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Interlude (20141101) — Misha's Birthday

Posted: Sat Nov 01, 2014 9:45 am
by brythain
This place, it's a gelateria. And a pasticceria, and a paninoteca, and a... cafeteria. Among other things.

My 'date' laughs. "Wahaha!~ Author-san, you're so funny. It's just a café, and I'm happy that you were so thoughtful!~"

What she's really tickled at is a tiny detail, but it seems to mean a lot to her. It's the name of the restaurant that engages her.

"I did love my brown hair a lot, but pink was an act of rebellion. It was not just me, but ME!~"

I nod at her, smiling, hoping that she'll continue. It's a fun date. She loves talking, I love listening, and she knows I'll do my best to be honest with what she tells me. In front of her is a... I'm not very good at these things... parfait dish, for want of a better term. It's an ornate glass dish with about seven large scoops of intensely coloured gelato in it. Or, at least, there were. Now, only three are left, and one of those is not what it used to be.

"You look so serious, even when you smile. Why is that, author-san?~"

Why indeed, Misha, why indeed? I can't help thinking of the life you've led, and the difficulties thereof. But she's caught me there, so I present a rueful grin and say nothing.

"You're thinking of my sad moments, aren't you?" She stops, puts her hands on her hips. It's a striking posture, considering that she's wearing a black one-piece outfit with a silver sash and her nails are painted with swirls of lapis lazuli and bright orange. Her figure at this age is full but not outrageously so, because the black makes her outline less... outstanding. "Don't do that! Remember what I said to you once?"

"You said many things, Misha. What should I remember, my friend?"

"The last part, of course! The part where I said: 'After that, reader, Misha lives happily ever after! No, author-san, you don’t get to tell the last part, how I eventually die and all that sad stuff you write as ‘closure’. My ending’s a happy ending, and I am still happy, and I will never forget what everyone used to say: “Rin? With Rin, you never know!” ' !"

This time I laugh. My nearest neighbours in Brunetti's look at us and giggle a bit. I'm a quiet man, dressed quietly. Everyone is sneaking a peek at my glamorous companion. I shudder and hope none of the patrons are my students, or worse, their parents.

"Happy birthday, Misha! You've always cheered me up, you know. Even in sad moments, you've given it a good try."

"Author-san, that's a wonderful thing to say!~" She leans over, exposing more of herself than a happily married man ought to have the chance to look at. "One of these days, I'll tell you more, and you can write more of that stuff you write. Wahaha!~"

It's a wonderful morning.

Interlude (20150309)

Posted: Sun Mar 08, 2015 11:35 pm
by brythain
I'm rewriting that damned paper again when I hear the breathing and turn around. There she is sitting on the corner of my bed, a half-grin on her face and her hair back to an extremely bubble-gum metallic shade of pink.

"Hey, Misha!"

"Hi, author-san!~ Hard at work making everybody's stories sad again?"

Oh. So that's where the other half of her grin went.

"No, writing a book chapter on why people's lives are sad in some places."

"Awww... don't do that, we have enough of that already...!"

I grimace, but she's continuing.

"In fact, author-san, I have a complaint to make! If Shicchan were here, she'd make it too... two!" She looks confused for a while.

"A complaint?"

"Yes! Aki-chan's story is not so sad! You're telling all the sad parts AGAIN!!!"

"Wait, what? I haven't got to the good parts yet..."

"No excuses! You haven't even told people about the parfaits we had down the road from their house. Aunty Misha did a great job!~"

"I did mention it, at least twice."

"Yes, but you haven't got a whole scene where we're eating that huge peach and strawberry thing, and we did it more than once!"

"Fine," I say, rather grouchily making a note on my stack of notes. Or sprawl of notes, more accurately.

"Aww, you're being grouchy... hey, that's not good. I'll get Shicchan to come back with me and she can cheer you up!~"

"Hey! Don't..."

It's too late. She's vanished, the faint scent of her apple shampoo fading. I had better get cracking soon, before my room turns into a dramatic production.

Interlude (20150922)

Posted: Tue Sep 22, 2015 4:11 am
by brythain
"Hello, author-san!~" says a soft, low, but somehow rather perky voice.

I look up. The scent of apple blossoms has already announced her identity. "Hello, Misha!" I reply, genuinely glad to see her.

"You look happy to see me, or is that a new iPhone? Oh, they're bigger every year!~ Wahaha!~"

I look down, before realising she's just teasing. There are few things that make me blush. Being surprised by Misha can do that.

"Ah. You terrible tease," I say mock-sternly.

I relent, however, when she looks a little crestfallen at the response.

"What can I do for you, Miss... " I have to look at her hairstyle and apparent age, for a moment. The long, lustrous, only slightly pink-tinged dark-brown hair, and the slight crowsfeet around her eyes tell me which Misha this is. "... Kobayashi?"

She favours me with a small, rather shy smile. "Yes, this is before I got married, but after I went home."

She stands up. She's not tall; standing, she looks down only a little at me. "I see you have a little discussion~ going on in the Book Club about me?"

"That's exactly why I'm so happy to see you. I have questions."

She strikes a dramatic pose. "And here I thought it was because mature-me is beautiful-me!~"

"Was the Misha in the stories really only a mask for Shiina Mikado/Kobayashi?"

Her brows knit slightly. She looks a little disappointed. "Author-san, you know very well that I'm Misha!~ I was almost always happy to be with Shizune, and part of me is a simple, happy girl!!~~"

I raise an eyebrow of my own, and now she looks merely disapproving.

"Part of me was quiet. It was the mask I wore so that people wouldn't beat me. But they did anyway. And I couldn't be happy. You know that too."

Misha's had a hard life, and not everyone understood that. I nod.

"Well, most of my life has been happy, because I really try not to be sad. It gets everybody down~! It's not responsible!"

I raise my other eyebrow, at this last phrase.

"Wahaha!~" she laughs, her eyes almost closed tight in her good humour. "Yeah, that one isn't me, that one's all Shizune Hakamichi!"

I laugh too, but when I open my eyes, she's gone.

