Contemporary Fiction

Cherry Blossom

Just on the edge of the city, there is Sanji, a quaint little flower shop. The shopkeeper there is a quiet little soul with a bundt hairstyle who’s also a virtuoso with flowers. Kenzo Takahashi stood cluelessly in front of a sea of bouquets, as the shopkeeper relentlessly buzzed around him, primping each arrangement. They played hide and seek with each other for about fifteen minutes. Dissatisfied, Kenzo just shook and scratched his head.

“I see you like my hydrangeas.” said the shopkeeper.

“They’re very nice.”

“What’s the occasion?”

“It’s special,” Kenzo said.

“You’re interested?” Asked the shopkeeper.


“You’re not sure how you feel?”




“They’re special?”


The shopkeeper smiled.

“You can always go with Orchids.” she said.

“I have to go!“Kenzo exclaimed. The time on his watch said it was time to scurry. With great exertion, he gathered momentum struggling against the peddles of his bicycle until it began to move forward and he was free of the sidewalk. He peddled to the fish school where Yoshu was waiting.

Yoshu was an artisan. One would never think it to look the demure mannerism of sixty-five inch tall, balding, old man with the fagu splayed out on the redwood in front of him, but when Yoshu seized a filet knife and it danced across either side of his honing stick, at perfect cadence, his students hung on his every word. The huddled students eagerly awaited his first move.

“To be a fugu chef is a huge achievement,” Yoshu began. “In order to be a fugu chef you must first serve yourself. And you-” he said pointing at the dozing student with a wide-mouth collared shirt.

“You sleepy?”

“Slice it like so,” He plunged the filet knife into Fagu’s belly.

“Your lips start to tingle.”

Yoshu delicately sliced the fagu laying out on a plate a wafer-thin slice for each student.

“Do you have what it takes?” he asked, then he passed it to them. “Go on, take a piece. You must learn to do this yourself.”

The students hesitated at first until Yoshu picked up a piece.

“Who wants to be first?” he asked, putting it to his lips. “Come on, I know one of you got something down there.”

The student in the collared shirt was the first to eat the fugu. He and Yonsu finished at the same time.

“That’s what I’m talking about. How do you feel?”

“I feel alive.”

Amidst the sudden cheering, Yoshu saw Kenzo sheepishly enter the classroom.

“Next lesson,” he said, “How properly scale fishes.”

He laid out a carp on each of their cutting boards and excused himself. Kenzo was quietly slipping into his chef’s jacket in the next room when Yoshu walked in.

“I know, I’m late,” Kenzo said, sighing deeply.

Yoshu put a hand on one hip.

“Sometimes you don’t got to say nothing at all.”

“I needed to buy flowers.”

Yoshu took the countertop next to Kenzo. The smell of fish guts was still heavy on the towel in his right hand.

“You also need food, shelter, mone—”

“She’s special.”

Yoshu sat back on the countertop.

“Tell me about this one.”

“Her name is Ishe.”

“how long?”

Kenzo laughed.

“As long as I can.”

“What you know about women.”


“When do I get to meet her?”

“I’ll bring her around on Wednesday.” Kenzo buttoned the chef’s jacket.

“I’ve been busy,” he added.

“What about you?”

“I’m passed all that.”

“Kokoro still likes you.”

Yonshu swatted the name away.

“That’s why I got”

Yonshu saw a younger version of himself in Kenzo as Kenzo combed back thick locks. He ran a hand over the island of baldness that was his head. Yonshu scooted forward on the counter, preparing to shove himself to the ground when Kenzo took him by the arm.

“Oh, I got it,” said Yonshu. He skipped as soon as his feet landed and hobbled off. His words stayed in the air, a wagging finger in Kenzo’s mind. He often thought of his pop, the tireless chef. The man who could fix anything. Yonshu knew spices and his rice was never bland. Kenzo smiled at himself in the mirror tugging the toque to just the right spot on his head. It was a chef’s crown.

