Fiction / March 2014 (Issue 23)

Incident on Abiko Street

by Mark Crimmins

When I had had enough of the bikers, I decided to take the matter into my own hands. Asako often made egg sushi for dinner, so there were always eggs in the fridge. The next time the bikers woke me up, I tiptoed back to the kitchen while Asako slept and took three eggs out of the fridge. Peering over the balcony wall, I sighted my prey. As usual, they were riding helter skelter around the intersection, two or three on each cycle, revving their engines and brandishing baseball bats and iron pipes. One waved a sword.

I retreated to the bedside and took off my pyjama jacket, so Asako wouldn't be woken by the snap of its sleeve. Then I gently slid open the part of the door just behind her head. Setting two eggs in the impression my head had left on my pillow, I took the third, wound up and hurled it over the balcony with the full force of the arm that had flung the discus for Stuyvesant High back in the day. In quick succession, I rocketed the other two over the reclining Buddha of Asako's sleeping form.

I heard jeers as the bikers revved their engines in response to my bombardment, and I crept to the balcony to have a peek. There was a drain in the balcony floor to let out rainwater, and through this, I could see the street while remaining invisible myself. Crouching down and peering through the bars of the grid, I watched the bikers brandishing their weapons upwards at the offending air. One of the riders had stopped and was clearing something from his eyes. His enraged friends vacillated between concern for him and scrutiny of the surrounding buildings. Furious threats rent the Osaka night. The outlaws weren't used to being attacked. I heard a siren coming from my left on Abiko Street, and the bikers began to leave. The injured rider was taken onto the back of another cycle, and the gang sped away eastwards along the south side of Nagai Park.

I returned to my position beside Asako and didn't fall asleep for a long time. In the morning, her exclamation was my alarm. "Ehh-heh!!" She was in the kitchen and now came into the main room. "Hey—did we have egg sushi for dinner last night?"

"Uh, no—we had sukiyaki."

"That's what I thought, but I used four eggs! What was I thinking? You only need one for sukiyaki. I've been working too hard. I think I need a holiday."

And maybe she did need a holiday. While she was at the office, I continued to type up the handwritten diaries of my travels around China. When I went out onto the balcony in the afternoon, I noticed three youths sitting on the rim of the park fountain, scanning the surrounding high-rises. I retreated to the kitchen, grabbed three more eggs, returned to the balcony, calculated my trajectories and launched my missiles. I peeped through the drain to see the effect. Two eggs had splattered in front of the youths. One of them was looking behind him at the water in the fountain pool. Nearby, an old samisen player stopped plucking his instrument and listened to the youths. The man glanced in my direction before continuing to play. I went back to my typing. When I took another break and looked at the park below, the youths had gone. Asako bustled through the door just before six.

"Listen to this! The building manager just stopped me in the lobby and told me someone's been throwing projectiles from the building. It's very dangerous in a building this high! Someone could be killed! You know who I think it is? That idiot upstairs! The violinist. Mister Monomaniacal who only ever plays that one Massenet tune! I bet you he's a sadomasochist. They're always into classical music. I told the building manager I thought we had a madman living above us."

She walked into the kitchen, opened the fridge and let out a cry.

"Waaaa! Did you eat any eggs today?"


"Come and look at this."

I walked over to the fridge. We both looked at the carton, now seven eggs short.

"Did you have any eggs for breakfast, Asako?"

"No. Have you ever seen me eat an egg for breakfast? This is very strange. Could I have eaten them without knowing it? I hope not. That would be a bad sign."

We had dinner and watched the six o'clock news. Afterwards, it was Asako's turn to do the dishes, and I settled on the sofa to read The Japan Times she had bought for me at Shinsaibashi Station on her way home from work. My reading was soon interrupted.

"Aaa-ha!" Asako appeared at the kitchen entrance. "Hey—I think I've solved the mystery of the eggs!" I shuffled into the kitchen. "You did the dishes yesterday, right?"


"Look, don't feel guilty, but I think you did something really bad. It's OK because you didn't know. You see this?" She pointed to a shot glass she kept behind the faucet. I had noticed it in the past but never really thought about why it was there. "Did you wash this little glass too?"

"Yes. Why?"

"Haven't you noticed that I always keep this glass full?"

"Well, now that you mention it, I guess I never have seen it empty."

"You know why?"


"Because this is a drink I always keep here for my little doggy."

"I thought your doggy was killed."

"He was. Five years ago. It made Asako very sad. I went to the priest at Shi-Tennoji Temple to tell him about my doggy. He said I must always keep a little drink for my doggy in the kitchen, so that when his spirit gets thirsty, he will come and visit. That's what this little glass is for. You washed it, but you didn't fill it again."

"I'm sorry, Asako. I never knew all this stuff."

"That's OK. Don't worry about it. Just remember to always fill this glass. Sometimes when I come home from work, it's empty, which means my doggy's spirit has visited the apartment and had a drink. It's very rude to my doggy not to leave him a drink. This was his home, too. I think this is why the eggs have gone missing."

"What does it have to do with the eggs?"

"If I left my doggy alone for too long, he would get angry. While I was out he'd come into the kitchen, open the fridge with his paws and eat some of my eggs. It was his way of punishing me for leaving him alone for too long. He knew egg sushi was my favourite."


"So you washed his glass and didn't leave him a drink, and when he came to visit, his glass was empty and he got angry and ate the eggs. He must have come twice since yesterday. He gave me two chances. I'll have to visit the temple on Saturday and make a conciliatory offering."

She filled the tiny glass with water and put it behind the faucet.

"Jeezus, Asako. I never knew all this stuff. I'll make sure I always fill that glass."

I moved out onto the balcony. On the sidewalk, I could see the building manager stopping residents and telling them something that made them bob their heads in concerned agreement. A few people glanced gingerly upwards before disappearing into the entrance. I came back inside and read my newspaper while Asako took her bath, but I soon heard a disturbance down on the street. I slipped onto the balcony again. Down below, the building manager was shouting at a man carrying a violin case. The violinist was yelling back at the manager. A small group of onlookers watched the scene intently.

I was reading the paper when Asako emerged from her bath and padded into the living room wrapped in a white towel, her four feet of hair turbaned in another. She sat by me and lit a cigarette. We heard a huge crash above us. Asako jumped.

"Earthquake!" The lampshades were trembling, a tell-tale sign. But then another bang jolted the ceiling. "No, it's not an earthquake—it's that nitwit upstairs!" Asako brandished a fist at the ceiling. "Stupid idiot! Hey—maybe he's smashing his violin! Hurray! No more Massenet!" The noise continued for a while. "He's angry the building manager found out about him. Thanks to my hot tip! I bet he gets evicted. I wonder what he was throwing at people? He could have killed somebody! I bet that's what he was trying to do! That violin's just a disguise for his psychopathic tendencies!"

A few Sundays later, I stood on the balcony and watched the violinist loading a moving van down on Abiko Street. When the van was full, the musician looked up at me. Avoiding his gaze, I looked across the street at the fountain in the park. Beside the fountain pool, the old samisen player was at his station, plucking the taut strings, his head bent over his instrument. The ancient rhythmic twanging was faintly discernible over the noise of the light Sunday traffic.

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