Thomas Pynchon

Takeshi is tall and fat (but doesn’t braid his hair like that Margaret O’Brien), Ichizo is short and skinny. Takeshi flies a Zero, while Ichizo flies an Ohka device, which is a long bomb, actually, with a cockpit for Ichizo to sit in, stub wings, rocket propulsion and a few control surfaces back aft. Takeshi only had to go to Kamikaze School for two weeks, on Formosa. Ichizo had to go to Ohka school for six months, in Tokyo. They are as different as peanut butter and jelly, these two. No fair asking which is which.

They are the only two Kamikazes out here at this air base, which is rather remote actually, on an island that nobody, well, really cares much about, any more. The fighting is going on at Leyte… then on to Iwo Jima, moving toward Okinawa, but always too far away for any sortie from here to reach. But they have their orders, and their exile. Not much to do for kicks but go wandering on the beaches looking for dead Cypridinae. These are crustaceans with three eyes, shaped like a potato with catwhiskers at one end. Dried and powdered, Cypridinae are also a great source of light. To make the stuff glow in the dark, all you do is add water. The light is blue, weird multishaded blue-some green in it, and some indigo-amazingly cool and nocturnal blue. On moonless or overcast nights, Takeshi and Ichizo take off all their clothes and splash each other with Cypridina light, running and giggling under the palm trees.

Every morning, and sometimes evening too, the Scatterbrained Suicidekicks mosey down to the palm-thatched radar shack to see if there’s any American targets worth a crash-dive, anywhere inside their flying radius. But it’s the same story every time. Old Kenosho the loony radarman who’s always brewing up a batch of that sake back in the transmitter room, in a still he’s hooked up to a magnetron tube in some fiendish-Nip way that defies Western science, every time the fellas show up this drunken old reprobate starts cackling, «No dying today! No dying today! So solly!» pointing at all the blank PPI scopes, green radii sweeping silent round and round trailing clear webs of green shampoo, nothing but surface return for more miles than you can fly, and of the fatal mandala both hearts would leap to, green carrier-blob screened eightfold in a circle of destroyer-strokes, nothing… no, each morning’s the same-only the odd whitecap and old hysterical Kenosho, who by now is on the floor gagging on saliva and tongue, having his Seizure, an eagerly awaited part of each daily visit, each fit trying to top the one before, or at least bring in a new twist- a back-flip in the air, a gnaw or two after Takeshi’s blue-and-yellow patent wingtips, an improvised haiku:

The lover leaps in the volcano!

It’s ten feet deep,

And inactive-

as the two pilots mug, giggle, and jump around trying to avoid the grizzled old radarman’s thrashings-what? You didn’t like the haiku. It wasn’t ethereal enough? Not Japanese at all? In fact it sounded like something right outa Hollywood? Well, Captain-yes you, Marine Captain Esberg from Pasadena-you, have just had, the Mystery Insight! (gasps and a burst of premonitory applause) and so you-are our Paranoid… For The Day! (band burst into «Button Up Your Overcoat,» or any other suitably paranoid up-tempo tune, as the bewildered contestant is literally yanked to his feet and dragged out in the aisle by this M.C. with the gleaming face and rippling jaw). Yes, it is a movie! Another World War II situation comedy, and your chance, to find out what it’s really like, because you-have won (drumroll, more gasps, more applauding and whistling) an all-expense, one-way trip for one, to the movie’s actual location, exotic Puke-a-hook-a-look-i Island! (the orchestra’s ukulele section taking up now a tinkling reprise of that «White Man Welcome» tune we last heard in London being directed at Geza Rozsavolgyi) on a giant TWA Constellation! You’ll while your nights away chasing vampire mosquitoes away from your own throat! Getting blind lost, out in the middle of torrential tropical downpours! Scooping rat turds out of the enlisted men’s water barrel! But it won’t be all nighttime giddiness and excitement, Captain, because daytimes, up at five a.m. sharp, you’ll be out making the acquaintance of the Kamikaze Zero you’ll be flying! getting all checked out on those con-trols, making sure you know just where that bomb-safety-release is! A-ha-hand of course, trying to stay out of the way, of those two Nonsensical Nips, Takeshi and Ichizo! as they go about their uproarious weekly adventures, seemingly oblivious to your presence, and the frankly ominous implications of your day’s routine…

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