Roses

In Japan, the story that inspired this is filed in the “Romance” section, which is far more disturbing than anything I could write.

Also, I should probably put some trigger warnings on this one.

Done.

 

He could feel water from the sodden grass of the cemetery soaking slowly into his shoes. Father Dunn, his soft voice almost drowned out by the patter of rain on umbrellas, was murmuring about the Lord’s mysterious choice to take Dolly to his bosom so early.

He twirled the flower idly in his hand. She’d been captain of the St. Mary’s Junior High Roses, the girls’ soccer team, and the local florist had donated several hundred of them for the mourners to place on her coffin. Moving his eyes upward from the polished wood casket suspended over the damp cut in the earth, his gaze met that of John Farr, the sheriff’s department’s sole detective. The deputy gave a tight smile by way of greeting, and resumed his slow scan, looking for any sign that that could reveal the identity of the person responsible for the mangled and violated corpse about to be interred.

While the adults in the crowd were wearing dark clothes and carrying black umbrellas, those of the students, in their school uniforms, were mostly of the cheap transparent variety. The Roses were easily identifiable by their blue jerseys, worn over their navy-blue blazers, and the scabbed knees which shown beneath their plaid skirts. Jenny, the assistant captain, all angles and elbows, took shelter beneath a garish yellow umbrella, incongruous. In her free hand she held another blue jersey, which she spread on the coffin as the priest neared the conclusion of the ceremony.

Hayes.
1

“May her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace.”

One by one, Dolly’s classmates filed past to lay their roses on the coffin. He felt a sudden pain in his thumb, and lifted his hand. A drop of blood, released by an unnoticed thorn, dripped onto the soft pink petals of the flower. Crossing himself, he set the stained blossom gently down on the jersey, next to her name. As those assembled headed slowly to the parking lot, he noticed a lone dandelion, somehow unscathed, in the grass next to the grave. It seemed out of place in the solemn scene, and he reached down, plucking it out of the ground.

“Coach H?” He hadn’t realized that he was the only one still standing there. “The girls and I are going to get some lunch. Would you join us? It’d be good for them.”

“Lunch?” His eyes moved from the bright yellow umbrella and its owner to Sister Charlotte’s concerned face. “Yes, lunch, that’s a good idea, thank you.”

His hands, of their own accord, ceased their toying, and dropped the dandelion into the grave.

Amy’s Lace

This is an edited and improved version of the first story I ever submitted for publication. The original was rejected, and with good reason. Rejection sucks, but it forced me to take a closer look at the story, and I think it’s a much stronger piece now. Thanks for looking.

 

Itadakimasu!

“Yeah, right. ‘I take your life,’ my ass,” I muttered to myself. Local good manners, it basically meant “Let’s eat!,” but literally the phrase gave thanks for the life that had become the meal. And the noisy group of businessmen, palms pressed together as if in prayer, were about to eat…noodles. Finishing my own ramen, I paid and headed to the station, mood sour.

Admit it, I thought, you’re just cranky because you’re lonely. I’d been in Japan for nearly a year now, and things weren’t turning out the way I’d expected. Japanese girls were supposed to be crazy for foreign guys, but I hadn’t found a girlfriend, or even a date, since leaving the States.

As I got on the train, I thought back to Amy. She’d been my first girlfriend, back when I was only fifteen. Her parents wouldn’t let her date, but one night, while they were out, she’d let me into her house. It was the first time for both of us, but despite my inexperience, she’d been pretty vocal. Nevertheless, I’d heard the car door and hurried footsteps outside and slipped out her bedroom window, her old man in the dark as to my identity. All these years later, the memory still made me smile.

It was near nine, the second rush hour, but the train, surprisingly, wasn’t very crowded. I even managed to get a seat, second to last in the car, but the empty seat beside me was soon occupied by a young Japanese woman in some sort of office uniform who gave me a shy smile and a brief bow as she sat down. Somehow she looked familiar. According to her name tag, she was E. Tanaka. I wondered what the “E” stood for. Eri?

I’d also been on a train the night I met my first college girlfriend, who had proceeded to wreck my only suit. We’d met on the “L” near Belmont when she’d plunked herself down, purple mohawk and all, into the seat directly next to mine, headphones blaring, the music pulling me into her rhythm. She’d smiled at that, then pulled me back to her apartment. Oddly enough, her name had been Amy too.

Etsuko? Didn’t look like an Etsuko. She sure smelled nice though. Alluring. I wondered what it would be like, with a Japanese girl. They were so small, you’d have to be extremely gentle. Cuddle; when I was younger, I hadn’t understood how important cuddling was to women.

I’d never cuddled with Punk Amy. The relationship hadn’t lasted long.

The next stop was a transfer point, and the carriage got a lot emptier. E. Tanaka stayed, however. From here, the line left the city, passing through mostly darkened suburbs.

Punk Amy had been a squirter. All over my suit. Ruined. She’d given me one of her bootlaces as an apology though. Strange girl.

I finally figured it out. “E” was for Emi. Had to be. She was another goddamn Amy. When she got off, a few stops later, I followed.

After Punk Amy, I’d stopped using a knife. I still had her bootlace; it was in my pocket, with a loop tied in either end, softened by time and the necks of the seven other Amys I’d dated since that night in Chicago.

Trailing behind her, not too close, I could see how tiny Japanese Amy really was. When she turned the corner, down into a darkened alley, I quickened my pace to catch up. My heart pounding with excitement, I pulled her bootlace out of my pocket and then, minding my manners, pressed my palms together briefly, as if in prayer.

Itadakimasu.”

copyright 2016 Iain Aschendale