Duck-Diving Tsunamis

by Graham Arnold

Graham Arnold teaches English as a Second Language in Toronto, Canada. His work has appeared in The Malahat Review, Echolocation, EVENT Magazine, Ninth Letter, Asia Literary Review, Glimmer Train, and Prairie Fire. He has been a finalist for Glimmer Train’s Open Short and Very Short Fiction contests, a finalist for both the 2012 AWP Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction and the 2013 Prairie Schooner Book Prize, is the recipient of a Pushcart nomination, and has received numerous Toronto, Ontario and Canada Arts Council grants. He is currently working on a collection of short stories about Japan and a novel set during the 1923 Tokyo earthquake.

Six months after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami had laid waste to his village, Seijiro Tanaka sat across the table from student-teacher Maya Sangwal in the Language Center at Toronto’s Trenton College and pressed the pads of his fingers to his throat.

“Zzzzz,” Maya said.

“Zzzzz,” Seijiro said.

“Sssss,” Maya said.

“Sssss,” Seijiro repeated.

“You feel the difference? That vibration? That’s called a voiced sound.”

“Voiced,” Seijiro said.

“You’re doing the same thing with both sounds,” said Maya, “except with ‘s’ you’re only using your mouth and with ‘z’ it’s your throat.”

He sounded out the “z” again and his vocal cords produced a snare-drum jangle.

“See?” she said. “Your throat vibrates.”

This was their first lesson. Seijiro had just started classes in the entomology program and if he was to continue, he needed to improve his TOEFL score by 30 points.

“So, entomology,” Maya said. “I love bugs.”

“Bug?”

Maya popped her eyes at him and made a buzzing sound. Seijiro nodded.

“Ah, so desu. Insect.”

“Good!”

She told him that she was in second-year Nursing and taught English at the Language Center part time. She was from Vancouver.

“I miss my family,” she said.

Seijiro told her about his hometown, Katsurao, and the earthquake. He explained that officials had forced his family to abandon their tangerine farm for fear of contamination from the nearby Fukushima nuclear plant.

“When I return I will finish the university in Fukushima,” he said. “Then I will be farmer. For my life.”

They practiced a listening exercise.

“I’ll tell you three things about me,” Maya said, “and you repeat them.”

She liked to pack her cheeks with ice cubes while watching T.V. She thought mayonnaise was the color of eyes. Maps were paper zoos, and North America looked like a fat chicken trying to fly west.

Seijiro repeated what she said in splintered English. He stumbled over the word mayonnaise, pronouncing it “may-o-nay-zu,” and Maya cooed. She laughed and briefly touched his hand resting on the table.

“Cute,” she said.


He found her profile on Facebook. There was a picture of her holding a ping-pong racket and smiling. His roommate Wes, a philosophy major, knew who she was. He’d seen her in the library eyeing student-librarian and Board Games Club chairman Randy Sass. “Hate to break it to you, buddy,” he said. “But she’s got it hard for that Monopoly jock.”

Seijiro’s jaw went slack. His black hair stood on end as if he’d buffed it with balloons. Wes had bull shoulders with a belly like a sack of rice and he slapped the flab on his bicep.

“She probably doesn’t put out anyway,” he said. “You could do better.”


Wes took Seijiro to his brother Dirk’s for meatloaf. They drove in a 1985 Pontiac Parisian with bench seats, their heads bobbing to “Breaking The Law” by Judas Priest. Wes packed his lip with Beech-Nut chewing tobacco and passed the tin to Seijiro. Seijiro swallowed a lump by accident and nearly vomited out the window.

Dirk was an ex-military man with a crew cut and steak-bone sideburns. He and his girlfriend Tonya sold marijuana and MLM products from a semi-detached an hour outside the city.

“You have Ginkgo-Joe in China?” Tonya asked. “It’s made from Malaysian mushrooms.” They were sitting at the dinner table and she was pouring him a cup of the coffee-simulating mushroom drink. It tasted like liquefied tree bark. After dinner Dirk, Seijiro and Wes stood in the grow room.

“Ain’t she a beaut?” Dirk said. “A hundred percent hydroponic!”

The room was humid and white and smelled of hibiscus. The flowering buds looked like tiny clots of wool. The silver wall behind the plants rippled.

“Aluminized Mylar,” Wes said. “It reflects light.”

Seijiro flicked the Mylar and it reverberated with the sound of shook tinfoil. In the corner were industrial-strength garbage bags pregnant with last month’s harvest. Wes opened one and stuffed his head inside. He breathed deeply through his nose and then resurfaced, his teeth luminous under the metal halide lamps.

