Four Seasons
The Wonderful World of Japanese Writers of English

Intermediate - Advanced

Here's an essay, story, and poem written originally in English.

by Enda Kazuko

Pre-Reading Exercise

Reading Without A Dictionary:
Vocabulary Build-Up
The underlined words in the following sentences are from the story "Glenn".
Try to understand what these words mean without consulting a dictionary.
Click to find out if you are right or wrong.

1. Some people overboil vegetables. As a result, the nutrient value of the food is lost.
Nutrient means ...
a. to overboil your vegetables
b. the vitamins, proteins, and so on
c. to lose all of your vegetables

2. My apartment in Japan is quite small, but because I have so little furniture and other things, it appears spacious.
Spacious in this sentence means ...
a. looks bigger than it is
b. to move furniture
c. to live in a small room

3. At first the terrorists agreed not to torture the hostage if a large sum of money was paid to them, but after they received the money they did not keep to their word.
Torture means to ...
a. be a terrorist and receive money
b. hurt someone physically
c. help a hostage to escape

4. The other day I read an interesting letter in the newspaper. Unfortunately, the writer of the letter preferred to remain anonymous.
Anonymous, here, means to ...
a. write a letter and not sign your name
b. ask a reader to write a letter
c. prefer to write an interesting letter

5. When I was a college student, equipment for listening to music was bulky, heavy, and of poor quality. Nowadays it is small, light, and of a high quality.
Equipment means machines that are ...
a. light and expensive
b. used to perform tasks
c. college students

6. The falcon stabbed its claws into the mouse, and then flew high into the sky. I stood and watched the bird in amazement.
Claws are the ...
a. upper part of a bird's head
b. curved nails of a bird's toes
c. lower parts of a bird's ears

7. The man said, "If you can give me a one-year guarantee on the microwave oven, then I'll buy it."
Guarantee means that if ....
a. anything happens to the oven within a year, the man will get a new one
b. the man doesn't like the oven, he can return it within a year
c. he brings the oven back within a year, he can get his money back

8. Nowadays frozen and canned foods contain many preservatives.
Preservatives are ...
a. things added to foods to make them last longer
b. foods that are neither frozen nor canned
c. something frozen but never canned

9. A man and a woman become engaged in Western countries before they get married.
Engaged means to ...
a. get married
b. promise to marry
c. marry in the West

10. In the business world, efficiency is considered to be very important because time is money.
Efficiency is ...
a. spending a lot of money in a short time
b. the ability to do a job very well
c. to give people a lot of time to work

11. He certainly has many idiosyncrasies, but he is not crazy.
Idiosyncrasies tell us that the man ...
a. is strange in many ways
b. will soon go crazy
c. has few ideas of his own

12. His thinking belongs to the medieval times.
Here, medieval means that the man ...
a. cannot change with the times
b. is more than thirty years old
c. was born at least 500 years ago

13. In Japan artificial coloring is used to make lot of foods look nice.
Artificial means that ...
a. a lot of the foods have no color
b. chemicals are used to add color to the foods
c. unnatural foods are better than natural foods

14. The man said, "I am weary of life."
Weary means that he ...
a. has worked too much today
b. does not enjoy life anymore
c. wants to look for a wife

15. Light from the fireflies was seen flickering across the rice fields.
Flickering suggests that the light ...
a. was not regular
b. could not be seen
c. might fly at once

by Enda Kazuko

"A bespectacled octopus with an air of a philosopher. How is that for a description?" said Naoko, as she looked at the picture that I held in my hand. Yes, Glenn had a distinctly broad forehead and a narrow jaw.

"How old is Glenn?" she asked.

"Around thirty-three. Unmarried. Stationed in Japan as a navy officer years ago. That's all I know about him."

Sitting on a bench near the arrival gate and leaning against our backpacks, Naoko and I wondered what it was going to be like at Glenn's place.

