Note: Stories are posted in reverse order. (Select them from the archive to read chronologically)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

cool mint gum

It happened a long time ago, but I once saw a young woman driving a charcoal grey Volkswagen. She was wearing a pink summer dress, and her nicely shaped breasts were sticking out like jet engines. Also, she was wearing white sandals. The reason I knew about the sandals was because she stopped her car in front of the bench where I was sitting, rustled her sandals against the floor of the car as she put them on (she must have been driving barefoot all this time), and walked right past me as she went to the store to buy some cool mint gum.

I was staring at her through all of this. Her dress fit tightly, so -- how can I say this -- it ended up being a very enjoyable stare. Her shoulders moved gracefully, and her belly seemed as flat as a sheet of drawing paper-- she was that slender. In short, she was the girl who single-handedly embodied the summer of 1967. I imagined that on a shelf in her room she had a collection of everything having to do with the summer of ‘67, neatly placed there like organized pairs of underwear.

She opened the gum wrapper and tossed a single piece of gum in her mouth. Chewing on her gum in a way that was downright charming, she walked right past me once more.

And then her charcoal grey Volkswagen drove off into the flow of summer, like a river trout gracefully swimming upstream.

It’s been 14 years since then, but every time I see a charcoal grey Volkswagen it reminds me of her.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

quiz show

“Now for the first question. Which is darker: 2 berkshire pigs or 3 mountain goats?”

I was the first one to light up the bulb.

“The 2 berkshire pigs!”

“Yes, you are correct! You advance one level. And now we continue to the second question. This next one is really easy, so keep your hand on the button!"

"Who is the most beautiful person on this island? Please answer out of these next three women: 1. The eldest daughter of the royal family. 2. The middle daughter of the royal family. 3. The third daughter of the royal family.”

It was a difficult question. The royal daughters were the three ugliest hags living on this whole island. Even a berkshire pig would know that.

Even though none of them had pressed the button, all of the contestants rang in at once.

“Ah, a photo finish! What a quandry! Well, let’s call on a contestant. Contestant 5, go ahead!”

It was me. Although I thought I’d be wrong, I blurted out “Number 1.”
Without even waiting for me to finish speaking, the show host shouted “Yes! Right answer! You’re on a roll, contestant 5! Now for the third question.”

What was right about that answer? It’s pretty bad if the most beautiful woman in this country was 45 and weighed 260 pounds.

“And now for the next question: ‘Rainforests always get a lot of rain. What kind of weather does a sunforest have?’ This question was written by the King himself!”

A sunforest? Do those even exist in this country?

The young man at booth #2 pressed his switch.

“It’s always sunny!” ‘BZZZZZZT’ went the buzzer.

“I’m so sorry. We’ll have to call on someone else. Contestant 5, you’re doing well. Why don’t you give it a try?”

“It snows there, right?” I answered out of desperation.

“Amazing! You are absolutely correct! Contestant 5, that was the Royal Question, so you’ve advanced three more levels!”

“Question four. What kind of person is the head of the royal family? Please choose from these three options: 1. A wonderful person. 2. An amazing person. 3. A great person.”

How much of this island’s TV programming did the Royal Family Broadcasting Company own, and were all of the questions going to be like this?

“Enough, enough. I can already see the right answer written in his face. He’s correct, totally correct! He was going to answer “3. A great person.” Contestant 5, you’ve advanced another level!”

Without even understanding why, I was quickly pushed up to the 10th level.
The other contestants, who hadn’t even advanced a single level, were just sitting there quietly, their faces frozen in creepy dazed smiles.

The host was ecstatic.

“You’ve soared into an unbeatable lead at level 10, contestant 5! There’s an incredible prize from the King waiting for you!”

I almost felt like I was being led into a trap, but winning a prize seemed pretty tempting.

Last week on this program, a player from a neighboring town won a berkshire pig. And the week before that, another contestant who reached level 10 received a canoe that was painted white. He apparently carried it back with him, all the way to the other side of the mountain.

In any case, this week’s Royal Quiz’s Happiness Door must lead somewhere, trap or not.

In the middle of the audience, the King, who was being attended upon by his mistresses, peered at the stage with an expression of extreme contentment.
The three ugly daughters were there as well, their faces beaming with their idiotic gummy smiles.

“And now, this week’s prize!”

The drum roll began.

“Just as in the name, here’s your door to happiness!”

The blackout curtains around the venue were pulled shut, throwing everything into darkness.
A single spotlight, swinging around in circles like it was looking for the host, suddenly stopped.

The 260 lb. eldest daughter, squinting her eyes as if dazzled, stood up. Our eyes met, and she lowered her gaze in embarrassment.


Translator’s note: The question about rain forests was originally a pun on tree frogs (lit. “rain frogs” in Japanese.) A literal translation of the question would be “It rains whenever a rainfrog croaks. What happens when a sunfrog croaks?”