WIND AND RAIN • by Warren Klassen

The wind pushed Kana so hard that she could barely walk. It took all the strength her thin boney arms had to keep her umbrella above her head. On windy days like today it felt more like she was living on top of a Japanese Alp rather than in a valley between them.

Her umbrella slipped out of her hand for the third time and she jumped back to grab it. Over top of the umbrella she saw a giant shape trudging up the sidewalk with huge slow steps. She froze. She knew that he was a foreigner. Definitely a foreigner. And not the one that taught at her elementary school. This must be the new high school English teacher. There was no other reason for a foreigner to be in a town this small. Foreigners teach English. That’s why they come here.

Kana tried to walk quickly, but the wind kept her movements slow. She could feel her very bones vibrate like wind chimes after each blast.

Out of the corner of her eye she could see the giant approaching. He was completely soaked and his wet shaggy beard made her think that he looked like her schnauzer after a bath. Kana wondered why he didn’t have an umbrella, but he was a foreigner and it was expected that foreigners be a bit weird. It’s not like her umbrella was helping her anyway, since the wind made the rain come as much from the front as from above.

His huge legs brought him beside her and he slowed his plodding steps. She could feel him eyeing her. Blue eyes looking at you feel different. Not always bad, but just so strange. This gaze of his felt calculating. He was going to say something. Kana knew he would say something. Foreigners like to hear their English and he wasn’t going to get the sound of it from anywhere but his own mouth.

He did speak and his voice sounded like arrhythmic gravel falling from a shovel onto cement.

Kana could tell that he had asked her a question. He did that rising intonation thing that her Japanese teacher of English had explained to her. She had aced the test where she had listened to a CD of English sentences and had to mark down which ones were questions and which weren’t. But that didn’t help her much here. The question could be for anything. She would have to fall back to her primary defences. “No. No English,” she squeaked out at him. It was a magical phrase that almost always made foreigners go away.

He quickened his pace for a moment, just enough to walk in front of her, then slowed back down to match her speed. As soon as he was in front of her she felt that strange calm that comes with getting out of the wind. It was much easier to walk now.

He was only just ahead of her, and she could smell him. He smelt like freshly microwaved frozen pizza. Maybe what her friend had told her about foreigners eating pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner was true after all. Still, it was a pleasant and familiar smell. Everyone likes pizza.

Kana had heard a little about this new English teacher before. The grocery clerk had told her mother that even though he was an adult, he still bought lots of milk to drink. He bought four of the one litre cartons every week when he went to the store. There must be very little room in his fridge for anything else.

She stiffened and nearly stepped into a gigantic puddle. He was doing something kind for her, and all she could think of were the rumours about him. She needed to be able to show her appreciation somehow.

With her free hand she reached into her backpack and it made a rustling sound as her hand fell against an old McDonald’s cheeseburger wrapper. There was also an empty bento and a math textbook in there. Nothing else. Nothing small she could give him to show her appreciation.

Her face blushed as she became worried about appearing impolite to the foreigner. Would he think that all Japanese children are so ungrateful? That shame would be too great. She would have to do something.

She closed her useless umbrella and threw it in her backpack. Then, Kana took out the cheeseburger wrapper and began folding it.

She finished just as they arrived at her house. She poked the foreigner to let him know that she would be leaving his company. He turned back to look at her and she offered him the paper crane that she had folded from the wrapper. As he took it from her, she stammered out a “thank-you”, turned bright red and ran into her home.

The wind was strong and the rain was heavy, but the foreigner held up one of his massive hands to protect the small gift safely tucked onto the palm of the other. She had recycled his culture, refined it with her own and then given it to him.

It was just so Japanese.

Warren Klassen used to write stories for teachers and professors. Now he writes stories for fun.

Rate this story:
 average 3.1 stars • 16 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • lepifera

    To me, the narrative voice seems to belong to the man in the story, rather than to the woman. Even though technically, the piece does not have a POV that is strictly attached to either party. Yet the last sentence betrays the predominant cultural bias from which the story is told completely.