Before Naoko and I had left Japan to venture on our first trip abroad, one of our friends had written Glenn to take care of us in America. Glenn wrote back to say that he would. That was why we were waiting for him to pick us up at Seattle Airport in the summer of '81. Glenn was a total stranger to both of us, and looking back on it now I wonder how two Japanese girls had the courage to spend almost two weeks at his apartment on Whidbey Island, Washington.

At the airport, we didn't have to wait too long. A tall, slim figure hurried in, and immediately we knew it was Glenn. We greeted each other rather clumsily and got into his car.

The first thing we learned about Glenn was that he liked driving, which is not unusual with Americans, who seem to find it impossible to get anywhere without a car. On our way to his place, Glenn told us that he had bought his car five years ago and that he had named it Lorena.

"Why did you give your car a name?" we asked.

"Why not? Lorena is a nice exotic girl's name. You know, cars have characters. When she is moody, I have a hard time starting the engine. What is important in driving is that you understand her condition," Glenn explained.

Glenn really treated his car as if it were his girl. When we stopped for coffee and got in the car again, I saw him pat the dashboard, coaxing the car to start smoothly: "Come on, Lorena. Be a nice girl." I'd never met anybody who loved his car as much as Glenn did.

After about two hours of driving we arrived at his apartment. It was not too spacious. The rooms were tidy. The colors of the furniture were mostly brown and gray, and the interior gave the impression of a drab and austere office. Anybody entering the living room would have been able to tell that Glenn did not have a wife. To my surprise, however, the kitchen was immaculate. With polished steel utensils glistening coldly against the cold tiles, it looked more like a laboratory.

Though Glenn and we did not have much in common, we still managed to get along rather well. Being outside Japan for the first time in our lives, Naoko and I were full of curiosity and bothered Glenn with lots of questions. He had many idiosyncrasies, as we realized when we watched him cook dinner on the night of our arrival.

He was a great advocate of technology, and in the kitchen he was the embodiment of efficiency. He took a frozen chicken from the freezer, seasoned it, then put it in the oven, setting the timer to ten minutes. Then he opened cans of spinach and corn soup using an electric can opener and heated them both in the microwave oven. While cooking freeze-dried mashed potatoes on the kitchen stove, he opened a can of beets to give the main dish more color. We watched in amazement. After less than twenty minutes, we sat at a table and ate the meal on fancy plastic plates with a ten-year guarantee.

Though we were impressed by his efficiency, something important seemed to be lacking in his cooking.

"Glenn, your cupboard is full of cans and instant food. Your freezer is packed with chunks of meat which are as hard as rocks.

"You should eat fresh food. All the vitamins and other nutrients are killed during processing, and you know artificial coloring and preservatives are bad for your body. Anyway, fresh food tastes best. Don't you agree?"

Naoko and I tried in vain to convert him into becoming a natural-foods lover.

"No. Fresh food leaves garbage, making a mess of my kitchen. Why not take advantage of living in the 20th century? You don't have to waste your time on such a basic need as eating. Open a can, and the food is ready to be eaten. You always know too what the food will taste like."

"That's the worst of it. Standardization! It's awful that everyone is so content with the same blunt taste. No wonder, there's no 'American-food' restaurant for gourmets. Anyway, I think that eating is a cultural and social activity."

"Well, what if you always eat your meals by yourself?" Glenn replied.

At this point we decided to drop the subject.

Some days later, Glenn made hot dogs for us. It was past noon, and Glenn brought out something that looked like a medieval instrument of torture. It was a gadget with six iron claws. As we watched, Glenn expertly stabbed one claw into one end of a hot dog
sausage, then another claw into the other end. Finally, there were six bridges of sausages spanning the distance between pairs of claws, gradually turning brown and dripping juice. The gadget was an electric sausage broiler.

"Why don't you use a frying pan or your all-mighty microwave oven?" I couldn't help making some remarks.

"When you eat them, you will see that hot dog sausages are best cooked on the sausage broiler," said Glenn.

"But you can't use that broiler for other things, can you?"

"No. This is a sausage broiler, and nothing else."

