:: Article

Cloudy Sake

By David Moscovich.

CLOUDY SAKE

It’s really annoying how much time you’re spending writing this novel, don’t you have any self-control, any sense, your working gig is in the afternoon so you are in the habit of writing all morning, and this is one such morning when Kimiko sends you a freak text message, Meet takoyaki today lunch? Kimiko, it’s freakish because most Japanese do not spontaneously meet for lunch, not because of some inherent trait, but because most people plan weeks even months in advance, something stirs in the basest part of you, and you write back with excited fingertips, I love takoyaki. What train station?

You go back to writing your “novel” while waiting for her response:

On this brisk autumn day, he arranged the mannequins so that Olivia and Persephone were on the couch in front of the tea table, and Gerda was in the recliner, palm extended to make a point. He pressed play on the tape recorder, and Gerda spoke first in British upper crust falsetto: I do not believe there is inherent racism in modern Japanese society, but rather a persistent prejudice which has its roots in Japanese imperialism itself. What, objected Olivia, Japanese imperialism? Ha! responded Gerda. My dear, dear Olivia. Have you not heard of the islands of Okinawa?

Your phone buzzes, and you break off, thankfully, from the pretentious tripe, and read, Higashi Machi station. Meet 12 clock? Are you ok? Yes, I’m ok, you write, Are you ok? to which she responds, Ok Ok, do you ask too many questions? to be safe, this time you are twenty minutes early arriving at the station, you take the escalator to street level and watch the ubiquitous compact Nissan taxis mingle in with city busses along the main thoroughfare, there seem to be no used cars in Nagasaki, you haven’t seen even a door scratched in the entire city, not that you walk around looking at car doors, but most of them seem to undergo the kind of waxing one associates with a Rolls Royce, what is this mysterious, prosperous, ordered land of no litter and cosmetically perfect automobiles? you ask yourself, and then your phone buzzes again, this time it’s Azuka, she’s writing to you from work, Pick me up some bananas on the way home, says the text message, there’s something insidious about the tone, something unspoken, you’re reminded of the last fortune cookie you read, develop your intuition, that was the fortune cookie, only now do you understand the significance of that masterful ribbon of wisdom, she knows, there’s something in the tone of her text, she knows, she knows you’re meeting another girl, probably even knows her name, abandon ship, abandon ship, you sink into a despair, knowing she will be waiting for you at the point of rendezvous, you call Kimiko to cancel the meeting, something came up, you’ll see her another time, you’re lying, there will be no other time, you’re a coward, you’ve backed down, you’ll never text another girl again, it’s all over, it’s all over now, it’s done.



AZUKA

You conclude the 1st grade class with a singalong, Hello Happy Day, How Are You, you’re anxious to rip down a whiskey, in the lobby you notice there is the glass display of miniature workers pouring concrete into barrels, you pick one up to see if there is a whistle hole in its behind, there isn’t, the Assistant Principal sees you with your lips on the bronze buttocks, the janitor and Principal follow you outside to see you off, once you leave the school you tilt your golden flask at the back of the bus, the flask engraved with the initials J.T., your great grandfather who lost everything in the stock market crash of 1928, you’re texting Azuka with dinner plans, you have no heart, of course she’s already had a few beers when she calls you, you set the flask on the seat, she wants you to pick up cabbage, pork, enoki mushrooms and kimchee to make a spicy nabe tonight, you agree, Wakatta, Azu-chan, wakatta, you tell her you’ll do it and hang up the phone, you get off the bus on the ultra-wide street, all the major streets are wide in Nagasaki, a long stretch of textured yellow strips on every sidewalk, there to guide the blind, a sad reminder that even the blind have a better chance if they’re Japanese, you step into the grocery store, the beer fridge sports eight different labels with the same tasteless beer inside, you pick four tallboys to get you through dinner, intuiting some cultural blow-up and misunderstanding is about to happen with Azuka, you get stares in the checkout line, stares from the crone with the pocked face, stares from the young couple wearing berets, the clerk, though, is unable to look at you, you swipe your card, you say nothing and leave, loitering for a moment you enjoy scandalizing the façade of the grocery outside and crack open a beer, you lift the beer to your lips and take one step onto the street as a motorcycle rips through your best shirt, a black button down with thin gold stripes, the handlebars of the bike twist you onto the unforgiving ground of the sidewalk.



GAUZE

Now a small crowd is standing above you, Is he okay? they ask each other, I don’t know, what should we do, he can’t speak Japanese, nobody bothers to actually ask you, they notice bits of blood on your foreign face, they‘re making phone calls, you brush the pendants of dirt off your pants, your sleeves are torn and the top button is missing, the groceries miraculously have landed unaffected, propped against the wall of “Californya Café” (a misspelled sulking ground behind the station), you prop yourself up and start walking, unacceptable by Japanese standards, you should reassure those around you, instead you say nothing, you’re feeling particularly misanthropic and your arm feels like one giant bee-sting, you leave them in a group discussing what to do, they could do it for hours, the motorcycle rider pedals next to you, apologizing, bowing, pedaling, begging you to stop, apologizing, bowing deeply, pleading, pedaling, bowing three times fast, sincerely apologizing, really apologizing, he’s incredibly sorry, bowing again, you’re not saying anything, your elbow is whistling bloodover your pants, you don’t care, you just want the day to be done and to nuzzle into the confusing set of cultural signifiers awaiting you at Azuka’s, she is frighteningly devoted to you, a commitment you never thought possible, it’s what drives you away, you knock and she’s there, jumping at the door, almost wagging her tail, clasping her hands, it’s surreal, is she faking it, you wonder, you callous soul-wrecker, you don’t deserve her, why would you question such a thing, of course she’s sincere, it’s you who are not sincere, she sees you’ve been hurt, the jumping stops, the argument grows even uglier when she wraps purple gauze around your arm, the gauze has Disney characters printed on it, you blame each other for what the city does to you, she kicks the bathroom door leaving a slipper print on the new white paint, you will break her heart for sure this time.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Moscovich writes flash fiction and performs his texts both live and on the radio, fragmenting, ricocheting, and refurnishing language until it meets its own devolution. His collection of one-page fictions, You Are Make Very Important Bathtime, is available from Journal of Experimental Fiction (Geneva, IL). He lives with chronic insomnia in New York City and runs Louffa Press, a micro-press dedicated to printing innovative fiction.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Thursday, March 21st, 2013.