Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Justin Isis - Pythagorean Theorem was a Hoax

Nomura was there for the ten-year reunion, but there was no one he wanted to see. He picked up the class register and scanned the names. He couldn't remember anyone.

He walked out of the foyer and into the hall. The rows of lockers seemed tighter, the ceiling lower. The whole school was shabby and damp. He wondered why they hadn't rented out some place nice.

Nomura saw a light on at the end of the hall, in one of the classrooms. He imagined he must have followed this same route to the classroom ten years ago, but he couldn't remember why. He remembered it only from sleep now. The school, the halls and the classroom had become stock scenery for dreams. He could meet new acquaintances here along with old ones.

As he came closer he saw a reflection through the glass partition next to the door, itself half open. A tiny human figure warped in the glass, vanishing into the distance as he came closer. Nomura put his hand to the door and pulled it open.

An old man was seated at the desk, his back arched in the chair. His pen hand rested on a piece of paper in front of him, but it dangled rather than ran. He seemed to be scribbling something, or tracing lazy circles.

"Yes? Can I help you?"

"Oh, I'm sorry." Nomura said. "I didn't mean to disturb you, I..."


"I'm here for the reunion."

"I see."

"I was here ten years ago. I don't know if you were even here then, I...Takashi Nomura? Did you know?"

The old man looked up, but his features barely cracked.

"Of course, you were in Class A, you sat in that second row over there. Don't tell me you've forgotten Moriyama already."

Now memories came back to him. He remembered long mathematics classes, always in the afternoon. The row of windows opened onto the sun. Everyone was sleepy and they always cheated.

He remembered Moriyama, too. Once, the old man had kept him after class. Nomura had failed test after test, and had been forced to admit that he understood nothing about the sides of a triangle, or any relationship they shared. He was certain information of that sort had nothing to do with life.

"Mr. Moriyama, of course. I still remember that Pythagorean theorem."

"Yes. It took you a while, didn't it? But I bet you still know it."

"In a right triangle, c square equals a square plus b square. The sum of the squares of the legs is equal to the square of the hypotenuse."

Moriyama gave a little smile of appreciation, as if Nomura had performed a dog trick.

"And has it come in handy?"

Nomura didn't know what to say. As he had expected, the Pythagorean theorem had had no bearing on the course of his life. It only rattled at the back of his mind like a tear-off tab in a tin can.

"To be honest I haven't ever used Pythagorean theorem. I still remember it, if that's what you mean."

Moriyama shuffled the papers on his desk and pushed them aside.

"I'll tell you something, Nomura." he said. "And you can make of it what you will. You see, Pythagorean theorem isn't technically...true, in all respects."

Moriyama was smiling now, a true smile.

"What do you mean by that?" Nomura said.

"Come closer, I'll show you."

And the old man was already writing on the back of a notebook, tracing a set of axioms. Nomura bent over his shoulder. It had been years since he'd followed a set of equations. Many times he asked Moriyama to stop. The old man let a proud patience overtake his haste. After half an hour, they arrived at the Q.E.D. Nomura felt like he was back in Class A.

"There. There it is. The sum of the squared lengths of a and b is clearly far greater than the square of c."

Nomura studied the proof, which had spread from the notebook's back cover to its inside pages. Everything seemed to make sense. But he felt certain that someone more qualified could rescue the theorem.

"It seems...wrong, somehow."

"Wrong? How? The proof is airtight. Pythagorean theorem is manifestly true only on an extremely reduced, local scale. The theorem itself is not valid in any real mathematical sense."

Nomura wished for a chair. He wondered why Moriyama hadn't offered him one.

"So why are you telling me this now?" Nomura said.

Moriyama's smile broke for a moment.

"Well, you took the trouble to visit me, didn't you? I didn't think I should let you go empty-handed."

"That's not what I meant." Nomura said. "I meant, if you can prove Pythagorean theorem is false, why aren't you publishing this information? Why aren't you writing some kind of...book? Paper?"

Moriyama closed the notebook.

