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Yamamoto had not wanted to break up the work party, which is why he stayed until its end. When he arrived at the station there were only four minutes to spare before the last train of the night would set off. 

None of his colleagues had known Yamamoto wasn’t feeling well, sitting tall in his charcoal grey Armani suit in the izakaya booth. But then none would have claimed to really know Yamamoto in any personal way at all. They certainly wouldn’t have known that at the best of times going for after-work dinner and drinks at the pub wasn’t exactly the thirty-one-year-old’s favourite hobby. That he only ever drank a single glass of beer at these all too-common-outings was of course joked about, but Yamamoto was such a good sport, laughing along, no one realized the young manager would rather have been at home. 

The guys from the office liked talking about sports, baseball, soccer, so Yamamoto, who sometimes worried he came across as too work-oriented, would talk about his fitness routine: weight training and swimming 1500 metres every day before work. He liked describing the specifics of his exercise regimen; it was easy conversation that wasn’t gossip or overly personal. Better to answer his colleagues’ probing questions about fitness than deal with inane ones about appearance. His co-workers, old and young alike, often made wisecracks about Yamamoto’s looks, and there was always an element of truth in their envy-tinged teasing. A favourite witticism involved asking about the quantity of seaweed he’d eaten as a child—the old myth about seaweed doing wonders for the lustre of one’s hair. But really, what was his secret? They wanted to know. It was genetic, wasn’t it? Yamamoto had to admit it probably was. 

One thing he didn’t share with his coworkers was his love of reading, in particular long nineteenth-century English novels. He read them in Japanese, of course. He’d never been strong with languages. It didn’t matter. There were plenty of good translations, especially for Dickens. His favourite, though, was Trollope. Trollope for the everyday details of English life that took Yamamoto to that far off place. Trollope and a cup of English tea in his armchair by the window of his carpeted living room—that was the young salaryman’s idea of a perfect night. But he knew his colleagues wouldn’t understand. As he wasn’t yet married, they’d think him strange choosing not to join them more often. 

On this night, though, a rather wet and muggy Thursday, he had to be out... 


To read the rest, "Last Train to Takarazuka" is available at local bookstores in Canada or you can order a copy directly from Prism International by clicking this magical link (and clicking [Add to Cart] at bottom of page).