Interlude (20151101)

Posted: Sun Nov 01, 2015 1:48 pm
by brythain
"Hello, author-san!~" says my lunchtime partner, taking me by surprise.

I turn in her direction. "You're early, Madam Kobayashi."

It's a mock accusation, and she responds with mock horror. "Oh no, author-san! Misha is laaaaaate!!"

We end up laughing together. She's dressed modestly today, a purple cardigan over something black that goes down to her calves. Her hair has no pink in it at all.

"Happy birthday, my friend. Lunch is on me. Where?"

She gives me a very mischievous look. "Well, if you are paying, author-san? I know a place that sells pancakes with green~ curry~ chicken~!"


"Aw, don't be a spoilsport!~"

And that is how we end up eating a stack of pancakes with chicken in Thai green curry, followed by a macha-laden panna cotta of some sort.

Edit1: We also had a pretty good macha tiramisu (that one really loves her desserts) and bara chirashi sushi with chicken-breast soba. She eats a lot.

Edit2: That was very unkind, author-san!~ Hmph! I have a figure to maintain, you know~~

Edit3: For those who want to see where Misha eats when she comes down my way, they had a Facebook page cooked up.

Re: After the Dream—Misha's Arc (Complete)

Posted: Wed Nov 04, 2015 4:43 pm
by Silentcook
That was... possibly the weirdest way to publicize a commercial site on the forums, yet. :shock:

Nevertheless, that's not kosher. Removed.

Re: After the Dream—Misha's Arc (Complete)

Posted: Wed Nov 04, 2015 7:07 pm
by brythain
Silentcook wrote:That was... possibly the weirdest way to publicize a commercial site on the forums, yet. :shock:

Nevertheless, that's not kosher. Removed.
Ah, sorry. Wasn't thinking of it that way.

"Misha apologises too! Wahaha!~"

Interlude (20151230)

Posted: Wed Dec 30, 2015 1:50 am
by brythain
"Not funnnnnnny, author-san!~"

And here I've just barely submitted my latest short alternative fic. The lady who's just appeared in the armchair near my door is certainly entitled to comment on that, though.

"Hello, Misha! How nice to..."

"Stop that, author-san! It's not nice to make everyone speculate on whether I have a disability and what it is, yet again!"

Oops. This is angry Misha. Not a good thing.

"Once and for all, let me tell you the truth! My disability, if you want to call it that, is that I'm MISHA! And maybe that's not a disability at all!"

"Err, are we still friends?"

"Wahaha," she says acidly, without a single trill. "Wahaha. Only if you publish this short conversation so that people know my relationship with Kenji was only in some disabled part of your imagination. Ha!"

Interlude (20160909)

Posted: Fri Sep 09, 2016 12:58 am
by brythain
"How about a chiffon sundae, author-san?~"

Who else would it be? I look up into the sun. This is Misha, mid-30s, hair still very pink.

"When would you like it, Mi-chan?"

"Wahaha!~ No, no, author-san, you mustn't call me that... Misha is fine, Misha is always fine... how about this afternoon?~"

"Would you be talking about Maccha House, by any chance?"

"Oh, Misha's not so bold to dictate terms like that. But I do hear they have a teriyaki chicken pot special, and new sundaes!~"

I grin. "Do I get any stories in exchange?"

"Oh!~ So fierce and bold, author-san!~ So direct!~ Wahaha!~" she laughs.


"Can I tell you about Young Akira and his favourite ice-cream parlour?"

"Ooh. Tasty. This afternoon it is, then."

She laughs again.

Interlude (20161006)

Posted: Thu Oct 06, 2016 10:11 am
by brythain
She meets me in the lobby, her hands on her hips. Today, she's come in a form of appropriate age. Magenta scarf, beige blouse. The dark, dark silk skirt makes her look like a luscious black tulip from the waist down. I avert my eyes in time, just as she starts laughing.

"Wahaha!~ Author-san, this is me, Misha! I'm not yet thirty this year, you know."

"Hello, Misha. Have you seen what's on the menu?" I reply, changing the subject.

"Oh, don't make Misha sad, please?~ I'm on your side!" she trills. Then she sees the special menu for the month. It reads: Warm mango sauce poured over a homemade Maccha choco ball filled with ice cream and fruits. "Oooh," she says softly, sounding winded. "Oooooh."

"Come, let's get a seat. And then you can tell me more about your idea."

She grins. "Yes! You can start with Na-chan at age 5, maybe. He'll be so embarrassed! So cute, he is!~"

She is of course referring to young Akira Nakai, whose godmother has the same name, thus confusing everybody. Of all people, Misha's decided to take a personal interest. It throws me a little, at time, because I'm much more used to working with Hanako and Natsume, and even Rika Katayama. But here she is, and I've discovered that we have similar tastes in dessert.

That helps quite a bit.

Interlude (20161007)

Posted: Fri Oct 07, 2016 8:28 am
by brythain
She's finally reached dessert, and her fork gently prises the green matcha chocolate shell open. "Wahaha!~" she laughs softly and happily. "Look, author-san, it's been filled with fruit and more mango sauce! Yummy..."

"How do you remain so slim, Misha?" I know it's a slightly rude question, but I've never been able to figure out how she continues to put it away.

"Hmm?" She raises her head, a dot of tangy orange mango sweetness hanging on for dear life on the edge of her lower right lip. "Thanks for the compliment! Nice to say, but I'm not so slim. Next to Shi'chan, I look like a fat pig! I just do a daily aerobic routine while curling my hair, every day..."

She looks down at the remains of her meal. "This is really good stuff. It's not high-class, expensive, only the rich kids can enjoy it, that kind of thing..."

She looks up again, grinning. "Author-san... don't feel sad! Misha loves this, even if it's not expensive, especially if it's not expensive!"

"Ah, I can't wait any more, Misha."

"What?~" She looks confused.

"Why is it that we're discussing young Akira?"

"Oh! Ha! Well... I just thought that you told Akiko's story, and it didn't seem fair that her brother didn't get anything! Besides, if you can't think of where to put it, you can put it here in my thread! He's my favourite young man, you know!~"

She pauses and wrinkles her nose a bit. "But he's also Lilly's favourite young man. Misha never wins."

