Story Update! – ‘Snow in Shibuya’

Hello hello hellooooo!

I edited/expanded on my micro story, ‘Snow in Shibuya’, fleshing out a few side characters a bit more and expanding on some details. Enjoy!

-L.

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Blinding Lights

We’re cramped in a room that’s too small to be a walk-in closet, gathered around a bed covered with a blue sheet; a woman lays there naked from the waist up. Neon red buzzes and flickers from the ceiling while my camera lens cups her face in its reflection. Click. The strobe of white drowns out the red above.

“Shit, my eyes!”

“Sorry. Just need a few more pics.” Everyone knows the drill.

Her face is a delicate oval with skin of light brown caramel mottled with blotches of green and gray. She was…is beautiful. I wonder if she knew or did it all happen in a flash? It doesn’t matter. Only thing left is to file it and clean up. Strands of shoulder-length hair, black as her dilated pupils, fall disheveled over the bed. She carries a smile that’s starting to give the faintest hint of a grin. I almost smile back as a reflex.

“I hate it when they do that.”

“Do what?” I know the answer, but still ask my stupid question.

“Smile. Fucking rigor mortis.”

Click. Her glassy stare shines at me like two lonely stars for a second before going dark again. There’s a small gaping hole at the center of her forehead surrounded by a purple bruise. Under her head, a dark red stain has spread and soaked over the blue sheets.

“Poor girl got a .38 kiss, probably a few days or so by the looks of it.”
“And the smell. Jesus.” You never get used to it. Not really.

“Yeah.” I chime in while I look at her through the camera’s viewfinder.

“Third one this week.”

Someone lights a cigarette, mingling the stench of smoke, blood and more than a tinge of singed rotting flesh. Click. White over red, red over blue. Click, click, click. I wonder what’s her name.

“Somebody call the morgue. Tell’em were sending a ripe one for cold storage; she’s starting to stink up the place.”

Sweat trickles down your chest, your body crying in fear. Run, run, run! Satan’s hell hounds are not far behind. The lights from speeding cars blind you, but you can’t stop. Only you can fulfill His work, ingrate as it is. You feel the gun’s warmth in your hand. Another sinner cast out, a junky corrupting his flesh, and some time ago before, the harlot who tempted your purity. But you were stronger than all of them, and their red blood is spent. Now they’re on to you, these devils in blue; you’re out of breath.

“Stop, police!” Out of time.

Row upon row of glass, brick and mortar buildings encroach upon you, caging you in. “Drop the gun, drop it, man!” There is no escape.

“Do it now!”

Gnarled trees on the sidewalk shiver their leaves. There is no fear. You turn around, catching the glint of a cross in the distance. It rests faithful atop Christ’s house. You raise your divine instrument; you shall not go to your just reward meekly.

“Oh fuck, fire!”

Flashes of light tear your body, then darkness.

“Yeah, man, shit went down! I was walking on 5th when across the street a group of cops were chasing some guy inna black trench coat, right? Ok, good. Yeah, they cornered the poor fucker, but instead of giving it up, the guy starting talking shit. Sumthing about God, crazy talk, y’know? The pigs were shouting at him like crazy too, ‘drop the gun, lay on the ground’, all that bullshit. Man, their faces were red and blue. But he didn’t listen, cool as ice, he raises the gun. Was he gonna shoot at them? Fuck do I know? Anyhow, it was all over in a blink, man. Bam, bam, bam, lights out. Dead fucker’s on the floor leaking all over, prolly crapped his guts out too. Cousin told me dead people do that, just empty themselves. After that cops were all like ‘Show’s over, move along.’ They were shining flashlights all over the place, almost blinded me. Buncha assholes, fuck’em. Anyways, I gotta deliver some fine Colombian white flour before this rain drowns me. Laters.”

Waiting

We’ve been sitting here for hours and hours. A man dressed in white pushed another man in a wheelchair, all bandaged and had blood everywhere, he looked scared. I don’t like hospitals. It’s all cold, boring, smells funny, nose itches. Gran’m looks down at me, smiling. “They’ll probably call us any minute now. Do you want a piece of candy, dear?” She smells nice.

“Yes!” She always carries grape gumdrops, m’favorite. She’s making an upset face, uh-oh, I almost forgot. “Please?”

She smiles again and pulls up her big purple purse. She puts her hand in, and comes out with two gumdrops! “Thank you, Gran’m!”

A lady dressed in white goes to where we are, she seems to be tired. “Mrs. Henderson?” She looks down at me and smiles, I smile back. She seems nice.

“Yes? Is my daughter still in surgery?” Mom fell from the stairs this morning. I was playing out on the garden when mom screamed. Gran’m said it had been an accident.

The lady doctor shakes her head. “No, she’s out, recovering in the ICU, but there were complications. I’d like to speak with you, in private.”

Gran’m squeezes my hand a bit too tight. “Oh God…”

“Is mom alright?”

The lady doctor smiles again. “Your mom is resting right now, but you’ll be able to see her soon enough. Right now I have to speak a bit with your grandma, is that alright, James?” She smiles like mom, but her hair is blond. Mom’s is black.

