:: Article

The rain surrenders to the town, Al Capone is no longer there

By Hiromi Suzuki.

Credit: author

 

Sitting on the windowsill and occasionally looking at the terrace, Eliza takes needles and threads from the sewing box and makes ferns with felt. The plants made of non-woven fabric that has pressed fibers such as wool or animal fur. Making ferns as if the leaf veins gain the breath from water veins, she is waiting for something. Her husband is a man who is hiding whiskey behind books on a bookshelf, snuggling up to whole world’s despairs day and night, crying while seeing her off. Eliza is working at the supermarket every afternoon.

Al Capone, who was imprisoned in The Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, is said to have hidden rye whiskey in his cell. Alcatraz Island on San Francisco Bay was surrounded by the cold sea currents, the prisoners could not easily escape from prison. In the 1979 movie ‘Escape From Alcatraz’, Frank Morris acted by Clint Eastwood attempted a desperate jailbreak. Investigators said “they are dead,” but the prison chief found Morris’s chrysanthemum being washed ashore.

There was a pet shop on the roof of the supermarket. The children were teasing a squirrel monkey trapped in a cage with Chupa Chups’ sticks. The monkey was scared of the shout “Cute!”. Turned his back on the crowd, ate sunflower seeds with downcast eyes. The monkey wished he could dive into the downwind Tokyo Bay from wagon of the Ferris wheel on the roof. A cargo ship was swaying in the sunset on the waves. Suddenly, the machine gun fired. The monkey was frightened by the creeping killers. The squirrel monkey was very timid. He heard the footsteps of the gangster were approaching. No, it was the sound of the thunder storms hitting the concrete floor on the roof.

To escape from the sudden rain, a bachelor rushed into the main entrance just before the store closed. The man chose an assorted box of baked sweets as a gift for his mother living in a hometown and went to the service counter. Eliza worked at the gift section in the supermarket. “Would you like to choose a wrapping paper?” Eliza asked the bachelor. “No, especially no,” the man replied lazily. “Leave it to me,” she chose a few sheets of colourful Japanese paper and wrapped the box with beautiful gradation. “I like this kind of paper with the texture of plants. These are my personal goods. It’s a secret…,” she smiled embarrassedly. The bachelor invited Eliza to a supper after her work. She was surprised and hesitant for a while, but replied, “I can be with you for a little. My husband is waiting for me to come home.”

They met at a Chinese restaurant near the supermarket. Under the paper lantern, Eliza, who took off her uniform, looked like a young girl. She wore an old-fashioned flapper-style dress like Dorothy Parker. They ordered a dim sum set that would not fill their stomachs.

“I’m working on the graphic design, so interested in a clerk who is particular about wrapping paper like you. Thank you for dating today.”

The bachelor made an excuse.

“I’m glad you invited me. I’m a middle-aged woman, in the edge of my life.”

Eliza laughed obediently.

“Once a week, I accompany my husband to church for his AA meetings. He doesn’t like going to church. He is not a Christian, and wondering which God he should make an oath to. While waiting for his meetings to end, I’m learning handicrafts at a women’s workshop at church.”

She talked ramblingly.

“I’m designing book covers, so I’m particular about paper. Paper is made of pulp. Pulp is a tree. Since ancient times, it has been said that God dwells in trees. Paper is sacred.”

As the man made a passionate speech, Eliza looked at him with vacant eyes and said, “Seems to be the story of Yggdrasill. The world tree in the Nordic myth.”

 

Yggdrasill shivers, 

the ash, as it stands.

The old tree groans,

and the giant slips free. *[1]

 

Suddenly, they heard a rhythm of cha-cha-cha from the portable player. The upper bodies of the old couple sitting in the next began to dance on the horizon of the table, for the ballroom dance choreography. While laughing at the cheerful tune ‘La engañadora’ by Orquesta Amérca, “It’s getting late. Shall we go home?” the bachelor said and passed the bill to the waiter. The man slid the coaster that had been written his cell phone number towards Eliza.

The bachelor enters to a bar on the back alley. He notices that the tune in the Chinese restaurant is chasing him. The happy rhythm of ‘La en gañadora’ is coiling around him in the dim light. ‘La engañadora’ means the fraudster in Spanish. But it was translated in the US as “Anything Can Happen When You’re in Havana”.

 

In the dark corner of the pub at the wharf on a holiday, 

a pint of Guinness, the jukebox, the released bustles are foaming.

 

The man in front of me,

into a glass of half pint that had been dried up,

added canned beer bought at the supermarket.

 

A pretty and well-behaved child next to me,

wrapping curly hair around her fingers  

staring at the souvenir shop

is tweeting the rain.

 

Rain.

 

Water the Queen’s well.

 

                   Rain.

 

Bored phonograph records

ran out of patience

 

and    turned    into

 

the music of

 

                  bubbles. *[2]

 

The rain surrenders to the town. The squirrel monkey that escaped from the cage of pet shop is wandering at night. He slipped through the gangster’s bullets and jumped into Tokyo Bay from the Ferris wheel. At the wharf, Al Capone’s favorite car, 1928 Cadillac V-8 Town Sedan and a million barrels of rye whiskey are preparing to be loaded onto the ship. Al Capone himself is no longer there. There is just a cigar end in the puddle. The chrysanthemum is looking up at the huge gantry crane. Silence surrounds the darkness. The old tree groans, and the giant slips free. This world is made of huge trees. People held in the dome of the world tree where the ground and underground, day and night are reversed are about to fall asleep. A spring springs at the root of the ash tree. The squirrel monkey is skipping from branch to branch freely and lightly, kissing the olive fruits.

 

The cell phone rang in the middle of the night.

The bachelor heard Eliza’s sobbing.

Behind her was her husband crying.

 

“My husband hit me on the cheek, but I feel sorry for him.”

 

Sitting on the windowsill, Eliza is waiting for something.

The fern that lives quietly beside the water veins under the shade of rocks.

 

References

[1] The Poetic Edda, Mythological Poems Volume II / Oxford University Press. Translated by Ursula Dronke, 1997.

[2] Queen’s Well in the Wicklow Mountains, Ms. cried – 77 poems by hiromi suzuki / Kisaragi publishing, 2013. Translated by hiromi suzuki, 2020.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
hiromi suzuki is a poet, fiction writer and artist living in Tokyo, Japan. She is the author of Ms. cried – 77 poems by hiromi suzuki (Kisaragi Publishing, 2013), logbook (Hesterglock Press, 2018), INVISIBLE SCENERY (Low Frequency Press, 2018), Andante (AngelHousePress, 2019). Her short stories have been published in 3:AM Magazine, RIC Journal, Burning House Press, The Journal Petra,  and so on. A short fiction ‘A Longer Trip Back Home’ was published by 3:AM Magazine in February, 2020. Twitter : @HRMsuzuki

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, January 19th, 2021.