Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"Shinobi In Kilts" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

I was in my usual booth at the back of Mr. Happy's Bar and Grill on a working lunch--burger, beer, and notes spread out on the table--when an old man slid into the seat across from me and took off his stained ball cap. He was in his late-sixties, slightly stoop-shouldered with a thick gray beard and a weatherbeaten face but his eyes were wild and sparkled with fire.

"You're Jericho, right?" he rasped.

"I am," I said.

He nodded. "I seen you here before. Lots of times. The wily writer."

"I've been called many things. Some of them had verbs in it. In reality, I'm a rogue journalist."

The man jerked a thumb toward the bar. "Louie told me 'bout you after I told him this story a few nights ago. Said you're the best person to tell about this."

He immediately intrigued me. "What story's that? And do you want a beer?"

"Name's Grady," he said and smacked his lips. "And sure, I'll take a beer."

I turned toward the bar, caught Louie's attention, and signaled for a drink. Then I turned back toward Grady. "What did you want to tell me?"

He looked around, cautious, then leaned in toward me. "Ninjas," he said. "But not just any ol' ninjas. Ninja pears."

"Ninja pears?"

Grady nodded. "And they're at war with each other. Since the 1600s. And I've seen it."

"Jove's hairy nutsac!" I pulled a Moleskine notebook from my fun bag which was sitting on the booth seat next to me and made some space amid the piles on the tabletop. "Tell me more."

Louie came by and set a pint of beer in front of Grady and shuffled back to the bar. Grady took a pull, wiped his lips. "Well," he said, "there's lotsa pears, you know."

"So I'm told."

"Mostly we know about the quoting pears."

"Quoting pears?"

"Bartlett's pears. They quote. Usually 'round about midnight, if you're listening. They usually collect their quotes in a popular book."

"Aha," I said, understanding. "Bartlett's Quotations."

"That's the one. There's also the babysitting pears."

"Babysitting pears?"

"The Au Pears."

"Ah."

"But," Grady went on, "not many know about the ninja pears."

"Which are the pears that you saw."

"Yeah. Back in 1962. I was roaming Japan. Hitchhiking. Finding myself. I was staying with a family in a little town called Tatsuno, in the Nagano Prefecture. Very center of Japan. Famous for fireflies."

"Were they in graves? Or called 'Serenity'?"

"No graves that I saw right off," Grady said gravely. "But no serenity. Not with a clan war."

"Clan War? Jade Falcon? Ghost Bear? Wolf? Was there mecha?"

"I don't know what you're talking about but anyway--one night, my new friends and I were up late talking when we heard what sounded like gusts of wind outside the house. Which was odd since it was a quiet, still night. My host, Sato-san, told everyone to lie down on floor, and quickly doused the house lights. He said not to look out the windows."

"But you did, didn't you."

Grady nodded.

"And what did you see?" I asked.

"I saw a dozen pears outside. Leaping between the rooftops of houses and battling each other with what looked like short swords called 'wakiznashi'. It went on for about three, four minutes. I could tell there were two opposing sides. One side sliced up the other and went it was all over and done with, the remaining side fled the scene, again leaping across rooftops."

Grady took a long pull of his beer. Then continued: "When I asked my host about it, Sato-san told me about the five clans: Kosui, Hosui, Chojuro, Shinko, and Nijisseiki. How they'd been fighting amongst one another since the mid-1400s up until the present. The present being 1968. Probably still are today. The battles take place a night, usually at midnight."

"The witching hour, of course. Do you think these clan wars are still going on?"

"Possibly. There's someone who'd know better. Old buddy of mine. Talk to him. He's been following the phenomenon for years now. Decades, really. His name's Paul Blackthorne."

"The actor?"

Grady shrugged. "I don't know about that. But Paul's descended from a British pilot who was shipwrecked in Japan back in the 1600s while working for Dutch traders. John Blackthorne. In his journals, Blackthrone wrote about witnessing a battle between pears in the forest. Paul ran across the journals back in high school and hung on to them. When I came back from Japan a month after that night seeing the pear battle, I told Paul about it. That jazzed him up. He told me about his ancestor's journals. Then a few months later, he went over there to check out the story and he's been back and forth ever since."

"How do I get in touch with him?" I asked, ideas for an article already roiling around my brain.

"I've got his info at home," said Grady. "I can call you. Do you have a card?"

I fished out a business card from the top pocket of my safari jacket. "You can also find me here."

He tapped the tabletop with a finger. "I know. Same booth every time." He grinned. "After I talked to Louie about this, I started looking back at some of my family history. Found out my ancestors were in a clan, too. Mongolian. From southern Siberia, really. One of the Tuvans."

"The ones who do throat-singing?"

"Yep. The Forest Peoples. Historically known as the Uriankhai."

"Saruman's orcs?"

"What?"

"Nevermind," I said, and took a long pull of my beer. "You mentioned your ancestors' clan. What was it?"

"Kherbeyr," said Grady. "How about you? Did you have ancestors in a clan?"

"I did," I said, proudly recalling stories my grandfather had told me when I was knee-high to a lawn gnome. "And it's funny you mentioned ninja pears. My ancestors were the little known or heard-of Scottish ninjas."

"Scottish ninjas?" said Grady, eyes widening. "What clan was that?"

"Clan Destine," I said.

Come back soon for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

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