    I am not Japanese, so presumably I wound not know what is so Japanese. Yet what is so Japanese about a big western man trying to protect a small Japanese woman from rain and wind? I think small Asian women can hold their umbrella against rain and wind just fine.

  • #1- I think the woman is not a woman at all, but a young girl. It’s stated at the beginning that there is another foreigner who works in her elementary school, and the voice felt young. I don’t think a woman would rummage about in her backpack for a gift for a stranger.

    I, however, have separate issues with this story. I did like the sweetness of the ending, but I have to agree that the shift in pov to the man was strange. Also, many sections felt a bit overdone. For instance soggy wet beards that look like schnauzers, voices sounding like arrythmic gravel falling on wet cement. The story may have benefited from some tightening of the language. Finally, there were many sections in which I could feel the young girl’s nervousness, but there were too many other sections in which I was being told of her nervousness. A sweet story overall.

  • I enjoyed this story a lot.

    For an adult male author to write from the POV of a Japanese girl so convincingly was quite amazing.

  • It is not often I give up on a story but I did with this one. Sorry, but the descriptions kept tripping me up and I never connected with the story.

  • rajdeep

    I so enjoyed this story, thank you! 🙂

  • ajcap

    Loved the whole darn thing, but especially the ending.

    The idea of origami using a McDonald’s wrapper is brilliant. Wondering how she did it when the wind was so strong took me out of the story for a moment but not enough to spoil the image.

    Not sure about the ‘cultural bias’ comment. The Japanese are polite, aren’t they? When does something true become something stereotypical?

  • The girl is stereotyping the man because he drinks milk and eats pizza, but she has a McDonald’s wrapper in her backpack. That made me smile. I suspect the two cultures aren’t so different after all.

  • Rob

    So Japanese.

  • Rose Gardener

    Lovely. 🙂

  • bones and windcharms: nice idea, but I can’t actually get the realism of the metaphor myself. The other metaphors seem to work OK.

    I like the story, and can see the point of it.


  • ajcap

    Didn’t think of that, Debi. The foreigner began the politeness by buffering and the young girl responded with a gift. Consideration on both parts for their fellow man. I suspect the two cultures aren’t so different after all.

    Like the story even more now.

  • A nice cross-cultural tale showing kindness and appreciation between the disparate characters even though language was not available to express it. Deeds are more powerful than words…sometimes.

    I didn’t get this line: “He was doing something kind for her, and all she could think of were the rumours about him.” I didn’t think she knew who he was when she first saw him. She surmises he is the new teacher, and then this line made me feel like there was something unpleasant said about him, but never explained. Maybe I’m trying to read too much into it.

    Anyway, good story, three stars worth…

  • This story written in third person POV, has one considering the humours that strangers-to-one-another sometimes have to put up with. I thought that the girl, in the rear of the break-wind, was going to give him her sandwich. I’m glad there was no indulgence in that cliche. The paper crane is just the right light keepsake gift for such a brief yet considerate meeting.

  • Gretchen

    It made me smile. Nice job!

  • JenM

    Aww, this was just so sweet! A fiver for me.

  • Thanks for the comments and for taking the time to read my short story! I’ve been busy at work and came home today to be pleasantly surprised that the story was published so quickly!

  • Sergio Flores

    It’s great to see this young author taking his writing in new directions. I’m much more a fan of Mr. Klassen’s slash fiction/fandom, but this is nice too.

  • Eric Conrad

    Did anyone else notice the teach English in Japan ad by right above the story? Now that made me laugh.

  • lepifera

    No wonder I completely miss the point of the story, for I did not realize the scene is described partly from a child’s point of view. I had imagined her to be a teacher, not a student at her elementary, and hence my bafflement at the ensuing interactions between the two characters.

    “On windy days like today it felt more like she was living on top of a Japanese Alp rather than in a valley between them.” Somehow I thought the story is written from the limited POV of the girl and mistook this sentence to be her thought, and hence over-estimated her age from the very beginning.

    It is amazing how small details can really trip up a careless reader. That aside, this story is indeed cozy.

  • Eric Conrad

    So apropos (the ad I mean)

  • Random Student

    Your story made it in the STAAR test, thanks

  • Random Student

    Your story made it in the STAAR test, thanks

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