By Michael Logan
Winner of the Fish Publishing One-Page Fiction Prize. Published in Harlem River Blues Anthology.
Fukuko and her daughters huddle together upon the bluff, far above the churning river. A wintry gust of wind lifts Kaiya’s best kimono, exposing her spindly young calves. She has grown so fast, Fukuko thinks. I’ll need to let it out soon. Then she remembers it no longer matters, and her legs wobble beneath her.
I have no choice, she tells herself. Hajime has already been rejected twice, but he will volunteer again. Yet there is no hope as long as he remains a husband and father. And although he never openly blames her or the girls, when he looks at them now his eyes are bitter studs in a wax mask. Each further rejection, each one of his students that flies in his place, will only harden the eyes, once so warm. Better a short separation and honourable reunion than a life filled with such looks.
Fukuko’s legs find their strength again.
“Why are we here?” asks Kaiya.
“We are here for your father,” Fukuko replies.
“Father come now?” asks Chieko.
“Not yet. We must go on ahead and wait for him.”
Kaiya sniffles and Chieko, forever copying her elder sister, joins in. Fukuko pulls their small bodies closer, plants a kiss on each forehead, and steps over the edge. The girls scream and struggle against Fukuko’s embrace, but her grip remains firm as they accelerate downward.
Fukuko closes her eyes and pictures Hajime in the cockpit of a fighter plane; the screams transform into the whine of his straining engines. Bullet-holes bloom on the windshield, but they cannot stop the god wind. Hajime’s eyes are as warm as the rising sun on his headscarf and an easy smile curls his lips as he dives, coming to join his family.