Saturday, November 6, 2010

Our Courage, Chapter Two (part b)

On the edge of the plaza, a disappointed Yamato wandered idly. Looking into the shadows of a container, he could see the barefoot boy from before eating the mackerel he’d stolen from Takeru.
Yamato held out his bread to the frightened boy. “Eat this.”
Without a word, the boy cautiously stretched out his hand. Yamato felt sad without knowing why.
“What happened to your shoes?”
“Your feet hurt?”
At this the boy ran away without answering. Yamato kept watching his disappearing figure.
At the school. Yuuri was using a science classroom as a supplies storage room. Yamato watched her face as she spoke indifferently.
“Any kind is okay, even sandals.”
As though she couldn’t hear him, Yuuri took a pack of cigarettes off a shelf and lit one.
“You’ve already got a good pair, don’t you?”
“Not for me. There’s a boy with no shoes here, somebody took them.”
“So what?” She blew out the smoke with a grimace at the taste.
“So if you’ve got any...”
Yamato glanced around the neatly ordered shelves.
“Haven’t got any.”
“OK, then if any are among the supplies...”
“Who knows, I don’t bother with annoying things for people.”
Saying this, she pushed him out of the room. She locked the door and quickly left.
Left alone, Yamato heard Kiichi’s voice.
“More than things for other people, worry about yourself. You don’t see the trouble ahead? There’s no shoes, no clothes, no food. You don’t even know what is going to happen, and yet you’re bothering to get stuff for other people?”
“So what?”
“It’s like feeding a stray cat you’re never going to see again.”
Yamato grabbed Kiichi’s collar.
“You’re going bad. You, everyone here, you’re all rotting away.”
“Yeah, I’m rotting. You’ll rot soon too.”
Looking at Kiichi’s hollow eyes, a rage that had no outlet began to well up in Yamato’s chest. The Kiichi from before was nothing like this. He’d been so straight-forward he shone.
Why had he become like this? What had changed Kiichi so much?
Yamato left the school wrapped in dark thoughts. Mori was in front, carrying a basketball.
“Hey, Yamato, let’s play,” he said with a smile.
Yamato tried to give him a smile back but couldn’t. “Some other time.”
At Yamato’s answer, Mori’s smile became lonely.
Takeru and Yamato had set up the tent on a field near the ocean, and slept there.
Today also the sea breeze felt good. The sky was clear and there wasn’t a single cloud. The sea also was a soothing blue. On the other bank tall buildings could be seen. Maybe that was Tokyo over there.
When Yamato looked at those buildings, he had a strange feeling. As though he could reach out his hand and touch it, the Japan that was the the same as always. The peaceful place where Suzuko was now, while he was here in Makuhara. Here where he was surrounded by nothing but destruction and despair and violence... And the devastation that had changed even Kiichi.
Out of the blue, “Do you have a girlfriend?” Takeru asked with teasing eyes.
“Why’re you suddenly asking that?”
“If you had a girl you like, would you swear at her? Even if you wanted to get along and flirt, would you say, “Shut up, ugly, you’re flat-chested,” until she says, “Oh, Yamato, you’re sooo mean.”
“Do people even do that?”
“Well, when you’re moping by yourself, consider that carefully.”
“I don’t mope,” Yamato said sulkily, remembering Kiichi’s words from before.
Somehow seeing what was inside his mind, Takeru laughed.
“Anyone would if they’d been betrayed by someone they thought was a friend, use your brain. Hey, I’m not going to tell you to hate the sin and not the sinner, but anyone who gives up to these circumstances will go crazy.”
“You’re being pretty lenient for a law school hopeful,” Yamata said in a voice full of sarcasm.
“Do you remember doing this? Shoplifting underwear with your friends?”
“I never stole underwear,” Yamato hedged.
Takeru said, as if suddenly remembering, “What’s that person doing? Yuuri? Wouldn’t it be safest to stay close to her, since she’s got the gun?”
“Who cares about the gun?” Yamato barked, no longer able to put up with this.
Takeru looked over at his profile, still teasingly. “What’s with that, a gun is a gun.”
“She threatens people with it and takes all the food herself, I don’t want to live off that.”
Takeru shrugged at Yamato being so stubborn.
“Not live off, but I’m just saying if you don’t want to eat mackerel and break out in hives. You can’t just say here and say pretty things. You have to get familiar with her. Isn’t it time you went and did some adapting?”
“Didn’t you tell me not to adapt to a place like this?”
“Right, right. I get it, I get it. But that’s if you’re alone acting like it’s some teenage TV show. The point is I’m not going to follow you like an idiot,” Takeru spat out, finally losing his temper. He briskly entered the tent.
Left alone, Yamato continued silently looking up at the serene blue sky.
That afternoon, Yamato went to the Makuhara shopping center. All the shops had been looted until they resembled fields after a swarm of locusts were through. What was left wasn’t anything that would be useful for daily living. Yamato still looked around at the necessary shops. He needed shoes for the boy with the scratched-up bare feet, who he couldn’t get out of his head.
He found a small pocket knife on one aisle, and held it in his hand. It was cold to the touch. After a moment of uncertainty, he put it in his pocket.
