Convinced that his imperfect, solitary existence is the best it will ever be, Martin unexpectedly finds himself being sent to represent his company in Japan. His colleagues think it’s a joke; his bosses are certain he will fail. What does Martin think? He simply does what he’s told. That’s how he’s survived up to now – by hiding his feelings. Amazingly, in the land of strange rituals, sweet and juicy apples, and too much saké, Martin flourishes and achieves the impossible. But that’s only the beginning. Keeping up the momentum for change proves futile. So, too, is a return to what he had before. Is there a way forward, or should he put an end to the search now? Gradually, as you’ll see when Martin looks back from near the end of his journey, life improves. There’s even a woman, Fiona, who brings her own baggage to the relationship, but brightens Martin’s days. And just when you think there can be no more surprises, another one pops up. Throughout his life, people have laughed at ‘weirdo’ Martin; and you, as you read, will have plenty of opportunity to laugh, too. Go ahead, laugh away, but you’ll find that there’s also a serious side to all this…
John, Martin’s boss, remembers an incident involving Martin and the phone that took place in 1974.
Martin hadn’t been working there for long. John had been delayed that morning and needed to tell Martin. He phoned the office, got through to Sue, and asked to be transferred to Martin. The standard procedure would have been for Sue to simply put the call through to Martin’s extension so that, when he picked up the phone, he’d hear John straight away. But Sue had had previous problems with Martin and phone calls. He never seemed to answer his phone. Of course, he might have been away from his desk each time there was a call, but that possibility seemed unlikely as he was always there when she looked.
So she tried a different method. John heard about this later from Sue. She went over to Martin, who as always was sitting at his desk, and said, “Call for you on line 2.” Then she waited until Martin had lifted the receiver and pressed the button for line 2 before returning to her room.
He didn’t say a word after connecting, but John heard breathing. Very fast, jerky breathing. So he said, “Martin?”
Still no sound came back to John, apart from the breathing.
John needed to find a way to advance this call. “Okay, I’m assuming you’re there. I have to go to the dentist this morning, so I’ll be late for our meeting. I should be in at about eleven and we can talk then. All right?”
John couldn’t understand it. The guy only had to say, “Yes.” One measly little word. How difficult could that be? Apart from the breathing and a crackle or two, absolute silence reigned.
“Okay. See you around eleven. Bye.”
John didn’t discuss the phone incident with Martin. His instinct told him it wouldn’t help and could only damage their relationship – what there was of it. From that day, he and Sue and the rest of the office knew that Martin didn’t talk on the phone and they never tried to force him to use that instrument of communication.
Of course, John had discussed Martin with Ian. Their conversations always ended the same way.
“John, I realise Martin is frustrating. What do you want me to do? Dismiss him?”
John shook his head. “You’d need to take on a whole team of programmers to replace him. They would spend their time debugging, checking, correcting and adding more mistakes in a process that would lead to more debugging, checking, correcting… You know how it goes.”
“In other words, Martin isn’t quite the idiot you portray.”
“He’s a genius and we all know it.”
“That’s good to hear. Because sometimes I think you forget that little fact.”
No, John used to reflect, he didn’t forget it. But Ian had the good fortune not to come into daily contact with Martin. Martin hardly ever needed to occupy the padded chair in Ian’s office, and John suspected that Ian, despite all he heard from John and others, didn’t really know what Martin was like.
Later in the novel, you can find out how this fear came about.
You can purchase this novel from mybook.to/cultivatingafuji
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About the author
Miriam Drori has decided she’s in the fifth and best stage of her life, and she’s hoping it’ll last for ever. It’s the one in which she’s happiest and most settled and finally free to do what she wants. Miriam lives in a delightful house and garden in Jerusalem with her lovely husband and one of three children. She enjoys frequent trips around the world. She dances, hikes, reads and listens to music. And she’s realised that social anxiety is here to stay, so she might as well make friends with it. On top of that, she has moved away from computer programming and technical writing (although both of those provided interest in previous stages) and now spends her time editing and writing fiction. NEITHER HERE NOR THERE (currently unavailable), a romance with a difference set in Jerusalem, was published in 2014. THE WOMEN FRIENDS, co-written with Emma Rose Millar, is a series of novellas based on the famous painting by Gustav Klimt. SOCIAL ANXIETY REVEALED (non-fiction) provides a comprehensive description of social anxiety from many different viewpoints. CULTIVATING A FUJI takes the social anxiety theme into fiction, using humour to season a poignant story.