"Well, when you get to be my age, Nomura, things like that seem a lot less important. I could write a paper and make a fuss and have my name in all kinds of journals, and when a correct theorem came out, I'd still be in this classroom teaching it. So why go to all that trouble?"

"I always thought that was the whole point of um...science..."

"Pythagorean theorem isn't hurting anyone." Moriyama said. "I wouldn't worry about these things so much. I just thought I should tell you, seeing as you worked so hard on it in my class."

Now Moriyama's smile was paternal. Nomura decided to leave.

Before he reached the door, Moriyama pushed the notebook towards him.

"Here," he said. "Maybe it'll revive your interest in mathematics."

Nomura took the notebook and slotted it into his briefcase and walked back to the foyer. He passed through a short side hall into the auditorium. The reunion was ending; his old classmates were exchanging cards and numbers. A pink slush rocked in the punch bowl every time someone bumped the table. Someone took his arm and he stared into the smile of a woman he was supposed to recognize. Nomura was afraid, here. He felt like he had amnesia. He wanted to be able to hide behind his wife Mayumi, who was at the hotel now.

"I'll use you to deflect conversation." he'd told her. "Everyone will ask questions about you, and you can ask them what I was like in high school. Maybe they remember."

"It won't work. I'm not the only thing that's happened to you in ten years." Mayumi said. "Most important, but..."

A vigorous looking man punched him on the shoulder. This was not the first time Nomura had been punched tonight. The vigorous and friendly punches were one of the reasons he'd gone for his walk.

"Where'd you go, buddy?" the man said. "We missed you."


Back at the hotel, Mayumi had ordered pizza. There was no time for anything else because they had to be back in Osaka by five. His appointment was at eight.

Nomura decided that it wasn't right for him to eat pizza from the box while wearing his business suit, so he took it off. Mayumi was in pajamas.

"How was it?" she said. "Did you meet any of your old friends?"

"I think so." Nomura said.

"You don't know?"

Nomura felt disappointed she hadn't protected him.

"You should have come." he said.

"You know that's not my kind of thing."

Nomura stared down at the pizza.

"Do you know what Pythagorean theorem is?" he said.

"The square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides?"

Now he felt a kind of contempt for Mayumi. With the notebook in his briefcase, he could destroy her understanding of triangles. But he knew Mayumi would only be amazed for a few moments. After that her eyes would dull. Did these things matter, if the world continued to function? He imagined this was how Moriyama felt every day.

Mayumi asked him more questions about the reunion, then talked about her high school class when she saw he wasn't listening. Nomura tried to respond, but his thoughts kept returning to the briefcase.

Moriyama had claimed that the truth of the theorem meant nothing. But Nomura remembered the sensation of it rattling in the back of his mind. Perhaps the memory he had retained of the theorem had only been a memory of Moriyama himself.

He thought: by unveiling the truth of the theorem, Moriyama had been trying to force him into sympathy. Anyone could claim their accomplishments in public with modesty and grace. But to be a sharer of secrets to one person was a greater happiness, a private, selfish joy-

Now he felt a great dislike for Moriyama. It was nothing he hadn't felt before, ten years earlier. Moriyama meant nothing, yet he had destroyed a tiny part of the world. It seemed to him that if he began to doubt his received impressions, there would be no end to the concepts cast on the fire. But if he trusted what people told him, believing what he read and saw, there would always be an opening for another Moriyama, another old man cramped with secrets. So why should he doubt or trust anything?

It was not that these things meant anything. It was that he did not like to be told.

Nomura decided he would cut back on belief. He would believe as little as possible; would prune his mind like a tree. But with Mayumi sitting across from him, digressing, with his appointment the next day, where to begin...?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Ends I: of Doomsday Book, part of Phoenix Flower - eschatological, by John Cairns

The Ends:

of Doomsday Book, part of Phoenix Flower - eschatological

I doubt I can but Rich coaxes me out of the bower, up into the air. We fly to the Moon. Landing, I hold my breath, knowing it’s airless. My breath is lasting longer than possible, and Rich, who doesn’t seem to be holding his, is looking curiously at me. Holding it in isn’t comfortable and while I may be able to hold it indefinitely, if I can…? I might as well get it over with. I breathe. I can breathe! There’s air on the Moon. There’s no air on the Moon but I can breathe. I’m not breathing.

