The non-descript ISO vehicle, driven by their regular ISO driver dropped them off in front of the villa and drove away, back down the sweeping driveway to the mountain road. The two boys raced to the front door and burst inside – a bustle of energy and noise disturbing the quiet. Nambu Hakase met them in the entry hall.
“How was school?”
Possibly a question asked by countless parents and guardians all over the world every afternoon since formalised schooling began. Both boys knew that a one word answer would not be sufficient – Hakase expected an informative answer. Despite this knowledge, Joe made a face that could be described as a scowl, accompanied by a sound that was midway between a groan and a growl. Ken’s face lit up with bright-eyed enthusiasm.
“Great, actually.” Ken followed Joe towards the kitchen as he spoke, turning his head towards Nambu Hakase and speaking over his shoulder. “We had a spelling and comprehension quiz this morning, and I got no mistakes – 100%. We started learning about percentages today too!”
As they reached the kitchen and set their school bags down before taking a seat at the table, Nambu Hakase poured each of them a glass of juice.
“I didn’t do so great in the quiz.” Joe decided not to wait for Hakase to ask. “Percentages are pretty cool though.” There was a brief silence while both boys selected snacks from the array on the table. “Miss Tomoka made us make Father’s Day cards today, only she wouldn’t let us do them for our real Dads.”
“Everyone else in the class was allowed to do a card for their real Dad,” Ken explained, “but she said Joe and I should choose someone who has a direct influence on our life right now, not someone we haven’t seen in years.”
“Or someone who’s dead,” Joe clarified, reaching into his bag and rummaging around. “Here.”
Joe handed Nambu Hakase a slightly crumpled handmade envelope.
“We’re supposed to give them to him on Sunday!” Ken hissed.
“Whatever. We were just talking about it, and Hakase’s not an idiot, Ken. He knows we made them for him, we might as well give them to him now.”
Ken looked up at Nambu Hakase, whose expression gave nothing away. With the slightest of shrugs he took a thick book from his bag, slid a crisp white envelope out from between the pages and handed it over to Nambu.
“Would you like me to wait until Sunday to open them? Or do you want me to read them now?”
Joe suddenly seemed anxious to leave the room, avoiding eye contact with either Nambu or Ken, draining his glass of juice in one long gulp and fussing with his school things.
“I don’t care when you open it. I’m going to the study to start my homework.” Joe slipped out of his chair, scooped up his things and was halfway through the door in no time, but he stopped and turned back. “Miss Tomaka might have made some corrections in mine. Sorry.”
Ken’s eyes followed Joe out of the room, then he looked back at Nambu Hakase. No trace of discomfort or embarrassment in his innocent blue eyes.
“I think I’ll go too,” he said. “I don’t mind if you open it now. We can do something nice for you on Sunday.”
Once Nambu was alone he sat at the recently vacated kitchen table and placed both envelopes upon it. He decided to open Ken’s first. Inside was a piece of thick, white paper, folded in half with brightly coloured artwork depicting clouds, wide, shallow “m” shapes for birds and a large twin prop aeroplane. Some of the angles between body, wings and tail were a little askew and the proportions were odd in places, but it was a fairly decent likeness. He opened the card to find Ken’s neat handwriting, precisely spaced and level.
Dear Nambu Hakase,
Even though you are not my real Dad I know you do a lot for me and my Mum. Thanks for letting me stay with you while Mum is sick, and for taking me to visit her all the time. Thanks for always making sure Mum and I have everything we need. And for always remembering my birthday and giving me presents.
Thanks for showing me things about the different types of aeroplanes and telling me about how they fly, and for teaching me about science and letting me read your books.
Happy Father’s Day.
Love from Ken.
With a smile he closed the card and laid it back down on the table. Then he picked up the other envelope and shimmied the slightly crumpled card out of it. The same thick, white paper folded in half had been used. This one had a large, detailed drawing of a race car, drawn mostly as a side view with a wonky attempt at making it look like a three dimensional shape that allowed a view of the bonnet and roof. A large number one was drawn on the door, pinstripes ran along the centre of the side, bonnet and roof, a tiny Italian flag adorned the window and “Asakura” was printed on the door just below it. The front grille and headlights were a little bigger than they should have been. There was a shadowy figure representing the driver. Speed lines ran under and behind the car.
Inside the card was a small slip of paper signed by the boys’ teacher, Miss Tomoka.
I am a little concerned that Joe is indicating that you are encouraging him to learn about dangerous weapons. I hope that you are merely satisfying a youthful interest in how things work, and not instructing him in the use of firearms and explosives.
Perhaps we can discuss this further at Parent/Teacher night.
Sincerely, Miss Tomoka.
He put the slip of paper aside, wondering if this was what Joe had been referring to, then looked at the shaky, uneven handwriting sloping down the card.
Dear Nambu Hakase,
I guess if there’s anyone I should wish a Happy Father’s Day to, it’s you. You brought me here to live with you and promised to help me and keep me safe from the bad guys. You make sure I have everything I need, and help me with my homework.
Thanks for showing me how cars work and letting me take things apart to see how they work and try and put them back together. Thanks for teaching me about
guns丈香 weapons丈香 how science is in everything cool.
Since I can’t be with my real Dad for Father’s Day, I’m glad I get to be with you.
Nambu Hakase tried not to chuckle as he got up from the table. He took both cards and attached them to the front of the refrigerator, each with their own well placed magnet to fully show off the artwork. Of all the things the boys had brought home from school these two were the most unexpectedly beautiful. He’d never anticipated the emotions such a simple gift could stir within him. Suddenly he was a father figure for two almost ten year old boys.