For the very low price of “your time”, you get not one but two stories this week.
First up, this week’s Odd Prompts story.
“Be aware of cat” the sign read. “Shouldn’t that be ‘beware of cat’, He laughed at the typo. Below that sign was a hand written addition, “close the door quickly, don’t let the cat out.”
Still laughing he obliged them and shut the door as quickly as he could. Inside it looked like any other lab he’d seen; the front, “public” section looked like an office with people doing office things and machines making soft noises. Behind Plexiglas windows he could see more people doing mysterious things. He looked around trying to see if he could find the person he was supposed to meet, or someone who could direct him. No one was at the front desk and, thus far, no one seemed to have noticed him.
While he was standing there, looking around, he felt something brush against his leg. He looked down, expecting to see the cat the sign warned about, but saw nothing. Must have imagined it, he thought.
“Hello?” he called out, trying to get someone’s attention.
“Be right with you,” a female voice answered. “Just have a seat.”
He looked around and saw one of those plastic benches offices like to use. He stumbled when he started for the bench. He swore he’d tripped over something, but there was nothing there.
After a moment a curvaceous figure sashayed into the room. “Hi, I’m Gay. Sorry to keep you waiting,” she chirped. “How can I help you?”
“Hi, I’m ah,” his voice squeaked up half an octave. He coughed, cleared his throat and tried to keep his eyes on her face. “I’m Cornett, Corporate sent me. I have an order to pick up an item from a Dr. Latrans.”
“Oh, you’re here to see Wiley.” She beamed and reached for her phone. “I’ll let him know you’re here.” She briefly spoke into the phone, responding to the growling voice just as friendly as she had spoken to him. “He’ll be right out.” Gay smiled at him and looked around the office. “You didn’t let Beans out did you?”
“Beans?” Cornett blinked and looked around. At least it gave him a break from fighting to keep his eyes up. “Oh, the cat mentioned on the sign.”
“Yeah,” she sighed. “He likes to try and slip out when strangers visit. Last time he got out, it took us three days to find him. He terrorized the local pigeons during those three days.”
“Oh, well I never saw him, and I shut door quickly anyway.”
“You wouldn’t have seen him, he’s …” she paused and looked down at her feet. “Oh, there you are.” Gay reached down and stroked Beans.
Cornett waited a moment for her to continue but she was distracted by the cat. “Is he fast?”
“Beans? Yeah, he is. But that’s not the problem.” Gay giggled. There was a soft thump as if something landed on the desk followed by a loud purr, but Cornett couldn’t see where it came from. “Beans got into the lab last year,” she pointed with a pen towards the Plexiglas, “and well, now he’s kinda transparent.”
A small paperweight fell of the desk as Beans made his opinion of being ignored known.
“He’s invisible?” Cornett gapped at the desk and the papers being knocked off.
“Yeah, makes it hard to know where he is.” Gay reached out and started petting the air.
“Have you thought about putting a bell on him?”
“Oh, gracious yes. But first we would have to actually catch him. And, as I said he is fast and, well did you ever watch the old Roadrunner cartoons?” Gay gave him a smile as the door to lab opened. A figure wearing a rumpled lab coat and his hair in wild disarray stalked in. Beans let out a soft hiss and papers flew off Gay’s desk. “He doesn’t like Dr. Latrans,” she whispered.
“You the delivery?”
“Yes,” Cornett stood and held out a hand, “I’m …”
“Yes, yes, here.” Dr. Latrans held out a box. “Don’t drop, fold, spin or mutilate. Just get it to HQ in one piece.”
Cornett maintained a polite smile. “Acme Delivery guarantees your package arrives in their original condition.” As he took box he noticed that the door to the lab was open. Before he could ask about Beans he saw a couple of beakers fall off the counter. He beat a hasty retreat before Dr. Latrans noticed.
The prompt was “transparent cat”. I had some fun with it, but I think it fell a bit in the end, like it wanted to go one direction and I wanted to go another.
All of the characters are named for Warner Brothers staff or characters. In case your Latin is no better than mine: Dr. Latrans’ full name is Wiley C. Latrans. (C for Canis) Canis Latrans is the Latin name for … coyote.
The next story was inspired by real life.
My sister and I are fans of the Japanese sport of Sumo. If the image that just went through your mind is fat guys in loin-clothes, you have only one small part of the picture. Sumo is rich with history and heavy on tradition. It is an exciting sport.
During this most recent tournament many of us noticed this woman sitting near the ring.
The Lady in White
She’d been a fan of Sumo for years, decades actually. At first she’d come to the Kokugikan with a patron. Back then she hadn’t known anything about Sumo, but over the years she’d learned. Patrons paid to get first row box seats, not quite ringside but also didn’t have the risk of having a Rikishi stumble into you. She quickly became fond of Hokuten’yū, a long time Ozeki. Watching his execute a good throw was always exciting. She couldn’t help buy like Plucky Hananoumi, who kept bouncing up and down Maegashira ranks, splitting his time between injuries and excellent tournaments. And who could forget Ishinriki? At 175 cm and only 85kg, he was one of the smallest men to ever to become a sekitori. She hadn’t liked the foreign born rikishi and had been dismayed when the council had promoted Konishiki to Ozeki. But, like most sumo fans, but the time Akebono was promoted to Yokazuna five years later she had come to respect them for their skill.
