Keystone Trigger

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Chapter 43

Dana drove alone, with no pain in her head. Cultivated emptiness. This was dissociative behavior, perhaps, a way of coping with extreme stress; but so what? Accept it as it comes, then process. She trawled along the docks in search of Glen Margery. Some closure was necessary in this pit of a typhoon, and while she knew the weather would not hold—look at the clouds coming round, bullying the eye northward—she was outside anyhow. Evidence of sleeplessness and trauma. Risky behavior.

She found nothing on the docks but the wreckage of boats. There were people in the streets. Throngs. Odd, considering conditions, but she didn’t think much of it. They were just traveling, shuffling in their cliques, braving the brief freedom of reprieve. As long as they brought their umbrellas.

Follow them, said her undercurrent; the one that had said, go to the doctor, ask about Haruki’s late nights. The one that had said outside Tatsuo’s house, run.

The group of Okinawans was now an audience, now a trickle. Pickup trucks and vans took in passengers from the side of the road.

She felt a building toward some ultimate pressure. Probably just the barometers in her bones, aching and pleading for aspirin. She placed a hand against her stomach: no pain. Late abortions did not increase risk of cancer, said the studies. She was safe. She thought, impulsively, of driving to a pharmacy for a pregnancy kit, but she stopped herself. Follow one train of thought, follow the people. See what happens. You have tomorrow, no matter what your amygdala thinks.

With a childhood spent in fishtailing cars, her sense of future was suffocated. Difficult to predict and plan, even on Okinawa. Here she had come the closest, had believed in family and peace and all the satisfying tropes of human narrative, and Haruki had crushed it in one sentence. She cried for the first time since her husband had picked her up at the koban, and the tears prompted some spasm in her heart. It was perfectly acceptable, given her situation. She did not need to feel ashamed. So why did she hate herself?

Through tear-dimmed eyes she watched the procession of locals skirting the road and the beach: wisps of color in the gloom, vibrant like the petals of cherries, leading to a break from marital bliss.

Sub-Boss called.

“You’re wanted back home.”

“I haven’t finished here yet.”

“You’ve fucked it all up. I don’t know what’s wrong with you lately, but you fucked it all up. Come back at once. It can’t really be because of that stupid animal, can it?”

“The otter?”

“Whatever it is. You get too attached to things. That’s always been your problem.”

Yoshio thought of the Machimotos’ house burning down. The last thing his foster mother had said to him was, “Yoshio—that means ‘good man,’ didn’t you know? You’re going to be a good man.” Or shit, no, that was a lie. Yoshio wasn’t even his real name. What the hell had she said, then?

“They don’t have flights yet.”

“I’ve already booked you on the first one. Leaves tomorrow. The storm will be over then.”

“What if it isn’t?”

“Then you’ll fucking get on the first one after that.” Screaming. Must be under stress from the big brother.

“As you wish.”

“Goddamn right. You know, you’re costing me a lot of money. A fucking lot.”

“I have 500,000 yen for you.”

“I can’t even tell if that’s a joke. Fuck you if it is. I don’t want to call you again.”

“What about Wasayama?”

“What, you don’t think I have other guys around Naha? Who do you think left your tools? Maruka, Yoshio, for fuck’s sakes. I’ve been cultivating relationships with the Okinawa-kai for over a year now. And it’s all fucked up. Don’t you understand this is larger than your own pea brain?”

“I do.”

“No, you don’t, or you wouldn’t have given in to your stupid nature. You’re supposed to be a specialist; at least you were. Maybe you’ve peaked, huh? A little early, no doubt, but maybe you’re like a porn star. In and out in a few years, tired from the job. Is that it? Are you tired of your work, Yoshio?”

“You keep using my name.”

“I don’t give a fuck about the police right now. You know you’ll go down if I want it to happen, or if the Boss wants it to happen. You have no fucking say in the matter.”

“Yes, of course.”

“Fuck you. If you can manage to end this before your plane, all the better. If not, you’re coming back to work the streets again. You’re lucky the customer interceded on your behalf. If I had my way, I’d leave you down there with a drill-hole in your skull to let out all that hot air.”

“Much obliged, sir.”

“You clearly don’t give a shit about obligations, so don’t talk to me. And by the way, fuck your otter. I’m glad he’s dead.”

Yoshio eyed the phone as he might a viper. Before him hovered Dana’s face as he shot Tatsuo and Aomi, the panorama as he chased her down to the surf. You can call me any time.

A group of elderly women passed him on the road. Giddy, chattering about the morning paper, which had still been delivered—of course the island doesn’t stop in a typhoon. Fucking civilization.

“Vote for Governor Ikazawa, November 28!” one of the ladies said. “We will change everything for the better at once, we promise.” They giggled, held their hands to their mouths.

“Excuse me, my delicate pheasants—what is so intriguing in this morning’s edition, if you don’t mind a shabby businessman insulting you with his presence?”

The ladies giggled again. Did drops in pressure turn the old into teenage gossips?

“The protest, you know. They called for it in the Ryukyu Standard. At the utaki just south of here.”

“May I see?”