"I'm sure he loves both of you, though. Hmm. How did all that happen?"

She puts up one beautifully-manicured hand. "Author-san... sorry!~ Please, let me finish this dessert first, and then we'll talk! Misha has to feel sweet before she talks!"

Akira Nakai #1 (up 20161010)

Posted: Mon Oct 10, 2016 12:29 am
by brythain
Akira Nakai #1 (2028): Small Boy

Please excuse my poor use of language. I have tried my best, and my teachers have been very good—Aunt Lilly the sister of my godmother, and Aunt Hanako the godmother of my sister—but my best is not as good as theirs. I only desire not to shame them. I have a story to tell, it is a simple one that I do not think is important or wonderful. Yet, my wife says I should tell it because nobody else has this story to tell, and I trust her.

I must also thank Mother Shiina and Mother Shizune for looking after me all these many years, and my late parents, Hisao Nakai and Emi Ibarazaki, for giving me life. I thank my most excellent sister, Akiko, for never giving up on me, and allowing me not to give up on her. There are so many people to thank, maybe I should thank the rest along the way.

Most of all, I thank you, unknown reader, for spending your valuable time on this unimportant story. It is only the dust that fills in the cracks between the tiles. The dust is thin, and my memories are poor. They only begin when I’m about six years old, four years after my respected father passed on. I never really knew him. I never really knew anything.


September 2028

“Small boy, come here!”

He terrifies me, the very old man in the shadows. I’m indeed a small boy at this time, and he is Mother Shizune’s father. He makes a face at me. I think he means to be smiling. But his bearded face is dark and fierce, and I almost want to wet myself. I don’t because my sister would kick my ass if I did.

So I walk over to Grandfather Jigoro and keep quiet. He will tell me to speak and then only I will speak.

“Any words for your grandfather?” he roars. Or at least, he means to be kindly whispering, but he doesn’t know how to. That is what Mother Shiina once told me.

“I think you are very fierce and strong, like a bear,” I say, surprising myself. I have been saving up my words, and I take them out when I think they should be set free.

“Oho? That is a manly thing to say. I hope you will grow up fierce and strong too, small boy!” He cuffs me hard on the side of the head, which means he is being friendly. I almost fall over, which means I am dizzy. But he means well, as Mother Shiina always says.

Big Sister Akiko looks sour, as she often does. She hates being hit on the head, and she doesn’t think our half-mothers are always to be trusted. She mutters something like, “If you survive all those hits to the head.”

I’m fine. I grin at Grandfather as if I am a happy idiot, as Sister tells me later.

He grins back. It is as if a monster suddenly opened its mouth and laughed. Or maybe a tree with a lot of moss on its chin. I’m not good with words. I only have feelings. I suddenly feel that I like this monster. So I give him the biggest hug I can give. It doesn’t go all the way around, and I feel his sense of surprise, as if maybe a squirrel had tried to embrace a maple.

A long second passes, hanging in the air. He hugs me back. It’s like a bear about to crush the squirrel. I can’t help it. I squeak. He laughs, a deep rumbly laugh. He puts me down, although I do not remember being up in the air. Then he ruffles my messy brown hair and he says, “It’s been a long time since anyone did that to Jigoro Hakamichi.”

It’s stupid of me to poke the bear, but I’m young and curious. So I ask, “When was the last time, Grandfather?”

His face changes. I don’t know if he’s looking sad, but it is something close to that. He tries to say something, and it doesn’t come out at first. Then he says, “The last little boy was your Uncle Hideaki.”

Uncle Hideaki? Uncle Hideaki is even bigger than the bear. He’s like Gojira! I can’t imagine him being a little boy at all. I laugh at the thought. Something is wrong, but I don’t know what it is.

It’s only then that I wake up.


October 2028

Something is happening at the door. I stop playing, the sunlight still warming my face, and look up. Grandma looks very excited, although she seems a little scared, or maybe something else. I’m not good at reading people.

“Emi’s at work,” she says into the cool Autumn air. “She brought Akiko with her, but the boy’s here with me today. Thank you for coming.”

There’s someone there, she looks familiar. I squint to see who it is. It’s a woman. Grandma lets her in and I stare at her hair. It’s all golden, almost white when the sun shines on it! My heart gives a slow jump. I keep staring until she blocks out the light.

“Hey, kid! Give your Godma a hug!”

It’s Godmother Akira, whose name is also my name. Some names are meant for girls and some for boys. Mine is a boy’s name, but my godmother also has it. That’s strange, but I don’t care, because she is always fun to be with.

“Godma!” I yell, because it makes the tight feeling in my chest go away. I run to her and she bends down a little to meet me, and I try to hug her and knock her over at the same time, and we fall down together on the floor, laughing.

“What’ve you been doing, kid? Wow, you’re all big now!”

“I’m six years and five months old,” I say slowly and seriously in English. I’ve been working hard.

“That’s very old,” she replies. “I remember when you were a few hours old. You were small like a codfish egg.”

“No! I wasn’t! I was at least a chicken egg!”

“Haha, yes, at least!”

“He can write in English now, some words,” says Grandma. “Better than Emi was at his age.”

When she says that, she looks happy and sad at the same time. The two women look at each other. They’re very different people, but they seem to be friends. I can’t help but smile. These are nice people. Very huggable. Godma is bony though, and Grandma has more bounce.

“Does he write his dreams in English?”

“In Japanese. I took them away because Emi would have been upset.”

Grandma took my dreams away? I can’t remember, but I think I wrote them on paper next to my bed. I share a room with Big Sister. I thought she’d stolen them.

“I see. Yeah, they’re a little weird. Has he met my late uncle?”

Grandma sighs. “Maybe you should talk to him about that. I’ll make some lunch.”

She goes into the kitchen. I’m playing with Godma’s hair. It’s such an odd colour, like bleached wood. It smells nice.

“Kid, tell me about your dreams! Your grandma says they’re very interesting.”

