“Can you get me the thing? The, you know,” he snapped his fingers, “the watchimajig.”
The Japanese man beyond the counter, not the usual guy, slow on his job, turned around and contemplated the gaijin with a frown, then went back to grilling the oysters in their shells.
“Hey, you speak English? I need the, eh, the thingy.”
The man, with a towel wrapped around his head like a pirate’s bandana, his charcoal smeared face with a two-day growth of beard, wearing a sweatshirt and denim apron soiled with the guts of a thousand grilled oysters, turned away to reach for an item on the shelf.
“Thanks,” said the diner, accepting the instrument that looked like a miniature crowbar. Then he stabbed at the oyster shell with it. The girl next to the foreigner giggled at his clumsiness. The pirate man snatched the little crowbar away from him and picked up the oyster. He opened the oyster effortlessly, then went back to his work.
“Eh, yeah, thanks.”
“Take off your necktie, Bill. You’ll get oyster all over it,” said his girlfriend.
Without a word or a smile, the pirate man put a wet hand-towel on a wooden dish and put it in front of Bill so he could wipe his hands.
Pirate man was tending two grills, one for the shell fish, the other for yakitori. Another man was stirring a wok over a tall fire.
“Omachi,” he said, putting a dish of finished yakitori on the bar.
“I’ll have one of those, eh…” Bill looked over the menu supplemented with some Romanized Japanese words and English translations in creative spelling.
“I’ll have one of the, eh, say-zee”
The pirate man did not even bother to look at the Caucasian and put a turban shell on the grill.
“Sah-zah-eh,” the girlfriend corrected.
“Sah-zah-eh,” said Bill. He glanced at the cook to see if he was rolling his eyes, but he did not seem to care.
“Omachi,” he said, putting a dish of what appeared to be a miniature omelet on the counter.
It had been two years since Bill had arrived in Tokyo, now on his fourth girlfriend, he had established a sort of routine, but he still did not have a handle of the language.
“Omachi,” said the pirate man as he placed a dish on the counter. It was not what Bill expected from the menu.
“What is this?”
“Fried tofu,” she said.
“Is that what ayjee-dayshee means?”
The girl giggled.
“Ah-gay-dah-shee. Are you doing this on purpose?”
“No, um, I’m trying.” He waved his empty beer mug at the pirate man trying to get his attention.
“Sensei!” said his girlfriend. The man came over.
“Zailai yeghe,” said Bill.
“That’s Chinese,” said the pirate man in fluent English. He snatched away the mug and turned away.
“What? How? Why did you call him sensei?”
“He’s a doctor. He moonlights here on Thursdays.”
“Omachi,” said the pirate man as he returned with the beer.