Posts Tagged ‘writing’


Illustrated by Max Currie

Whether dreaming or not, he recognized the theme song from The Strange Bonanza. He’d kept up with his old show, hoping it would fail without him. But it maintained its top-two ranking in the 8 to 9 p.m. slot. He recognized a few of his old cast mates.

Petite Plum screamed at the camera, a string of absurdities Kent couldn’t follow. Joe Three-toe with his pencil-thin moustache and his famous foot was there.

Reina Morioka, the elder matron of Japanese soap opera, who he believed had come on to him in his dressing room one evening after a shoot.

Nami Panda sat smiling, her white-white teeth gleaming against the J-pop star’s carroty makeup.

Kokoro Kodo’s magnificent tits nearly popped from her shiny satin top, squeezed into a rising bubble of soft flesh.

On each end of the talent console a young woman in bloated blue satin dress, oversized bloomers underneath, and colossal blue bow atop her head roosted like a sexy Alice blown up while high on magic mushrooms. Around them set designers had created a wonderland of giant monitors with images to satisfy any ADHD audience: blinking lights, and varieties of Styrofoam kanji and patterned shapes, all in vivid colors as if Alice had fallen not into a rabbit hole but a Tokyo department store display window. The console girls beamed and giggled on cue.

Kent watched the show, but spent most of the episode thinking of Midori in her red leather cosplay suit. He’d seen her in a new way, the glistening fabric, wide-eyed mask, pale yellow cups, and magnificent leather V. The plumping tummy. Just as Ozman had gone trance with his katana, Midori had disappeared inside an interior terrain, a place where Kent Richman didn’t exist or matter. And he wanted in, wanted to peek inside, find out what the big deal was. For Midori, Oji-san and his friends, their costumed life was home. Kent Richman could be happy with that.



Illustrated by Max Currie

Ozman resurfaced much the way Kent had played his own revenge scene in a made-for-television drama that never made it to the television. He starred as the twin brother of a New York English teacher working in Japan who goes missing after a run-in with high-level yakuza. Kent played both twins, the dead one in flashbacks. The protagonist has come from the United States to get to the bottom of his twin’s mysterious disappearance. Upon discovering the yakuza connection, Kent’s character tracks down the people responsible for what he discovers is his brother’s death and exacts his revenge with violent ferocity. But not before his character meets and subsequently falls in love with his dead twin’s Japanese girlfriend. Kent recalled staring down into the camera (or the face of the yakuza baddie), his own face filling the frame, just as Ozman’s mug filled the frame as he peered down at Kent in a POV shot: maniacal sneer, rain dripping from his face, eyes wide with zeal, head shaved to a wet sheen. Except for the shaved head, Kent too had sneered and dripped and gone Jack Nicholson in The Shining all over the scene. A film critic for Tokyo Journal who had been invited to a preproduction rehearsal wrote: “Mr. Richman plays the vengeful brother like community theater on steroids.” Soon after the article ran, the movie lost its greenlight status.

Kent suspected he was dreaming again, lost in some series of cause-and-effect fantasy, his paranoia and ill state producing hallucinations bred by his worst fears. He’d thought of little else since he learned of Ozman’s escape. Until he noticed the black-handled chisa katana in a lacquered scabbard around Ozman’s waist, Kent believed he was safe in his reverie, if still on the ground outside Cedars and in a stupor.


EYES ch. 25

Illustrated by Max Currie

How helpless and pathetic Kumi had looked. How ridiculous, with clownish lipstick around her mouth and face. One part desperation and one part inspiration, Kent had begun to pick at the duct tape with his guitar-playing nails. Ozman turned on the video of Kent and Monique, the one Kumi had made viral—Kent at Monique from behind. Ozman circled Kumi in ritualistic hunker as the video played.