We sit down to watch the show. There’s a little eruption here, another there and pretty soon a total explosion without a sound and nothing there where the Earth was. There’s no point continuing to look, and since the most interesting thing about the Moon was its view of the Earth we don’t dally but take off to explore the universe, none of which detains us for long. We do find a planet very like the Earth and Rich leaves me there for a time. It’s interesting until its interest is exhausted. What’s the point of air when I don’t need to breathe? of food when I don’t eat? It’s not I need Rich, except to be…? It isn’t that he’s interesting, though he is, or that I’m interested when he’s with me, though I am…. I don’t know what it is but I’m about to leave the planet like home was but which isn’t my home to look for him when he comes back to me. It’s talking with him interests me. I can do without the universe so long as he’s with me, and without the universe he can’t leave me at all; there’s nowhere else for him to be except where I am also. No light. No thing. He is enough with me; I, however much the most important, even more important than all the rest, am not enough for him.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Introducing John Cairns

After discussions with Chomu's mysterious editor-in-chief, Mr. Jorkins, we are delighted to announce that we will soon be publishing here the work of a new writer, John Cairns. Here, by way of introduction, is a message from John Cairns himself, as requested by Chomu:

I rose from the seminal waves at Shoreham-by-Sea a drowned rat, was fostered by London, dumped on grandma who said I was too big for Pumpherston; Aunt Nell brought me up.

Mum married to give me a father and I was moved to Methil where I’d the highest IQ ever, then onto Buckhaven. On a history degree from Edinburgh, I taught in Glasgow and, after carefully losing job and flat, Richmond – not before doing my procreative duty, twice.

I’d written conventional stuff Iris Murdoch criticized, Giles Gordon would’ve pushed and the BBC broadcasted had I not been seeking a style to realize the unconscious by and with it net my unremembered childhood where the loves used to that end were intoned: Christo, Derrick, Rich, Nick. Thanks; we had no choice.

Look out for forthcoming stories by John Cairns, here on Chomu.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Chomu - The Entomology of the Word

I am surprised that I cannot think of more examples in literature – or anywhere – of words and language being described as insects. I would imagine that such a metaphor would be favoured by the likes of Franz Kafka or William Burroughs, though I cannot recall any specific instance of either of them using such a metaphor. I suppose Burroughs comes close when he talks about the “word virus”, the logical programming of language-based thought that locks the human mind into the destructive patterns we know so well.

Perhaps I can also write here – and so, hopefully, make it an example in literature – that I once had a rather Kafkaesque or Burroughsian hallucination, in which all the words in my room were wriggling free from their book spines, postcards and so on – and there are a great many words in my room – and swarming over the walls and floor like some unidentifiable hybrid of ant and beetle. I stood in the centre of my room, unable to move, frozen in dread, while somewhere in the distance could be heard the sound of a police siren. I think I stood like that for an hour or so. Most of the words seemed to be swarming from my complete works of Nagai Kafū, in twenty-nine volumes. Come to think of it, I have written at least two stories in which words come off the page and take on a life of their own. Clearly there is something in this for me to ponder.

Anyway, to get back to what I was saying, at present I can only think of two examples of the insect metaphor used to describe language. The first of these comes from 80’s synth-meister Thomas Dolby, who in his song about politically persecuted writers, Dissidents, has a chorus with the lines, “My writing, like tiny insects/In the palm of history”.

The effect here is to emphasise how fragile an author’s writing is, how easily lost, destroyed, ignored, censored or forgotten.

