BYRM: An Excerpt & an Illustration – Chapter Four – Big in Japan

Posted: March 1, 2013 in BYRM - An Excerpt & an Illustration
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BYARM_Big In Japan cropped

“Isn’t that you?” She pointed to a muted television above the bar. And it was. The television played an old clip from The Strange Bonanza. Kent Richman had been one of the most popular gaijin talents since the “two Kents”: Kent Gilbert and Kent Derricott. The show on television could have been any episode in the two years he’d been a regular on the program. The Real Kent Richman looked to see if others in the bar were watching, but only the unremarkable woman in chocolate tones beside him had noticed. The television scene froze just as TV Kent looked into the camera, mouth gaping, eyes half open, narrowed as if giving the camera, the audience, all of Japan the stink eye. Kanji were stamped dramatically above his frozen head to the sounds of gunshot: Where—is—he—now? Good question, Kent conceded. Good question.


As if timed to answer for him, an image from Kent’s last Tokyo gig a few months earlier popped up next to his disembodied head: a subway poster for a second-rate English language school franchise. You still stink of Ozman, Renzo had told him when rationalizing why he couldn’t get better jobs for him. Kent rubbed at two neat, round scars on either side of his right forearm—each pink blemish the size of a shirt button. They seemed to throb and swell with the thought of Ozman. The television image was replaced with a pixelated photograph of Kent leaving a convenience store in baseball cap, full-length raincoat over gray sweats, and cheap plastic slippers, as if he’d accidentally walked out in his bathroom shoes. His hair was already longer and his beard growing out. The angle suggested he was leaving the store cautiously, as if trying to hide what he was doing. Another photograph emphasized his hollow cheeks, while another showed him putting a bottle to his mouth.


This was supposed to be his getting away, again. This refuge from the city and the cramped pod he’d been living in, in the countryside like a good tortured artist. But even what should’ve been an uneventful train ride out had been fraught with unpleasant reminders of his past. Two hours by local train from Tokyo. Not a bad ride at all. Kent had the hockey bag full of his stuff, the only things he owned and had unpacked from the capsule hotel storage locker, which he’d skipped out on, a month’s rent in arrears. Among his stuff was the souvenir bottle of Kent!, his signature cologne. Halfway to Azuma, a big-haired Japcore wannabe in tight black pants and red cowboy boots unintentionally kicked Kent’s bag as he passed. He bent down to check Allan’s urn then saw it. A stain growing along the bottom of his bag. Then he smelled it. The Kent! scent was too much in the crowded train car. Other passengers opened windows and placed handkerchiefs over their faces. The woman sleeping next to Kent woke with a gasp, knocking her head against the window. She sniffed the air, looked at the tall American, his bag, and stood, covering her mouth with her hand. One old woman scolded him for his disrespect. Another waddled on at Omiya Station, wrinkled her nose, and stopped before him. Already short, her bent posture put her face squarely in front of Kent’s. She smiled a leathery smile, her eyes twinkling, and leaned in close. She held a plastic bag before him. “Umeboshi ikaga desu ka?” Kent took a pickled plum, thanked her, and ate the sour fruit with a smile, the remaining hour and a half made a little easier with her kindness.



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