I look at her with big eyes. And because it’s easy to do, I tell her everything.

When I’m done, she sucks in a lot of air. Her chest gets bigger, then smaller. She does it twice. Her eyes look almost red as the sunlight bounces into them.

“You’ve been having dreams about a big man named Jigoro?”

“Yeah.” I don’t know why that’s strange. He’s my grandfather, isn’t he? Sort of, anyway.

“He’s not. He’s my uncle, and he died earlier this year.”

“He’s dead?”

“Yes. And why do you keep calling Aunty Shizune and Aunty Misha your mothers? I mean, kid, you call all the older ladies ‘Aunty’, that’s fine, but ‘Mother’ is just weird.”

“I don’t know. They’re not really my aunties, I know. But they feel like mothers.”

“Um. Well, kid, I don’t know either. I don’t know what to say. But I think you shouldn’t be telling anybody your weird dreams. Someone will get hurt.”

“Will you get hurt, Godma?”

“No. But your mother might be hurt. People aren’t supposed to have more than one mother, you know!”

She grins at me. Cautiously, I reach out and pull gently on her pale, short, golden hair. She lets me.


I’ll keep all my dreams to myself then. Maybe when I’m big, I can write them down somewhere secret, where nobody can steal them and hurt Mother.

She looks at me in a strange way. Then her face changes a bit. “Aww, kid, don’t look at me like that! Trust me, this is better.”

Godma may be a bit bony, but she does have soft bits, and she is nice to hug. She’s got a different smell compared to Grandma, who smells of rice and clay and wood and mysterious flowers. Godma smells of fruit and smoke and paper.

I nod, and all my dreams disappear into a dark corner of my head.

this is the start | next | akiko's story

Akira Nakai #2 (up 20161024)

Posted: Mon Oct 24, 2016 2:41 am
by brythain
Akira Nakai #2 (2031): Remembrance

I was eight years old when my mother joined my father. Mother was cheerful and bright, although sometimes she seemed to be looking into the distance behind me and my sister Akiko. Then she went to the hospital, and then she was gone.

Dr Kaneshiro was Grandma’s friend. He had helped Mother when she lost her legs, and over many years, he had become almost part of our family. But he never went with us to the quiet place at the edge of town.

I have some memories of that place. This is one of them.


October 2031

Mother Shizune drops us off at Grandma’s house in the morning. She waves at us, but of course she doesn’t say anything. She just toots her horn once. I wave goodbye to her and to the little colourful butterfly sticker on her car. As usual, Big Sister refuses to wave. She hasn’t said anything throughout the ride here.

I don’t know why my sister’s not happy. Mother Shizune is always nice to me and she loves holding hands. I like that. So today I make a mistake and I ask Akiko, “Why don’t you like that part of our family?” By that, I mean Mother Shizune and Godmother Akira, and Aunty Lilly who looks so calm in her photographs, and Uncle Hideaki whose wife is Akiko’s own godmother.

“You don’t know anything!” yells my sister fiercely and quietly. I don’t know how people can yell softly. I think Aunty Rin can do that, but she left us when we were smaller, and I don’t know where she went.

I’m afraid of my sister. I’m thin and skinny and she’s tall and strong. She’s my best friend, but she gets sad and angry easily. I’m not like that, I think. So I look away from her and say, “I don’t know anything.”

It makes her even angrier, somehow. She narrows her eyes at me and says, “Aunty Rin was right! Your godmother’s sister killed Father.”

I can’t stand it. The story doesn’t seem right to me. I’m nine years old and I think it makes more sense some other way.

“If Aunty Lilly…”


I give up. Maybe if Aunty Lilly had stayed, Mom would never have married Dad and we wouldn’t have been born. Or maybe we’d have yellow hair instead of brown. I don’t know anything!

Grandma comes downstairs at last. It’s time. We’re going to visit Mom and Dad. Big Sister looks sad and angry, like she often does. I’m wrong. She doesn’t get like that easily. It’s hard for her. I want to cry, but it’s not for me, it’s for her.

“Na-chan, don’t cry,” says Grandma. She looks like she’s the one who needs it.

I nod. I’m not going to cry. If Big Sister is keeping things to herself, I’m going to help her keep it in. Grandma looks pleased, even though she’s so very sad.


The place we go to is almost always pretty and quiet. It’s a garden filled with carved stones. Each stone is there to remember somebody who has gone away. Grandfather Ibarazaki went away first, and his stone is there with his name on it, and also with Grandma’s name on it for when she also goes away.

Next to that stone is Dad’s stone. It has a dark grey metal plaque on it, that has clouds of stars and was made by Uncle Mutou-sensei. Mom’s part of the stone also has a plaque on it, which looks like a running track that disappears into the sky. I once asked if Mom went running into the sky after Dad, and if she ever caught him. Grandma just looked sad and didn’t say anything.

I’m using the word ‘sad’ a lot. I don’t know what other words to use. I think it’s because I’m not really unhappy to be here, although other people are. It’s peaceful. It’s good to be surrounded by memories of all the people who have gone away. Everyone goes away, so if you have a stone to look at, you can remember them properly.

We were last here in Spring, I think. I can’t remember. Big Sister says I have no sense of time. She might be right. Things get mixed up in my head. I remember dreaming that Mother Shizune had become our mother even before she did. Maybe that’s why I imagine talking to people who have gone away.

“Hi!” I say to Mutou-sensei. He’s a scruffy man with a bit of white hair at the edges, a little thin, always thoughtful. He seems surprised that I’m talking to him.

“Ah. Young Master Nakai?” he inquires. “It’s not normally the correct thing to do, to be talking to people who aren’t around.”

“That’s a funny thing to say, Mutou-sensei. You’re always around. And sometimes, I see you with the vampire lady.”

He laughs, but it’s only the wind in the trees. His voice fades away, so I have to strain to hear his words: “Don’t let Dr Katayama hear that!”

The name comes to me. I’ve heard it before: when I was very small, and it had something to do with keeping Dad alive. I don’t know why I remember all these strange things. Some day, when I meet the vampire lady, I should ask her.


