stories

The Rumors About Me - Chapter2 (all)

"There was nothing especially unusual about the atmosphere at work. Except that when I entered the room, seven or eight of my co-workers were huddled together. They gave me sidelong glances as they whispered back and forth together. They're bad-mouthing me,I thought.
After taking care of the two or three vouchers on my desk,I went to the typists' little room. The moment they saw me, the girls put on poker faces and began pounding furiously at the keys. They'd obviously been ignoring their work and gossiping about me until that very moment.
I didn't give Akiko Mikawa a glance, and instead called Hiruma Sakamoto out into the corridor.
"Did somebody ask about me yesterday?"
She looked like she was about to cry. Apperently nervous she falteringly answered.
"I'm sorry. I didn't know those people were newspaper reporters. I never imagined an article like that would show up in the newspapers."
"Those people. What kind of guys were they?"
"There were four or five men. Of couse, I didn't know any of them. They surrounded me on my way home and asked me all kinds of things about you."
"Hmmm."
I pondered this. The plot was a far bigger affair than even I had imagined.
A little after noon I was called over by my section chief. After giving me some new work to do, he lowered his voice.
"I saw this morning's newspaper."
"Yes, Sir." I didn't know what so say.
My section chief grinned slyly and leaned close to me.
"Well, after all, the media are irresponsible, so I wouldn't let it get to you. I don't think anything of it myself."
This is what he said, but it was clear to me that he was actually eager to know what was going on.
I left the office to take care of the work he had given me, and flagged down a taxicab. The young drived had the car radio volume turned up full.
"Take me to Ginza 2-Chome."
"Eh? What'dja say?"
"Ginza 2-Chome."
"Ginza what chome?"
"2-Chome! 2-Chome!"
He finally noded, and off we went.
The music ended, and the announcer came on.
"And now for the 2 o'clock news. The government this morning issued directives to all prefectual police to immediately confiscate and vigorously crack down on the underground production and sale of the laughing bags now being sold across the nation. The laugh bags in question are toy bags that laugh uproariously. The latest directive was issued because of a recent sharp increase in prank telephone calls using these laughing bags, which have inconvenienced many people. The pranksters apparently call at one or two in the morning, and make the bag laugh into the telephone. It is reported that there are many cases in which people receiving these calls find them very annoying.
"And now to our next news...... Today Mr.Tsutomu Morishita arrived at work on time. It is believed that immediately after arriving at the office, he went to the typists'room and called Miss Hiruma Sakamoto out into the hallway, where he spoke with her at length. Nothing is known at this time about the contents of the discussion becomes available. Meanwhile, Mr. Morishita subsequently boarded a taxi on company business, and is at this time headed in the direction of the Ginza.
"In other news, the Ministry of Health and Welface today released the results of a nationwide survey on pinball pros and pinball pin placers. According to the study it is extremely bad for one's health to play pachinko after eating eels. When asked for comments, Tadashi Akanemura, chairman of the Japan Pinball Pin Placers' Association, said......"
The driver turned off the radio. I presumed he found it uninteresting.
Was I really that well known to everybody? I closed my eyes and thought about it. Could it really be that my nameless self was known throughout society?
I did have a title of sorts, but it was only'company'employee. A title like'employee of Kasuyama Electric Industry Ltd.'was the same as no title at all in the world of the mass media. So, just how well known was my name, or my face? Take this cabbie, for instance. As he listened to the news, did he realize that the subject was none other than the man sitting in the back seat of his own taxicab? Or had he recognized me from the moment I get in? Or did he know absolutely nothing about me at all?
I tried asking.
"Hey, hey, driver. Do you know who I am?"
The driver peered into the rear view mirror and studied my face.
"Did I meet you somewhere?"
"No. We've never met."
"Then there's no way I could know you, is there?"
after a moment, he questioned me back.

"You some kind of celebrity?"
"No. I'm no celebrity. I'm just an office worker."
"Are You on TV a lot?"
"No, I've never been on television."
The driver laughed sourly.
"No reason I should know anybody like that, now, is there?"
"I guess not," I nodded. "You're absolutely right." I thought back to the radio news of a moment ago.
The announcer had even known I was headed toward the Ginza in a taxicab at that very moment. And that meant that somebody must be tailing me and observing my movements. I looked behind us. Once I started feeling suspicious, every car looked suspect.
"There's a good possibility we're being followed," I told the driver."Can you shake them?"
"That's a real hassle." The driver made a sour face. "I don't even know what car they're in, do I? For a start it's so crowded ─ there's no way to lose them."
"It's probably that black Cedric. Look, it's flying a newspaper company flag on the bumper."
"Well, in that case, I'll see what I can do. But if you ask me, you've just got a persecution complex."
I'm perfectly sane," I told him hastily. "Don't take me to a mental hospital or anything like that."
After wobbling here and there as if a sleepwalker was driving, the taxi arrived at Ginza 2-Chome.
"Well, at least I shook the black Cedric," smirked the driver."I hope you'll be giving me a tip."
I had no choice. I gave him just 500-yen more than the meter showed. When I entered our client's office in Ginza 2-Chome, a receptionist I know by sight showed me into a waiting room for special guests, with unusual politeness. Normally I'd just be called to the desk of the clerk in charge, and have to talk standing up while he stayed put in his chair. I sat down on the sofa in the vast reception room. As I was squirming there uneasily, for some unaccountable reason both out client's department director and section chief entered the room and greeted me formally.
"We appreciate all the help you've given our Suzuki," said the director, bowing deeply. Suzuki was the chief clerk who always dealt with me.
"Oh,no. not at all."
I sat there, flustered, as the director and section chief completely ignored the business at hand and extravagantly praised my necktie, lauded my good taste, and finally even began to eulogize my good looks. I winced, and as soon as I'd handed over the papers I'd received from my boss and delivered his message, I hurried from the office.