The dull, low tone of the other end of an attempted phone call.
“HELLO. WE ARE NOT AVAILABLE NOW.”
The automated generic greeting of the cell phone and voicemail inbox of one of the growing numbers of people who can’t be bothered with making their own greetings this day and age.
“PLEASE LEAVE YOUR MESSAGE AFTER THE TONE. WE WILL RETURN YOUR CALL.”
The prompt to begin your message, which may or may not be heard, let alone answered, this day and age.
“Henry. It’s Naomi.”
The bearing of bad news.
“It’s Grandpa… he had a bad fall at home, he’s in Queen’s right now. They don’t know how long he has, but it doesn’t look good… and he wants to see everyone one last time. Henry, I know it’s such short notice, but I hope you get this message and can get here soon. Love you, big brother. Bye.”
The hanging up, and leaving your message to fate.
It was a soupy day in New Orleans, and the heat didn’t help David Fox and Mushigihara’s tempers as they had been yelling at each other, both in person and on Jabber. This, combined with emotions running high in general in the aftermath of Paxton Ray’s brutal, career-ending betrayal of Jonathan Rhine, was enough for the Dangerous Mix boys to log off and talk about their feelings man-to-man.
David threw a ball at the fence surrounding the tint backyard of the Dangerous Mix’s rented house, then smiled as his beloved corgi Albert ran to retrieve it. There was a lot flowing through David Fox’s mind; the recent announcement of just how badly injured Jonathan Rhine was, the upcoming matchup against the newcomers Lunch Time, whom he knew nothing about other than the fact that they were cooks specializing in the kind of food his vegetarian mouth was unlikely to go near, and if there even WAS a future for the Dangerous Mix after the recent revelations, which only added to the stress of this slump the team was trudging through.
“Good boy,” David muttered as the excitable scamp brought the ball back and dropped it at David’s feet with that familiar corgi smile. He picked it up and threw it again, just as the man known as Mushigihara stepped out the back door, can of Asahi Super Dry in hand.
“So,” David absently muttered, not having anything to follow up.
“I’m sorry, David.”
“Sorry for what?” His senses came roaring back, and he stared into his Kaiju partner’s eyes with a dead-serious glare, ignoring Albert as he returned the ball to his master’s feet.
“I know that it’s a lot to take in. That somebody you thought you knew for so long has been hiding secrets of, well, THIS magnitude from you. It isn’t fair to you. And it’s not fair to us as a team.”
A pause. David silently picked the ball up and WHIPPED it into the wooden fence, turning around before he could see it bounce off and towards the alley leading to the front.
“Us? As a team?” The idea of the Dangerous Mix going on as a unit seemed absolutely laughable in that moment, but out of some combination of hope and respect, the Soul Survivor held his laughter. “If there’s going to be any kind of ‘us’ after all of this, you’re going to tell me everything you’ve been hiding from me. EVERYTHING.”
Albert had come back, but he seemed to sense his master’s temper, and so decided to lean up to his calf and nuzzle up, in an attempt to calm him down.
“After everything we’ve been through together,” David stewed, “and against each other… frankly, I think I’m entitled to at least that much.”
Mushi sighed and nodded. “Yes. You are entitled to at least that much. I’ll tell you everything.”
February 24, 2022
The Queen’s Medical Center,
“Good afternoon, I’m looking for Sanshiro Hashimoto,” the large Asian man asked at the front desk, deep sorrow clearly etched on his face, “he may also be listed as Sam Hashimoto?”
The attendant nodded and looked the name up on the current hospital. “Yes, sir, Mr. Hashimoto is in room 708. The elevator is down the ha-“
As he looked up to the desk computer, the attendant saw no trace of his guest. With a shrug, he sipped his coffee and went about his day.
The elevator opened on the seventh floor, and the giant stepped out, into the hall and into the arms of a young woman, slim of frame and also with Asian features.
“Henry!” she called out as she gave him a sisterly hug, “he’s this way. How was your flight?”
