the other side. This name is on your identity card-and on your miner’s union card from the coal mines of Fukuoka. You need not bother with these things here for you are among friends. On the other side, if you are caught, you will show the card that says you are deaf and dumb. All right?’

Tiger talked to the priest and Bond was led forward to the two women. He bowed low to the mother, but he remembered not to bow too low as she was only a woman, and then he turned to the girl.

She laughed gaily. She didn’t titter or giggle, she actually laughed. She said, ‘You don’t have to bow to me and I shall never bow to you.’ She held out her hand. ‘How do you do. My name is Kissy Suzuki.’

The hand was ice-cold. Bond said, ‘My name is Taro Todoroki and I am sorry to have kept you here so long. You are cold and you ought to go and have your hot bath. It is very kind of your family to accept me as your guest, but I do not want to be an imposition. Are you sure it’s all right?’

‘Whatever the kannushi-san, the priest, says is all right. And I have been cold before. When you have finished with your distinguished friends, my mother and I will be happy to lead you to our house. I hope you are good at peeling potatoes.’

Bond was delighted. Thank God for a straightforward girl at last! No more bowing and hissing 1 He said, ‘I took a degree in it. And I am strong and willing and I don’t snore. What time do we take out the boat?’

‘About five thirty. When the sun comes up. Perhaps you will bring me good luck. The awabi shells are not easy to find. We had a lucky day today and I earned about thirty dollars, but it is not always so.’

‘I don’t reckon in dollars. Let’s say ten pounds.’

‘Aren’t Englishmen the same as Americans? Isn’t the money the same?’

‘Very alike, but totally different.’

‘Is that so?’

‘You mean "Ah, so desti ka?” ‘

The girl laughed. ‘You have been well trained by the important man from Tokyo. Perhaps you will now say goodbye to him and we can go home. It is at the other end of the village.’

The priest, the Superintendent and Tiger had been talking together, ostensibly paying no attention to Bond and the girl. The mother had been standing humbly, but with shrewd eyes, watching every expression on the two faces. Bond now bowed again to her and went back to the group of men.

Farewells were brief. Dusk was creeping up over the sea and the orange ball of the sun had already lost its brilliance in the evening haze. The engine of the police boat had been started up and its exhaust bubbled softly. Bond thanked the Superintendent and was wished good fortune in his honourable endeavours. Tiger looked serious. He took Bond’s hand in both of his, an unusual gesture for a Japanese. He said, ‘Bondo-san, I am certain you will succeed, so I will not wish you luck. Nor will I say “sayonara”, farewell. I will simply say a quiet “banzai!” to you and give you this little presento in case the gods frown upon your venture and, through no fault of yours, things go wrong, very wrong.’ He took out a little box and gave it to Bond.

The box rattled. Bond opened it. Inside was one long brownish pill. Bond laughed. He gave it back to Tiger and said, ‘No thanks, Tiger. As Basho said, or almost said, “You only live twice.” If my second life comes up, I would rather look it in the face and not turn my back on it. But thanks, and thanks for everything. Those live lobsters were really delicious. I shall now look forward to eating plenty of seaweed while I’m here. So long! See you in about a week.’

Tiger got down into the boat and the engine revved up. As the boat took the swell at the entrance to the harbour, Tiger raised a hand and brought it swiftly down with a chopping motion and then the boat was round the sea-wall and out of sight.

Bond turned away. The priest had gone. Kissy Suzuki said impatiently, ‘Come along, Todoroki-san. The kannushi-san says I am to treat you as a comrade, as an equal. But give me one of those two little bags to carry. For the sake of the villagers who will be watching inquisitively, we will wear the Oriental face in public.’

And the tall man with the dark face, cropped hair and slanting eyebrows, the tall girl, and the old woman walked off along the shore with their angular Japanese shadows preceding them across the smooth black boulders.

14

ONE GOLDEN DAY

DAWN was a beautiful haze of gold and blue. Bond went outside and ate his bean curd and rice and drank his tea sitting on the spotless doorstep of the little cut-stone and timbered house, while indoors the family chattered like happy sparrows as the women went about their housework.

Bond had been allotted the room of honour, the small sitting-room with its tatami mats, scraps of furniture, house shrine and a cricket in a small cage’to keep you company’, as Kissy had explained. Here his futon had been spread on the ground and he had for the first time and with fair success tried sleeping with his head on the traditional wooden pillow. The evening before, the father, an emaciated greybeard with knotted joints and bright, squirrel eyes, had laughed with and at him as Kissy translated Bond’s account of some of his adventures with Tiger, and there was from the first a complete absence of tension or self-consciousness. The priest had said that Bond should be treated as a member of the family and, although his appearance and some of his manners were strange, Kissy had apparently announced her qualified approval of him and the parents followed her lead. At nine o’clock, under the three-quarter moon, the father had beckoned to Bond and had hobbled out with him to the back of the house. He showed him the little shack with the hole in the ground and the neatly quartered pages of the Asahi Shimbun on a nail, and the last of Bond’s private fears about life on the island was removed. His flickering candle showed the place to be as spotless as the house, and at least adequately salubrious. After the soft movements in the other two rooms had ceased, Bond had slept happily and like the dead.

Kissy came out of the house. She was wearing a kind of white cotton nightdress and a white cotton kerchief bound up the thick black waves of her hair. She wore her equipment, the weights and the heavy flat angular pick, over the white dress and only her arms and feet were bare. Bond may have shown his disappointment. She laughed, teasing him. ‘This is ceremonial dress for diving in the presence of important strangers. The kannushi-san instructed me to wear it in your company. As a mark of respect, of course.’