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Chapter 7

The next morning the family headed out to visit Kumiko's father. Cancer had left him with very little time, so any chance the family had to spend with him was to be cherished.

On the drive Kumiko leaned into the backseat and handed Rumi her Mr. Clown doll. "Did you lose this?" she asked.

Rumi happily took the clown from Kumiko. "There you are Mr. Clown," she said happily. "You're very naughty for sneaking out. You won't get any treats."

"Why was it by mommy and daddy's bed?" asked Kumiko.

Rumi gave no reply and began playing with her doll.

"You shouldn't leave your toys lying around," said Hideki. "I'm always finding them all over the house."

Once again Rumi gave no reply.

Kumiko gave up on getting a reply from Rumi. Instead she began gazing out the window.

"I hope we don't crash, Mr. Clown," said Rumi. "Bad things can happen on these roads." Rumi then changed her voice so that it was Mr. Clown who was speaking. "Then it's a good thing your mommy isn't the one driving."

Hearing this captured Kumiko's full attention. "Rumi-chan, what did you just say?" she asked.

Rumi gave no reply and continued playing with her doll.

"What did she say?" Kumiko asked Hideki.

"I don't know," replied Hideki. "Sorry, I wasn't paying attention. I'm trying to remember what road to take. Do I take this next left or do I keep going straight?"

Kumiko leaned as far toward the backseat as her seatbelt would allow her. "What did you say?" she asked, this time there was a hint of anger in her voice.

"I didn't say anything," said Rumi. "Did you say something Mr. Clown?" Rumi then changed her voice for Mr. Clown. "I didn't say anything either."

"Kumiko, am I going the right way?" asked Hideki.

"You should already know how to get there," exclaimed Kumiko.

The family arrived at the Sashihara home a short time later. The yelling had ensured that the rest of the trip would be made in complete silence.

Kumiko, Hideki and Kumiko's mother sat at the dining table to discuss plans. Rumi was in the next room playing with her Mr. Clown doll. She was told not to enter the room so she wouldn't have to hear such grown-up talk.

"Have you started making arrangements for the funeral?" Hideki asked Kumiko's mother.

"My father is still alive," said Kumiko. "We shouldn't focus on that right now."

"It's alright," said Kumiko's mother. "There's really no point in not talking about this. It really is inevitable at this point."

Kumiko's mother then presented her daughter and son-in-law with a stack of papers. "Our lawyers wrote these documents for you and Hideki," she said.

The trio was so consumed with the paperwork that they failed to notice Rumi had slipped away from the next room and was now exploring the house.

It wasn't before long when Rumi found her grandfathers' room. She cautiously opened the door and entered, quietly shutting the door behind her. The lights were turned off and the curtains were closed, making it somewhat difficult to see. Lying in bed was her grandfather. He was now painfully thin and all the color had been drained from him. The once strong man was a mere shell of his former self.

"Hello grandfather," said Rumi.

Mr. Sashihara could barely muster the strength to turn his head as only a faint sound escaped through his colorless lips.

"Grandfather doesn't look so good," Rumi said to Mr. Clown. She then changed her voice for her doll. "I think grandfather wants to die." Rumi nodded in agreement.

Rumi tossed Mr. Clown aside and immediately retrieved a spare pillow. "Let's see how much grandfather likes being dead," said Rumi.

It took quite some time, but eventually Kumiko and Hideki had finished reading through all of the papers that had been placed before them.

"Can we see father now?" asked Kumiko.

"Of course," replied Kumiko's mother.

The three made their way to Kumiko's father's room. The first to enter was Kumiko. "Father," she said, cautiously making her way closer to his bed. There were no signs of life whatsoever coming from Mr. Sashihara.

"He might be sleeping," said Hideki.

"Father," said Kumiko, gently nudging him. "Father? Father?" Kumiko's voice was frantic enough to startle the others.

"Dear," said Kumiko's mother, rushing to his bedside. She too began trying to wake him. But she was being far less than gentle with him than Kumiko.

From the corner of her eye, Kumiko noticed Rumi watching the scene unfold. She was at the far end of the room holding her Mr. Clown doll and had the most blank of expressions on her face.

The family went home a few hours later. There was nothing but silence between the three for the rest of the day. With what had happened, it came as no surprise that no one was in any kind of mood to converse.

After being tucked in, Rumi began talking to her Mr. Clown doll.

"It's too bad what happened to your grandfather," said Mr. Clown in Rumi's disguised voice. Rumi nodded. "Maybe if he had been a nicer person then that wouldn't have happened," said Mr. Clown. "Nice things happen to nice people," said Rumi. "Grandfather was not a nice person," said Mr. Clown. "He was a bad person." Rumi again nodded. "And you know what happens to bad people," said Mr. Clown. "Bad things happen to them, said Rumi.

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