“What do you think,” Henry tiredly replied, “I was trying to hold it together in a tiny coach seat while hoping I wouldn’t be too late. It’s that bad?”
She nodded, “yeah. He’s still conscious, but he seems to know he’s going soon.”
“We’re not gonna talk about that right now,” he said as they rounded the corner, where a middle-aged woman awaited with tears in her eyes.
“Henry,” she wept as she wrapped her arms around him. “Is he still here, mom?” Henry asked, reciprocating the hug. Without saying a word, she pointed into the sunlit doorway, towards the old man looking out towards the big fellow who came to see him.
“Jiji,” Henry whispered as he charged to his grandfather’s bedside.
“Henry, my boy,” was the response of Sanshiro “Sam” Hashimoto, barely audible over the beeps and whirs of the hospital equipment keeping him alive and stable, “you’ve… grown.”
Henry chuckled. He knew his grandfather was being silly, even as death approached. “Don’t be silly, jiji.”
“You know me, Henry. After everything in my life… I have to smile and laugh.”
A long pause filled the air.
Personal Narrative Essay of Eiichiro “Henry” Yamazaki, 5th grade student at Manana Elementary School, 1997-98 school year.
My name is Eiichiro Yamazaki, but my family and friends call me Henry. I am ten years old, and live in Pearl City with my mom, my grandpa, and my sister Naomi. My father died when my sister and I were very young, so my grandpa is helping raise us. I love my mom and my grandpa very much. I call my grandpa “jiji,” which is Japanese for “grandpa.”
My grandpa owns an auto shop in Pearl City. He calls it Ace Imports, and sometimes when I’m not in school he lets me take calls or sweep floors. I like cars, and I want to work with them someday, but jiji says I’m still too young. He says I should focus on school and sports. My mom didn’t want me to play football, but jiji got her to let me. I play nose tackle now, but coach says he might try me out in other positions.
When I’m not in school, the shop, or playing football, I like to play video games and read books. I also take judo classes, and I’m really interested in computers, too. My favorite video game right now is Sega Rally Championship. I think it would be really cool to drive race cars for a living, but I don’t know if I could do it for real. I don’t like riding in fast cars a lot.
I love my jiji. He and my mom work really hard to take care of my sister and me. Sometimes he takes me to the arcade, or to football games at the college. He also makes sure I’m doing well in school. Sometimes, he gets very sad and tells me about his time in the camp, during the war. He says the government made all of the people who had ancestors from Japan leave their homes and go into the camps, because the people didn’t trust them. He says he prays every night, to whatever gods will listen to him, that his grandchildren don’t have to experience what he did.
I think I have a good life. I have a family that loves me, and I have friends that I spend time with. Sometimes we go to the movies or eat pizza at my jiji’s shop. I like pizza, but my favorite food is loco moco. When I grow up, I want to be the first Japanese-American to play in the NFL. If I don’t do that, I want to work with cars. Maybe as a designer, or in a shop like my jiji’s. I’m only in fifth grade, so I have plenty of time to think about that.
“I’m so happy I could see you again, Henry. Eiichiro. I’m so… proud of you.”
Sam pulled on his grandson’s hand, signaling for him to bring his head closer. Henry leaned in and heard his beloved jiji whispering in his ear.
“I know you worry about making me proud, my boy,” Sam weakly muttered, “but know that you always have, and you always will. Don’t stop growing, and striving to be better.”
Henry had to choke on his tears, but he nodded and kissed Sam on the forehead. Sam smiled and continued on.
“And don’t feel like you have to only ever say one word on TV, OK?”
Henry’s blood froze. How did Jiji know about his pro wrestling career?! He’d gone miles out of his way to make sure Jiji thought his sporting career was over after sumo! How did he…
He looked at Sam in shock, but all he saw was his jiji, smiling ear-to-ear and chuckling that signature chuckle as a nurse walked up next to Henry.
