Yakisoba, by Margaret Spillane
The bubble burst. Mori san lost his job. To support the family, his wife found a job at a department store. His father-in-law started to drive a taxi at night. His daughter prepared the family meals when she got home from school. Mori san took to his bed and stayed there. Since he no longer left his room, Ayako chan put his dinner on a tray and pushed it across the tatami towards his futon.
The salary he had once earned at the trading firm had supported his wife, his daughter and his father-in-law in comfort and style. Someday, he thought, he would leave his bedroom and resume his role as the family breadwinner, someday when he didn’t feel so tired, when the world outside his bedroom door didn’t seem so hostile. Then his wife could return to her yoga and to her English classes, his father-in-law to his golf. He would finally buy his daughter the baby grand he had planned to buy her last Christmas. For the moment she would have to make do with her electronic keyboard.
Sometimes Ayako chan forgot to bring him his dinner. Sometimes it didn’t matter; sometimes he didn’t have an appetite anyway. But today he was hungry. He went to the kitchen to remind Ayako about his dinner. She was not there. He opened the fridge to see if he could find something for himself. There was some leftover yakisoba. He could heat it up in the microwave. He was getting a dish from the cupboard when his wife arrived home from work, startling him. The bowl dropped from his hands and broke. The noodles slithered across the floor.
His wife screamed at him. ‘Look at the mess you made. You stay in bed all day and when you get up all you can do is break dishes and dirty the floor. I can’t stand it anymore.’
The fracas alerted his daughter who had been watching TV in the living room. She came into the kitchen and began to cry. She said her father was an embarrassment to her. All her friends’ fathers went out to work everyday. Her father stayed in bed. She felt too ashamed to invite her friends around. His father-in-law, woken from his daytime slumber came into the kitchen, looked from daughter to granddaughter, recognized his son-in-law as the cause of their upset, turned on Mori san and told him to get out of his house. Mori san did not protest. After all the house belonged to his father in law. He had embarrassed his daughter and upset his wife. Hot with shame and grief, he grabbed his overcoat and left their home.
With the change in his pocket he bought a ticket and caught the subway all the way to Yoyogi Park. There he joined the other homeless in a queue for food.
Here too yakisoba was on the menu.
Margaret hails from Tipperary, but she is a wanderer, so you will rarely find her there.
Leaving, by Elizabeth S. Tyree
She touched the little box in her pocket and smiled; this was her ticket out of her one-horse hometown and away from her oppressive family. She had to be smart about this though. If she took off in the car that Rod, her step-father, had ‘given’ to her and allowed her to drive every day, they would call the police and report it stolen. Knowing them, she wouldn’t be out of the driveway before Officer Jonston was slapping her in cuffs and making her sit in a cell.
Her step-father had been very clear about the future—she would stay and work, paying room and board of course, until she was married off to a man her step-father approved of (and probably chose for her). No college necessary for that, no dating either, and definitely no choices made on her own.
She couldn’t count on help from her siblings either. Both brothers had been lavished with attention and spoiled beyond measure. Bruce, her older brother, was living it up on campus as a second year senior and the big man on campus as he carried his team to another year of victories in football bowls. James, the younger brother, was finally legal to drive that hot-rod Camaro he had Rod had been toodlin around town in for the past year. They both agreed with Rod that Sydney was ‘too fragile’ and ‘worth far too much’ to be ruined by the world outside of their small suburban town.
Her mother didn’t say much, and never around the men, but Sydney had found college applications hidden in her pillowcases and, even though she was now twenty, the college in Florida had happily accepted her and offered full scholarships based on her high school GPA and admission test scores. With even room and board covered, Sydney was finally able to start planning her new life, twenty-three hours away from the Podunk prison she had been locked in for so long.
She had saved what little money she could, squirrelling it away for food and shelter on her trip because she knew she would have to walk or hitch-hike.
Then her Grandma had invited her over for tea, and everything had changed. Now, they did this every week and Rod had long since stopped insisting on someone attending with the girl (though her mother was never allowed to go and visit her first mother-in-law). This week, however, Grandma handed Sydney a box. Just an innocent looking little purple box, small enough to fit in her jean pocket, but one that held the key to triumph.
In two days there would be a train coming through town that was making its yearly ‘southern voyage’ on the old railways. Sydney would be on that train. Grandma had purchased the ticket and would be packing a bag for her favorite granddaughter. Not only that but a card with part of Sydney’s inheritance was there so that she could purchase all the necessities once she got to her dorm room. Now here she was, the day of the train and freedom, the box safely tucked into her pants pocket and her mother escorting her to the ‘train party’. This was the worst part, not only saying goodbye without actually saying goodbye, but sneaking away from her mother afterwards and knowing that she may not get the chance to say anything to the woman again.
Choking on a breath and turning to her mother, Sydney’s hidden goodbyes were stifled as they teetered on her lips for there in the sunlight, cheeks pink with merriment, her mother waved her own purple box and motioned to the braking train.
“Come on kid, we’re going to miss our ride.”
Elizabeth S. Tyree is a mother and certified teacher who currently spends her days playing make believe, writing, and reading. Her YouTube channel and blog are full of reviews and stories and you can also find her on twitter @writerbaby13.