Winter In Zushi

by Jon Peters

We have a saying in Zushi: May the backs of dragons guide you safely to shore.

Well, that’s a lie. It’s my saying. The simple people of Zushi could never be so swift with language.

Sometimes I whisper it so that it sounds more enticing.

Ai makes fun of me.

“May you ride your mighty dragon to shore in bliss!” she says to me and giggles like a spoiled schoolgirl as we sit and watch television. No prompt. No discussion. Just unfiltered rudeness!

“Ai-chan, stop it! You know how much I wish to ride on the backs of dragons one day!” I frown at her, fold my arms, and pout. Her eyes go wide and her cheeks redden. This pleases me and I show her my white teeth.

The two of us are sitting in our flat on a grey futon we bought from Ikea. They have one in Tokyo-Bay and we visit there just to sit on their futons. Last time we visited, we left with this futon and two catalogs for future purchases. One now sits near the toilet and the other sits on the coffee table—also from Ikea—next to a photo of Ai and me hugging during last spring’s town festival.

Ai and I are best friends. We met at the age of five at shōgakkō. We were the smallest in the class and the youngest. On the first day of school, a boy told me I had funny elbows. Ai told him he smelled like her obaasan. He smelled his shirt and walked away crying. Ai and I have been friends for thirteen years now.

“Hey, Elle-san, hand me that wrench behind you.” Ai was saying to me as I reminisced about the blossoming of our friendship.

“Wrench? What for? Are you about to fix something? And why is there a wrench on the couch?” I grabbed the tool from behind my head and tossed it next to her.

“I’m going to whack you with it for sleeping in late and missing your interview!” Ai held the metal weapon in her hand like a crazed murderer.

“Ai-chan, get a grip! I rescheduled it. I told you this already.” I puffed out my lips, wondering why my sweet Ai was so upset.

“You cannot miss this interview! Yoko-san will only give you one chance.” Her voice softened and she put the wrench down.

“Your sadness will ride the waves of dragons one day, Elle-chan. I promise.”

I said nothing but there were tears in my eyes. I was not ready to speak of the sadness.

“What were you fixing with that wrench, anyway?” I changed the subject before I tasted my tears.

“Our bikes. I was tightening the wheels. They’ve been sitting there all winter. It’s almost springtime and we’ll want to ride to work together.” She looked so pleased with herself. She loves to fix the future’s problems.

“Will you drive me to my interview on Wednesday?” I took the wrench from her and placed it in my lap.

“Take my car. I am off on Wednesday. I will sit and wait for my dragon. A big, black dragon with a shiny red eye that spits fire!” Ai laughed like an aroused flower.

I played with the wrench in my lap, wondering if I should smack her kneecaps.