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Per Diem

By Squatta

Drama / Romance

Chapter 1

Every day was the same. Wake up, go to school, help around the house, attempt homework, go to sleep. Maybe on the weekends he could go fishing or go to the beach. Sometimes Tama and Miwa or someone from school would have plans and invite him along. Other than that, life was pretty mediocre. Everything was mediocre in Hiroshi's life. His grades, his looks, his hobbies - everything. Even his parents were average in everything they did. No matter how hard he tried to break the mold of mediocrity, the results were still the same.

It wasn't that he disliked living on the small island - it really felt like home. But he couldn't help but wonder if there was more to life than just this country lifestyle he had been living since he was born. He was in his last year of high school now - now more than ever would be the best opportunity to see what was lying outside the island. He pretty much assumed that's what he'd be doing once he graduated. But his parents never left the island - so would he? Some days it seemed like he was almost too comfortable with the repetitive mediocrity of his life. After all, that's how it had always been. Nothing changing, nothing new, everything the same.

"That old abandoned house is gettin' a new tenant?" Hiroshi asked, mildly surprised that someone in their right mind would actually move to this island. The house had been abandoned for years and he knew it was the prime hangout spot for Miwa, Tama, and sometimes the village scamp, Naru, after school.

"Tha's right. Some sorta writer, even! Or, so I heard," his father replied lightheartedly.

"I doubt that..." Hiroshi went back to eating his food.

"I wonder if he's handsome!" His mother sighed.

Hiroshi was slightly curious about the new addition to the island, but he was sure it was just someone's relative coming to stay for a while. Something like that. He didn't really want to bother with new people. Sometimes city folk came down, expecting to get a view of the countryside as something of a novelty, but they were all just burdens with their ignorance of how life in the country really worked. He didn't have time to deal with someone like that. They were just a pain.

"Sensei! I brought somen today!" Hiroshi opened up the rickety door to the old wood building that he had visited so many times before. "Sensei?" He said again, looking around the empty room. Ink, papers, and brushes lay a strewn across the floor.

'Maybe Sensei is taking a nap,' Hiroshi thought. He made his way into the kitchen to set the somen in the fridge, maybe he'd leave a note saying that he delivered the food.

As he walked into the kitchen, he noticed the door leading outside to the backyard was open. Curious, Hiroshi set the somen aside and peaked out to see the man who lived in the house, curiously staring up at the clouds.

"Sensei? What're you doin'?" Hiroshi questioned.

The man jumped a bit in surprise and looked over at Hiroshi, a bit of embarrassment crossed his face.

"Ah, Hiro, I didn't hear you," the man walked over to Hiroshi with a slight smirk.

Handa Seishuu, a famous calligrapher, moved into the village a few months ago. He was a bit of a strange guy, coming from the big city of Tokyo to this little island. At first, Hiroshi didn't want anything to do with him. But looking at the situation now, somehow Handa had wormed his way into his life. This applied to pretty much the entire village. It was a small place, after all - it was hard not knowing everyone in town and their business.

Handa was just... One of those types you couldn't leave alone, even if you wanted to.

"Gettin' some inspiration from the sky? Or just burnin' your retinas?" Hiroshi said in slight mock as he watched Handa walk into his house. The calligrapher was always doing things that were a bit strange.

"N-Nothing like that!" Handa flustered. Oh yeah, it was easy to rile him up too.

"Whatever ya say. Anyway, mom made some somen so dig in," Hiroshi pointed towards the bowl he had set on the counter.

"Ahhh, this will be perfect for a hot day like today! Tell your mother I said thank you!" Handa gleefully eyed the bowl of food.

"Of course I will. You know her - she's pretty much doin' this all for the praise," Hiroshi went into the cupboards and got out two bowls and two pairs of chopsticks.

He didn't know exactly when it happened, but he had gotten into the habit of eating his meals with Handa on occasion. His mother seemed to have noticed as she would sometimes send Hiroshi over with a portion large enough to feed the two of them. She probably just enjoyed the fact that Hiroshi was getting out of the house. After all, Hiroshi didn't really do many social things outside of school and baseball. Sometimes he'd entertain the kids in the village, but most of the time he preferred staying in to play a game or read manga. If he did go out, he liked doing things like fishing, which was more of a solitary sport.