“Uh-huh.”

She turns to look at Gran’m, but she’s not smiling anymore. She should sleep. “If you could follow me, Mrs. Henderson, it’ll be just a minute.”

“Wait…wait for me here, dearie. I’ll be back in a minute, ok?”

“M’kay, Gran’m!”

***

Dolores Henderson was not a bad person, at least she hoped she wasn’t, according to how she had lived her life up to this day. There were certainly mistakes that she had made along the way, nobody was perfect. Maybe, maybe even one or two that would be judged harshly if people knew, but then it wasn’t nobody else’s business. It was an accident, plain and simple, it wasn’t anyone’s fault. She would never hurt her daughter. Not once did she ever spank her whenever she got in trouble, though more than once she sent her without supper to her room. She only meant to grab ahold of her daughter’s arm, she was walking away angrily, but the staircase… It was an accident.

St. Reuben’s Hospital has that strong ethanol smell that she can barely tolerate, and they’ve been waiting for close to two hours, with poor little James confused, probably scared, especially after seeing the man in the wheelchair -covered from head to toe in blood, no less! Some candy will probably make him feel a bit better, something to distract him. “They’ll probably call us any minute now. Do you want a piece of candy, dear?” The last time she was here was when Herman died of cancer, five years ago, she wasn’t keen on hospitals in general.

The little boy’s eyes light up and looks up at her. “Yes!” Please and thank you were sacred staples in her house, of course she raised her daughter with them. Dolores frowned down on James, she was in no mood for discourtesy. “Please?”

After giving him the gumdrops (“Thank you, Gran’m!”) Dolores saw a young woman, a doctor in her white robe, exit the ER, when she saw them the doctor started to walk towards them. Finally, some answers.

“Mrs. Henderson?” Dolores catches her weary expression, those long hospital shifts, but the doctor still manages to smile at James. Maybe things went well in the operating table.

“Yes? Is there any word on my daughter? Is she still in surgery?” Dolores’s looks at the doctor’s face trying to look for an answer in her expression.

The doctor shakes her head. “No, she’s out and is recovering in the ICU, but, there were…complications. I’d like to speak with you, in private, if possible.”

“Oh God…”

Snow In Shibuya

The cup warmed Christobella’s hands as she took a sip, letting the tea comfort her; it was her favorite brand of green tea. It had snowed yesterday, but the streets of Shibuya were already cleared up to let traffic flow at its regular frantic pace. “Shibuya is always lively, so many places to see that your head will spin!” Signore Yoshimura had told her long ago.

The lights of a nearby electronic billboard were advertising a new video game. A young Japanese woman, probably in her late teens, danced enthusiastically. She was dressed in a school uniform -skirt above the knee, no less-, brandishing what appeared to be a pink AK-47. “Happy lucky adventure, yes, yes!” The young woman’s voice was chipper and high-pitched, a cute doll wrapped in plastic. Years of living here and Christobella could still be surprised, or at least amused. Japan, never a dull moment. She smiled at the young woman made from a million tiny lights, now fighting what appeared to be a three-headed dragon.

Was the woman Satsune slept with a school girl? Christobella mused, taking another sip of tea. She did look rather young. Or maybe that was because Satsune looked old at her side. His arm around her waist. Christobella had seen them walking out of the love hotel one evening she was returning to their apartment from the supermarket. The tea started to feel a bit too bitter, Christobella set down the cup and pushed it away. Glancing outside the window, she saw the image of a smiling geisha on another billboard, she bowed while holding a vacuum cleaner that looked more like a spaceship.

Japan had been a land of contrasts from the moment she arrived. High-rise buildings of glass and steel sat side by side with small wood and stone temples. On her first day there, Christobella remembered a pair of geishas walking demurely on their wooden getas among the throngs of office black-and-white suits and skirts; a drop of color amid the monochrome. Both had smiled at Christobella with their snow-white faces. There had been less electronic billboards back then.

Satsune had been one of those contrasts that had seduced her. A man of quiet gestures and distant gaze, yet he would always have a compliment for Christobella that did not feel forced nor trite. Though a a serious business man, there had been something lyrical about him. As with Japan, it had been love at first sight. They tied the knot and made their perfect home for fifteen years. Until one day she took a left turn, instead of a right. The coincidence had been too perfect, she remembered thinking absentmindedly when she saw Satsune walking side by side with his lover. She would have laughed, but she didn’t. Not then, not now; it made her think of her parents. Another unhappy thought.

Her father had also chased after some young skirt back in Rome when she lived in her native Italy. Her mother, Vittoria, feigned ignorance instead of confronting him about it. After his death from a fatal car accident, she confessed to Christobella about her father’s infidelity, but only after she had switched back to her maiden name. Christobella was twice hurt. A father who went behind her daughter and wife’s backs; a mother who covered his lies for the sake of comfort.