“I’d like to stuff a woman with this,” he said, “and smoke her down to her toes.”


Maya wore a dark green cardigan. Or was it black? If he looked at it from the corner of his eyes it was black but from straight on it was dark green. It could have been made from bands of seaweed.

“Your English is improving,” she said to Seijiro. Her fingers rested flat on the table, her knuckles tiny deflated hills. He passed her one of his textbooks and Maya helped him understand the morphological vocabulary of dragonflies. She drew for him a more simplified version of the dissected comet darner depicted in the book.

“Head, thorax, abdomen,” she said. “Think of each section as a window opening into its body.”

Later, Seijiro tacked the diagram on the wall above his bed. He lay down and studied it. He wanted to open the window in Maya’s thorax, crawl inside, curl up like a caterpillar.


The clang and clatter of an action movie sounded from the common-room television as Seijiro’s dorm mates sank into low-slung beach chairs and an inflatable plastic sofa, sucking beer from cans.

“How is your English?” Seijiro’s mother asked. “Can you understand your teachers?”

Seijiro plugged his free ear with his finger and pressed his mouth against the common-room phone receiver.

“My English is poor. A teacher is helping me.”

Someone discharged a rollicking belch and the dorm mates laughed. Seijiro asked his mother when they could all return to Katsurao, to the farm, but she didn’t know. She told him that the Fukushima Daiichi officials said one thing while the media said another. She and Seijiro’s father would be stuck at Uncle Kazuki’s in Osaka for some time.

“There are rumors the radiation has spread all the way to Tokyo,” she said. “You don’t want to be here right now.”


The morning of the earthquake, Seijiro had awoken early. He had shuffled into the family’s tangerine orchard, a staircase of plateaus chopped into the mountainside, and watched the top plateau scratch yellow sunlight from the sky. His father was already in the radish patch unearthing daikons as big as bowling pins. The trees shivered in the wind, the tangerines orange drops among the green leaves. Seijiro was due to start his entomology classes at Fukushima University the following month, April. He wanted a better understanding of pests and pest control and planned to study part-time while continuing to work on the farm. That afternoon he had deliveries to make to the local grocers in the area.

He was just stepping into his delivery truck when the earthquake struck. The pavement rippled and he was jolted to the ground. Later, with his parents, he watched the news as boats clattered into each other and the decapitated roofs of family homes and cars bobbed like bottles cast into the sea. He watched a body sail past a lamppost on screen, the limbs all wrong. There were mapped explanations of the cooling attempts at the Fukushima reactors and, later, news of the radiation leaks. Seijiro looked at his parents. No one spoke of what they knew would follow.

“ ‘Head, thorax, abdomen,’ she said. ‘Think of each section as a window opening into its body.’ ”

There was a neighbour who owned thirty head of wagyu cattle, and he was ordered by officials to destroy them for their contaminated meat. He asked Seijiro and his father for help. They were living in a hotel outside the designated evacuation zone. They drove to the farm dressed in rented hazmat suits and fed the cattle bucketfulls of shochu to loosen them in the head. One by one they led the cattle to a low hamlet where they’d dug a trench and the neighbor perforated the thick crusts of their skulls with a poleaxe. For five days they returned to the slaughter and the black cattle blood sheeted again and again over Seijiro’s hazmat suit and face guard. The cattle stood and lowed stupidly, sometimes with the poleaxe still extruding out of their heads. They stared about with their black nostrils flaring and dripping blood as their eyes lolled madly. When it was all done and the carcasses incinerated, the neighbour could’t look Seijiro or his father in the eyes. “Thank you,” he said with his head bowed, and Seijiro’s father looked at him gravely. He placed a hand on his shoulder and the two of them stood this way for a very long time. As if with this gesture his father could extract the pain and loss from within.

That night Seijiro sat with his father in the hotel restaurant. The waiter brought them chilled bottles of Yebisu. For twenty minutes his father sat with his lip tucked under his teeth. Seijiro didn’t drink his beer. He waited, patiently, until his father was ready to speak. Finally, his father locked eyes with him.

“I have a connection at a school in Canada,” he said. “A college in Toronto.” He told Seijiro he could get him into Trenton for September.

Seijiro nodded. He took a long haul off his beer, set the glass down, and nodded again.

“You’ll stay there,” his father said. “Until it’s safe to return.”


