Extra 8: Untitled Document
Author’s Note: This is probably not BL, but it probably will continue.
Translator Note: My best guess for the reading of the brother’s name is Nami, but it’s not a very common name for a man. If I find the correct reading for it later, I’ll update it.
He probably liked Cutty Sark the best. That was what Homare thought as he moved his pencil. He wasn’t referring to the taste. At 15 years old, Homare understood nothing about the taste of alcohol (but he did have a tiny taste of it once in a while, so he couldn’t say that he didn’t know anything about it). What he liked was the shape of the bottle. It was slim, and the way that it narrowed from the shoulders to the neck to the lip was beautiful. He also liked how the lower portion of the body was curved in a little. Although the smooth sloping shoulders of Johnnie Walker, the rectangularity of Jack Daniel’s, the sensual curves of Chivas Regal, or even the distinctive rectangular bottle with hexagonal patterns1 weren’t bad either—
There was only one person in the house who never knocked—his older brother Nami. Nami opened the door as he called his name.
“I knew it. So you were the whiskey thief.”
“I told Mother that I was borrowing it.”
“No one told me. I was looking for it,” Nami said, confiscating the bottle.
“I’m still drawing it.”
“Uncle Eba wants to drink it. Give it up.”
Nami opened the bottle, poured some into the teacup on the desk, and downed it.
“Wasn’t there still tea in the cup?”
“Yeah, but it wasn’t too bad.”
Was it really? Nami would give any random answer that he felt like, and his words couldn’t be trusted. Nami picked up Homare’s sketchbook and started flipping through it.
“Is it that fun to draw these things?”
It was a frank question, so Homare gave a frank answer.
“I draw because it’s fun.”
“Call me over when you sketch nudes.”
“Even of men?”
“Idiot,” his brother laughed. “You should draw things like Andy Warhol. They look more fun than flowers or bottles, and they seem simpler too. You could sell them for a fortune to some rich buffoon.”
“For art like that, only the person who thinks of it first gets any glory.”
“But aren’t there plenty of artists who imitate Picasso?”
A technique that had now become orthodox was different from the imitation of an artist. However, Homare possessed no insight that would enable him to hold a discussion about the finer points of the difference, and it wasn’t like Nami was particularly interested in the topic either. In fact, Homare thought that this brother of his had no interest in anything in the world. There was a free and easy lightness to Nami—his heart never dropped anchor anywhere, and this quality of his made people yearn to capture him. Nami possessed that sort of mysterious attraction about him.
“Uncle Eba also wanted to see you. Let’s go.”
“But I’m an exam student.”
“What are you saying when you basically doodle all the time? The Diet’s extraordinary session just closed, and he’s in a good mood. Humor him a little.”
Homare sighed and headed for the tatami room. Eba was an old friend of their father’s, and he was almost like a relative to them. It wasn’t that Homare didn’t like seeing him, but after an extraordinary session of the Diet with alcohol in his system, all that Eba talked about was politics. He argued about a bill or the draft budget for the next fiscal year, complained that something wasn’t enough or was a stupid waste, or criticized the other members or the secretaries. The point was that it was boring.
“Hey, Homare, glad that you could come. Here, sit down. How’s studying for your exams? Going well?”
Eba beckoned him over with a reddened face, and Homare sat down at the table. His brother teased, “‘Glad that you could come?’ This is our house, you know,” and Eba yelled, “What’s with that mouth!? And you still live with your parents!”
Apparently even leaders of the ruling party flinched when Eba yelled at them on the Diet floor, but Nami grinned at him with a wholly unbearable smirk. He loved to tease Eba who could lose his temper at the drop of a hat, and it was clear that Eba was fond of Nami while he yelled at him for his impudent behavior.
“You’re going to be one brazen politician one of these days,” Eba said, pouring the Cutty Sark that Homare had been drawing into a glass with ice. And plenty of it.
“I haven’t decided if I’ll grant you the satisfaction.”
“Grant me the satisfaction? What do you mean ‘grant me the satisfaction’?”
“If the day comes when I put on that badge and step out onto the red carpet, you’ll probably cry out of sheer joy.”
“If you announce your candidacy for my party, sure, that could happen.”
“Not a chance. Why would I join such a powerless little party?” Nami said easily. “You can’t pass the things that you want to do. You’re only useful when other parties need you to make up the votes, which means that you’re nothing but a tool to them. I’d rather go where the real power is.”
“What are you saying? You’re young. Don’t just try to take the easy route all the time.” Eba pulled a face. “Powerless little parties are a necessary part of the system. There aren’t many people who value the worth of a single yen, but we’d all be troubled without the one yen coin.”
“Just round it up to the five yen coin.”
“Good grief, you sure have a remark for everything… Kai, what the hell kind of upbringing did you give them here?”
Their father, who now took the brunt of the attack, smiled wryly. “This is just how teenagers are. They know no fear.”
But Homare thought that it wasn’t quite right. Fear was likely a circuit that came disconnected at birth, but it could be learned and connected. But for his brother, it wasn’t an unknown that could later be known—it was something in his head that would never exist. That a person like Nami were to become a politician (which he probably would, in the future), Homare had no idea if it was a good thing or a bad thing.
Nami shook him awake that night at a late hour.
“We have guests.”
It wasn’t like they never received guests in the middle of the night.
“No, he went out drinking with Uncle Eba. It’s someone who Grandma knows supposedly.”
Homare checked the alarm clock next to his bed, and the glow of the green phosphorescent hands showed a time around 2:30 am. What kind of acquaintance were they and what did they come here for at this time of night? And he didn’t understand why his brother had come to wake him up for this.
