Western Umbrella, Wait For Rain
By Glyph Bellchime

Part one ---Feliz Navidad, Los Pero….

September 15

Dear Akane,
How are you doing? Been training a while. I didn’t know Japan had deserts before, but then Jiro found out that were heading into Nevada, in the United States. She said the driver told what the highway signs said, they tipped her off. Damn, this sense of direction of mine.
 Should be there for your Christmas party, if you’re planning to hold it again this year. Jiro and I have travelled a while, and it would be nice to see some familiar faces again. Ran into another friend, Mrs. Hernadez, her kids sure have grown! But I don’t think you know them. (considering they live in Cancun)
 Jiro says hi (although it’s her turn for firewood). I really don’t understand why she follows me other than to lose that idiot Jakku. It is nice to have someone with me while travelling. But I worry…
I have told you about rescuing her, but when I explained about her not needing to follow me, she insisted on staying. Well, I really didn’t have the heart to turn her back. Considering the alternative.
Maybe I’m getting used to her, I don’t know—I’m just worried I may get in some places that if I LOSE her (no pun intended) she might get into trouble.
 Anyway, I should be in Niigata by tomorrow and probably make Tokyo by the end of the week. See you soon!

Feliz navidad, feliz navidad, nevar los pero anos que felicidad, feliz navidad, feliz navidad, naver los pero anos que felicidad…I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas…

 Jiro’s eyelids fluttered. The warmness of the cab had gotten to her. She had fallen asleep against the semi-truck door. She pulled the poncho and blanket further around her. I wasn’t until the upbeat lyrics drifted by her unattuned ear  that she woke up.
  Her native language was Japanese, still she used it extensively. But since traveling with her companion she had slowly picked up on others. She would catch a phrase here, a sentence there. So to hear the Spanish words tickled her ears. Her rather pointed ears.
 “Oniisan, nani?” she stirred. The boy next to her titled his head, then leaned back in the seat.
 “>Go back to sleep<,” he murmured. He smiled, joining the driver with singing the song.
 When the song finished, the driver laughed, “Man, I have never found anyone who’d sing that song correctly in years. You study other languages, kid?”
 “I told you, my name is Ryoga,” the boy sighed. He shifted his coat so the hood came off the dark brown hair. A yellow and black-checked bandanna kept most of that hair from flopping over the boy’s hazel eyes. They were a dark brown-gray now. Rather like soft chocolate. “Mr. Cameron,” he finished.
 “And you gotta call me Jim—deal?”
Ryoga sighed again. He then closed his eyes.
Jiro now was getting more awake. “Doko wa desu ka?” she asked, pulling suddenly on Ryoga’s sleeve. He looked at her questioningly, but it made sense. If she didn’t know where they were, than they were both in trouble, because Ryoga had no real sense of direction. One “friend” had even complained that he had the directional instincts of a depressed lemming. Ouch.
“Nani?  Doko da?” he confirmed.
“Hai.  Doko da?”
“Hey, Jim, Doko—I mean, where are we?”
Jim leaned left a little. “Highway 68. Should be pulling into ---------, soon. That’s where my family lives. You’re welcome to stay with us during the holidays.”
Ryoga translated. “No, but the thought is greatly appreciated.” Ryoga nodded politely, then he paused. “------------, you say? I may have friends in that town.”
“Other truckers?” Jim asked.
“Eh, no, but I think you might know where the East high school is?”
Jim laughed. “That’s where my kids go, although the oldest is over at the college across town.”
“That’s Jennifer, right?”
“You gotta good memory, too.”