Besides the broiler, Glenn had a collection of strange-looking, single purpose gadgets and tools, and later I found that this is not at all unusual in America. For instance, Americans differentiate a meat knife, carrot peeler, cheese slicer, and fruit knife, whereas in Japan the one purpose knife is used. When I was small, my mother even sharpened my pencils with her kitchen knife.

"What a stupid instrument!" I thought to myself.


As the days passed we began to feel more at ease with each other and Glenn started to talk about himself. He seemed a lonely soul. His parents lived somewhere in the Midwest, but he hadn't seen them in nearly two years. His brothers had got married and lost touch with him. He was once engaged to a girl, but she had left him while he was on duty in the Pacific Ocean. During our stay at his place the phone didn't often ring; and when it did, the call was from the office.

Glenn did have one friend, named Mike, who was also a navy officer and had a Japanese wife called Suzie. When Glenn went out, we would often spend afternoons with her and her kids. Mike and Suzie had a camping van and when they suggested that all of us go camping, Naoko and I were really excited.

Glenn's preparation for the trip was amazing. He covered the living room from wall to wall with camping gear. On the floor, he spread out a tent, lamp, flashlight, hunting knife, water bottles, and various other survival aids. And he loaded his car with enough food to feed an army. We couldn't help teasing him about it because it was only meant to be a weekend trip.

"Glenn, are we going to Alaska on a bear hunt?" I asked him when he came into the living room, this time with a heap of quilts in his arms.

"Kazuko, you never know what unexpected things might happen. Take a look at this sleeping bag. I bought it years ago. It's for two people, and you can keep warm in it with the person dearest to you. When I get married, I will go camping with my girl; and at night we will crawl into this sleeping bag and lie together on ground covered with pine needles as we look up at the stars in the velvet autumn sky."

Such sentimental words would have made me smile if they had been uttered by someone else. But not with Glenn. I pictured him buying a two person sleeping bag at the store and bringing it back to his cold apartment. Somehow, the picture made me sad.


On a fine Saturday morning we drove to a camping ground at the foot of Mt. Rainier. Setting up camp was fun. Glenn and Mike went into the forest to cut up dead wood with a chain saw while the rest of us collected dried twigs and leaves.

As the sun went down, we sat around a cozy campfire watching the flickering reflections of the flames on each other's faces. There were grilled steaks, beer, roasted
marshmallows, and a lot of laughter. Even Glenn, usually pensive and humorless, told some jokes. It started raining after we finished eating, but the rain did not spoil the night for us. The pine trees only smelt more fragrant.


We left the campsite in the afternoon of the next day. We had to drive a long way back home and it was getting dark. Lightly holding on to the steering wheel, Glenn took a microphone off what looked like a radio beneath "Lorena's" dashboard. Neither Naoko nor I knew what it was, and Glenn explained that the equipment was a citizen's band radio which was usually referred to as a CB. Glenn said that many drivers had CB radios in their cars, and exchanged information on accidents, radio directions, and police patrols. Radio waves sometimes reached a person on a highway hundreds of miles away.

Glenn turned it on. A while later, somebody's voice came on. The man was driving alone, heading towards Oregon, that is, driving away from us. Glenn started to chat with this man on the CB, telling him that we were heading home after a camping trip. The conversation went on and on as I watched Glenn from my seat at the back of the car.

"You never sound so happy when you are around people," I couldn't help thinking.

We were making our way through the darkness of a mountain highway at 80 miles per hour. There were scarcely any cars passing by. Boxed in this very fast-moving steel container we could hear human voices transmitted via invisible radio waves. It felt so strange. I started to think about it.

"What kind of communication is this, Glenn?" When you drive alone, you not only talk to your car but also into the tiny microphone. You talk with someone who you will never see in your life. Do you feel comfortable only if the communication is anonymous?"

Glenn's voice and the man's voice on the CB made me weary. I thought of lonely drivers in the darkness of the night, and suddenly I felt the loneliness of America.


