Red Right Hand: A LETTER TO JACQUES COUSTEAU FROM A DISGRUNTLED JAPANESE WORLD WAR II VETERAN
*He is not a secret agent. Not at all.

 

A LETTER TO JACQUES COUSTEAU FROM A DISGRUNTLED JAPANESE WORLD WAR II VETERAN

Found among the personal belongings of Private Tsubouchi Goro, aged 79, shortly after his death in the winter of 2004.

Dear Monsieur Cousteau,

I can recall our brief meeting upon that nameless atoll, west of the Tuamotu Archipelago, as vividly as I can recall the creases on the landscape print by Ito Yuhan that was my only memory of home for fifty-three years. It was an event that would shape my life for many years to come.

I was not aware of your renown at the time of our meeting. I have since learned that you are highly regarded as an explorer, researcher, and ecologist. I have surmised that your interest in the area may have centered around a variety of pygmy shark which I found to be quite tasty for the first fifteen years of my extended tour of duty.

You may recall that after anchoring at my nameless atoll you were startled to find me, in my ragged uniform, threatening you with a rifle which I discovered had apparently lapsed into a subtle state of disrepair at some point in the preceding decades. I was relieved when you treated me with some level of kindness after my blatant hostility. Your gift of the exotic chocolate bar, Ex-Lax, while appreciated did turn out to be somewhat unfortunate some time later.

However, I take umbrage at what transpired next.

After telling you of my duty to safeguard this strategic foothold for the mighty Japanese Empire, you informed me that the Second World War had come to an end some thirty-six years prior. While I was dismayed by my country’s surrender, I was elated at the opportunity to return home.

My joy was short-lived as you then informed me, with some regret, that the war had begun again just six years prior to your arrival upon my nameless atoll. While you offered me transport to North America, I had no desire to live as a prisoner-of-war, nor would my sense of duty allow me to leave my post, despite the lack of functioning firearms.

Some while later I was rescued by a young and apparently prosperous American fisherman who went by the name of Kegger. I owe my thanks to him and his several hearty shipmates aboard his vessel, the Bass-Ackwards. My recovery from the nameless atoll was apparently the cause for celebration as they consumed much beer and sang a shanty I have learned is titled “Getting Jiggy With It.” It was after my return home to Shimane Prefecture that I learned two things. The war did end in 1945, as claimed. Also, it did not, in fact, begin anew in 1976.

While I have been informed that you died seven years ago, it has been my experience that information of this nature may not be true.

My displeasure with you is exceeded only by by the disdain with which I regard my former commanders. My curiosity over the final outcome of the war that I thought I had been involved in revealed to me that the area west of Tuamotu Archipelago was, at best, a minor concern to both sides of the conflict. More so, the pebble which I had been assigned to safeguard. I have speculated that my poor fortunes were the result of a profitable game of Go I had participated in with a nephew of Tojo.

It is because of your cavalier regard that my final years have been tinged with a melancholy sadness of what could have been. While you were celebrated for your explorations, I shared a cave with several hundred generations of lizards who I believe regarded me as a deity. I can only revel in the fact that it took the deaths of over 200,000 of my fellow citizens to force the surrender of our great and noble empire, whereas it has been explained to me that your countrymen laid down arms at the thought of missing a glass of cold vinegar.

I should like to close with a haiku I have composed in your (dis)honor.

Moist, wrinkly Frenchman
Your humor is without care
Go and fuck yourself



With both exasperation and rage,
Private Tsubouchi Goro
Dai-Nippon Teikoku Rikugun (ret.)

P.S.
I took your advice and named my anonymous little atoll after you set sail. I chose to name it for a heroic and kind man. I have since opted to revoke that name. I think you know why.

Reprinted from 10.13.2005 because it amused me to do so and © Michael Patrick Sullivan (for what that's worth)
©2016 Michael Patrick Sullivan