stories

The Rumors About Me - Chapter1 (all)

The Rumors About Me(1) ---

I was astonished while watching the news on NHK when the announcer suddenly began talking about me.
"...and that concludes our news about Vietnam. Next, domestic topics.
"Today, Mr. Tsutomu Morishita invited Miss Akiko Mikawa, a typist at his company, out to tea, but was refused. This was the fifth time Mr. Morishita had invited Miss Mikawa out to tea, though she'd only agreed to accompany him on the first occasion. Since then, he had been turned down repeatedly."
"Huh? What, what, what!!"
I banged my cup down on the low table and my eyes widened.
"Wh-what the devil is this!"
My mug shot filled the screen.
"The reason for Miss Mikawa's refusal of Mr. Morishita's invitation for a date is not yet known," continued the announcer. "However, according to Miss Hiruma Sakamoto, Miss Mikawa's friend and co-worker, Miss Mikawa does not necessarily dislike Mr. Morishita. It is likely that the reason she refused is that she simply does not like him all that much."
A head and shoulders shot of Akiko Mikawa loomed on the screen.
"From this, it is believed that Mr. Morishita did not make a particularly strong impression on Miss Mikawa the first time she had tea with him. Meanwhile, informed sources report that tonight Mr. Morishita did not go anywhere after work, but returned directly to his lodgings, where he prepared and is eating dinner by himself. That concludes our news about Mr. Morishita. "In other news, this evening is the night festival at the Yakuyoke Hachiman Shrine in Mizugaoka, Kobe. Let's go to our live report on the festivities from Mr. Mizuno, reporting from the scene."
"Yes! Mizuno here..."
I sat dazed, blankly watching the screen as the television broadcast the next story.
"Whew, that was a shock," I murmured at last. It was an hallucination. It had to be. An illusion, and an auditory hallucination at that. Anything else was unthinkable. In the first place, what was the point of reporting that I had invited Akiko Misawa out, and that I had been soundly turned down as usual? It had no news value.
Still, for an hallucination, the photographs of myself and Akiko Mikawa shown on the screen, the style of character used for our names underneath, and the way the announcer had spoken lingered all too vividly in my memory. I shook my head violently.
"Impossible!"
The news ended. I nodded decisively, then declared resolutely.
"It´s an illusion. Yes. An illusion."
I murmured on.
"I guess there really are illusion as clear as this one."
"Ha ha ha ha ha!" I laughed. The sound of my low laughter echoed in the four-and-a-half tatami-mat room.
I tried imagining what would happen if the story really had been broadcast. If Akiko Mikawa had seen it, or if the guys at the office had seen it, what on earth would they think? I burst out laughing again at the thought, and it just wouldn't stop.
"Ah-hahah! Hahahahahahaha! Hee,hee! Hahahahahahaha!"
Even after I'd burrowed into my futon, I still couldn't stop laughing for some time.

The next morning I was on the human interest page of the newspaper.


MISS MIKAWA REFUSES
MR. MORISHITA'S INVITATION!


"At approximately 4:40 p.m. on the 18th, Mr. Tsutomu Morishita(28), employee of Kasuyama Electric Industry Ltd. of Sanko-machi, Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, was turned down after asking Miss Akiko Mikawa(23), a typist at the same company, to have tea with him after work. Miss Mikawa said she had to return home early. When he asked Miss Mikawa in the hall, Mr.Morishita was wearing a red necktie with green polka dots purchased the previous day at a Shinjuku supermarket.
"Mr. Morishita had no choice but to return to his lodgings in Kichijoji's Higashi-machi, where he prepared dinner and ate by himself. After dinner, he is believed to have gone straight to bed as usual. It was the fourth time in a row that Miss Mikawa had turned Mr. Morishita's invitation down."
There was a mug shot of me. It was the same one I'd seen on television the night before. There was no picture of Akiko Mikawa. Apparently I was the main subject of the story.
I read the article over four or five times while I drank some milk. Then I ripped it into shreds and dumped it in the wastebasket.
"It's a plot," I muttered. It's somebody's plot. Damn! Going to all this trouble!"
It must cost money to print even a single copy of a newspaper. Who on earth would go to all that expense to plot to drive me crazy? I had absolutely no memory of doing anything to make someone hate me. If anything, I suppose it could be that someone else was in love with Akiko Mikawa. But even then, all I'd gotten from her so far was the cold shoulder.
I figured that anyone who would try a prank on this scale must be a real loony. But there simply wasn't anyone like that around me.
"Oh dear, it would have been better if I hadn't torn up that newspaper." I clicked my tongue at my own short temper. It might have helped me find the criminal, and it would have been evidence once I had him.

I boarded the crowded commuter train. As I stood in the aisle toward the middle of the car, trying to figure out who among the people I know might be responsible, I suddenly noticed the newspaper the man next to me was reading. It was a different paper, but there was still an article about me in it. Moreover, this one was two columns long!
"What....." I uttered softly.
The man reading the paper looked me in the face, turned his eyes back to the page, and after looking at my picture, then raised his head and stared at me. I hastily turned my back on him.
What a bastard! I felt outrage as a sudden wave of anger over swept me. The criminal had switched the morning papers with fakes along the entire rail line. He had not only forced me to read the article about me, but everyone riding with me on this train. He was trying to make a laughing stock out of me, to ruin my reputation. And it goes without saying that he was trying to drive me crazy. I filled my lungs with the stuffy air of the packed train. Damn! I wouldn't fall for it! I'd never let him drive me mad!
"Hahahahahahahaha!" I laughed shrilly. "Who's going mad?" I shouted. "I'm perfectly sane! Hahahahahahahahahaha!"
The loudspeakers were barking away as usual when we arrived at Sinjuku Station.
"Sinjuku. Sinjuku. Passengers changing to the Yamanote Line please proceed to the platform for Yamanote trains. This train is bound for Yotsuya, Kanda and Tokyo. Incidentally, Mr. Tsutomu Morishita is riding in the sixth car; He had only a bottle of milk for breakfast this morning. Well everybody, have a good day and work hard!"