Do Not Despair

for Dave

Memory’s an untrustworthy thing.

Looking back on it, did all that really happen? How much was subjective, how much objective? What is objective reality, anyway — he stops himself from falling down that rabbit hole again.

Start with what you know.

He came to town with his father, that much is certain: his father is still alive, still here, they are still in town, good. He had an arranged marriage at what now feels like an irresponsbily young age: he’s married now, reasonably happily, doing fine so far. The rest of it — the fighting, the contests, the love triangles, the baking — that’s where it starts to get foggy. Looking through old pictures, they’re all so much smaller than he remembers, so much skinnier, so much more awkward. He is startled to realize that the woman he thought was ancient, centuries ancient, could not have been much older than he is now; the old man that plagued his father not nearly so shrunken as he recalls.

He finds a tape of a contest he’d been forced into — he can’t quite remember why — something that seemed like life and death at the time, two wild thunderstorms tearing at each other and the gym a shattered ruin afterwards, and it was just two gawky kids self-seriously flailing at each other. The gym is fine.

Anything Goes

That son of a bitch panda has done it to them again, goddammit.

Not enough that he uprooted their life, dragged them halfway around the world in pursuit of some nebulous “training” as an excuse for ducking an endless series of petty creditors, not enough that he dunked them both into those cursed hot springs (though admittedly that wasn’t without its benefits, they’ll grudgingly admit), not enough that he brokered marriage after marriage to a series of increasingly combative fiancées and fiancés, no. Now he’s entered them both in a wood-turning competition and wagered their share of the school on victory, and three guesses who has to carry it off or get kicked out onto the street again.

“Good training,” he writes. “Easy easy!”

“What the hell do I know about wood-turning, old man?” They could strangle him, if they could get their hands around the girth of their neck; on bad nights they suspect him of staying a panda for just that reason.

“I’ve found you a teacher!” he writes. “You’ll like them!” Then, ominously, adds, “They’re just your type!”

“Oh no,” says Ranma, the cursed, the magnetic, desperately longing for any stability whatsoever, as he hears the whirr of a lathe starting up. “Not again!”