Yoshio was instructed to keep a low profile, so he purchased a motorcycle. Neon lights swarmed around him, past him toward Naha International, like red and gold surgeonfish stuck in a crumbling reef. Toshiki Kadomatsu’s smooth jam “Office Lady”—heavy on the slap bass—thundered in a mesh of harmonized vocals and bright piano. Yoshio bobbed his head, swaying in his powder blue suit, which, although crumpled from the flight and hanging a bit too loosely on his frame, still projected the suaveness necessary for his mission, so he believed.
Five million yen in his coat pocket to speed things along. A message arrived from Sub-Boss, but he’d wait until the hotel to check it. He knew the gist. Special client, one-time project: extra pay. The relevant words were very clear.
A dented Hyundai swerved before Yoshio and he zoomed off to the side, no problem. He winked broadly at the man’s driver’s side window, shot him a thumbs-up, and thought about sliding him, feet first, into a meat grinder. Sell him to kids on the beach, our famous Okinawa pork! Go three yen under the current price to make a small fortune, tip his hat to the tomb of grisly capitalism. Boss said every monetary transaction killed a man’s soul a little more, so make as few as possible for as much as possible. Contract killing was the logical choice.
The receptionist at the Henka Hotel was tan and bony and wide-lipped. He appraised her like you might a tchotchke on a vendor’s shelf, thumbing his chin with interest. Though emotion tends to cloud up a judgment’s lens, Yoshio was diligent about seeing clearly.
“Are you here from Tokyo, sir?”
“You can tell?”
“Yes sir. Would you like a wake-up call, sir?”
Yoshio smiled. He was handsome, and he watched the corners of her puffy mouth tighten with shyness. Project your sad shanty-town fantasies.
“What did the starfish say to the pants salesman?” he said.
The clerk dipped her head even lower, trembling a little; a real fragile bag, the old human form.
“I don’t know, sir.”
He held forth a pair of imaginary pants. “These are for cripples!” He threw back his head and cackled. Left his Ray-Bans on, time of night be damned. One of those.
The clerk giggled politely and handed over the key. “Have a nice stay, sir.”
“And you as well, my precocious limpet.”
“I live here, sir, but yes.”
Yoshio cackled again. She was much funnier than his joke. Plus, starfish regrew their arms. Or legs? Arms, without a doubt.
“You know, you’re very pretty.”
The clerk blushed. Lies were necessary in society to keep people moving. Yoshio went upstairs.
Message from Sub-Boss:
He took a long, hot shower and masturbated while singing Bruce Springsteen’s late-'70s power ballad “Streets of Fire.” Then he smoked a Seven Stars, tapped ash onto the sheets, and watched the television eject critical information.
“Did you realize you were pregnant then?” said the journalist onscreen.
The woman across from him shook her false, long, metallic blonde hair. “Not until the baby started coming out.”
Yoshio rather liked their chairs. They seemed comfortable. Comfort was one of those lies society liked to promulgate, which was fine because Yoshio enjoyed lies. They held up the nations; they were Atlas, broad and tortured. Poor lies.
He went for a stroll and paused at a soba house underneath a gigantic guitar sign. First time in Okinawa: balmy and full of peasants. He grinned at the cashier and tried to detonate her skull by staring right through her pupils. Behavior is simple math, do x, see y reaction. The woman bowed her head and apologized.
He found a prostitute in a bar and brought her to his room, foregoing the love hotels that were meant for an hour or two of pleasure. A bronze woman with full, queenly lips.
“My name's Izuma. How about I call you Boss?”
“No, only Boss is Boss.”
“Sure, whatever. Who are you, then?”
“Ah. Just a clam rolling along the ocean floor.”
“You’re a strange one, for sure.”
“They don’t make them stranger, dear. Now stick your ass in my face.”
Afterwards, they smoked and drank awamori, the local liquor. Izuma traced her fingers along the man’s elaborate, contiguous tattoos.
“I like this otter.”
“Oh, that? I used to own one.”
“Like a pet otter?”
“Yeah. Why not? I got him a pool.”
Izuma laughed behind a golden hand. “You must have some house.”
Yoshio dug his head into the pillow, chuckled. “It’s not bad, I’ll admit. But it’s no place for an otter, I learned. He croaked within a few months. That’s why I got the tattoo.”
“That’s too bad! Did you love him?”
“I can’t say I did, but he was good company. Better than my roommate, anyway.”
“What was his name?”
Yoshio thumbed his chin. His eyes reflected the cheap ambient lamplight. “You know, I fucking forgot his name. I can’t believe it.”
“How the hell could I forget something like that? I must be going crazy.”
“You didn’t tattoo the name on?”