After we’ve cleaned the stones and poured tea and remembered Mom and Dad, I realize something. They hardly ever talk to me, unlike the rest of the people who live here. That’s something I need to ask them about, next time, maybe. So many things to ask so many people! I’ll never remember unless I start writing things down.


November 2031

Big Sister has a school project, so this afternoon, I get Mother Shiina to myself. She’s always asking me to call her ‘Mommy Misha’, but that’s strange so I laugh and refuse. Akiko always refers to our two extra mothers as ‘Doctor Hakamichi’ and ‘Aunty Misha’. It’s confusing.

I’m not thinking about that so much as we enter the ice-cream parlour. Mother Shiina and I both love ice-cream, and whichever flavours one of us doesn’t eat, the other one will, so we can both enjoy every combination there is.

“Na-chan!~” she squeals, “Look! New specials for November!”

It’s the first day of the month, and today is even more special because it’s Mother Shiina’s birthday. That means if I were older, I’d want to buy her a special present, because she’s a special person to me. I like that word ‘special’. It means something you put to one side so that you can enjoy it by itself, it’s different in a good way.

The ice-cream parlour downstairs from the staff apartments is called ‘New Wave Cold Mad Sweet Dessert Café’. I come here for the blue ice-cream that tastes of bubble-gum and cotton-candy, but also for waffles, sometimes the small flat ones that Mother Shiina says you should put over coffee. She doesn’t care, she just puts ice-cream and chocolate syrup on hers.

I look at the new menu. Last season they had terrible meat-flavoured ice-creams. I didn’t mind the bacon one, but I prefer my meat hot. This month they have a late autumn special called ‘Earth Fruit Surprise’, and it has chocolate, sweet potato, pumpkin, chestnut bits, and almond sprinkles in it. To one side, they put a little scoop of strawberry ice and another little scoop of orange ice. It looks awesome!

I nod and point at that one, and Mother Shiina widens her mouth and her eyes, then laughs, “Wahahaha!~ Na-chan, you and I, we’re bad for each other, so bad it’s good, right?! Right??!~”

That sounds right. I laugh because she’s so happy and makes me feel happy too, and then we order and settle down to eat. But I don’t forget my list of questions.

“Mother Shiina,” I begin, but I’m interrupted.

“I’m Misha-Mommy!~”

I give up because I’m nine years old and adults are whatever they want to be. “May I ask you a question?”

“Of course you can, Na-chan!~”

“What’s Aunty Lilly really like?”

Oops. Mother Shiina goes really quiet and absent-mindedly puts her scoop of ice-cream into her mouth. She sucks on it for a while, then takes it out again. She puts the long spoon into the glass and plays with it a while.

“Hmm. Very sweet!~ Sweeter than the sweet potato!”

Her other hand tugs at one of her long curly-curls. It’s like a pink spring and I watch it as it bounces up and down for a while. If I stare long enough, she’ll answer my question, I hope. She can’t escape my eyes forever. I keep staring.

“Why are you staring at me like that, Na-chan? Is Misha-Mommy’s hair out of place?”

She sounds like she’s trying to make a joke that she doesn’t think is funny. She sounds also as if she doesn’t know what to say. So I make my own kind of funny-not-funny joke.

“Aunty Lilly is sweeter than a sweet potato?”

“No! Yes! No, Na-chan, that was the ice-cream I was talking about!” she says, sounding strange, like being happy and relieved and off-balance all at once. “Wahaha!~ You’re a funny person!~”

“Don’t ask her that question again, son,” says Dad. I’m so startled to see him sit down next to Mother Shiina that my mouth opens by itself and I almost spit ice-cream.

Of course, she doesn’t notice him, and I know I mustn’t share this with other people. So I half-wink at Dad and nod as if I’m replying to her. He smiles at me, gets up and ruffles my hair, and then sits down again, as if to say, “I’m watching you, please behave.”

What he actually says is, “Your mother is very sensitive about that, but she knows she can’t be around for you. So respect her feelings, please, son?”

“Okay,” I mumble, feeling a bit sad. Of course, Mother Shiina sees me looking like that, and she goes all poor-thing-don’t-be-sad on me, and when I look up, Dad’s gone again.

Some day, I have to learn how to get a proper conversation going—both with people who are around and people who are no longer around. I go round the table and hug my big pink half-mother and feel how warm and squishy she is, and we finish up our ice-cream side-by-side. I’m happy to be with her. I just wish Dad had stayed a while.

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Akira Nakai #3 (up 20161213)

Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2016 10:38 am
by brythain
Akira Nakai #3 (2036): Mothers

Let’s get a few things clear before you judge me. I do not mind being judged, but it’s important to me that people understand me first. My late mother, Emi Ibarazaki, was a great lady whose athletic trophies are found in glass cases at the school where she studied and later taught. After her death, I was brought up first by Grandma Ibarazaki, who was born Meiko Nishizume. Then, I was given another home by my adoptive mothers, Dr Shizune Hakamichi and Shiina ‘Misha Mikado’ Kobayashi. My sister Akiko, two years older than I, never accepted the last part—but she always accepted me, and the fact that I did. This story is about the time when I was a teenager.


May 2036

Mother Shizune is the principal of the school on Mount Aoba that people call ‘Yamaku High’. Like so many things in my country, it is designed to look American but behaves in a Japanese way. I think that can be a good thing, but also it’s a crazy thing.

Yamaku only accepts students aged about 16-18 years of age as of 2nd April each year. That’s Japanese custom, and also a crazy custom to me. But I’m only fourteen years old and I know I shouldn’t make too much noise about what I think, because I’m not impressive in any way and I don’t want to get into trouble.

It’s Friday, on the second day of the fifth month, and a long weekend approaches. We’ll be off school till Wednesday because of Children’s Day. I used to live further south, but now I live at Yamaku itself, in the principal’s quarters, a small block set in the side of the hill that Mount Aoba really is. I go to school down below in the city itself, and it’s a long walk uphill to get home. Some days, I find myself at home with the mothers and not with my sister. It’s on such days that I can ask questions my sister wouldn’t like me to ask.