Where Ozman had once been composed by his anger, he’d come unhinged, his eyes vacant, lost in his own performance. The ceremony about to begin. He seemed to have forgotten Kent for his dance with Kumi. How does it feel to be ME! The nutso Australian comic drew his dialogue from a long list of dramatic crazies, his pokerfaced delivery seemingly sincere. For a distracted minute, as Ozman rifled through his bottomless bag of humiliating and painful acts, Kent became preoccupied by his game of trying to match Ozman’s cinematic sentences with actual movies, actual villains. James Cagney as Cody Jarrett. Robert Mitchum as Max Cady. Dennis Hopper as Frank Booth.



Illustrated by Max Currie


Now, how does it feel to be one of the beautiful people? Ozman said, as he applied lipstick to Kumi’s celebrated pouty lips. Her efforts at resistance only smeared the makeup across her cheeks and over her chin, until she looked like an inept clown. She laughed weakly. The defiance that had been there died, fear growing like the dark rose around Kent’s eye. Ozman gently lifted Kumi’s hair from her eyes, inspected his work, then stood and turned to include Kent, opening his arms. Now, for my final and most magnificent trick.

A ghostly Middle Eastern rhythm played on the stereo, its spell maintained by an electronic hum, hand slaps against a drum, and the drone of vaporous voices. Outside, the sun sank beneath dark scattered clouds, as if somewhere in Tokyo an oil fire burned. Sunlight reflected off the skyscrapers’ glass. A stormy autumn evening was on its way.

Your husband ruined my marriage. Do you understand that? My one and only. Something you people don’t seem to know anything about. Ozman pulled Kumi up by her arms to her knees and bent to kiss her, more a caricature of a kiss than anything. You think I didn’t love her, is that it? That it was just some made-for-TV thing? A part of the act? Ozman stared at Kumi. His eyes watered and he shook his head. I loved her, you stupid, stupid people.

Kent struggled harder against the duct tape but couldn’t free himself. Kumi had turned her head up to the ceiling, away from Kent’s. He was grateful; he had nothing to offer her but panic and regret. Ozman stepped away. He touched his hands to his lips, muttered as if in prayer and stared out at the darkening sky. He didn’t speak again for at least a minute. Kent thought Ozman might have changed his mind, seen the folly in his revenge scenario. He thought Ozman might forgive him if he asked.



Illustration by Max Currie

Kent scanned Midori’s face for some hint of motivation. What drove this woman to want to know so much about him? To care when he was no one to care about? The concentration required all of his energy, the last of which was fading fast, motivation to move replaced by an odd euphoria. A Beatles song came to him. Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you— Kent had sung the song in a crooner’s tempo for an outdoor benefit, the host organization lost on him now. The Beatles song was upbeat but the producers didn’t think Kent could pull it off and asked him to slow it way down until it became a ballad. As did most of his live numbers, the song barely rose above karaoke. The producers had even dressed him in a satin blue jacket and black slacks, a white shirt with an open collar. Somewhere along the way Tony Bennett had subverted his association with John Lennon, but he didn’t care.

More than the details of his bizarre performance, Kent remembered the way he felt that evening under hot lights on an outdoor stage, rain falling over a festival audience. Nothing in his life compared with the moment he looked across a sea of swaying arms, some wrapped in parkas, others braving the steady drizzle that had fallen all afternoon leaving the sports field a muddy mess. Midway through the song, Kent felt the lyrics rising out of him mechanically, like his feet moving under him across the stage, and his arm wave to the crowd, acknowledging their cheers, their camera flashes and applause. Kent had never felt more like a hero. And he’d been straight for the performance, though afterwards he beelined for the green room and the bottles of whiskey lined up for the talent, the only thing he found that helped him contain his good feeling before it lifted and vanished. Kent watched the rest of the benefit from a corner just off stage, marveling at the life he’d come in to and happy to be alone in his bliss. He found he needed nothing more from the moment. He declined invitations to do drugs and skipped the after party, happy to head home where he hoped Kumi waited for him in bed, a book in her lap, the soft glow of lamplight warming the room. He felt that way again, with Midori, a blissful, painless satisfaction.

Kent had closed his eyes, for how long he didn’t  know, when Midori kissed him gently on the mouth. Her lips were warm and soft, so soft that Kent felt as if this was the first time they’d ever kissed, then remembered that it was.