The second example comes from the long essay Sun and Steel, by Mishima Yukio. Very near the beginning of the essay, Mishima tell us, “In the average person, I imagine, the body precedes language. In my case, words came first of all…”

He then proceeds to liken the body to a wooden post and words to the “white ants” (could the translator means termites?) that eat it away. For Mishima, then, words are ants, and their action is corrosive, acidic. This might seem an obscure metaphor. I feel I can interpret it best for myself by thinking of the Daoist notion of the ‘uncarved block’ that is the ideal, or the whole state of being. Words are the ants that, with their corrosive acid, create something particular from this generality. It might be said that ants are ‘culture-carriers’, as Hitler, I believe, once disparagingly described the Japanese (culture-carriers rather than culture-producers).

In any case, whatever meaning was intended by Mishima, it seems fairly clear he is not describing words in a positive manner; I sense an affinity with Burroughs’ “word virus”.

At the back of his book Kwaidan, a collection of Japanese folklore compiled in 1904, Lafcadio Hearn (or possibly the publisher in after years) appends three essays under the general heading ‘Insect-Studies’. The essays are, ‘Butterflies’, ‘Mosquitoes’ and ‘Ants’. Since we have just been contemplating ants, let us refer to the essays in reverse order.

Lafcadio Hearn’s essay ‘Ants’ is possibly the most curious piece in the whole book, and is also the longest. He begins with a haiku about an ant nest destroyed by rain, moves on to a Chinese folktale about a man who understands the language of ants, and then starts in on what he really wants to write – a kind of eulogy to ants as a species, which he seems to regard as having “a civilization ethically superior to our own”. He also predicts that “certain persons will not be pleased by what I am going to say about ants”. I have to admit that this was at least partially true in my own case; the essay made me very uneasy with its Brave New World enthusiasm for a perfect society, revealed to Hearn by “the Fairy of Science”. He quotes from Herbert Spencer, who tells us that ant society is concerned with “activities that postpone individual well-being so completely to the well-being of the community that individual life appears to be attended to only just so far as is necessary to make possible due attention to social life”. Hearn himself goes on to say that “[a] greedy ant, a sensual ant, an ant capable of any one of the seven deadly sins, or even a small venial sin, is unimaginable. Equally unimaginable, of course, a romantic ant, an ideological ant, or an ant inclined to metaphysical speculations.”

The tone of admiration here is incomprehensible to me. Perhaps the uneasiness I feel arises from the sense that either ant society is evil, or I am, which seems to be the natural corollary of the essay. Hearn’s enthusiasm becomes positively alarming to me when he says, “in nearly all the higher ant-societies sex-life appears to exist only to the extent absolutely needed for the continuance of the species” and expands with relish upon the “practical suppression, or regulation, of sex-faculty”. This state of affairs is almost exactly the opposite of my own sexual values; for me the ideal world would entail more individual pleasure and less procreation. I have already mentioned Brave New World, but it is also interesting how this essay anticipates Nineteen Eighty-Four, to which it is perhaps closer, after all. Sex is also suppressed in the society depicted by Orwell.

All in all, Hearn’s essay reminds me that I find something sinister in the idea of a perfect society, and tend to suspect those who drool over such notions of having something missing. What is missing? To a lesser or greater degree, exactly what they would like to see missing in their perfect society, I suppose – the irrational, emotion. On the strength of Hearn’s essay, I would not be surprised if he were to champion the rational aliens in the film Invasion of the Bodysnatchers – if by some twist of time he were able to watch it – in turning the human world into a ‘perfect society’, without emotion and therefore without conflict.