“Oniisan, >why are we stopping here?<” Jiro felt cold, but she still carried her water bucket with some of her gear in it. She was also carrying a gray backpack that seemed larger than she was. Even bundled up for the cold weather. This had been a complete switch from the last destination they had been in.
“>By the way, what were you speaking in the last place?<”
Ryoga sighed. “Swahili.”
“>And what were you using talking to Jim?<”
“>American English. He has a Midwest accent.<”
“>Why the switch?<” she asked.
Ryoga didn’t switch to Japanese again. “Because we ended up in what is called by the English, Somalia.”
Jiro shut up. She looked towards the sky and noticed the tops of some pine trees. They had wandered from the school grounds to a nearby suburban area. White snow blanketed the area. Jiro was hearing the purr of a motor and the yelling of a pair of kids.
Ryoga pulled out his umbrella in time to shield Jiro and he from the onslaught of snow! The motor idled, and a pair of teenagers came to them. A girl and a boy, a third, another boy, dropped his shovel to see what the problem was.
“Ma’am, are you all right?” the girl yelled over.
“TAKE YA EARMUFFS OFF, DUMMY!” the boy who had been running the machine yelped to her ears.
Jiro blinked. The machine had been loud, but this wasn’t helping. Ryoga shook the umbrella, then collapsed it down.
“Hey, it’s Ray!” the third boy chuckled. “Long time no see!”
“Do I know you?” Ryoga asked.
“Aww, come on Ryoga, you remember us.” The girl laughed, but then she saw his really confused look. “Say your usual line, I’ll give ya hint.”
“Nani?” he answered, then, “Oh, where on Earth am I now?”
The girl responded with, “I don’t think the Earth gives a damn where you’re at.”
The boy who had been running the machine responded with, “My shower! Now get outta of it.”
The third said simply. “Never never land, what do you think?”
Suddenly the responses fit into somewhere in his memory. “Andrea! Danny! Justin! Oh, man, sorry!”
“Well, with all the people you probably meet, it’s understandable. Boy, have you grown!” Andrea smiled. “I think you and I matched height the last time you were here!”
Jiro stood in the snow, rather quiet until Ryoga introduced her. “Heh, well, I have seen everything. I didn’t know you had family, Ray!” Justin spoke up.
“Why don’t you two invite them in instead of all of us catching colds in the snow?!” Danny hollered over the started motor.
Ryoga followed the two teenagers. The house had a ramp to it along the stairs. “Hey, MOM!” Justin yelled. She called back, telling them to take their snowy shoes off in the basement. A chair lift ran along the stairs, both up and down. Ryoga paused looking at it a little oddly.
“Come on up, you two,” a friendly sounding voice drew their attention. A woman stood at the top of the stairs with a warm smile. Frizzy blonde hair framed her face. Ryoga climbed the stairs, and shook hands with her, before giving a slight bow.
“Mrs. Matthews,” he responded, finally smiling.
“Ryoga-kun, I suppose then,” she made her face dower, then swept him up in a hug that surprised him. Jiro concealed her giggle. “Come, sit down while I make some cocoa for the kids.”
When both he and Jiro sat, another voice made Ryoga turn.
“Hola, senor Ryoga,” the voice was quiet and soft. A boy with Hispanic features pushed his wheelchair towards the pleasantly surprised Ryoga. Jiro stared puzzled as Ryoga crouched to the level of the chair.
“Hola, tambien, Miguel, como estas?”
(Hi, also, Miguel, how are you?)
“Buena, buena, pero me llama Mike ahora, y tu?”
(Good, good, but they call me Mike now, and you?)
“Estoy buena. Uhm, es mi hermana Jiro. No habla espanol.”
(I’m fine. Uhm, this is my sister Jiro. She doesn’t speak Spanish.)
Ryoga looked at Jiro decisively for a moment. “Hmm, un poquito.”
(A real little.)
“Lo siento. Hello, Jiro,”
(I’m sorry.)
“Konnichiwa,” she finally smiled. “Oniisan, >could you please translate<?”
“She says hi as well,” he smiled. Mrs. Matthews handed all three cups.
Ryoga sat on the floor, cross legged and began to talk to Mike. Jiro went into the living room with Mrs. Matthew’s permission. Ryoga heard the TV set turn on. Educational channel.
“So, since it’s Mike now, how did you get here?”
 He and Mike lapsed into conversation clear up to the point where the other kids came in. Andrea parked beside Jiro. She had a cup of cocoa. Andrea picked at her nails, the polish, a very surprising combo of a bright red next to a baby blue.
“Hey, Jiro, would like me to do your nails, too?”
Jiro tilted her head. “Oniisan? Nani?”
Ryoga listened, but then Andrea flashed her fingers up. “I’m gonna get my nail polish set out, do you think she’d would want me to do her nails?” she spoke as she flicked her fingers. He translated. Jiro looked a little wary, but then smiled and shook her head.

Andrea’s room was a conglomerate of what looked to be childhood stuffed animals, teenage posters, and a very artistic personality. Andrea picked up some bottles from her desk.
She flashed up the bottles until Jiro found the color she liked, the same baby blue that Andrea had on hers.
“You can call me Andy, you know,” she smiled.
“Ann-dee?” Jiro tried. She didn’t mean to sound like a child, but Andrea giggled. Even though the other girl wasn’t totally understanding her, Andrea prattled on, talking about things she liked or disliked, stuff like that. Jiro though, watched her mouth to form the words.
“You need to spread your fingers more,” Andrea signaled. “Your brother, Ryoga, he is cute, though, isn’t he?”
“Oniisan?” Jiro asked, hearing his name, but not understanding the rest.
“Yeah, Oniisan,” Andrea realized she had floored the girl.
She picked up a magazine. “Cute.” She pointed to a picture of an anime puppy. “Ryoga-kun. Cute.”

Then Jiro noticed a picture on the wall. “What?” she asked, pointing.
Andrea looked. “Oh, that’s Grandpa, with one of his umbrellas. He kept trying to improve them, making them sturdier…ya, know, I think we had one of his umbrellas in the junk over in the basement. Want me to show you?”
Jiro nodded.
  Chapter Two

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