But ever since Handa came to the island, Hiroshi wasn't as solitary as he used to be. It seemed like every week he was getting roped up into something concerning him and going along with it, mostly with Miwa and Tama's incessant nagging to tag along.

Handa began eating his portion happily and Hiroshi did likewise.

Many times they barely even talked during their lunch. Hiroshi might ask how Handa was doing with his calligraphy or Handa might ask Hiroshi how school was going and that was about it. It was a lot more lively if one of the girls were over. Sometimes Hiroshi felt like he wasn't sure how to deal with Handa when they were alone together, but oddly enough the atmosphere between the two never became awkward.

Handa seemed to treat Hiroshi a little differently than the other people that frequented his house. He always acted more friendly towards him while he would always shoo the other visitors out of the house like pests. Hiroshi didn't know if this was because he was the one that brought him food or if it was because he was the closest to Handa in age. At 18, he was only five years younger than Handa, so Hiroshi felt like maybe the calligrapher felt a sense of brotherhood with someone that wasn't too young or too old.

"Where's Naru today?" Hiro asked, slurping up a noodle.

"Ah, I think she said she was going to a bug catching contest today. Something Kentarou and the others thought up, I guess. It's fine with me - I finally got some peace and quiet today. Although, I'm never sure when Miwa or Tama will show up..." Handa tapped the side of his bowl.

"I know Tama went inta town today but I ain't so sure about Miwa. Prob'ly sleeping in since its a day off 'n all," Hiroshi replied.

Handa sighed, "I still wasn't very productive today despite this rare opportunity."

Handa seemed to be sinking into the floor with the thought of this and Hiroshi wondered if Handa would have one of his dramatic episodes. Despite his brashness, Handa was a pretty a sensitive guy.

"Well, you still got the rest of the day," Hiroshi attempted to soften the blow to Handa's ego.

"But its only a matter of time until Naru comes sneaking into the house," Handa mumbled.

Hiroshi knew all too well that if he let this slump get the best of him, Handa could end up getting worse and worse by the minute.

"You was lookin' at clouds, right, sensei?" Hiroshi asked, trying to be of some assistant.

"Err, well," Handa scratched his head, "I just thought maybe I could get some inspiration from the sky?"

"But it ain't somethin' as simple as that, right?"

Handa thought for a moment, chewing on his food. He swallowed and looked down at his empty bowl. "You're right..." He mumbled. "But I'm just so frustrated that I can't even get inspired when I have this peace and quiet..."

"Maybe it ain't the peace n' quiet you need," Hiroshi shrugged, standing up to collect his and Handa's bowls.

"Huh?" Handa turned around to see Hiroshi walking towards the kitchen.

"You're always gettin' your moments of inspiration when you least expect it, right?" Hiroshi continued. "There've been a lotta times when you jus' up an' go hollerin' about some idea while you're tendin' to the kids and whatnot, sayin' that ya hafta go home an' start writin'."

"Huh... Is that so..." Handa never really thought of it that way.

"An' then you go an' write somethin' amazin', as if it were nothin'," Hiro said as he scrubbed the bowls. He really admired Handa, but it was something he'd never admit to his face. But it was natural to compliment him on his writing once in a while - his calligraphy never failed to impress him.

"Hehe... They aren't that great," Handa gloated. Hiroshi could tell that Handa was currently reveling in the praise.

"Maybe you just gotta not think too hard 'bout it," Hiroshi set the last dish aside to dry, picking up the empty bowl that the somen had been in and turned around. "Anyways, I'm gonna head back for now."

"Oh, alright," Handa got up to see Hiroshi off, "Tell your mom the somen was great! Ah, and it was pretty nice having lunch without any interruptions. Usually there's company over, but its rare that it's just the two of us, isn't it? I have to thank you for your advice... I guess it is pretty nice to have a chat with someone close to my age once in a while." Handa's face glowed with the contentment of a full stomach and possibly from the conversation and the rare chance to have a relaxing meal.

"Yeah..." Hiroshi still wasn't very used to Handa's gratuity over little things. One time all he did was bring him some extra ink and the man nearly fainted in excitement. Hiroshi guessed there were still a lot of things about Handa that didn't make much sense to him.

Hiroshi waved to Handa, the large bowl in the other hand as he made his way back home. He sighed as he realized all the housework that was waiting for him when he got back. It was so comfortable just sitting at Handa's house that he had almost forgotten.

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