As the years past the patrons became fewer but her interest in Sumo never waned. If anything it increased. She watched her favorites reach the end of their career and retire while newer, younger, rikishi joined the ranks. It became a matter of pride to watch the young men mount the dohyō in their debut, their maezumō, and seeing who looked promising.
When the day came that no Patron asked her to escort them she started to save money where she could; putting aside what she could in the chance that she might have to buy a ticket for herself. She started watching the tournaments on TV. It wasn’t as exciting as being there, but at least she could still watch and quietly cheer on her favorites. She was able to make one live tournament a year, usually the September Tokyo Tournament.
She quietly, privately, cried when the Sumo world was rocked by scandal, allegations of match fixing, and the March 2011Osaka tournament was cancelled.
Sumo did continue, as did her interest. She smiled in 2013 when a young man from Tottori mounted the dohyo as a mid level Makushita. He was smaller than Ishinriki. He finished with a respectable 6-1 record and she took note of his name to watch him. Ishiura wasn’t as dynamic as Ishinriki had been, but he had potential. Two years later she was delighted to see him fighting in Juryo. In that same tournament she saw another young rikishi that caught her attention. Fighting at the lower end of the Maskushita he remained undefeated until the division championship playoff. Young Ura was hardly any taller than Ishiura but he was dynamic.
2017 saw two beloved rikishi with injuries serious enough to imperil their careers. In March, newly minted Yokozuna Kisenasato fell off the dohyo and injured his chest and shoulder. In June Ura injured his knee, while he tried to fight through the pain, he lost the rest of the matches. Neither completed a tournament for the rest of the year. She was saddened when Kisenasato failed to return to his former strength and eventual retirement after a tragically short career as a Yokozuna, finishing only one tournament since his injury. Ura underwent surgery and dropped down the ranks back to the lowest levels. Watching his fight his way back through the ranks gave her hope that he could make it back to the Makuuchi division.
The end of 2019 brought the corona virus to Japan, and the world, and Sumo. The March tournament is Osaka was held without an audience. The May tournament was cancelled. The July tournament was moved from Nagoya to Tokyo and only a quarter of the normal audience could attend in person. She was bitterly disappointed, even a little angry, when her friends would not let her attend the September tournament. She’s saved up her money and knew she could get a ticket. They still weren’t allowing more than a quarter of the audience to attend, and that the ring side seats and lower box seats were still closed, but she had so wanted to see where all her rikishi were. When November arrived she was determined to go.
She arrived on the early first day and took her seat on the east side, near passage way the rikishi went through to enter and leave the arena. This was the first time since 2019 people could sit in the lower sections. She watched, quietly encouraging the young men, applauding when a favorite won, someone displayed courage, or strong technique. She thought that Terunofuji was looking exceptionally strong and hoped that the former Ozeki would have a good tournament. Injury and corrective surgery had caused him to fall down to the lower ranks and he had fought his way back up to the Makuuchi division, even winning a tournament earlier in the year. Perhaps he could repeat and come closer to reclaiming his Ozeki rank. Unfortunately, none of the Yokozuma were present, they were dealing with lingering injuries. Neither was very young and most people expected both to retire in a year or two. Two of the Ozeki had suffered injuries and had pulled out of the tournament early.
Around the world Sumo fans watched the televised matches, cheering when their favorites won and groaning when they lost. They were also taking notice of a very proper young woman, always dressed in white, seated on the far left of the screen, briefly visible when the camera changed angles. She sat with perfect posture, a demure expression, and her hands properly folded in her hand. When she applauded, it was light and ladylike. In any other tournament she might have gone unnoticed, but with the first row of ring side seats empty, the camera had a clear line on the third row seats. She was reported to have been there every day, all day. Who was she? Family? Friend? The questions went out across the internet boards. No one seemed to know, but thousands had noticed her. One intrepid gentleman in American messaged a friend in Tokyo and asked him to ask a friend who had tickets.
Who is the lady in white sitting on the East, next to the tunnel?
The response came back: What lady?
In a Yoshicho teahouse friends and family, former patrons and co-workers, of a respected Geisha gathered to mourn her passing. Among the mementos were tegata of some of her favorite rikishi.
The Lady in question: https://imgur.com/a/UW2vcer
A few links to help understand Sumo.
What is Sumo? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumo
If any of this has piqued your interest, stop by Tachiai https://tachiai.org/. If a tournament is in progress they post daily match commentary. Between tournaments they will sometimes put up informational posts.
You can also find videos of matches on line. NHKWorld will have the daily Highlights posted, but they are a day behind. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/tv/sumo/ If you can find NHKWorld in your area, the Highlights are shown same day, 4 times a day.