Three Tales from the Japanese

Michael Mejia


The Incident

As the yokan was served, I remembered a certain woman, Kuniko, who sold the family she knew she couldn't eat for a very reasonable figure. Kan'ami and Shigehira liked to buy printed material from her, too, health food texts published in China, how-tos for bunjin-ike and the buying and selling of fetuses.

Late one night, she showed up to visit our western-style house, right in the middle of everything. You can figure out the address by the basic art of postal operations, of course, but hardly anyone seems to bother anymore because the number of machine-guided drivers has greatly increased. Built back in the early Meiji era, the manor is in no way geometric. It was the labor of someone your age trying to learn the urban hut thing. I don't care a bit if the floor creaks, if it has a message from Yoko.

Oh, Yoko! Yoko! If I turn you on now it'll be a major breakthrough!

When the teacher and his partner demonstrated the tango, Kuniko fainted on the spot, like a news flash. She thrust out her hand, made shaving motions. Fighting the grip on his neck, the teacher shouted directions: Your brother's in critical condition! You are far from eloquent! Answering phones is your job! But the way she moved her legs was slapdash and he had to deviate to a great extent. Five steps and he was at the top of the stairs. In two or three steps the sake brought a tipsy feeling of release. The floor seemed to suck at the soles of his shoes. Finally, he reached the restroom, but he couldn't ease up. He stepped in a silent liquid, his legs felt weak, and when he came into the bedroom, he turned to look back and saw that he was leaving tracks. Who could have spread sand in the hall? Why? A man's laugh echoed through the room.

Michiko sat by my side in the shadows ready to catch every accent, color, and nuance of the occasion. My memory of the changes that occurred in various glands after my time at the hot springs with Dr. Roentgen could be seen on the walls, coming out of my head as do moths from the night skies. I moved to the left in order to see where Sanehira's Buddha girls had carried me on their shoulders. I'd been flat out, I remembered.

Then there was the sound of a car outside and the shooting started. Through the window we observed Chief Powhatan, his braves, and three huge wrestlers struggling toward the house over the sea of barrier grass, expressing in song their intent to collect the ears of the listener, stagger around like not very healthy ancestral deities, and appropriate this as their native land. Smoke was rising from the samurai tent. When they took the armored planters, I thought what I ought to do is call to let you know that I myself am due to bear your child. I only wanted credit for being the first to bring a third term to the capital. Please get back to me when you have the time.

The teacher spun around and planted his elbow in the ribs of his attacker. He made two autumn reaping throws from side to side, at last demonstrating the carefree artistry that characterizes the new school and makes him so popular overseas. Suddenly, though the bedroom was pitch black, we realized that his enemy from the outset had been Yoko—oh, Yoko! Yoko!—dancing tenaciously now through the open door, the way one's only love should do. Before he could protect himself she'd buried her face in his neck. He would have been the first to admit: She brought a much-needed spark to an age of extended peace.

After his body rose gently into the air, Kuniko began to lick between her legs. Apparently she was feeling better and it was time to return home. She was a trembling old woman!

It is cruel to lose one's only comrades. Two years later, hungry and exhausted, she married a young doctor named Takahashi. If she hadn't, she would have starved to death. But when had she become so cold and calculating?


The Unknown Language

A voice doesn't have the individuality a face does. Already, in fact, his had half departed from the lieutenant's personal possession. It fell into his bowl like a dead leaf, varied in appearance and condition, speaking in a vague murmur of complicated abstractions, useless clues, alibis. That is, it ceased to assert the conjunction of the property and the identity of the man. He didn't know what to do! He'd have to use sign language, maybe, establish his own writing, remove the lid from a ceramic bowl, clatter and clink, break into a dead insect, set down a picture of a dog known as Genji. The body rose gently.

After this, the chilling rain came, another sign that it had begun, the Kōriyama figure, and the difference between experiments and words seemed even more ephemeral and unnecessary. His hands flew up. They were dancing bubbles passing Akashi!

