Chapter 3

Copyright© 2011 by Pedant

I woke early and found I had a note from Rachel, telling me about O-Bon. It's the "Festival of Souls," the "Festival of the Dead" or the "Festival of Lanterns" – like All Souls Day. Rachel's grandfather is a devout Shinto. The spirits of the dead, who are never far away, return to their earthly homes for a visit. The house had to be cleaned for the occasion, and they went to the cemetery so ensure that the family graves had been carefully tended. Paper lanterns and incense were burned in the graveyards; at night all during the festival, lanterns shed a subdued light throughout the house. On the last day, okuri-dango (farewell rice dumplings) are offered to the spirit-guests to cheer their departure to the Meido - the mysterious celestial world of the dead.

Rachel told me about how her grandmother made the okuri-dango out of two kinds of rice flour. I hadn't known there were kinds of rice flour. There's a lot I don't know. Two kinds of rice flours are used here. Jyoshinko is made from regular Japanese rice and Shirotomako from sweet or glutinous rice flour, mixed with a little corn starch or potato starch. The combination apparently makes a dumpling that is chewy and bouncy but not too sticky. Sounds good.

I was writing about Rob being here when I heard someone coming downstairs. It was Dad. I said "good morning," finished my email and logged out. He was starting coffee.

"Want anything?" he asked.

"Cereal and milk," I guess. "Is there any fruit?" He waved at the bowl, where there were some very brown bananas.

"There may be something in the refrigerator bin, too."

There were two slightly withered apples. I took one and the milk and put them on the table. Then I got a bowl of dry cereal and a spoon.

"Well, Patrick, what's your take?"

"Rob needs help. Does Mum know a psychoph... ?" I couldn't recall the word.


"Yeah. That's it."

"I don't know. There's the Marian Centre in Subiaco, but they need a psychiatric referral before you can get an interview."

"If you drive me and Sarah to school, Mum can spend the morning calling and maybe taking him somewhere." I poured some milk on my cereal. Dad got himself some coffee and poured a mug for Mum, putting some milk in it.

"Right. I'll take this upstairs and talk to Weena a bit."

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