Seijiro and Wes picked up a bucket of fried chicken and rode in the Pontiac to an empty church parking lot. Wes peeled off the stapled bucket lid and sculpted it into an ashtray with his fist. He lit a joint of his brother’s marijuana and took stuttery puffs. Seijiro edged towards the window, away from the smoke.

“It’s good for glaucoma,” Wes said. He pushed the joint at Seijiro and Seijiro pinched it between his finger and thumb and inhaled. The smoke erupted back out in volcanic coughs.

Wes asked if he missed his farm. Seijiro nodded.

So desu,” he said.

Wes reclined his seat and looked up at the cavity of broken glass where the car light used to be. “I saw that tsunami shit on the news,” he said.

Seijiro told him that tsunamis were a way of life in Japan, a reminder that everything we have is borrowed.

“Screw that,” Wes said. He sat up, as if the tsunami were thundering towards the car. “I’d duck-dive right through that wave and come out the other side, right into Indo-fucking-China.”

Seijiro stuck a finger in the coleslaw and admitted his feelings for Maya. “I am confused,” he said. He wanted advice.

Wes squirted a knot of tobacco and chicken juice into the ashtray. Ashes scattered the car seat. He tore off a ribbon of leg meat with his teeth and pointed the dimpled bone at Seijiro.

“What you need is leverage.”


Wes was lying on the floor in the dark with a pair of Bushnell night-vision goggles buckled to his head, staring at the illuminated lines and creases of his open hand. Seijiro had just returned from his Insect Biosystematics class and stood in the open door of their room.

“Dirk stole these from his base in Gagetown,” Wes said. “He uses them to hunt caribou in Goose Bay.”

At 11:30 that night they walked south of the campus to Marmot Street, climbed the link fence behind a house, and jumped into a corkscrew willow tree. Wes slid the night-vision goggles over Seijiro’s head and flicked on the switch. The goggles twittered and hummed.

“Green,” Seijiro said.

He was inside a video game. What had only been shadow now had visceral angles, depth, dimension. Wes pointed to a curtained window on the second floor of the house.

“This is it buddy. Shangri-La.”

He told Seijiro he’d wheedled Maya’s address out of Carl, a campus WalkSafe escort who liked to mix Dirk’s marijuana in with his taco salads. “He went to a party here once,” Wes said. “Her bedroom’s behind that window.”

Seijiro looked at the closed curtains. He scratched where the goggle buckle pinched his scalp. Wes tottered on the branch beside him and his hand shot out to catch his balance. A bottle smashed somewhere down the street.

They stayed like that for 45 minutes, staring at the curtains, before Wes decided they’d put in a full night’s work. On the way home, he put his arm around Seijiro.

“Dirk’s formula for hunting caribou—SPPO: surveillance, patience and persistence equals opp-or-tunity.”


Studying became a distraction. Seijiro skipped his classes and lay on his bed, imagining life in Katsurao post-contamination with Maya. Together they would inspect the tangerine leaves for sour rot, pull chum salmon from Ukedo river, pitch tangerine peels into bonfires to watch them smoke and curl. Once a week they met for their English lessons. At night, he watched her from the corkscrew willow. Most of the time he saw nothing but a silhouette behind the curtains. The silhouette sat at a lamp-lit desk. It shimmy-shook its shoulders to radio jazz, spread-eagled its legs in horizontal grand jetés. Once, it sprang up, raked the curtains back, and vomited out the open window. And there was Maya, wearing pajamas. When she finished she looked up, directly at Seijiro, but saw nothing. She was just a few car lengths away from him but didn’t know it. Seijiro skipped a breath, his pulse wheeling inside him, and with a wave of his hand tried to expunge the sickness from her stomach.



 

October was warm and the Big Dipper floated above him. Seijiro adjusted the goggle strap and waited in the tree for Maya. She’s late, he thought. His skin was gummy beneath his clothes. His legs had numbed where his thighs clutched the tree branch. It was so quiet you could hear the sewer water running below the street. Then Maya’s room flooded with light. Behind the curtains, two shapes. One carried something long and flat. The curtains slid open and Maya yanked the window up. Seijiro caught a glimpse of her companion before she slid the curtains back—side-parted mouse hair, monkey ears, a dazzle of rainbow-colored dental braces.

“Fresh air,” she said. He could hear her clearly. Her words were slurry.

The lights went dim. The two silhouettes sat on the bed holding glasses. Dice clacked on a board. They were playing some kind of game. Maya said, “What are the rules again?”