It’s interesting that Hearn invokes “the Fairy of Science” at the beginning of his essay, too, perhaps believing that science, with its underpinning rational philosophy, and with its technological invention, is the key to creating Utopia; a Utopia embodied by ants. Are these the same as Mishima’s white ants? They seem a little different, and yet perhaps there is some relation. Mishima’s white ants are at least imaginative, but perhaps their imagination is not really their own, but a borrowed resource. Yes, after all, I think this might be right. The word virus and the white ants are the same, and are one with Lafcadio Hearn’s ants; they are the unbending logic of language. Hearn seems to deny this when he says that the ants are not ideological, and perhaps there is some hint of a terrifying truth here, that ants are a living language that has shed even ideology to become a pure logic devoid of the superfluous formalities of meaning. But now I am reminded again of Nineteen Eighty-Four. The reason the rule of Big Brother and the Party was predicted to last forever was that it had achieved perfection, and it had achieved perfection because it had ditched ideology. Power was no longer a means to an end, but an end in itself, and that is ant society. The “Fairy of Science” is involved here because scientists have long claimed that logic is not ideological, that science has no given, irrational agenda, and it is precisely this denial of the irrational that makes science as dangerous as a swarm of soldier ants.

As a writer, conscious that my words are insects, I hope, after all, that they are not ants. I do not wish to unleash an inexorable, implacable marching column of logical ants upon the world. Let me not waver here. Let me be clear and say no. I am not on the side of the ants. I will not wave an ant flag.

Let us pass then to the other insects in Hearn’s tiny invertebrate menagerie. Next we have mosquitoes. I remember a friend of mine saying, “Mosquitoes, I will kill”, indicating that he made an exception in this case. I sympathise. If ants are an entirely self-serving, implacable and meaningless logic, the egoism of the individual sublimated to the egoism of the group, thereby evading the issue of the irrational given in their existence, then mosquitoes are some kind of embodiment of bad karma. They are not scientists, or engineers, or soldiers, like ants. They are tax inspectors. Perhaps that seems arbitrary, but I can think of no other way to typify them.

In his essay on mosquitoes, Hearn begins by telling us that, “I am persecuted by mosquitoes”. Mosquitoes, of course, breed in water, and Hearn relates that the biggest breeding ground near his house comes from the neighbouring Buddhist cemetery: “Before nearly every tomb in that old cemetery there is a water-receptacle, or cistern, called mizutamé.” He then goes on to speculate about what would happen if the Tokyo authorities decided to get rid of this pest once and for all: “To free the city from mosquitoes it would be necessary to demolish the ancient graveyards; - and that would signify the ruin of the Buddhist temples attached to them… So the extermination of the Culex fasciatus would involve the destruction of the poetry of the ancestral cult, - surely too great a price to pay!...”

A salutary conclusion, steeped in a fatalism becoming to the Buddhism of the cemeteries in question. These insectile tax inspectors of human karma are indeed despicable, but they are a necessary evil. At the very least, to tolerate them is necessary. Such tolerance may help ensure the survival of poetry, but should mosquitoes themselves embody poetry? I am on the verge of saying, “Never!” However, poetry ventures into some strange places, as Hearn’s essay seems to prove. And it’s true that the Chinese ideogram for mosquito is composed of the elements ‘insect’ and ‘writing/literature’. Perhaps this is an esoteric association. Nagai Kafū seems to understand it, however, when, in A Strange Tale from East of the River, the mosquitoes breeding in the ditch remind him of summers past, and bring back memories to him even as he slaps them from his face and wipes the blood from his hand.

This brings us to the last of the three insects, and, perhaps predictably, my favourite; now we come to butterflies. Let me reveal right away that the title of this magazine was suggested by Hearn’s essay ‘Butterflies’:

Most of the Japanese literature about butterflies… appears to be of Chinese origin… Chinese precedent doubtless explains why Japanese poets and painters chose so often for their geimyô, or professional appellations, such names as Chômu (“Butterfly-Dream),” Ichô (“Solitary Butterfly),” etc.

The Chinese precedent for the name Chômu in this case is the famous story of Chuang Tse, who fell asleep and dreamt he was a butterfly, flitting blissfully from flower to flower, only to awake and wonder whether he was a man who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly now dreaming he was a man. (Incidentally, in Mandarin pronunciation, Chômu would be rendered as 'Diemeng'. The Chinese characters themselves can be found here, in the top right corner, being the second and third characters from the extreme right.)

