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Baishakunin, Inc.

Chapter Two—Eat Your Brussel Sprouts

>> Chapter one

“You actually don’t look too bad, considering,” says Ginnie as we are seated at La Grande Orange Café, the new restaurant on the bottom floor of the Pasadena condo unit I live in.

Now remember—Ginnie Lee is my best friend and about the nicest person I know in the planet, so for her to say not “too bad” actually meant I was wretched-looking. I finally took a shower this afternoon, after not taking one for three days. I had heard on Oprah or some other kind of TV show that Preparation H did wonders on the bags underneath a person’s eyes, so I even tried it. Since being laid off of my banking job, I was on a strict budget right now—so that meant staying away from the makeup counter of any major department store.

“Your skin looks good,” she says.

“It’s all PH’s doing.” I am referring to the hemorrhoid cream on my face.


“It’s a new cosmetic brand—I’m sure it will be all the rage soon. Or maybe it’s because of all the crying. I have double-eyelids now, Ginnie! No need for expensive or dangerous eye surgery—just lose your job and maybe your house next.”

Ginnie grabs at my hand. “It hasn’t come to that yet.”

“It may be a matter of time.” I share with her the results of my recent meeting with my financial advisor (I didn’t bother to shower for him). My 401K is abysmal, I have about $5,000 due on my credit cards, and only about $2,000 in savings.

“How about your parents?”

“No, absolutely not. That’s totally out of the question. I can’t—I will not go there. I’ll have to find another way.”

“Well, how about the job search?”

“I’ve called all the head hunters that I’ve used in the past. No one’s hiring in my industry. Nobody needs a human resources person right now.”

“What about another career?”

“Maybe I can get an emergency credential and teach.”

Now it was Ginnie’s turn to get more subdued. “I know that you’ve always looked down on teaching, Bean, but it’s a hard profession. You need to be dedicated and trained. It’s not as easy to get an emergency credential right now either.” Ginnie, who was bilingual in Japanese, teaches fourth grade in a Japanese language-immersion program on the Westside. Her parents were ethnically Chinese, but had been raised in Japan. “What you need to identify is find something that you’re naturally good at.”

As we look over the menu, I think about what I can do besides human resources. Well, I’m really good at complaining. I’m really good at making snide comments. I’m really good at picking out the best cantaloupes in the grocery store. So what’s my ideal job? Rude produce woman? Personal vegetable shopper?

“Hello, Caroline.” Standing in front of our table is a tall Asian woman, Andrea Kaba. She’s tall and thin but a tiny bit plain. As usual she wears no makeup, but if she did, she’d definitely be a stunner. “I think you know my husband, Brad.” Her arm is linked around the elbow of a bespectacled Yonsei guy.

I almost start to choke on my water. “Ah, yeah, I know Brad. I was the one to tell him to ask you out.”

The minute I blurted that out, I knew it wasn’t the thing to do. Brad’s face turned bright red and Andrea looked a bit stunned.

“Funny, I never heard that story before,” she says.

“I mean—I don’t mean that I really told him to ask you out. Just was saying how guys never seemed to pay attention to you. But they should—”

Ginnie gives me a swift kick underneath the table while also having a fake smile plastered on her face. I do quick introductions and then Andrea and Brad quickly make their way out of the restaurant.

“Bean, what’s wrong with you?” Ginnie says. “I mean, sometimes you act like you’re some kind of baishakunin or something.”

Baishaku—what?” Here Ginnie was again—showing off her Japanese. “Doesn’t that mean diseased?”

“That’s baikin. No, baishakunin is a matchmaker. A go-between. Like a yentl.”

I start humming the Matchmaker song in the musical, “Fiddler on a Roof,” and Ginnie abruptly stops me. “Please, these poor people haven’t enough to drink yet,” she says, gesturing to the other diners at their tables.

“Okay, so that’s what I’ll do for money. I’ll be a baishakunin.”

The waitress brings out our brussel sprout salads. Both of us love green vegetables.

“That a good one, Bean.”

But then it all seems to fall into place. Something I’m good at. And something that people would be willing to spend money on. Recession or not, everyone wants love.

“But Bean, you’re single. Never been married. Haven’t had a boyfriend for what—seven years?”

Damn Ginnie for counting the years! But then, how could she not. She was right beside me during my horrible breakup with Rick.

“And you’re still relatively young.”

Thanks for the “relatively,” Ginnie, I think to myself.

“No, what I mean is that matchmakers are usually older. Seasoned, you know. And they are usually nice, even charming.”

Ouch. I have to give her points for that.

“Okay, okay, you’re probably right,” I say. But for the rest of our dinner my mind is not on our meal or conversation, but the birth of my new business, Baishakunin, Inc.

Chapter three >>

* "Baishakunin, Inc." is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

© 2008 Naomi Hirahara / Image: Neal Yamamoto and Vicky K. Murakami-Tsuda

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About this series

"Baishakunin, Inc." is a new work of fiction from Naomi Hirahara the author of the Edgar Award-winning Mas Arai mystery series and two biographies published by the Japanese American National Museum. Its main character, Caroline Mameda, starts her own match-making business after being fired from her job. Set in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo.

Read Chapter One