She removed her top. Later, her pants. The second silhouette kept reaching over and filling her glass with something. Finally, it said: “I think I win.”

The lights went out. Silence. Seijiro sat in the tree, his face hot, his heart split open like a butterfly.


“Strip Monopoly,” Wes said. “The oldest trick in the book.”

They were in the cafeteria and Seijiro had just told Wes what had happened the night before. Wes drizzled syrup from a peel-top packet onto his flapjacks. The syrup pooled amber on the flapjacks and then gushed over the sides.

“This is bad,” he said. “This Randy Sass. He’ll have to be taken care of.”

In the church parking lot they fogged the Pontiac with marijuana smoke. Wes pulled something out of a paper bag that looked like a flashlight. “It’s Dirk’s,” he said. “It’s a Taser.”

In their room Wes duct-taped two quilted blankets and a pillow to Seijiro’s chest. He strapped on the night-vision goggles and stood at the opposite end of the room with the lights off, the Taser hooked to his belt. Seijiro squeezed his eyes shut. Wes quick-drew and the nitrogen cartridges popped, firing the two barbed electrodes towards the center of the pillow. Seijiro’s body quivered. There was a tang of sour metal. He opened his eyes and saw the two electrodes forked into the duct tape across the pillow, the conductive wires dangling from the gun mouth in Wes’ hand.

“If this doesn’t scare him off,” Wes said, “nothing will.”


The walls of the games room were smeared with spackle. Whole sections of carpet had disappeared under a crust of soda spills and pulverized Cheezies. There were shelves stacked with board games and decks of cards and players manuals, and sitting at folding tables were clumps of male students huddled over puzzles, dropping colored pie wedges into Trivial Persuit wheels, rolling dice, reading aloud from question cards, and exchanging phony money with either triumphant or deflated looks. Wes filled the doorframe, holding the paper bag with the Taser inside. Seijiro stood in front of him and forced a dry ball of air down his throat. His hands inserted and removed themselves from his pockets. One of the students was standing above a Monopoly board, speaking on his cell phone.

“That him?” Wes said.

Mousy side-part. Monkey ears. The rainbow dental-braces. Seijiro nodded. That was him. Randy Sass.

They’d come to scope out their target, quickly, and then leave. Seijiro wanted to make sure this was the right person before they ambushed him later that night. Wes had gleaned info from WalkSafe-escort Carl about the Board Games Club and Randy. According to Carl, the club finished at 11 p.m. on Wednesday nights. Randy usually took the dimly lit and rarely patrolled Philosopher’s Walk back to his dorm. A Ziploc of Dirk’s finest hydroponic ensured that Carl and his campus security buds would take an extended break between 11 and 11:30. The plan was to sizzle Randy, from behind, on his way back to his dorm. Wes had gotten Seijiro to write on a recipe card in black marker—STAY AWAY FROM MAYA—which they planned to leave on his twitching body.

“Randy narrowed his eyes: ‘East meets West. Let’s get it on.

“Let’s boogie,” Wes said. There was a glossy-buckthorn on Philosopher’s Walk where he’d already stashed a sack with their stake-out supplies: tuna sandwiches, a thermos of hot coffee, two Hot Rod pepperoni chews, a pen light and, in case they got bored, the latest Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

They were halfway out the door when a voice called from behind: “You two pussies up for a game?”

They turned. Randy. He’d seen them from across the room and had approached. Wes held the Taser bag behind his back. Seijiro blushed.

“Us?” Wes said.

“The two punching bags I usually play with just cancelled,” Randy said. He nodded towards the set-up Monopoly board at the back of the room. “I’ve got a board, properties, a shitload of hotels, but nobody’s ass to kick.”

Wes pushed out his lower lip. “Busy,” he said. “Catch you on the flipside.”

Seijiro nodded. “We have appointment.”

They turned to go. Randy smoothed his hair part with the side of his hand. “That’s what I figured,” he said. “Say hi to your boyfriends for me.”

Wes’ back straightened. Seijiro watched his hand squeeze the top of the Taser bag. Wes looked at Seijiro, his lower lip still pushed out, and then turned to face Randy.

“OK, zipper lips,” he said. “Let’s play.” He flicked his thumbs at himself. “Barry,” he said, and then pushed Seijiro towards Randy. “And this is my homeboy, Frank.”

“Frank?”

Seijiro quick-bowed. “Nice to meet you.”

Randy introduced himself and extended his hand towards Seijiro. He was a king dangling fingers to be kissed by a minion. Seijiro shook the fingertips. Clammy, like five sardines clumped together.

