fettle \FET-l\, noun: A state or condition of fitness or order; state of mind; spirits -- often used in the phrase "in fine fettle."
Gojyo's mouth works a mile a minute and because he's always talking, telling stories and singing songs and working his way to the punch lines of jokes, it's easy to get lost in his words.
He looks fine, when you're talking to him, but it's easy to see that things are a little off about him, if you look for the right signs.
For one, Gojyo is always taking things from others. You would say that it's rampant kleptomania.
He takes Sanzo's spectacles, puts them to his face and looks through them owlishly. He gets fingerprints all along the lenses and uses Goku's napkin to clean them off, but never returns the napkin, just tucks it in his back pocket.
He would keep Sanzo's glasses too, if he had a chance, just fold them up and snap them open in his hands a million times until Sanzo gets angry enough to threaten to shoot off his kneecaps. It's only because Gojyo knows that Sanzo is true to his word, that he gives up the spectacles at all.
He gets fidgety without something in his hands to touch and reaches out as if to grab something, stopping halfway and shoving his hands back onto the table obediantly.
He is not skillful in whisking things away from you, but you let him get away with it without saying anything. He touches all your possessions, stroking a hand over your driving gloves or trying to poke holes in your scarf.
He tells you bad jokes, raunchy jokes, sometimes sad stories about his childhood, and you let him distract you enough so that he can rummage through your coat pocket and palm all of your old movie tickets. They're all movies that you've seen with him, movies that he's dragged you to, so you don't miss them much.
During meals, Gojyo only eats from other's plates. It's apparent because he swipes a finger through Sanzo's curry; takes a bite of Goku's cake; drinks from your teacup. He never touches his own plate, just lets Goku complain about how he keeps nicking all the bacon and get angry, until Goku reaches out and swipes food off Gojyo’s plate for himself. He eats with his hands when he can, using chopsticks in the presence of others to keep up the appearance of civilization - just for your sake.
He talks all the while, not even pausing a beat when he takes your monocle. He slips it up his sleeve, like the ace of spades, and doesn't give it back until after the meal is over and you're safely away in the inn.
"Give what back?" He replies when you stick your hand out. You ask nicely. You ask politely. You just ask.
"I don't know why I do it," Gojyo says, cigarette in mouth and hands in pockets, "Guess I just like to have a bit of everyone important around. Reminds me you nut jobs are really hangin' around." He makes the point by tucking three of Sanzo’s mahjong tiles into his pocket and replacing them with three more from his boot.
You know that, as he pays for another round of drinks, his wallet is lined with girls' phone numbers on the back of your ticket stubs and his grocery receipts. Just more things that he takes from others, things that he says makes the world more real.
"You're a fine ripe old mess," you tell him while he takes your heart. He has always seemed real enough to you.
Author's Note: Originally done for April 2005 Word A Day.