He wasn’t able to find shoes after all. He put some other things that seemed useful in a bag. Then he felt the presence of someone behind him. Turning, he saw the two boys who’d tried to take his bag on the first day - Makoto and Akira, they were called. They scowled at him.
“You think you can just do anything you want?” said Makoto.
“This here is our turf,” said Akira.
“Take out whatever you put in your bag.”
Makoto took out his knife.
Yamato rose slowly, and took out his own knife.
“You have to be the only ones who get what you want. Even if you steal from people,” Yamato muttered. Makoto and Akira were nervous.
“But that’s not how I think,” Yamato said. He put the knife back in his pocket, put the bag at his feet, and started to walk away.
“Wait,” Makoto called to him. “Were these what you were looking for?” In his hand were a pair of child’s size shoes. “If you want them, you’re going to have do something,” he said to Yamato who was holding out his hand. There was a taunting gleam in his eyes.
“It’s just, there’s nothing like money to use here. It’s the barter system.”
“What do you want?” Yamato asked.
“Hmm, I wonder... How about a car?”
Akira, watching, burst into laughter. “Haha, that’s a good one. We’ll barter for a car.”
Biting his lip, Yamato started to walk away again. Behind him, Makoto and Akira kept laughing as though they were drunk.
Yamato found the car he was seeking abandoned in a field. It was an old, old American-made convertible. Of course there were no keys. But when he tried opening the top it seemed in good repair and was able to open. Would the engine still work?
Just then Mori walked by with his dog. He carried a flower.
“Where’re you going?” Yamato asked, and Mori answered with a sigh.
“To my mom and dad’s place.”
On a ridge facing the river, a small stone had been placed. Mori had made a grave for his parents. He put the flowers down and his hands together. When his prayer was finished, Yamato asked him, “Their bodies aren’t here, are they?”
“I don’t know where they are,” he answered in a small voice, and tried in vain to show a brighter face. “From here I can see the place where my sister is.”
“You have a sister?”
Mori nodded.
“You can see it? Where is she?”
Mori pointed his finger to the opposite bank, where the tall and small buildings of a peaceful Japan stood in a line.
That evening. Takeru had, with much difficulty, made a bathtub from an oil drum. He and Yamato set a fire under it.
“I wonder if we can let Mori meet his sister somehow,” Yamato murmured. “That dog, it seems it used to be his sister’s. After his parents died, it’d be pitiful if his beloved dog died as well. If he can see his sister, that’s important to me too. Mori would... are you listening?”
“Huh? Yeah...” Takeru was slowly stirring the hot water.
“You’re the only one who doesn’t have a girl waiting out there, right?” Yamato asked sarcastically. “You’re being cold, somehow. You’re always noisy but I’m not getting a gentle feeling from you. Right before your eyes are two siblings who want to meet each other. You think that’s boring?”
“Anyhow, just say it!” Takeru said in an unexpectedly loud tone. “However you think you can get them to meet, say it already.”
“I mean, I agree with you, but I think it’s impossible. It’s like you’re talking about a dream.” Takeru spat out the words and went back into the tent. He lay down and brooded until he heard Yamato’s raised voice.
Takeru exited the tent. There was Yamato taking a bath as though it was the best feeling ever.
“Hey, what do you think you’re doing? Why do you get to take a bath before me? I’m the one who made it!”
“Don’t be so stingy.”
“Stingy? You can’t say that when you don’t do anything. I carried the oil drum here, I carried water from the ocean. It was a lot of work.”
“This is saltwater? I thought it seemed kind of sticky.”
“Then get out! If you’re going to say things like that, get out.”
“It’s kind of like a hot springs.”
“Damn it. My first bath...” Takeru ‘cried’ in a dramatic pose.
“Wanna get in together?”
“It’s too small! All of the hot water will spill out! Plus it’d be gross if we were in such close contact.”
Then Yamato said something to rub Takeru even more the wrong way.
“Hey, is there shampoo?”
“Shampoo? Shampoo!?”
“There’s none?”
“There is absolutely none at all! Definitely none! There is also no soap or towels or bodywash or shaving gel or bathing gel or frog-shaped toys, there is nothing!”
“Too bad, I like being clean,” Yamato murmured. Takeru gave a sigh.
“Do you have siblings?”
“I’m an only child.”
“Bullseye! I thought so. Generally they have personalities exactly like you. All right, listen closely, punk. This is not civilization. There is no gas, running water, phones, pagers, video games, pizza delivery, everything you’ve taken for granted up to now, there is none of it! Luxury is our enemy!”
Yamato grinned at him. “Looks like you’re feeling better.”
Takeru, who had been circling around the bath like a bear, came to a halt. “Shut up!” he yelled, embarrassed.
Yamato was relieved to see this Takeru come back.
“But you were right.”
“In life, we never know what may happen.”
Takeru sighed. “Too much happens.”
“And now you’re doing some pretty unimaginable volunteer work.”
At this, Takeru didn’t answer, but smiled as though somehow lonely.

2 comments: said...

Honey, I am working and enjoying your translation. well written. Transitions must be difficult in translation work. love your father.

brother newman said...

Addenum. I get the feeling that everything is in flux in the work, that nothing is permanent, apocalyptic, which is always been your forte. love dad