Chapter Twenty-Three

Mother Dearest

The woman with the gloved hands was displeased.


Daphne McNamara did not like to wait. And her son was late. He must have caught some bout of the laziness while living in this carefree city. Bret would not have gotten away with all of this if he were still living in Massachusetts.


She checked the time on her diamond rolex, the one that her husband Arthur gave her for their 50th anniversary. Behind her, the bumbling fool was trying to get a taxi cab from some wetback who barely spoke English.


“Don’t bother,” she chanted airily. “Bretkins should be coming any minute now.”


Daphne opened her Gucci purse and pulled out a diamond studded cigarette lighter. She drew a Virginia Slim softly to her lips and puffed. The breezy smoke matched her silver-grey hair.


She tapped her high-heeled foot impatiently. The air seemed way too free here. The traffic was absolutely chaotic. The people spoke very little, if not horrible, colloquial English. As Daphne puffed her cigarette, she wondered how in the world could her son find a girl in this urban jungle.


It was a girl, right?



Meanwhile, Ranko was in various stages of panic.


Her in-laws would be arriving in two hours and there was still much to do. The house was not ready yet. The hardwood floors needed mopping. The furniture needed dusting. Another load of fresh linens was in the laundry.


Ranko wrapped her red hair up in a bandana and looked in disbelief.


“It’s not too bad,” Akane said reassuringly. Her hair was also up in a bandana. “We won’t get everything done but we’ll get enough to be decent.”


“But first impressions are so important!” Ranko stammered. “I have two hours to become Miss Susie Perfect Housewife. Bret is picking them up…and where’s Ranma?” Ranko looked directly at Akane.


“I am not my husband’s keeper!” Akane shouted out of the blue as Ranko turned back to dusting some chairs.


“You have a lot to learn before you become a wife,” Akane said haughtily. “Lesson number one. When your husband goes out, you don’t ask and you don’t care!” She folded her arms.


“Humph, Bret won’t be able to go far with the tight leash I have him on,” Ranko joked.



The gloved hand was waving.


Yoohoo, Bretkins” she said in a singsong way, the same way she treated him from age five and onwards. Out of the corner of her eye, Daphne McNamara spotted her “Bretkins” in a dark red Honda Civic. How un-American.


She shrugged that off. There would be time later for criticism. She turned to her husband who was still struggling with the Hispanic. “Arthur! He’s here!” she chided.


Bret pulled over to the side of the terminal and emerged from the car. “Hello, mother,” he said delightfully and gave her a peck on the cheek.


“Oh, Bretkins, you have gotten so big and so handsome,” Daphne looked her son once over. She held her son’s hands. “I bet you fight off all the women all the time.”


“Oh, mummy,” Bret said adoringly. “You know that I’m engaged.”


Daphne had almost forgotten about that. She also had temporarily forgotten how Bret announced the engagement without her approval or her blessing. How untraditional. “Well, we’ll have time to talk,” Daphne said pleasantly, “but for now, let’s get the luggage into the car.” She looked at her bumbling husband. “Arthur, can you help Bretkins? I’m going to go powder my nose.”


Daphne found her place in the front passenger seat. She looked at the rearview mirror and started to put on fresh L’Oreal foundation on her face. With daintiness and elegancy, and of her noble status of course.



Bret’s fiancé was busy fixing a clogged toilet.Toilet water splashed Ranko as she jabbed the plunger harder and deeper into the bathroom of the guest room.


“That was one crazy party,” Ranko laughed, recalling how the toilet got clogged in the first place. I will spare readers the details.


Akane was equally slovenly and sloppy. Well, one would be too if they dusted and vacuumed several rooms where the dust mites were now starting to raise families. She chose that this would not be a good time for her to criticize Ranko about her cleaning habits.


“So, what do you know about Daphne?” Akane asked.


“Well, not much,” Ranko said. “I know that she is from a wealthy Irish family that came to the United States a long time ago. Her husband Arthur built their fortune on selling high quality leather shoes. Daphne is the leader of the Hillshire Country Club High Tea Organization where she raises money for breast cancer Alzheimer disease research.”


“Wow,” Akane said. “That’s more than ‘not much.’”


“Thanks,” Ranko said. “I found that all on Google.”


Ranko made one last attempt to find her brother. “So, Ranma has a lot of friends here.” She went back to plunging.


“Yes,” Akane lied. “He goes to martial arts conventions in Japan and he’s befriended many gaijin who have been clamoring for him to come to the States.” Akane didn’t know if there was such a thing as a martial artist commercial.


“And you’re okay with that?” Ranko asked.


“Honestly, Ranma and I need a vacation from each other,” Akane said. Y’know, to think things over.”


“Is everything okay?” Ranko asked as she successfully flushed the toilet.


The sound of the grand door opening downstairs saved Akane. Ranko flew down the stairs to greet her to-be in-laws.


“Hi,” Bret said to his fiance. And, then he handed his coat and his father’s coat to Ranko. “Can you put this away for me?”


“Sure,” Ranko said politely. “So, where’s your mom?”


She spoke too soon. “Oh thank goodness!” Daphne approached the entrance with relief. She quickly tossed her heavy fur coat and her heavy bag to Ranko. “Be a dear and please get these into our bedroom. I will tip you later”


Daphne looked around. “Where is my son’s fiancé, the mistress of the house?” she asked.


“Um. I am the fiancé,” Ranko said through the pile of coats.


“That’s right,” Bret realized his cue. “Mother, this is Ranko.”


“My name is Ranko Saotome,” Ranko said, juggling the coats on her hands. “And this is my friend Akane Tendo, who will be the maid of honor.” She managed to balance the coats on one arm and stretched out her hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Daphne.”


“Oh,” Daphne froze. She looked very closely at Ranko. Her tossed up hair. Her dusty face. Her worn out clothing. She looked much more like a servant girl, than any potential woman for her son.


“Excuse me!” Daphne responded. “A proper lady does not address her elders by their first name! You shall call me Ms. McNamara, until I deem you worthy to be my daughter-in-law.”


Ranko did not know how to react. She mentally wanted to stifle a giggle because the situation seemed so overblown to be real.


“We, as in Arthur and me, do not prefer to be waken up until after 11 a.m., doctor’s orders,” Daphne continued. “For breakfast tomorrow, I would like to have a grapefruit accompanied by Irish oatmeal and a boiled egg. Arthur is watching his weight so he should have only oatmeal and grapefruit. I prefer taking a 15-minute walk shortly after breakfast…” and she continued on for the next fifteen minutes about her habits.


Ranko mentally thanked Akane since she would be the one who would have to do this lady’s whims while Ranko was at work.


“Shouldn’t you be writing this down?” Daphne turned back to Ranko. “Are you not a reporter?”


And so, Daphne McNamara’s reign of terror began in San Francisco.