Shortstories

All shortstories
A long way from stuffed cabbage
Princeton introduction
No bringing japanese lunch









Landscape with Flatiron
     
     
  Translated by Jay Rubin
     
   

Junko was watching television when the phone rang a few minutes before midnight. Keisuke sat in the corner of the room wearing headphones, eyes half-closed, head swinging back and forth as his long fingers flew over the strings of his electric guitar. He was practicing a fast passage and obviously had no idea the phone was ringing. Junko picked up the receiver.

“Did I wake you?” Miyake asked in his familiar muffled Osaka accent.

“Nah,” Junko said. “We’re still up.”

“I’m at the beach. You should see all this driftwood! We can make a big one this time. Can you come down?”

“Sure,” Junko said. “Let me change clothes. I’ll be there in ten minutes.”

 
 

 

She slipped on a pair of tights and then her jeans. On top she wore a turtleneck sweater, and she stuffed a pack of cigarettes into the pocket of her woolen coat. Purse, matches, key ring. She nudged Keisuke in the back with her foot. He tore off his headphones.

“I’m going for a bonfire on the beach,” she said.

“Miyake again?” Keisuke asked with a scowl. “You’ve got to be kidding. It’s February, you know. Twelve o’clock at night! You’re going to go make a bonfire now?”

“That’s okay, you don’t have to come. I’ll go by myself.”

 

Keisuke sighed. “Nah, I’ll come. Give me a minute to change.”

He turned off his amp, and over his pajamas he put on pants, a sweater, and a down jacket, which he zipped up to his chin. Junko wrapped a scarf around her neck and put on a knitted hat.

“You guys are crazy,” Keisuke said as they took the path down to the beach. “What’s so great about bonfires?”

 
 

 

The night was cold, but there was no wind at all. Words left their mouths to hang frozen in midair.

“What’s so great about Pearl Jam?” Junko said. “Just a lot of noise.”

“Pearl Jam has ten million fans all over the world,” Keisuke said.

“Well, bonfires have had fans all over the world for fifty thousand years,” Junko said.

“You’ve got something there,” Keisuke said.

“People will be lighting fires long after Pearl Jam is gone.”

“You’ve got something there, too.” Keisuke pulled his right hand out of his pocket and put his arm around Junko’s shoulders. “The trouble is, I don’t have a damn thing to do with anything fifty thousand years ago—or fifty thousand years from now, either. Nothing. Zip. What’s important is now. Who knows when the world is going end? Who can think about the future? The only thing that matters is whether I can get my stomach full right now and get it up right now. Right?”

 

They climbed the steps to the top of the breakwater. Miyake was down in his usual spot on the beach, collecting driftwood of all shapes and sizes and making a neat pile. One huge log must have taken a major effort to drag to the spot.

The light of the moon transformed the shoreline into a sharpened sword blade. The winter waves were strangely hushed as they washed over the sand. Miyake was the only one on the beach.

“Pretty good, huh?” he said with a puff of white breath.

“Incredible!” Junko said.

“This happens every once in a while. You know, we had that stormy day with the big waves. Lately, I can tell from the sound, like, ‘Today some great firewood’s going to wash up.’ ”

 
   
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