‘Perfect Rice and Cherry Trees’. A flash fiction.

The child in this story is real. Well, in as much as I saw him sitting alone on a train staring at some miniature models of famous London landmarks. The rest of his friends appeared to be ignoring him. He certainly had a story, which I’ll never learn. Sadly, I fear it might be a sad one. Hence, this story…

I welcome all comments, including constructive criticism. Whilst you are here, you might like to visit fridayflash.org to meet other #fridayflash participants.

Perfect Rice and Cherry Trees.

As the train hurtled over a set of points, it lurched violently to one side; Tomoaki instinctively grabbed the tallest of his three miniature models to stop it falling over. He didn’t know what this building was called, and was unable to read the jumble of letters on the side of the box, but he did at least recognise it from the bus tour he and his class had taken around London that morning. The two other buildings he had picked up simply because he liked the look of them; they would sit happily on his bookshelf back home.

Tomoaki peered through the misted up window. It was so stuffy in this train but he could hardly move to take off his coat; people crowded the aisles; the woman next to him was huge and he’d lost sight of the rest of his class. In the rush to get on board, he’d been separated from them by a tide of people; they might even be in a different part of the train. He was also desperate for the toilet but had no idea where there was one and couldn’t ask anyway. Did they have toilets on trains here? If they did it was bound to be as unpleasant as the one at the station.

Leaning forward on his elbows Tomoaki studied the small house. If you took away the funny roof made of straw, he thought, it looked a bit like his Grandparent’s. He bent his head down further and looked through the window. There was Grandma, sitting, as always, at the kitchen table, preparing rice for lunch. Tomoaki thought about the horrible, stodgy bread in his bag which had been presented to him earlier by his host ‘mother’ as if it were an offering to be left at the temple on the mountain.

Grandma’s rice was perfect every time.

He continued watching through the little window as his Grandmother arranged vegetables on a plate; I bet brain surgeons don’t take as much care as that, thought Tomoaki. If she turned around now to glance at the first snow on the mountain, all his Grandmother would see would be his giant eye; would she think he was Godzilla peeping into her kitchen?

The train suddenly became much noisier. A group of local kids had just piled into the carriage and were pushing and shoving each other deliberately with their school bags. Tomoaki caught one of them pushing the corners of his eyes to the side of his head; the boy dropped his hands as soon as he realised he’d been caught out, but carried on staring nevertheless, defiantly waiting for a reaction. Tomoaki turned away. “Don’t upset anyone,” his mother had said at the airport, “you are a guest in their country.”

‘Oi! You! Slitty Eyes.’

The boy had pushed his way over to the table and was shouting.

‘I’m talking to you, Slitty Eyes.’

Tomoaki’s back prickled. What to do? Look up? Smile? Ignore him?

‘I…no…English.’

‘What’s that Chinky?’

‘I. No. English.’

‘Yeah. Got that right, you little prick.’

The boy squeezed his way further down the carriage; Tomoaki breathed deeply. England wasn’t as much fun as he thought it might be.

In the room next to the kitchen, his Grandfather had set up his easel. Tomoaki couldn’t see it from here, but if he slid the door to one side, he would be able to take a peek. Would it be the river or the cherry trees in the park? These were the only things his Grandfather liked to paint, but he always managed to make them look interesting, as if he were painting them for the first time.

Without warning a grubby hand shot out in front of Tomoaki, knocking over the tall building; it grabbed the little house and was gone.

‘What ‘ave we got ‘ere then Slitty Eyes?’

‘N..n..no!’

The boy held the house up to the light, laughed and threw it down the carriage. The little house spun through the air before slamming into a window and smashing into pieces.

Tomoaki felt his eyes burn with tears. Had it been like that for his Grandparents? Had they run to the window to see what was happening? He hoped they hadn’t. He hoped with all his heart that his Grandmother had stayed at the table, slicing pickles; he hoped that his Grandfather had been holding up his paintbrush, the way he did, to measure a cherry tree with one eye closed. Because if they had been watching, if Grandma had gone to the window and been surprised by the sudden new perspective of the mountain, and if she had called Granddad over to observe the change, then they would have seen the bridge coming as they spun in their little house on the crest of the giant wave.

© flyingscribbler 2011

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19 comments on “‘Perfect Rice and Cherry Trees’. A flash fiction.

  1. Helen says:

    That was a sad story, it highlights the ignorance and aggression that children are so capable of. I loved the gentleness of the boy child, how he to comfort himself imagined his grandparents in their home. I wanted to slap the bully very hard.

    You know my mother was Greek and my father English I was born in the early 50’s and I remember school kids calling me woggy – they didn’t even get that one right. But I was tough stuff, they didn’t call me that for long. ^__^

    Very nice story Justin, written just right.

    I found a small typo “take of his coat; ” off I think ^_^

    • I’m glad this story resonated with you Helen and that it seemed authentic. I was hoping to portray the ignorance of the cowardly bully, of whom there are too many.
      Thanks for the typo warning. Now corrected. It’s a drawback of the flash method!

  2. Sonia Lal says:

    Pretty sad story! Mean bullies. Someone needs to teach them a lesson.

  3. John Wiswell says:

    Those poor grandparents! Was a little ticked at the ending, since the plot arc is just the bully being a bully and then it ends. Sort of want to kick the racist into the river.

    Minor typo: Para14 has no opening quotation marks

    • I was aware of this issue John, but I liked the idea of Tomo being overwhelmed by another emotion which put the bullying into a different perspective. I may have overdone the bully in retrospect. Thanks for catching the typo!

  4. ~Tim says:

    Lots of emotion in this that swell to the tsunami at the end. I like it.

  5. Laurita says:

    A sad story, from all perspectives, but done with expert subtlety.

  6. KjM says:

    We survive, in our imaginations, in stepping back from the harshness around us, in choosing to look elsewhere.

    A powerfully written story and a wonderful excursion into imagination – with the pain the world inflicts still intact. A good balance.

    Painful to read, but there’s a sweetness there also. Well done.

  7. Dark but beautifully done. You contrasted the smelly reality of the London underground (oh so familiar) with the mystical, perfect world of “home” wonderfully. A heart-breaking ending though.

  8. Icy Sedgwick says:

    This was really sad. Thankfully I never saw anything like that on the tube or the little treasures would have been going home with an earful.

  9. I love the way you managed to juxtapose the grim, unbearable reality of London, versus the island of temporary calm within the boy’s imagination. There is a sense that he is all at sea, which gives the story a tragic irony.

    Beautifully done!

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