A few days later, we left Whidbey Island to travel down to California. On the bus heading south, I found myself thinking a lot abut Glenn.

"What do you think Glenn is doing now, all alone in his apartment?" I said to Naoko sitting beside me.

"I was wondering the same thing myself. The quiet days may have returned, but the place may have become too quiet," she replied.


I haven't seen Glenn since then and haven't heard from him in years. But I still remember him very well, maybe because I can now share his loneliness.

Comprehension Check
Multiple Choice Exercise
Choose the right answer from a, b, and c.
Click to find if you are right or wrong.

1. Glenn ...
a. invited two girls to the U.S.A.
b. agreed to take care of the two girls in the U.S.A.
c. wrote to his friend to look after the two girls

2. The girls learned that Glenn had ...
a. named his car after his girl
b. given his car the name Lorena
c. met a girl named Lorena five years ago

3. When they stopped for a cup of coffee, Glenn ...
a. tried to get his car to drink a cup of coffee
b. spoke to his car so that she would not give any trouble
c. tried to talk to his car so that she would start smoothly

4. Glenn's apartment looked like an office but ...
a. he had no kitchen and used his laboratory
b. his kitchen looked like a laboratory and was very clean
c. the colors of his kitchen's flooring were brown and gray

5. The writer says that Glenn has many idiosyncrasies ...
a. and so we can be sure that he is a dangerous man
b. so it is not surprising if he says and does strange things
c. so he could not completely understand the girls' English

6. The writer claims that Glenn is the embodiment of efficiency ...
a. and so he could do several things quickly and well
b. because he put the chicken in the oven and then on a plate
c. because he likes to add different colors to the dishes

7. The writer could not successfully convince Glenn of the importance of eating fresh food because he ...
a. is living in the 20th century
b. has his own ideas about eating
c. likes artificial coloring and preservatives

8. Glenn thought that the best way to cook sausages is ...
a. on the hot dog sausage broiler
b. to torture the sausages until they turn brown
c. to use no more than six claws for six sausages

9. Suzie is ...
a. married to Glenn
b. married to his friend
c. an officer in the U.S. army

10. Glenn and the girls decided to go camping ...
a. in Alaska
b. for a couple of days
c. in the middle of the night

11. On Saturday night ...
a. Glenn seemed to be in a really good mood
b. Glenn and Mike went into the deadly forest
c. the cozy campfire was watching many faces

12. While they were driving back home, Glenn spoke to ...
a. someone on the CB
b. the girls on the CB
c. Lorena on the CB

13. The man Glenn was talking to was ...
a. a good friend of his
b. a total stranger
c. sitting next to him

14. The writer says that she can now understand Glenn better because she ...
a. herself has known loneliness
b. talks to him often on the CB
c. hasn't seen him in a long time


1. Which country would you like to visit most, and why?

2. Glenn names his car just like people name their pets. Why do you think they do it?

3. Glenn has many idiosyncrasies. What do you think are yours?

4. Glenn's canned foods are one example of modernization. Discuss some others.

5. How does Glenn cope with loneliness? How do you?

6. What do you think about the criticism of frozen and canned food in comparison with fresh food?

7. Glenn has several single-purpose gadgets. Are there any in Japan? What do you think about them?

8. How would you describe Glenn's personality?

9. Do you think the author is sympathetic or hostile to Glenn?

10. " Do you feel comfortable only if the communication is anonymous?" Comment.

With a solid background in American and English literature, it comes as no surprise that Enda Kazuko should nowadays be engaged in translation work. She writes: "I started working for Canon Inc. in 1979, where I acquired my basic knowledge of translation and technical English. In 1982, I left Canon and became a freelance translator. Since then, I've been doing Japanese-to-English translation, mainly technical texts. Although my current work is technical, I'm mostly interested in creative writing and hope to write a few more short stories ..."

"Glenn" by Enda Kazuko is from Four Seasons: An Anthology of Original Writing by Japanese Writers in English edited by John Pereira and the late Prof. Eugene O'Reilly and published in 1984.