Hearn displays a mixture of fascination with the butterfly in Chinese and Japanese culture, and reserve towards a perceived lack of weight or depth in what it represents. He laments that, though he would like spirit-maidens to visit him and tell him tales of butterflies, as they did for the Chinese scholar Rôsan, “of course, no spirit-maidens will ever deign to visit so skeptical a person as myself”. Exactly who is rejecting whom here?

He is also deprecating about the selection of butterfly haiku he reproduces and translates: “Probably [the reader] will not care much for the verses in themselves.” But, as Hearn manages grudgingly to admit, this is a matter of cultural bias: “The taste for Japanese poetry of the epigrammatic sort is a taste that must be slowly acquired.”

Perhaps so, but some of us acquire the taste quicker than others. I for one favour the culture of the butterfly, contrary to Hearn, over that of the ant. I am tired of the Western emphasis on the quantitative in literature – on the volume and weight of the work. I am tired of the endless, earth-bound marching of ant-lines. Let our words, as writers, be butterflies. Let us eschew straight lines. Let us flit madly and drunkenly from flower to flower. Let us replace the chains of logic with the transformation that brings wings. Let us dream that we are humans dreaming that we are butterflies dreaming that we are humans. Let us dream and awake from endless dreams, so that one butterfly may be many people, and one person many butterflies. Let each flight be flown in lepidopterous finery.

Such is the manifesto of the dreaming butterfly.

Then again, looking up the word ‘Chômuon the Internet recently, I find it also has the following meaning:

An intellectually challenged individual, a person unable to make logical and commonsense decisions; "A person who lives for the singular purpose of trying to ruin the best parts of life for others by sub-intellectual activities".

Perhaps this is the kind of insect indicated by the entomology of the word.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Justin Isis - The Lambs in the Trenches are Lambent and Trenchant

Ai and Kei liked to eat chocolate pudding.

The best kind came in packs of six, sealed with a plastic top. When Ai and Kei went grocery shopping with their mother, they would take packs of the chocolate pudding from the shelves and place them in the grocery basket.

"No, that's too much." the mother sometimes said. Other people in the aisle would turn and watch as the mother placed the chocolate pudding back on the shelf. Ai and Kei became sad. They would run off when the mother was in a different aisle and take the chocolate pudding again. The pudding packs were usually frosty from the shelf, but when Ai and Kei carried them, close to the chest, the frost disappeared and the packs became warmer.

Ai and Kei didn't wait until home to eat the chocolate pudding. The packs came with plastic spoons and Ai and Kei would tear them from the lid. They took a single pack each. The mother was left to carry the groceries.

Kei walked head down, staring into the pudding. The chocolate surface spread through the pack's gently curving cylinder. Kei took the lid flap between her thumb and forefinger.

Ai ran out and spun in circles. She stretched her arms and twirled across the parking lot. The mother watched her and carried the bags to the car.

Inside Ai and Kei opened the chocolate pudding. They pulled the flaps back slowly, stripping the plastic from the glue that sealed it to the lid. The packs croaked softly as they opened. A thin brown ring remained on the back of the flap and Kei licked it off. Ai saved hers for later. She scooped out the pudding with her red plastic spoon. As she ate, she felt a sweetness at the back of her mouth.

The mother leaned around and said "Don't eat too much."

When they arrived home the father came out. The father helped carry the bags inside. He tried to pat Ai and Kei on the head and they made faces at him, smiling. The father saw the chocolate pudding smeared around the edges of their mouths. When Ai and Kei finished, traces of pudding remained in the packs. Ai reached a finger in and scraped it off and sucked her finger.

At other times they would sit in the street, eating. The sun went down and they became silent.

The father watched their jaw bones moving. First their mouths opened to accept the spoon. Then their jaws closed. Sometimes a cheek would puff out. Sometimes their tiny mouths opened and closed, slowly. The father had seen fish breathing that way.

The father looked out into the street as the sun went down.

He saw people crossing at the corner. A man passed him wearing a shirt that said 'Punjab.' His daughters' mouths filled with pudding.

