Unfortunately, Tony wasn’t in America. The window held display platters of Japanese cuisine: squid spaghetti, fish-head soup, and a number of things that he didn’t have the stomach to identify. Thank god I can’t smell it. He tapped the glass, expecting something to move in the display.
“They no real. They… plastic.”
“You know, when I said I was hungry enough to eat a horse, I didn’t really want to eat a horse.”
“Horse very good. Uma sashimi.”
“You can keep your raw meat, Chin. I need a steak. Comprende steak?”
“I no Chin! Chinese name,” he said, tiptoeing to make eye contact with Tony. “I Choukichi… Mean lasting luck.”
“Whatever, CooCooCaChoo. I gave you a thousand yen to take me to a decent restaurant, and this ain’t it.”
“Hai, very good; you try.”
“No thanks. Look Choo, I’ve been here for a month eating salad and tofu. I finally slipped my wife for a couple hours while she gets her hair done or nails or whatever it is, and I want edible food,” Tony checked his watch. I can’t even get a hot dog at the stadium without Jenny finding out. I swear she’s a damn spook.
Tony’s wife had always been fine with his eating habits while they were dating, even for the first year of the marriage, but she’d suddenly turned vegetarian when he returned from coaching a road-game in Tulsa. It seemed odd, but he weathered her new-found views on animal cruelty, avoiding her speeches by choking down her meals and cheating when he could. She went so far as to pack lunches that never made it past the dumpster outside the Ballpark; he had his ways — until a new gig with the Chunichi Dragons intervened. “It’ll be more money, you’ll be coaching a pro team, and Japan is beautiful!” Why did I listen to that insane woman?
“Why she no let you eat?”
“’Cause she’s a vegan devil, that’s why. Just find me a steak, and not no raw fish, horse, or any other nasty meat around here. Cow, you understand cow?”
“Hai, beef. Bi-fu,” Choukichi said.
“I ain’t trying to learn Japan-ize; just find me the damn steak!” Tony roared like a spring bear.
“You come. I show you very good place.”
Tony followed the man through bustling alleys filled with vendors shouting their wares, old men hunched over on canes, and women. Women! A silk dress and umbrella passed by with grace; high heels and a short skirt bent down to look at apples; a red dress brushed his arm, and he smiled. This place ain’t so bad.
“Hey choo-choo, how’s about telling me were those famous massagi girls are?”
“You no need pay for girl,” Choukichi said, pointing at a restaurant. “You go inside, very good steak; pretty woman too.”
“How am I going to pick up a girl? I don’t speak the lingo.”
“Two thousand yen, I tell.”
“Twenty more dollars? I already gave you a thousand yen to get me here.”
“I tell, you get girlfriend free. I no tell, massagi girl very expensive.”
“All right, you little thief.” Tony dug in his wallet for the yen and handed it to Choukichi. “This better be good.”
“Find pretty girl; buy her drink; tell her, kuranke saseko.”
“Hai, very big compliment, you get girlfriend.”
“Daddy going to get some tonight,” Tony said, patting Choukichi on the back before fading into the shadowed entrance of the building.
Jennifer stepped out from the adjacent alley. She wore Wranglers and a white button-down shirt, her blonde hair cropped at the chin. She slipped up to Choukichi and touched his shoulder. He jumped and then smiled. He’s cute.
“Why did you tell him to say ‘diseased whore’?” Jennifer asked.
“You speak Japanese?” Choukichi laughed, his cheeks flushing.
“I was a Navy brat; bounced around your country for eight years,” Jennifer said. “How about you — where did you learn English?”
“My mother taught me, but I really achieved fluency when I spent four years attending the University of Chicago.” Choukichi said.
“Then why were you speaking in broken English?”
“Tourists are quicker to open their wallets for a stereotypical show.”
Jennifer smiled. “Maybe so, but why ‘diseased whore’?”
“Hai, kuranke saseko. What can I say; that man deserves to get slapped.”
“He is my husband.”
“Excuse my saying this, but any man who would fill his garden with weeds when he has such an exquisite flower, well, he deserves to get slapped.”
“Yes you’re right, he does.” Jennifer touched his arm, a crooked smile emerging. “That’s just my evil side agreeing with you.”
“He did call you the Devil.”
“I am, and Japan is hell.” Jennifer tucked her hair behind her ear, a wicked sparkle lighting her eyes. “Don’t get me wrong, I love it here, but I knew Tony would be miserable.”
“Listening to him tell it, I think the fact that you’re a vegetarian makes him miserable.”
“Well, the truth is: I’m really not a vegan,” Jennifer confessed.
“I don’t understand.”
“Tony runs around on me, and in return, I torture him with food or anything else I can dream up,” Jennifer smiled. “I know it must seem to be a strange relationship to you, but leaving him doesn’t seem to be enough punishment.”
“I see; I am very sorry — ”
“Some men don’t know how to treat women.”
“And some do,” Choukichi said. “Can I take you to dinner?”
“I was about to destroy his plans for the night, but since you’ve done that already…”
“Tony is buying.” Choukichi held out 3,000 yen.
“Since it’s my husband’s money,” she took his arm, “I think that it would be okay.”
“Sushi?” Choukichi asked.
“Hai kudasi,” Jennifer replied.
timothy l jones is a 37-year-old writer who currently lives in Sasebo, Japan. His extensive travel through Europe, Asia, and North America has flavored his work with multicultural realism. He has completed two novel length works and many short stories that represent his passion for storytelling.