From his pocket, Kenzo slid a photo of Ishe and stuck it on the lower edge of the mirror. That day, he’d caught Ishe by surprise. It was a rain-soaked morning with grey overtones.

“Ishe”, he called to her.

“What?! I’m busy”

“Have you seen the most valuable thing I have?”


Sprawled lazily on the couch, he timed it perfectly, as her head jutted around a corner.

“And now, I don’t have to look for it.”

She ran over and fell over him, and he scooped her to his side.

“My hair!”, she said, critiquing his work.

Her tangled hair fell from his hand.

“Is curly,” he said.

That was, they’d been to each other ever since. In the mirror, Kenzo wiped smudges off the mirror from Yonshu’s towel. There was fagu still on the mirror. He was careful to rinse his hands in a nearby sink. The first time he’d tried fugu, he was eleven. He saw Yonshu in the kitchen, towel flung over his shoulder. Kenzo shed tears at the onion Yonshu diced.

“Why do onions always make me cry?” Asked Kenzo.

“I don’t know, ” Yonshu replied. “Maybe because they’re sad.” He scoped the pile into his meaty hand and dumped it into the boiling soup on the stove.

“What’s this?” Kenzo asked, peeling the lid from the ice chest.

“Pufferfish,” Yonshu replied. He expanded his cheeks. “They blow up when they get scared.”

“I want to try”

“One day, but not right now.”

Yonshu encased a sliced carrot into Kenzo’s tiny hand.

“Patience,” Yonshu said.

Kenzo smiled. Those days were kind. There were only the docks of youth, where his bare feet dangled for hours watching his bobbing lure float along the surface of the waters. When it dipped his heart skipped a beat, thinking there was a fish. Hanami was over the horizon.

The Yoshino trees would Blanche soon. Ishe would collect the blossoms in her palm as they descended to the earth. She would look at them in her hand, admiring their delicacy. He’d cup her hand in his palm and try to see the blossoms through her eyes. He’d seen it before. Kenzo sighed and turned down the lights.

In the kitchen, Yonshu silently attended to the menu. Akira, Rin, and Sogo arrived. Sogo and Rin replaced the napkins at the tables, while Akira began dicing vegetables in preparation for the evening customers.

“Do you enjoy cooking,” Kenzo asked Yonshu, tieing an apron around his waist.

“It keeps the lights on,” Yonshu replied.

Saito watched the arm of a giant Bulldozer as it passed overhead. Its teeth scooped up and spit out rubble. The sand shifted under his loafers, as he went inside of his trailer. From inside Saito listened to the vacuum of the opening screen door. Whenever the air lingered, but the door didn’t open, Saito knew it was His partner Haruto. Scant sunlight fell on the dimly lit interior as Haruto entered loudly ending his conversation with a coworker. Haruto stepped closer to Saito’s seat. “It’s so much easier with a ballpoint.”

“That’s not calligraphy,” Saito said.

Haruto’s chin drooped admiring Saito’s penmanship.

“That’s something I haven’t seen in many years.”

Haruto sat in one of the cushioned chairs behind Saito. His hardhat went in the adjacent one. Saito continued writing without looking up. In the quiet, Haruto could hear Saito’s brushstrokes against the parchment paper and the hushed viscosity of the ink as the brush as Saito dipped it.

“Shodo is lost upon this generation,” Saito said.

“Tell it to my oldest. Knows everything about technology, but nothing about

“Have you never

Saito laughed. “One day he will learn to play sodoku.”

“It was my father’s. And his father before him. In my younger years, I would spend many hours practicing.”

“The day is still young, why not start a new hobby.”

“Such as?”


Saito took a piece of paper and folded it diagonally, pressed the crease, and laid it flat.

“That was a crisp fold,” Haruto said.

“Thank you,” Saito said. He folded another edge a quarter of the way along the centerline.

“Remarkable,” Haruto said.”Do you also knit?”

Saito chuckled and continued straightening the crease.

“Let me guess your father?” Haruto said, draining a water bottle halfway.

“My Aunt.”