“Frank,” Wes said, “is the Monopoly champ for the entire North Asian Pacific Rim. He tooled those boys up pretty bad. In Japan they called him The Tsunami. You know what a tsunami is? You see that shit on TV about Northeast Japan? It’s a big-ass wave that fucks up everything. That’s Frank. He’s like a tsunami on the Monopoly board. And now he’s brought his tsunami game to Canada. To fuck you up.”

Randy narrowed his eyes: “East meets West. Let’s get it on.”

They sat. Randy snatched the racecar from the plastic trough and placed it on Go. Wes took the cannon, leaving the last piece, the shoe, for Seijiro. Randy’s roll was a casual drop of the dice, a sprinkle of cheese onto pizza. Wes’ roll was a two-handed cocktail shake above his shoulder and then a spastic fling, as if the dice were hot coals. Seijiro tried to mimic Wes. The dice spun off the board and clattered onto the floor. Randy scored the most lucrative properties. His houses and hotels spilled onto the neighboring squares. He landed on Seijiro’s only property, Baltic Avenue, and paid the four-dollar rent with a fifty.

“Keep the change,” he said. “You’ll need it.”

Later, Randy got up to use the bathroom. He pulled out his cell phone and snapped a picture of the board. “Don’t get any funny ideas.”

While he was gone, Wes tapped the only three properties he’d secured, two of the railroads and the Electric Company. His hand dipped into one of the bank slots and slid five one-hundred dollar bills to Seijiro.

“He’s killing us,” he said. “Stay ready.”

Randy returned from the bathroom. Dark sky slatted through the cracks of the shuttered window. The other students had already finished and gone. It was just the three of them in the room now. Seijiro’s hands grew slick. The paper bag was on the floor under Wes’ chair. Seijiro looked at it. What if Wes sizzles Randy right here, he thought. What if the Taser cooks his brain into sticky bean cake?

“He was a king dangling fingers to be kissed by a minion.”

Seijiro rolled two fours. Boardwalk. He wedged his shoe among Randy’s three hotels and Randy held out his hand for the remainder of Seijiro’s cash. He smiled. Light danced off his rainbow dental-braces.

“I’ll take that mortgaged Baltic Avenue too.”

Seijiro slid the cash and property card towards Randy. Wes’ leg was jumping under the table. Randy cracked his knuckles and looked at Wes.

“News flash. Canada doesn’t get tsunamis. Your boy should have stayed in Japan.”

Wes’ cheeks cut red. He grabbed the bag off the floor and shot up out of the chair, toppling it backwards. He stabbed his hand into the top of the opened bag.

Banzai motherfucker!”

Seijiro’s chest constricted. The air got sucked out of the room. Randy pinwheeled in and out of focus.

Wes stopped, his hand still inside the bag. “You okay buddy?”

Randy reached a hand towards Seijiro: “Frank?”

Something was over his mouth, crackling and ballooning. He opened his eyes and realized he was lying on the floor, breathing into a paper bag. Wes was kneeling beside him. He told Seijiro that Randy had gone to get the campus nurse, and then jammed three fingers into Seijiro’s face: “How many?”

Back in the dorm room, Wes tucked Seijiro into bed. In the dim light of the room Seijiro sensed the largeness of his eyes. Wes pinched a space between his fingers.

“We were this close, buddy,” he said. “We almost had him.”


Winter. The campus roof gutters were glossed with ice. Seijiro’s feet punched through the thick hulls of snow. He wandered into corridors and cubbyholes. At night he wrapped himself in his electric blanket and stared at Maya’s diagram of the comet darner on his wall. He stopped going to classes, stopped his nightly vigils in the corkscrew willow. He did not schedule any more lessons with Maya.

There was a meeting with his academic advisor, Professor Hill, who sat before a computer screen frowning. Seijiro floundered in the leather chair in front of the desk.

“Your grades,” said Professor Hill, “are not up to par.” He was old and his face was a shriveled tangerine, the kind Seijiro used to squash between his palms to rinse dirt from his hands.

Wes took him to see a Raptors game and Seijiro got lost in the corridors trying to locate the bathrooms. Wes found him later, squatting under a pay phone, rolling in his fingers a hardened fly he’d found on the floor. He’d just called his father and told him he wanted to return to Japan, but his father had insisted he stay in Canada. There was barely enough room at Uncle Kazuki’s as it was. And who knew when the contamination ban would be lifted? Who knew the fate of the Katsurao farm?