His phone buzzed. The hooker pulled on her clothes and stuffed the money in her bra.
“Morons,” he said.
“You sound stressed, you know. I can fix you up, unless you spent all your money on otters and can’t afford anything else.”
“I already came twice. Three times if you count beating off in the shower.”
“Full of energy, huh?”
“Talkers. Hit the road, lady.”
“Okay, fine, but before I do: can’t you even remember that otter’s name? He’s so cute. I bet he was even cuter in person. No tattoo can totally capture a person’s soul, you know. Or an otter’s.”
Yoshio threw her towards the door.
“Out of here, now.”
“Hey! Didn’t you enjoy yourself enough? No rough stuff.”
“Go sleep in the gutter.”
The door slammed. Yoshio drank from the bottle and hissed, typing a message. Someone knocked without aiming for discretion.
“I forgot my lipstick!”
Yoshio scanned the desk. He grabbed the tube, opened the door, and tossed the makeup to the prostitute. He was still naked.
“Let me know if you’re in town later,” said Izuma. “Special price.”
Yoshio seized her by the hair and began marching her, haltingly, down the wood-floored passage. The woman shrieked in protest.
“Please don't talk to me,” he said. Completely flaccid, he threw her down the first few stairs.
“What the fuck? What is wrong with you? I’m going to have Juzo kick the shit out of you.”
“I'll have Juzo kick the shit out of you!” said Yoshio, eyes burning.
“Look at your dick curled up like a dead snail. You’re lousy in bed anyway. Shit-for-brains.”
She sneered and flipped him off, American-style. Hookers were different here.
“You come back here and I’ll cut off your head and mail it to your grandmother. In a big fucking brown box.”
Izuma huffed and stalked down the stairs, muttering to herself. Yoshio shook his head and padded back to the room, passing an old man along the way. He was missing a leg, but too young to be a veteran.
“What are you looking at, grandpa?”
The old man pressed himself against the wall, eyes blank. Yoshio laughed and clapped him on the shoulder.
“Don’t worry, I’m just messing with you. You want some of this pig-liquor awamori?”
The old man wobbled his head no.
“Have it your way. Be careful with those girls out there; fiery specimens, believe me. Make sure you stretch beforehand!”
He laughed and slammed the door. Threats, sex, and mood-changing elixirs: an idle night’s amusement. Tomorrow was work. In the meantime, however, he could drink and watch television, which was the sign of a true capitalist.
Amazingly, the programs depressed him. He dangled the liquor bottle over his penis, comparing the size. He put on his Ray-Bans and danced in front of the full-length mirror until his head swam. The name of that otter. It was sucking all the joy out of his evening.
The phone vibrated:
Yoshio didn’t answer. Tomorrow he’d visit the spot where Lt. General Ushijima had built his headquarters, underground, with American shells ripping the bricks apart over his egg-head.
Stacks of lies made a nation, and warehouses of them made a war. Battle of Okinawa, victory for Japan. Glory for the nation. Thinking about history depressed him even further. He studied his face in the mirror, the thin lines above his cheeks. His bones ached.
“Fucking otter,” he slurred, squeezing the bottle.
“…in the wake of protests that took place on September 4, marking the eighteenth-year anniversary of the infamous 1995 rape case. Ms. Wasayama states she will write another petition to Governor Ikazawa, as well as to the Prime Minister, asking to move at least 50% of the American bases off the island. Talks have been staged to relocate Camps Baker and Furusato, which house the U.S. Marines, to Guam, but they have always fallen through under pressure from America and a conservative Japanese base who are less than eager to see any more troops moved to Tokyo.”
Yoshio stared dully at the screen.
“Okinawa has been forced to bear an undue burden with relation to mainland Japan. Over twenty-five thousand U.S. troops and personnel on a piece of land smaller than Tokyo Prefecture. It is unjust, it is cruel, and it is intolerable. We must take action to force change in the government.”
Yoshio laughed and waved at the old woman, who had apparently turned ninety-one in August.
“You want change, huh? Buy a fucking gun.”
He laughed and toppled back onto the bed, fighting the tides of sorrow behind his eyes.
“Fucking Okinawa,” he said. “Fucking farmers.”
The otter squirmed around on his shoulder. What the hell was his name?
He left the room in a restless huff. Where was the old man? He could help him. Give him some money, find him a good hooker. Buy him some of that goya champuru. Or the really nice awamori, kusu, aged for three years. He’d love that.
Yoshio laughed and ran his hand along the wall. No one was here. Of course it’d be an empty hotel. He walked up and down the hallway, without clothes, dangling the liquor bottle and thinking of jokes to tell the old man when he came back, if he came back, if anyone was here to listen.