Today’s different, though. If I’m stuck with only one mother, it’s normally Mother Shiina, and we will bake or invent silly stories, or talk about the people we know or whom we’ve met. But after I’ve walked up the steps, taken off my shoes and entered the second-floor hall in slippers, I realize the place seems calm and empty and yet occupied.

It takes me a while to understand. Then I hold my breath and step into the sitting room, where pale afternoon sunlight casts blocks of white fire across the light-green walls.

“Good afternoon, Mother,” I say, while signing the same thing just in case she’s switched her implants off.

Mother Shizune is sitting quietly by the window, her feet curled up underneath her in the way a cat hides its paws. A closed book is under one hand. She smiles and waves. [Have you had lunch, Na-chan?]

That sends a thrill through my mouth. Although Mother Shiina loves desserts, her taste in cooking is traditional. Not that I mind, but once in a while, Mother Shizune’s extreme love of deep-fried food does something to my brain. Like any teenager, I love the taste of hot fat and meat.

Dad’s been lurking around at the corner of my vision. “Ha!” he stage-whispers, “Like father, like son.”

I shake my head and Dad vanishes. [Came straight back from school, Mother.]

As in most forms of sign language, people make private gestures that customize their communications. My sign for Mother Shizune is a little different from my sign for Mother Shiina, when I sign ‘Mother’. When I sign ‘Mom’, it’s yet another variation, and I mean Emi Ibarazaki, gone but never forgotten.

[You’ll be glad to know that there’s a carton of fried chicken in the kitchen. It was fried-food day in the canteen and Madam Shirakawa got some extras for me.]

She has lovely dimples. The sunlight casts them into shadow. There’s an air of victory in her signing, as if to say, “See? I won a bonus and you get to enjoy it.” Mother Shizune sometimes treats life as a game with victory point conditions.

[Thank you!] I sign emphatically.

[There’s also cheesecake] she signs with a hint of slyness.


[Yes. Koji delivered something from his father. So you have something from each of his parents, it seems.]

Koji Setou is older than I am by about five years. He graduated from Yamaku top of his class, but he has no airs about him. I like him. Madam Shirakawa is his mother, but I don’t know much about his father, although I’ve met him a couple of times—a truly strange person, I would say.

But all I can sign is: [What flavour?]

It’s well-known that whenever Mother Shizune’s birthday is near, Koji’s father will send over some kind of cheesecake. Sometimes, it can be really weird. We had a pear sake and raisin cheesecake once, and I felt my head getting all light and hot even though there wasn’t much sake in it.

[Ha! Why don’t you try it and let me know?]

An unknown flavour? My fourteen year-old tastebuds are already gearing up for a new adventure.

[Leave some for Misha-Mommy, okay?]

She laughs. Her laugh is a strange one, a bit like a series of musical coughing sounds. I’ve learnt that some kinds of people with her hearing situation also laugh like that. I’ve also learnt she doesn’t do it unless it’s with friends. But it’s a warm laugh, and I have never thought she’s the bad person my sister describes.

I bow sincerely and then go off to the kitchen as quickly as I can without being rude. Ah, fried chicken and cheesecake!

That’s where I am when sister finds me. Big Sister is too grown-up to slam a door, but when she enters the house, the level of tension rises a lot at times like this. If she meets Mother Shiina first, which is normally the case, that’s fine. But today, as I have described, is different.

“Good afternoon, Dr Hakamichi,” she says. Clearly, my dear, beautiful, scary sister is in a bad mood.

I risk a peek out from the kitchen. With the afternoon sunlight streaming through the window, Akiko looks as if her hair is on fire and her eyes are flashing. Then again, that’s how she looks whenever she’s trapped with Mother Shizune.

[How has your day been, Aki-chan?]

[Fine. Is there anything to eat?]

[Your brother probably hasn’t finished all the fried chicken yet.]

[Fried chicken? That is poison. Any real food?]

My sister’s a really good athlete. She takes advice from Mom’s old coach, Nakanishi-sensei, and also from Shimane-sensei, who was coached by Mom. One day, she’ll be a national star.

But she can be awkward with people, and with people she doesn’t like, she comes across as rude, even when trying to be polite. With our adopted mothers, she’s incredibly rude to Mother Shizune and oddly polite to Mother Shiina.

I duck back into the kitchen as my sister turns in my direction. She doesn’t even bother to wait for the answer to her question. This will be trouble. I focus on stuffing some chicken into my mouth, then realize that I should probably hide the cheesecake. Damn! Too late!

“Kid brother! Why are you eating that crap?” she hisses. “It’ll make you fat and cancerous.”

“Mmph!” I manage, still disposing of juicy, tasty, delicious chicken before my sister takes it away.

She narrows her eyes. “You’re my brother and this is for your own good. Stop that right now!”

“Hungry!” I gasp.

“Cancer!” she hisses.

Then she spots the cheesecake. Cheesecake in my sister’s mind is associated with Mother Shizune being happy and Mother Shiina being greedy. Not to mention…

“Is that cheesecake? Is that from Koji’s father?”

I steel myself for the next line, and hope to all the gods that Mother Shizune has her implants off.

“Wow, Dr Hakamichi has so many male friends. It’s a surprise that she ever had time to talk to Dad.”

That’s cold. It’s delivered with all the cynicism of a sixteen year-old who hates an older woman. It makes me shrink all over.

Weakly, I try to distract her. “Koji dropped it off. I think he likes you.”

I have no idea whether that’s true or not, and I think I’ll probably be killed for saying it. I close my eyes as I cringe inside, waiting for the deathblow to come.

It doesn’t. I open one eye and see my sister leaning against the doorframe, red in the face and also with her eyes closed. “ ‘What the hell is my ignorant little brother saying?’ I ask myself,” she says softly, the anger in her voice like icy serpents crawling across the stormy air.

I don’t even dare to apologize in case she notices I’m still here. Even the allure of rescuing what looks like a cinnamon-ginger-and-red-date cheesecake does not tempt me to move a muscle.