Of course Christobella confided to signore Yoshimura. The older gentleman simply nodded once in silence, his brown eyes looking at her, holding some of the sorrow she did not, could not, feel. Back then, there had only been a deep feeling of being betrayed. How different things would have been if signore Yoshimura had been her father. Not only did her violin instructor, back then in his early 60s, teach her how to play, filling her head with wondrous stories about his country. He also spared the time to listen to Christobella; her fears, her dreams, her desire to visit Japan one day. Signore Yoshimura had died three years after she left, it was the only time she had considered returning to Italy. She would make the time to pay her respects at his shrine in his old home back in Rome.

Vittoria, you fool, she thought, alone in the apartment’s living room. Something tightened inside her chest. The telltale prickling sensation behind her eyes made her reach to rub them, but it was too late: she blinked and down rolled a fat tear over soft olive skin, already wrinkles adorning the edges of her eyes. They had phoned her all the way from Italy, some distant relative whose name she had already forgotten after she hung up. Her mother had died suddenly two days ago. Massive heart attack. She was 73. Twenty more years of life than her bastard father.

“Christobella?” Satsune had walked in the living room and was standing there, shifting from left to right. His voice was soft, almost tender. Of course he knew about her mother. “Do you need anything for tomorrow? I can have the chauffeur drive you to the airport.” He was not quite looking her way. Their divorce papers still had to be signed.

Christobella made no excuses for her father’s betrayal; she would not make them for Satsune’s. It had been her who filed the papers; that was that. They had settled terms quickly: she would receive a very generous alimony payment each month. He could afford it, seeing how he practically owned half of Shibuya’s buildings already. Satsune got to keep the apartment. She did not want it. Christobella had several planes to catch back to Italy to attend the funeral —her relatives could hold it off for a day, two tops. “Don’t bother. I’ll call a cab.”

The man who had been her husband for the past fifteen years nodded, standing there like an actor who just forgot his lines, then simply left without another word. Good, she needed to start packing. It would be a very long day tomorrow.

Memory Of A Tune

A valley of desire runs long and untended between trembling thighs.
Carry my wishes to them with the breath of a unrepentant kiss,
then, maybe, I shall swallow your little gasps; pizzicato notes on our merry old symphony.
Oh, how this smirk -is it yours or mine?- flickers our lovers’ delight.
I’ll be sure to whisper your name, so please, spare a thought for my lonesome;
one day I’ll be sure to remember it.

Coming and Going

We were out on the porch enjoying the Summer twilight, under its pink horizon. The air was a bit muggy, but we kept ourselves cool with some cold Heinekens, listening to crickets serenade us. Out of the blue, Masdall gave out a long sigh while staring at the sky. He sounded like a balloon being deflated. “What’s wrong, Mas?” 
 
“Well…”, he bit his lower lip like he did whenever he was feeling nervous or just a bit too shy around people, “…y’know how I love getting hugs from you? I mean a good squeeze.” 
“Love you too, babe, but I’m too comfy on my chair right now to get up.” I reached out from my chair and tousled those grey locks of his. He didn’t move, but kept looking at the horizon as it slowly turned dark.
“Ah, forget about it. Just being silly.” He took a long sip from his can without turning to look at me. Guess he was being serious.
I grabbed his hand and looked at him, “Can’t. Got an elephant’s memory, or so my mom used to tell me.”
This time he turned to look at me, giving out a small timid smile, like he was asking not to be put on the spotlight. “Ah shit, Cass…I grab a Heine or two and just get all nostalgic. I’m just talking out of my ass. Making too much hoo-ha out of nothing!”He started to scratch the back of his head, looking at his feet. Whatever it was, Masdall was having a hard time getting it out there. 
I gave him a look that pretty much said I wasn’t dropping it. Masdall swallowed twice, running fingers across that gray mane of his. It really needed a haircut. “Ok, ok. Fine, geez! Don’t have to give me such a dirty look…” He gave a low whistle. “Well, I just remembered how I didn’t get much affection back when I was livin’ with my folks. At all, to be honest.”

Childhood talk wasn’t taboo between us, but it rarely came up. This took me by surprise: Masdall was never really eager to talk about his family. “I think you mentioned it once, long ago, but…I didn’t want to force that talk.”
 
“S’alright. I know I can be a bit of a clam and keep shut all day. Yeah, I didn’t get much in the way of affection until I met you.” He squeezed my hand.
“Aw, I’m sure someone gave you some lovin’ before I came along.”
Masdall shrugged, “Not from my parents. Nor anyone that stayed with me for long. You really changed things.”
“Hopefully for the better. I’d hate to be the gal that turned you into an old bitter lemon.”

He bent forward laughing a bit. “It’s not too late for that! But all kidding aside…I wasn’t good with showing affection. You helped me overcome that. One hug at a time, and the rest followed.”
 
“You’re welcome, hon.”
 
“Though…”, there was the slightest crack in his voice, “…I sometimes feel…my heart aching some when you hug me. But only sometimes. Makes me think of them years back with the folks and how I never…”, and like that he dropped his voice.
 
I squeezed his hand softly in silence. The stars were already twinkling on the dark horizon. Somewhere in the distance, a truck passed by. A song was playing loudly on its radio. I thought I could recognize it, but then it was gone into the night.