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Harry Buschman

(From the libretto of Puccini's Madama Butterfly)

I was about to step up to her when the Chief took my arm and said, “I’d steer clear of her if I was you, sailor.”

She had a lot of class, a little gaudy what with the blond wig and all, but I hadn’t seen an honest to God woman like that since we left Pearl. I had 24 hour shore leave, and you don’t come up for air very often when you sail on a nuclear sub, so I was inclined to go for it. “C’mon, Chief, she’s just what I’m lookin’ for.”

“She ain’t lookin’ for you -- not while this ship’s in port.” He pulled me into the Happy Dolphin, a joint that boasts the longest mahogany bar in Nagasaki. “She’s lookin’ for Lieutenant JG Ben Pinkerton.”

We watched her in the street outside. She walked quickly up and down searching the faces of every sailor she saw, she would say a few words to them then quickly walk away. The other girls on the street -- working girls, ignored her.

“Who’s Pinkerton, Chief?”

“He was Duty Officer in the Sonar room. It’s five years ago now. He requested re-assignment as a junior officer in the Pentagon. Guess he’s mainland now.”

The Chief ordered Kirin beers for the two of us and we sipped them slowly as we watched the girl outside. “Her name’s Cho-Cho-San. Her father was a Bonze.” ... I guess I looked a little blank.

“A Bonze is a Shinto priest. He disowned her when he found out she married Pinkerton.”

“He MARRIED her!?”

“Yeah. By Japanese law and religion.” Chief laughed bitterly. “Didn’t mean nuthin’ to Pinkerton though. We were headin’ back for the States in a month anyways. Just a cheap way of shackin’ up ‘til we left. It meant a lot to her though.”

“Did her family take her back?”

“No. There was a kid -- nine months after we sailed, there was a kid. Y’see, there’s nuthin’ much worse than for a Japanese woman to be livin’ alone with a blue eyed, red haired kid. She’s poison to her own people.”

“I suppose she’s askin’ the guys if anybody’s seen Pinkerton, huh?”

“It’s worse’n that.”

“Y’breakin’ my heart, Chief.”

“I mean it. It’s worse. She thinks he’s comin’ back -- he told her to wait, he’d send for her. The bastard told me that on the trip back to Pearl, she probably thinks he’s on board.”

“Jeez, what’s she gonna do when she finds out?”

“There’s a sayin’ they have over here -- ‘to die with honor when you can no longer live with honor.’ Every family has a knife, a special knife. They save it for the day they can no longer live with honor.”

the end

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