“To be more precise, it’s the daughter of her best friend from her girls’ school days.”
“Hnn, good night.”
Homare yawned and tried to go back to bed, but Nami tugged the covers away.
“Don’t sleep. I’m not done talking here. So that daughter of her classmate, she ran away from her husband who was in a drunken rage. And brought their child with her.”
“They’re one year younger than you, so a pretty old one though.”
A pretty old child. The expression made Homare laugh a little.
Homare thought that maybe Nami wanted to go look at the girl together, but he was wrong.
“A boy. It’s cold out, and they had him take a bath to calm down, but he hasn’t come out for about an hour now, and Mother is asking us to go check on him.”
Because there were no other men in the house, and the child’s mother was sobbing too much to go.
“You can go check on him yourself.”
“You’re closer in age to him.”
“We’re all about the same.”
If the boy was one year younger than him, that would make him three years younger than Nami. There wasn’t much of a difference.
“A year is huge when it comes to teenagers. Come on, let’s go.”
Nami was the one to call him for help, but he suddenly disappeared on the way to the bathroom. He was always fickle like that, and so Homare continued over on his own and found his mother outside of the door.
“Oh, Homare. Sorry to wake you up so late.”
“It’s fine… Is he still inside?”
“Yes. It’s dangerous if he falls asleep in there. Please go check on him.”
Homare opened the sliding door of the bathroom to enter the changing area and saw a set of clothes folded neatly in the basket. He thought that the boy had better manners than him or Nami. Homare knocked on the frosted glass door to the bathing area and wondered what he should say before he entered, but for now he called out, “Good evening.” He hadn’t heard the boy’s name. There was no answer, so he announced, “I’m opening the door,” and quietly slid it open. Inside the bathtub that could fit several full-grown adults, there was a boy sitting there with his back towards Homare hunched in on himself.
The color there was the first thing that drew Homare’s attention. He thought that it was a tattoo for a moment. From the bare shoulders down to the back, he was covered in so many bruises that it was hard to find a patch of flesh-colored skin. Homare could even see them where he quivered in the bathwater. They were a painful yellow, rusty green, gray-blue, and scarlet—a mixture of old and new. Marks from being hit and kicked on a routine basis. The pretty old child that Nami had called him had his face buried in his knees as he muffled his sobs.
“Are you okay?”
He should have left after he saw that the boy was alive, but Homare called out to him before he realized it. The boy turned around in surprise and looked at Homare with teary eyes filled with apprehension and confusion.
“Sorry, it’s obvious that you’re not okay just from looking at you. Umm…”
What should he do? If Nami were here, he could keep talking without missing a beat. As Homare stood there in his pajamas with a cardigan over his shoulders, there was the sound of the door opening. The boy flinched again in response.
His brother reappeared, carrying an armful of yuzu fruit.
“How come you have those?”
“I picked them from the yard, obviously.”
Nami sat down on the edge of the tub and dropped the yuzu into the water, unbothered by the guest who was paralyzed there.
“…Those might make it sting.”
Homare didn’t know if the citrus juice would be bad for the bruises, but Nami was wholly unconcerned for the body covered in fresh wounds.
“I’m the one who’s stinging here.” Nami thrust his hands out. “Look.”
There were red dots of blood all over the palms of his hands.
“I didn’t think that yuzu trees had thorns that sharp.”
“What about the work gloves?”
“Too much trouble. It was a spur of the moment thing when I decided to go out to the yard.”
Nami plunged his bleeding hands into the bathwater. He swirled them around as he said, “Ow, ow, ow,” before turning to the naked boy to talk to him.
“Smells nice, right? They were raised as seedlings, so they’re different from the yuzu that you normally see.”
The boy spoke for the first time in a thin, shaky voice.
“Yeah, they were raised from seeds. Yuzu trees are usually grafted. But after all this time we can finally harvest the trees that were planted as a seed when I was born.”
“Weren’t we supposed to leave them for the winter solstice celebration?”
Oh, crap, Homare thought. The tear-stained face had scrunched up in distress. The boy was frightened that maybe he had caused some kind of trouble for them. Even though Nami had been the one who picked the yuzu without giving it much thought.
Nami picked up one of the fruits and smelled the scent.
“There’s no one who can get angry at me in this house.”
Eba would probably blow his top again if he heard those words. But it was true. No one could get Nami to listen to them—not their father nor their grandfather. It wasn’t because he was the oldest or that he was well-bred. There was no way to describe it except that Nami was just that kind of person.
“Homare, what was that thing that Grandma always said? The one about the yuzu.”
“Peaches and chestnuts bear fruit in three years, and persimmons eight. But yuzus take a foolhardy eighteen?”
They chanted together, “A wife’s poor harvest lasts 60 years, but the husband’s is an entire lifetime,” and the boy laughed a little for the first time.
Nami asked, “What’s your name?” and the boy answered, “I’m Saijou Ritsu.”
When Homare returned to his room, he opened his sketchbook and flipped to the page of the unfinished Cutty Sark. He squeezed some watercolor paint onto a palette, dipped his brush into a single-stem vase that he used to hold water, and started to fill in the sketch with color. Instead of the green bottle and the yellow label, he filled it with random blues, grays, greens and reds—the colors of pain that had stretched clear and vivid like a distorted flower garden across that naked back.
Translator Note: FYI, Ushio’s name means ‘tide.’ Homare’s name means ‘honor.’ Nami’s name means ‘waves.’ The brothers’ father’s name Kai means ‘sea.’ Ritsu’s name means ‘law.’
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.