Seijiro told Wes he was failing school. Wes crouched beside him and put a hand on his shoulder. He was also failing.

“Should’ve gone into Phys. Ed,” he said. “Hotter chicks.” He admitted to Seijiro he’d only joined the philosophy program for the girls. “They probably don’t put out anyway,” he said.


Seijiro had his Insect Taxonomy and Morphology exam at 3 in the afternoon. He slept until 2:30 and then got out of bed. He rinsed his hands and face with Castile soap and brushed his teeth. Then, from Wes’ underwear drawer, he rooted out the paper bag with the Taser inside and walked to Marmot Street.

Ice had crystallized the link fence into nets of glass. The corkscrew willow had dropped its leaves, the vine-like branches nothing but a stripped nest of hag’s hair. A car muffler belched in the street. Maya’s bedroom curtains were open, the room dark. She must be out, he thought. He sat on the hard ground beside the tree and pulled out the Taser. He squinted at the muzzle. He pressed it against his forehead and felt the two ejector-holes like pennies on his skin.

“Sei-ji-ro!”

His mother’s voice. She was calling him in from the orchard for his seaweed breakfast soup. He rested the gun on his lap, tapped a heel against an exposed tree root. He thought of the farm, the green plateaus chopped into the mountainside, the juicy weight of the tangerines as he pulled them from the trees. He thought of the tsunami and all it had taken.

“Seijiro?”

She was standing on the shoveled walkway in a green Canada Goose parka, her face tucked behind the fur-lined hood. Seijiro dropped the Taser behind the tree and walked over to her.

“Are you OK?” she said. “Did we have a lesson scheduled for this morning? I haven’t seen you in weeks.”

There was a catch in her voice. Her eyes were puffed, the whites glazed pink.

“No,” he said. “We have no lesson.”

“How did you know where I live?”

Seijiro searched the sky for words, any sign to tell him what to say. He put a hand on the back of his neck. The skin there was icy. His whole body was icy. He met her eyes. He would tell her, launch it all out his mouth in a slurry of scrambled words—I watch you always from tree so sorry my shame and embarrassed I don’t know what I’m doing I don’t know who I am anymore please forgive—but before he got the chance, she started to cry. Her hooded head lurched with each sob. Her face disappeared into the fur for a moment. It resurfaced, makeup-smeared, bubbling with tears.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m not myself today.”

Seijiro’s hands felt hinged to his wrists, dangling, useless, as if they had no natural reason for being there. She’s crying because of me, he thought. She knows about me. From here he could see part of the street behind Maya’s house. He noticed a Toyota Corolla parked on the curb a block away. The wind picked up. The smell of salt nipped at his nose. The copper underbellies of storm clouds were rolling in. He heard a sound and noticed something moving towards them in the distance, further down the street. He was watching the street disappear beneath it. Then Maya said something. It might have been about Randy, or maybe about him, he wasn’t sure.

“Seijiro?” She touched his elbow.

He looked at her and said: “It’s coming.”

“What’s coming?”

He could hear it clearly now, a sound like a whirring blender. A block away it slid over the parked Toyota, cruised past the top-floor window of a neighbouring house and devoured a utility shed.

“It’s almost here,” he said.

Maya looked around at the frozen yard and at the snowy rooftops of her neighbours.

“What are you talking about?”

It was in the backyard now. It had already swallowed the link fence and was halfway up the willow tree. The whirring sound was deafening. Maya was speaking but Seijiro couldn’t hear her. The water cascaded down the willow vines. The tree glistened like a basket of shiny necklaces. The yard flooded in an instant and Seijiro looked back for Maya but she was no longer beside him. It was just him and that immeasurable slab of black water. It was almost on top of him now. He wanted to imagine himself digging the balls of his feet into the ground, hunching his back. He wanted to feel himself push up, launch himself forward into the belly of that wave, into the endless dark and cold.

Through it all. And come out the other side.

 


Graham Arnold teaches English as a Second Language in Toronto, Canada. His work has appeared in The Malahat Review, Echolocation, EVENT Magazine, Ninth Letter, Asia Literary Review, Glimmer Train, and Prairie Fire. He has been a finalist for Glimmer Train’s Open Short and Very Short Fiction contests, a finalist for both the 2012 AWP Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction and the 2013 Prairie Schooner Book Prize, is the recipient of a Pushcart nomination, and has received numerous Toronto, Ontario and Canada Arts Council grants. He is currently working on a collection of short stories about Japan and a novel set during the 1923 Tokyo earthquake.

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