The end of the year was coming up, and Miss Y was busy making holiday plans the most important of which was her week long shopping spree, each year just a little more wastefully extravagant than the last. Because of this, it didnt surprise me when we pulled up to the address she gave me. The building looked familiar, though I couldnt place it, but it was ornately decorated enough to pass for one of Miss Ys vacation houses. Hell, maybe it was one of Miss Ys vacation houses. She had so many she forgot about some of them from time to time.
Pulling the car into the garage, I helped Miss Y out the back, half out of accustomed courtesy, half because she couldnt exactly stand up by herself. Miss Ys Christmas Countdown came with new additions to the program every year. This time, she decided that shed dress more extravagantly each day. Today she was wearing for the first and only time, a dress-robe-with-pants-and-matching-headdress, a strange portmanteau of every cultures most expensive garments. By her own specifications, the material was ridiculously expensive enough that it would have been cheaper to have fed every orphan in the world for three years, if orphans could suddenly only eat lobster and tri-tip steak, and required to be fed twenty-seven times a day. Three tailors honorably lost their lives in the line of duty to make it. I dont know if I wanted to know what she was going to wear tomorrow.
The buildings entrance stood at least three stories above street level. Miss Y looked at the stairs for a minute, then at me.
Mr. K~! she called, louder than needed. Carry me!
Right away, maam. Piggy-back?
Oh hell no, she said, jumping into my arms. Like a bride over a threshold. Only instead of your bride, Im your boss. Also, Im thirsty.
I handed her my flask and carried her up the stairs. Miss Y drank the whole way up, waving the flask at people on the street from time to time, yelling something I either couldnt make out, or my mind had decided would have been too traumatizing to process.
Im so glad you booked us today for a private tour, a little white-clad man said as soon as we reached the summit. He reached to shake Miss Ys hand. She looked at him for a second, thought about it, then decided to drain the rest of the flask instead.
Setting her down and nudging her with my foot, she finally took the hint and greeted the man with a warm smile, a handshake, and a bow. His hand had been hanging there for almost thirty seconds.
Right, he said, turning to unlocking the gates. Welcome to the Mikoyan Military History Museum.
This wasnt going to end well.
The curator led us through the halls, stopping at each display. Hed start off with a small introduction, then go through a detailed history. Miss Y would follow along, taking notes and drawing doodles in the margins of those notes, a small pair of reading glasses perched on her nose the whole time. She used to be such a sweet girl. Funny how much can change in so little time.
This, the curator started, Is the oldest intact sample of the prayer staffs used by ancient Mikoyanian priests. With this attachment, he pointed to the separated pieces through the glass. It also served as a parasol. He unlocked the display case and took the staff off its stand. Note the leaden tip, he said, tapping it on the floor. The heavy knock echoed through the empty halls. The curator smiled and handed the staff to Miss Y, apparently unaware of just how bad an idea that was.
So what was the formal name for this? She asked, playing with the tip.
The Lash, he said. Its connotat-
The lash swung past my head. Steadying herself, Miss Y came back for a second try, swinging downward and missing again, but chipping the floor very nicely.
Its a little too heavy, she noted, handing it back to the curator.
Dont worry, shell pay for the floor, I added.
Right, he noted, taking the lash back. Why dont we just skip all this and head over to the modern exhibits?
Aw, dont I get to play with the swords? She pantomimed decapitating the curator. Swish! Swish!
He started off, hoping wed follow. I pushed Miss Y along.
Well come back afterwards, right? She craned her neck to catch a glimpse of the sharp and pointies.
Sure, I answered, keeping her moving ahead. After. If we have time.
Miss Y pouted. Then she saw the guns.
Ooooh! She yelled, running over to the first case. Let me see this one! Let me see this one!
Ah, yes, the Type 99 Arisaka, he unlocked the case and handed it to Miss Y, grabbing the bayonet before she could. At onset of the war, these were shipped into the commonwealth fro-
Miss Y flipped the bolt up and down. When does it do the shooting thing?
Its not loaded, the curator said, moving out of the line of fire anyway. But, if it was, youd just turn off the safety right there, if you wouldnt mind handing it to me, and then flip the bolt, pull it, push it back in and snap it into place. He performed each action as he said it, without looking up, but without a hint of effort. Then aim, steady, fire. Shouldering it, he aimed off into the empty halls and pulled the trigger. The rifle clicked, the curator smiled, Miss Y looked through the case for the ammunition.
Im just going to put this back in then, if you wouldnt mind.
Yeah, sure. Wheres the plane stuff? Miss Y started off ahead, arms outstretched.
Ten exhibits and close calls later, we found ourselves in the artillery wing. Miss Y had taken a particular liking to this particular exhibit. I wasnt sure if that was a good or bad thing.
The Type 88 mortar, the curator explained, Could be configured to fire the 70mm shell, or, alternately, used as a grenade launcher in the 50mm set-up.
Miss Y tried both positions, aiming away from the curator this time. So, if I were to, say, fire this off the top of an office building?
Rooftops, windows, alleys, these were made for urban warfare. Really gave the Americans hell when they came through Hanashi. He pulled a spare one from the case. Plus, the ammunition was so easy to make, civil defense teams never had any problem with running dry.
So I could, theoretically, of course, make the explode-y parts for these in my basement? Miss Y handed it to me.
Absolutely. Its the main reason they became so popular late into the war.
Do you have instructions for those lying around? Miss Y looked through the cases.
We have some of them framed in the documents room, if youll follow me, he said, putting his 88 back in the case. Miss Y held onto hers. He reached for it. She pulled it closer.
Well just put this back after we head up there, I assured him.
Oh no, we wont, Miss Y corrected me. How much are they?
T-the exhibits are not for sale, Miss Murakami, the curator answered. Thats not only illegal, its well, morally reprehensible. I cant let you do this.
Miss Y motioned for her purse.
How does that song go again? Miss Y asked, looking off through her binoculars. On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
A partridge in a pear tree, maam, I answered.
How about twelve days of Bomb-nu-kah?
Its seven days, maam.
Yeah, whatever, hand me the shooty-thing.
Santa gave out a lot of coal that year.