A Message from a Ryukyuan Woman

September 20, 2013

I'm going to die on Okinawa. When this will be, I cannot say, but I am sure of this fact above all else. That, and the guilt of Japan and America in destroying our beautiful island. As a result, I propose to protest these countries at the utaki, south of Naha, and march to Heiwa Air Force Base at 9am tomorrow.

On September 16, a man named Yoshio asked me on a date. As a graduate student at Ryukyu University, I have little time for romantic attachments, so this was a welcome surprise.

I took him to the utaki, where I often walk when I am under stress. Calmly, he explained he was a contract killer for the Kintsugi-kai, in Tokyo, and had been hired to assassinate the peace activist Hidari Wasayama.

I left immediately. When I returned home, I found my cat Lucy nailed to my bathroom door. I did not sleep. I went straight to the police and complained until they took me seriously. They told me to keep silent about the incident.

Since that time, Hidari was kidnapped by an American soldier named Glen and brought to my friend’s apartment. I pulled an old WWII gun on him to protect my friends, but he still knocked me unconscious. (Yes, it's illegal for me to have a weapon; I accept whatever punishment I deserve.)

I can feel the bruise on my temple. I can see the police officer sliding my cat into an evidence bag. Both of these incidents illustrate, though in extreme fashion, how our rights are trampled by superpowers.

The U.S. occupies our land. We never asked to have them here; we never wanted them here. Japan allows this crime to happen, and in fact pays us off in order to continue the arrangement. We, the Okinawans, are complicit, because we are tired, we need to pay our bills, we have enough stress in our daily lives. In some cases, we profit through collaboration. It is easier to adapt than to fight.

If an abusive husband takes his wife to an onsan for vacation, does this negate his punches? I can feel some of you wanting to make excuses, to say yes, to say it is more complicated.

I am finished with complications. If you are angry, like me; and if you love our home, like me: come to the utaki outside Naha to march to Heiwa Air Force Base.

Safety is a precaution. If the winds are strong, if there is severe flooding—stay inside. But if the weather holds, let us show our peaceful, collective strength in its entirety.

I am going to die on Okinawa. Like you. Let us be happy with the life we have lived when this happens. So let me say clearly: down with Yoshio. Down with those who hurt and suppress. Let him and all like him see how a peaceful nation conducts itself when a hurt has been brought against it. Let my small experience merge with the greater plane of Okinawa; for without this island, I am without purpose and peace.

Etsu Okama (guest post)

“Why in the storm?”

The women shrugged. “They say it’s weakening, anyhow. The water is cooling, so when the winds replace the eye, the whole system breaks down. Plus, everyone seems so fired up. We all called each other when we read the paper. You have the Americans driving around here like they own the place, talking about terrorism. You’ve seen that on the news, yes? Imagine that—terrorists, on Okinawa! It’s ludicrous. No one in their right mind would do that here. We’re peaceful. Although my friend Mitsuyo is helping people barricade the roads. It’s not so hard, with all the debris.”

“So that’s why you’re going on this, uh, march?”

“If the Americans accuse us of being terrorists, we should respond with the proper Okinawan way to protest. We’re going to march up to Okinawa City.”

“That seems dangerous.”

“Well, we’ve been cooped up for two days. This is a good chance to get out and make something of ourselves. Everyone says the storm’s on its way out. The flooding wasn’t nearly as bad as it could’ve been. But you know, why don’t you come along? Get that Tokyo stress out of your head. Learn about your southern neighbors.”

“Can you really tell I’m from Tokyo?”

“Yes, of course—listen to you!”

Impudent laughter.

“I’ll limp along, then.”

“Limp? Oh, no. We’ll flag down a truck for you. Unless you’re that Yoshio villain!”

Yoshio cackled and wiped imaginary tears from his eyes. “Oh, you kidders. Down with that guy, am I right?”

They found a truck. The old women instructed the driver to take him to the utaki, where someone else was bound to help him out. Graciously, the man assisted Yoshio into the truckbed.

“Take this, please,” he said.

The women squeaked in various stages of disbelief. “But where did you get this much money? Oh, you’re from Tokyo, yes. But it’s so much!”

“It’s 300,000 yen. Consider it thanks.”

“But there is no way we can accept this for what we did. It is incredible!”

“I assure you, you should have it. Buy something nice. An otter, maybe.”

The women tittered. “An interesting suggestion, for sure. But we cannot accept.”

“You must.”

“It would be unseemly.”

“My dear ladies, I implore you to accept this money. I will be most offended if you do not.”

At length they relented. He waved as he left them behind, roaring off with an engine at his back. They called out compliments and good wishes.

“Generous guy, aren’t you?” said the driver through the back window.

“I didn’t need it.”

“You know, my daughter wants to enter college. Ryukyu University. She’s a smart girl.”

“I’m afraid I don’t have another 300,000 yen. I don’t even have a joke to offer.”

“Well I got one for you: what did the gangster say to the Okinawan girl?”

“I give up.”

“Exactly! You must’ve heard that one before.”

Bewildered, Yoshio switched off his cellphone. Dana’s he tossed over the guardrail into a slope of sago palms and thorns. No time to relax, though; Boss had spoken. One burden relieved, another to shrug off.

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