“I’m sorry, sir, but it’s time for Mr. Hashimoto’s bath and dinner.”
Henry looked at his grandfather, who nodded, that smile never leaving his face. Reluctantly, Henry said his goodbyes to him, while the rest of the family filed in to say goodbye, and make plans to see him again tomorrow.
Sanshiro “Sam” Hashimoto would not wake up the next morning.
From the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, February 27, 2022
Sanshiro “Sam” Hashimoto, 87, of Pearl City, passed away on February 25..
He was the owner of Ace Imports in Honolulu, as well as a frequent volunteer
Preceding him in death were his wife, Keiko; brother, Yujiro; sister, Hatsumi.
Survivors include his daughter, Mariko Yamazaki (the late Jun Yamazaki); grandson, Eiichiro “Henry”; granddaughter Naomi Clark (Brent); great-granddaughter Erika Clark; great-grandson Levi Clark.
A private memorial will be held with family and close friends attending. In lieu of flowers, Sam’s family requests donations be made to charities supporting the homeless, a cause very near and dear to his heart.
“So wait,” David Fox said, as he threw the ball at the fence once again, “your grandfather dying was the thing that made you decide it was time to come clean about…” he gestured wildly, flailing his arms in every direction as his beloved corgi Albert brought the ball back.
“More like, it was what nudged me in that direction. The training session with TAL was the clincher. Not being understood made me realize how I was limiting myself as a wrestler and as a person.”
Mushigihara paused and sighed.
“I couldn’t go on being a caricature, David. Not when I now know the strongest, bravest man I have ever known was watching me. My mom told me he watched every match. Even had my nephew go online and pirate matches for him, because he didn’t understand anything about streaming. When I think about how he must have felt, seeing his grandson go from college football, to sumo, to saying one Japanese word that only ever gets said in karate schools, I…”
David stared at his partner. He was still mad at him for keeping secrets for so long, but in that moment, he seemed to understand. “I can’t imagine it feels good. So… where does that leave us, then? Do I still call you Mushi, or Henry, or Eiichiro, or…”
“Either of those is fine,” the behemoth said, “I usually only let the people closest to me call me Henry.” He turned his head to his partner. “Just like you used to only let Saori and your relatives call you David back in the day.”
It started to sink into David’s skull at last. He’d tried to run away from who he was for a long time, and didn’t know true success until he came to terms with his own identity and destiny. And now, the beast who had been a fixture of his life for almost a decade was going through that process himself. And much like Troy Matthews was mostly a thing of the past, perhaps Mushigihara wouldn’t be far behind.
“So what, are you going to change your ring name like I did?”
“No,” the monster quickly replied, “that actually was a name I used in the past. I DID sumo, after I finished college. And I was, and still am, Mushigihara. But that’s… a discussion for another time.”
For a while, nothing was spoken or acted upon. The hum of the city filled their ears as the sun began to set, and eventually Mushigihara bent down to gently lift the canine companion into a loving embrace and gentle head pets.
“I know you probably don’t want to think about it now,” Mushi said, breaking the silence, “but we need to talk about how we’re going to handle this new Lunch Time team.” Nobody likes to lose in wrestling, but Mushigihara knew that David had taken the recent misfortunes of the team to heart; he’d overheard a conversation with Saori at the dinner table, talking about “burning his boots,” the old wrestling phrase for retirement. But Mushi knew David still had more to offer the ring, and didn’t want David to walk away because of the slump.
“Well, I guess it will be nice talking strategy with you and getting responses other than just ‘OSU,’” David finally relented, “and maybe someday you’ll explain how you got away with that shtick for so long.”
Mushi started making his way back inside, holding the door open with his non-dog-carrying arm for David.
“Would you believe me if I told you it got me out of jury duty?”
For the first time tonight, David Fox chuckled. “Get out. You GOTTA tell me THAT story.”
The door closed behind them, and it seemed the Dangerous Mix were once again somewhat stable.