Saito spun slightly towards Haruto but continued folding the paper in the opposite direction on his lap.

“She said, there is always Origami.”

“Too many folds,” Haruto said. “That paper will need a chiropractor before you’re done.”

Saito chuckled.

“So many things to make.”

“Today, I’m thinking about the wind.”

Saito formed a paper crane and pressed it in his hands. He pinched its head between his fingers and lifted it for Haruto to see. Haruto gave him a measured applause.

“You see my friend, there is nothing I can “


“On my dashboard.”


“Chasing nousagi across my dashboard,” Saito said. Contemplating the answer, he paused. “There is one thing.”

Haruto’s eyebrows furled slightly.

“What is that?”

“a perfect shape.”


Saito shook his head.

“Takogata?” asked Haruto.

Haruto formed an invisible woman with his hands.

Saito laughed. “I will know it when I see it.”

“I hope you find it soon.”

Haruto crinkled his water bottle downing the contents in one massive gulp. He then offered the empty bottle to Saito, who politely refused. Haruto chucked it on the floor behind him and sneezed.

“It’s most beautiful in the spring when the trees are in blossom.”

“When I am done here, I’ll bring my burushito.” Saito added. “If I ever have time to get away.”

“You must make time,” Haruto said.

“Should I fold the clock like a piece of paper?” Saito asked.

“If you have to,” Haruto said. “At least then time is always on. What are we doing here?” Haruto’s finger waved wistfully through the air. “A couple of Ossan.”

“I’m happily letting my imagination roam. Years ago, in school, I used to steal away to the top of the staircases and climb into the maintenance hatches. A notebook was my only companion. I would stay up there for hours, and with the wind in my ears, I would notice the shapes. How they would sit against the blue sky. How they would fit in.”

“So why didn’t you take ikebana?”

Saito laughed.

“I got nothing to tell, except space invaders.”

“You want to beat an arcade game?” Saito asked.

Haruto stood. The hardhat went back on his head, and he silently stretched. There was a slight bounce as the stretch subsided.

“I always wanted to beat the high score. If it wasn’t for that dang bug.”

Haruto left and Saito looked around the room. It was missing something. There was a certain decorum to the room. They were opposites that balanced each other. yin and yang about it. Haruto’s desk was always a bit disheveled with papers haphazardly layered each other in messy piles over the football turf patch that covered the wood of his desk. Saito always noticed the little cactus sitting on the upper shelf of the desk.

“It didn’t require a lot, ”Haruto said, “It didn’t ask much of me.”

The thought brought a smile to Saito’s face. Under the shelf, tacked to the back wall of the desk were photos of his family. Saito was tempted to ask who the boy was on his desk. Haruto never said much, but from the picture, he gathered it must have been his son, or a relative. Haruto was a whisper of a man. He somehow managed to hold an entire conversation, without ever filling in the blanks of himself. He’d entered the project after Saito’s last partner had left. Saito’s expectations were high. He was three weeks behind schedule, and well over budget. Saito’s partner vehemently refuted Saito’s questions, quit, and was nowhere to be found.

Haruto quietly stepped in forming a covalent bond with the team. He never yelled or shouted, but he was there. That’s all that mattered to Saito. A week after Haruto arrived they were back on schedule and that was the only thing that mattered. Saito was not one to pry. It was just an itch that gnawed at his brain, like gangrenous tissue. It was there waiting to be scratched. Occasionally, he’d see Haruto pacing the floor of the trailer. Haruto would just casually walk out of the trailer, and Saito would see the very top of his yellow hardhat pacing below of the trailer window. He was calm and reticent. At some point, Saito would venture to ask, but not before Hanami.

Outside the leaves had begun to blanche. There was a sprawling cherry tree, which had turned magnificent white around the edges and rogue along the base. Its branches floated and fluttered in the wind. The petals fell to the ground blanketing the sands. Saito had become accustomed to it, and Haruto just sneezed. Saito pinched the paper crane in his fingers and set it on his desk. Not bad for an ornament, if he admired his own handiwork.