“Our mother, who entered peace almost six years ago, would not be amused. She hated people who ate fried food. In three days’ time, we will visit her place of rest. What will my little brother tell her, I wonder?”

My sister is crazy. Her next move will possibly be to storm my position behind the kitchen counter and seize the cheesecake for disposal. I get ready to fight and die for the cake. My first line of defence is that Mother Shiina would probably love to try some and would be expressively sad if Akiko disposed of it.

Her eyes open. I am doomed.

Then, from far away, I hear the sound of salvation. “Hey, young people, I hear Madam Shirakawa sent food over!~ Wahaha!~ That’s great, where is it? Misha’s hungry!~”

Akiko closes her eyes briefly. I attempt to make myself look small and pathetic.

A whirlwind of pink dye and warm hugs sweeps into the room. The cheesecake is saved! is the only thought on my mind.


It’s only later, when my sister has gone up to her room, that Mother Shiina looks at Mother Shizune and signs, [Shi’chan, maybe we should take that trip to Scotland soon?]

Mother Shizune looks very unhappy. She is motionless, which shows that she is thinking very hard indeed. What seems to be a long time passes. Then she looks up and catches my anxious look, and smiles at me.

[Maybe next year, you can get Hideaki to run that show. His wife can adjudicate any problems.]

[That’s a clever idea, Shi’chan!] “Wahahaha!~”

What’s in Scotland? I ask myself. Then the answer hits me, and I wonder again: What would have happened if Dad hadn’t parted from Aunty Lilly?

Dad stirs in the corner of the room, his eyes lively in the yellow dining lights. I guess we’ll never know now, son!

For a moment there, it’s almost as if Mother Shizune sees him. Then she shakes her head, as if getting rid of an annoying fly, and Dad is gone.

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Akira Nakai #4 (up 20170121)

Posted: Sat Jan 21, 2017 7:23 am
by brythain
Akira Nakai #4 (2040): Fathers

By now you know I see ghosts. Whether they actually exist or whether they’re only a product of the brain randomly connecting my thoughts, that’s a debatable thing. Someone once said that this is very Japanese, to see ghosts and not care about whether they’re real or not, especially if they’re ancestral ghosts.

It’s funny because I never thought of it that way. But I had a chance conversation with my older friend Koji, and that brought me towards Koji’s father. My father was Koji’s godfather; he and Koji’s dad were close friends. Fathers sometimes have their own secrets, and this entry is about that.


1st May 2040

My sister is being weird again. She’s oddly religious at times, totally untraditional at others. Every May, however, she’ll do things like burn whisky or burn things in whisky. Actually, I’ve never seen her do it, but there’ll be burning smells in her room, and once she actually set the hallway sprinklers off.

Why May? I’d be lying to you if I said I had no idea. The awkward thing is that the fifth day of May is the anniversary of our mother’s death, and the sixth day is our adoptive mother’s birthday. This means there’s a very thin line between mourning and celebration for me, and no line at all for Akiko, because my sister doesn’t like Dr Hakamichi at all.

It’s become a kind of tradition that Misha-mother will then give me one of her huge hugs, the kind that makes me feel wanted and loved. Then she tells me to find something else to do. She knows what I’ll do.

At times like this, I turn to ‘big brother’ Koji, who is usually sensible and can be counted on to say the right thing, or at least, not say too many wrong things. I think Akiko has a crush on him, and it’s strong enough that she gets absolutely furious if I hint at it in any way.

So here we are, tall thin Koji Setou who looks like an imperial scholar from ancient times, and not-so-tall not-so-thin Akira Nakai who looks like a messy student from a local school. We’re sitting on a roof, because Koji informed me years ago that this was what our fathers used to do.

And now that I’m 18, I get to sip whisky, just like they did. “Sip it, not slurp it; that’s not polite,” says my wise senior friend. The golden liquid is strong, with a complex mixture of flavours and fragrances. It’s as if someone took an old boot and filled it with fermented flowers and fruit, then washed the liquid through a unicorn’s kidney.

I look at it dubiously. A rare smile appears on serious old Koji’s face. Then things change in the air around us.

“Hi, Dad,” I mouth at the lanky fellow sitting against the roof access wall.

He nods, grinning lopsidedly. “Hi, Nakai Junior. I see you’re hitting it off well with my godson?”

Koji doesn’t notice anything. When these things happen, it’s as if there are two of me, one in the ‘real world’ and one in the world where my late father gets to tease me about life.

I look dubiously at him, and he hastens to explain: “In case you’re wondering, it’s the whisky. Koji’s father used it to talk to Koji’s late grandmother, and I thought he was just being crazy drunk. But after many rooftop sessions, I wasn’t so sure anymore. And getting your mother online will be tough, because she hates drinking. She thinks it was a drunk driver that killed her own father.”

“How’s my sister getting along with you?” I ask Koji, not just to keep him talking, but because I’m genuinely curious.

A slight flush intensifies around my god-brother’s scholarly cheekbones. “I try to look after her, as your father would have wanted it. She is my sister too, in a way.”

I give him a cheeky grin, because it’s so very Koji to say things like that. “Yeah, but have you noticed how strangely she acts when you’re around?”

“I think she acts in an unusual fashion whenever people of any kind are around,” he says, deadpan.

In the background, Dad smirks. If it had been my mother, I’d be looking at her infamous laser glare of disapproval by now. What I find awkward in my head is that while my mother’s only been gone ten years, she’s so much more distant to me than my father, who passed over when I was only two years old.

“Ha,” I reply, and take a second sip of my strange golden-brown liquid. It’s doing something to my head. The night seems warmer even though the air feels colder.

Koji also takes a sip. His eyes are far away, looking at something maybe beyond the horizon, or in another time. Historians are like that, but this is different.

“Big brother,” I say to him, “do you see ghosts?”

“What?” He seems genuinely confused, but not irritated.

“Ghosts. Spirits. Ancestors who shouldn’t be around.”

He cracks a half-grin. “Yes, mostly in museums when I’m imagining things.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

He narrows his eyes at me. “Well, I don’t have any ghosts, really. Nobody’s died out of my life.”