Down there, at the annual nageire festival, the six regular Chinese residents of Japan, destined to die, helped spread public tears at the grass-roots level through various sweetened confections. There is a saying: Do not count a thing compassionate because it comes in answer to a prayer.

Come here! the lieutenant was saying. He watched the teacher, not without a little trepidation, even though she was qualified to make delicate communication. The yellow clothes he had wrested off her were under his arm. She stood up and moved to a seat opposite him. This was around the time Iitate Village toppled and the north country had to be hauled in pieces and stacked up out there, east of Ōsaka, by the Chinese-style stadium and that evil-looking music hall, where the ground has been buckling continually since the 9.4 earthquake of 1966, which is probably not the best place for it, but what can one do when not a soul remains in the temple graves and 47 mirrored deities are on the move from Nagasaki all the way to Hokkaido, 48 million millirems a day following in their wake?

She lit a cigarette in the candle's flame and turned to whisper something caressing: You don't have a boyfriend?

I'd starve if I didn't.

Submerged in tea for two days, the physical craving for a child suddenly reasserted itself. Need I say, nothing of this sort is to be realized in Western medical schools? Efforts are no doubt made, but there are good reasons why American doctors, dashing themselves against lamps at night, can't see that what lies within the Japanese cannot be verified. Here, one cannot distinguish between this moment and that according to some provisional constant!

A radiant moon came out. It was Yoko. Oh Yoko! Yoko! Waiting, like fine spirits, brings the most divine sort of torture. By now, thankfully, I'm familiar with medicinal alcohol. I grabbed the handstrap.

On the corner, there was no shadow of sadness to be seen, only gloves edged with black fur and a cloth with four rings traced at its center on a platform in a tree. Who would have put those there? You? The postman? And what did they mean?

The air!

There had been concerts on other nights, a symphony, the sound of a koto, but now, all I could hear was his other voice leading the refugees to higher ground, their constant cries traveling sadly through the sky. Rain down! Rain down! I was wondering: How could he have killed his own father? What exactly had he been working on at the Serizawa Research Laboratory? Who was that dead body wearing the cap of a Tokyo Imperial University student in the Emperor's office?

In February, he left the capital with Shigeyuki, his straight shoulder and sole companion. At this rate they are bound to find him. Perhaps right now he's gazing blearily up at this same moon, thinking of Yoko, sorry he couldn't be more help in defeating Gojira.


Food Decentered

In some homes the host makes tea on the tatami. It's a banal enough proposition, but, if you phone Tomotoki's doctor, there is another way, the freedom and depth of which—contrary to what almost half the tea masters in eastern Japan might predict—is quite intriguing. I would go much further and say that this practice permits one to observe personal animosity toward no less a person than my sister-in-law, a light drinker, a kind, correct, and dangerous blank, flickering in the dark.

When the bowl, caddy, and spoon were returned, Chiba, the slippery fellow, jabbed a thigh between the young woman's legs, making sure the aged Maegashira did not notice.

The scenery at Suma, visible in the distance, is especially pleasing.

Their mouths seemed to become one as they sucked each other's tongues. How could he stand it? After seventeen hours, she takes on such a mysterious flavor!

The following day, at the Serizawa Research Laboratory, they struggled to reach an even higher order of biological damage. Yayoi closed his eyes, then tried to crush them and his leg, neck, and forehead. The pleasure of these grossly unattractive acts was of such magnitude she leveled Kyoto! There was no help for him now. Had the situation lent itself to more precise measurements, it's certain the combination of lacquerware, trance, and radiation exposure would have been far beyond the rim of experience consistent with normal humanity.

Finally, Dr. Omori had them stopped. She wept endearingly, buried her face in his neck, but still Chiba did not come inside. There would be no impurity in that joy they had experienced, he said. Rather, it flowed down their flat bellies into her English clutch, its color dark and arithmetic. It felt chilly to my right hand.

In nearby Suwayama Zoo, a lion roared, suddenly.