With the receiver to his ear, Kenzo sat down in his living room.

“You know, I always do,” Kenzo said. He peeled his socks off, and stuffed them inside his shoes.

“No. who walks inside of the house with their shoes on?” Kenzo asked, rolling his eyes playfully. “In most houses, my shoes would’ve been off before I stepped on the front rug.”

He scooped his shoes up underneath the bench by the front door.

“You know I always do. Isn’t that right tabby?” Kenzo asked, petting his kitten, Sozo. “No, I found him in the streets. I’ve become attached.” Kenzo said, cupping the kitten to himself, and stroking the kitten’s fur.

“I don’t know what he’d do without me.” He placed the receiver on the other side. “I’m hooked.” Kenzo chuckled. “Yes. What makes you think I haven’t found someone.” He said, quirking an eyebrow. He wiggled his toes on the soft mat in his living room, before placing Sozo on the ground and heading to the kitchen. In the kitchen, he reached into the pantry and retrieved a small porcelain dish. He uncorked a jug of milk and filed the dish, placing it on the ground for Sozo. The bell on Sozo’s collar clang as Sozo skipped happily to his milk plate.

“Well, of course, I’m helping dad,” Kenzo said. “He works. Same as always. I don’t know.” The cabinet door closed forcefully. “I’m doing as much as I can right now.” Kenzo and Sozo looked at each other for a brief second. “Tell him that,” Kenzo added. “Alright, I will talk to you later. Love you. Bye.” Kenzo hung up the receiver. He took the seat next to Sozo.

“It’s about time to get you a new teacup,” he said. “You’re getting big.” He placed Sozo in his lap.

“What am I going to do, boy?” he asked, Sozo. “I’ve got a dad who loves to work. A woman who likes to work my dad, and hopefully one day, I’ll have a girl who likes to work me.” He glanced at Sozo. “What do you think? You want another person taking care of you?” he asked. Sozo meowed. Sozo went back on the ground and Kenzo headed to his bedroom and changed into his Pajamas. “What am I going to eat?” He asked Sozo. “For a chef, I should have a favorite dish, but I don’t really. What do you think? Sushi? Maybe, I will just warm up some soup.”

Kenzo began rummaging through the refrigerator. Through the boxes of takeout, he settled on a bottle of fermented tea. He untwisted the lid and took a long swig. The fermentation went straight to the back of his throat. The first time Kenzo discovered Kambucha, he wasn’t sure what it was. The kindly vendor simply uncapped the lid and shoved it in his hands. It was more acidulous than he was accustomed to.

“What’s this?”

“Try it” Insisted the vendor. After the second swig, he smacked his lips together and his mouth pursed. Fifteen minutes later his face was still furloughed. He became more accustomed to it as time went on. Then, it grew on him even more, until it was one of his favorites. Genchi’s was like a lover’s embrace after a long day. It somehow managed to make the work week go by that much smoother. There was nothing like closing the shop, and seeing the rim-lit interior at the end of the day, and knowing Genchi’s was waiting in the fridge. It would clear his head after he’d had a restless day, or when he stayed up mewling over a decision, or during midterms and finals. It quieted his insides. As a child, he never quite figured out how Yonshu enjoyed bitter things. Yonshu would often drink club soda, and young Kenzo despised the aftertaste. He’d never been through a three-hour dinner rush with customers climbing down his neck. Young Kenzo would admire his father and run off with his friends. They’d peek their heads into the restaurant and wonder what all the fuss was about. Young Kenzo would listen at the edge of the kitchen swinging doors to the chatter of the patrons, wondering what it was like. He’d listen to their conversations and the stories they told. He’d watch as his father politely greeted them and politely engaged them in conversation. He seemed to know what to say to each customer. They would often listen to his recommendations, trusting him implicitly, even if they’d never tried the item before. Kenzo laughed. That was Yonshu, he always seemed to have time for his guest, regardless of how busy he was. When the kitchen doors closed, Yonshu would be one of the last to leave.

March 26, 2023 06:03

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