It’s a conversation I’ve had with him before, the one about people dying and dropping out from your life. I’ve lost Mother and Father, and serious old Mutou-sensei—who helped get them with their wedding rings, and later the plaques on their grave-markers. I’ve lost Aunty Rin, who helped look after me when I was young, but she’s not dead, only missing.

“That’s true,” I say, before deciding to go in a different direction. “Do you know anyone in your family who has?”

It’s his turn to look thoughtful and reply, “Ha…”

I stare at him. He knows something, that’s clear. Knowing his family, it must be…

“My father,” he says slowly, “has always said that he’s had conversations with his sister and his mother.”

“What do you mean?”

“He had a sister who died when she was very young. His mother isn’t the person I think of as ‘Grandma’; she’s Grandma’s late sister. It’s complicated.”

I look at Dad. This information matches what the ghost of my father has told me a mere few minutes ago. Isn’t that evidence that ghosts are real? Unless my brain is cleverer than I think it is. Such things are confusing.

Dad lifts an imaginary whisky tumbler and salutes me with it. I grimace back.

Koji mistakes my face as a rebuke. “Yes, small brother, it’s silly. Best not to think about such things.”

“No, no. I believe you. I’m looking at my father right now. He seems to be saying that you should tell my sister that you love her.”

“What??” Now Koji sounds absolutely shocked. I stare at him, and what I see is not horror, but… hope?

“Well, he’s your godfather, you should ask him yourself.”

“No. It’s silly. Your sister is beautiful and confident and a world-class athlete, and she probably has a boyfriend already.”

For some reason, that makes me angry. I’ve known my sister all of my life, and I’ve known Koji most of my life. I know Koji’s just making excuses. I let him have it.

“Hey! That’s nonsense. You’re just finding reasons not to tell her. I can tell you she’s not as confident as you think, and she doesn’t have a boyfriend. If you’re going to be my brother-in-law, hurry up!”

Koji gives me a stunned look. Wordlessly, he takes another sip of good Hokkaido whisky.

In the background, my father grins and vanishes.


21st December 2040

Eventually, a few things happen. A few days after our rooftop chat, Koji actually confesses his affection to my sister. Things become sweet but awkward. In December, things get a lot worse. The drama will play out over four years, although I don’t know it then.

I get to know Koji’s father and some of the other people in Koji’s life. I get to know my own relatives, adopted relatives, and other people as well. All this, I’ll save for other times.

The big thing is that somewhere in the mess, I find myself sitting on a rooftop with Koji’s dad, Kenji Setou, the man they call the General. It’s chilly, in late December. Koji himself is all sad that my sister doesn’t love him, and he’s nowhere to be found.

The General looks at me. He’s a terrifying guy, with about 35 years’ seniority on me, and implanted technology everywhere. He’s not large, but once in a while a vein throbs on his forehead, or he pulls his garish scarf tighter, and I remember that he’s a big man in Tokyo—a big man who has lost someone very close to him.

“So, what do you think?”

His voice is nasal, almost as if it’s going to turn into a chainsaw. I can’t quite see his eyes, because he’s wearing primitive thick spectacles, the kind that only old people wear these days. I suspect they’re fakes.

“This isn’t the kind of whisky big brother Koji drinks.”

“Ha-ha! Well, what do you think of Koji and your sister and all that?”

I frown a bit. To tell the truth, I’m disappointed that my sister has gone mad and that Koji let her. But I know my limits. I know I’m a bit clueless. And I don’t know why I’m up on the roof with Koji’s father, the way my father used to be.

He remains silent, waiting for me to answer. I don’t know whether that’s the question he wants me to answer. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Dad. He looks sad, but he has a finger over his lips, as if to say that he doesn’t want me to talk about him to the General. I nod with the smallest possible movement of my neck.

“General-san, I don’t know what to think.”

He makes a face of surprise, but I can’t see his eyes, so perhaps he’s only acting. Regardless, I continue before I can think about regretting what I’m saying.

“I’m sorry for your loss. I think it has hurt you a lot, so maybe Koji and Akiko are not so important to you.”

He heaves a truly huge sigh out of his lungs. The cloud of frosty humidity hangs in the air for a while, visible like sadness and melancholy all boiled together and distilled, as Mutou-sensei might’ve said. His side-profile is stark against the night.

He remembers to breathe in. There’s silence again, for a while. Then he says, “Yeah, I’m a truly bad father. I should have spent much more time with Koji and Masako when they were growing up. But now they’re adults, and I completely lost their childhood.”

Hunched over in his overcoat, the tails of his scarf somehow blowing behind him on the roof, he looks like one of those medieval church monsters I’d seen in Europe three years ago. I don’t know what to say, which happens to me a lot. So I improvise, which always gets me into trouble.

“My father wasn’t around most of my childhood.”

“Boy, he didn’t have much of a choice, being dead and all.”

“But I still talk to him. He’s not a bad father.”

The General sucks in a gulp of air. “Ha! Why am I not surprised at both these things?”

It’s my turn to wonder. “Why are you not surprised, General-san?” I hesitate for a while, and then take the plunge. “May I trouble you to ask… is it true that you have ancestral ghosts too?”

His head swivels a quarter-turn towards me. “Always. All kinds of ghosts, and now, one more. You’ll know why when you’re older, boy. Give my regards to your father.”

He rises, and for a moment I think he is going to fly off the roof like a bat. But all he does is offer me a hand and help me to my feet.

“Thank you, General-san. I hope I’m not being rude… I don’t think you’re a bad father.”

“I don’t think you know what you’re thanking me for, boy. But I wish you all the best, and thank you too. And remember, you’ve got TWO mothers now. Ha-ha. Good night.”

I watch his lonely back disappear down the stairwell, and I wonder what it might have been like to grow up with Koji’s parents instead.

Editor's Note: This section of Akira Nakai's notes likely were first jotted down around the same time as the General's 2039-2040 narrative [here]. As always, it is also instructive to compare the contemporaneous writings of the author's sister, Akiko Nakai—her 2040 material can be found [here]. N.

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