A tiny chain of lights opened in his mind. The father closed his eyes and the lights swirled in darkness. They gave off scattered grains, like pollen. The vast night of time opened before him. The father felt weightless.

The lights said, 'Punjab, Punjab, Punjab.' Gently, Punjab lifted itself out of space and floated behind his eyes. He could see it reflected upside down. A ripple passed across its surface, and the lights vanished. He had heard Punjab called "India's breadbasket state" before.


Stevens shifted at the podium. Kuldip Singh was twiddling his thumbs again. This peculiar habit of Mr. Singh, who always sat in the front row, had been a source of constant distraction throughout the semester.

"Farming of the kinnow, popularly called the stepbrother of the orange, has picked up considerably among farmers occupying some 5,000 hectares with an overall yield of 300,000 tonnes annually," Stevens said. But now it was impossible for him to concentrate, and he recited the rest of the lecture in a monotone, hardly hearing his own words.

He left Punjab Agriculture University at 6:30 and, after receiving a phone call, went to the post-office to pick up a package. Later, in his office, he opened it and found several photos of his family. In the first set, his nephews were playing in a garden, their feet covered in dirt.

He looked up as the bell rang. It was Amrik from his second-period class. Stevens motioned for him to come in.

"Here's my report," Amrik said, handing him a folder. "I'm sorry it's late. I needed to finish my research on crop rotation."

Stevens looked at him. He was carrying a grocery bag in his left hand. Through the plastic he could see the outline of a thick block of chocolate.

A tiny chain of lights opened in his mind. Stevens closed his eyes and the lights swirled in darkness. They gave off scattered grains, like pollen. The vast night of time opened before him. Stevens felt weightless.

The lights said, 'Chocolate pudding, chocolate pudding, chocolate pudding.' Gently, a plastic cup of chocolate pudding lifted itself out of space and floated behind his eyes. He could see it reflected upside down. A ripple passed across its surface, and the lights vanished. He had eaten chocolate pudding of this kind before.


Both men returned home at 9:30 PM and watched television for an hour while eating dinner. An hour later, when they went to bed, both pulled back the corner of the sheet from the left and then stopped suddenly. It seemed that they had pulled back the sheet in the same way before, and that something of great importance attached itself to the motion. Remembering it implied remembering something else, and for a moment an endless series seemed to shimmer out of reach. Then they forgot it, climbed into bed and slept facing the left, both their knees bent at the same slight angle.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Justin Isis - Your Angle Has Been Cornered And You Won't Be Able to Attain Shit

As soon as she sat down he started to worry about Satoko's teeth. They were bright and clean and even, perfectly spaced; and whenever she smiled he worried that something would happen to them.

He'd seen women with beautiful teeth before, of course. But they usually formed one part of a greater beauty, a unity. The crescent of the smile beneath a delicate nose. The glint on the teeth-tips matching the light from the eyes.

There was nothing wrong with Satoko's face, but none of it called attention to itself in the same way as her teeth. They seemed almost sculpted, their tips translucent, her rounded molars pure porcelain. The points of her incisors rested on the corners of her lips like diamonds set in coral. Distracted out of all proportion, he went on staring at them, ignoring everything she said.

Your teeth are very white, he told her.

Satoko smiled. But he felt that something terrible would happen. It occurred to him that she had lived her entire life with the perfection of her teeth undisturbed. Intact for twenty years, how long would it be before one of them chipped on a nut or shifted out of place? The universe had a habit of deleting exceptions.

He felt that he had to warn her somehow, but there was nothing he could say.

In a dream the following night he met Satoko outside Kichijoji Station. She was rummaging through the garbage, reaching her arm into the bins and pulling out empty cans and bottles. What she'd taken had been stacked behind her in neat rows, one on top of the other. He helped her by lifting off the bin tops, and eventually they piled up a small castle of cans.

Several weeks later he heard from a friend that Satoko had tripped on the stairs and broken her front teeth.