a Post Traumatic Hokkaido Blues
Post Traumatic Hokkaido Blues
After the incident in which the fat boy beheaded five of my classmates
and then performed hara-kiri on the summit of Fuji-san my parents
decided it was time to get the hell out of Tokyo.
"Hitoshi-kun," they said, "we're heading north."
Heading north for the Japanese is the socio-equivalent of an American
heading west except at the end there is no California, San Francisco,
LA et al. North is Hokkaido, land of snow, snow and snow. In a
figurative sense, it's Japan's frozen asshole. I knew this for a
Before the move my parents made me give away my Manga collection, my
Playstation 2 and, even more hurtful, the Pamela Anderson portfolio I
had been building quietly in my bedroom. I was allowed only to keep my
old and seldom used NeoGeo. This for my parents harked back to an
earlier, more innocent, form of cultural entertainment.
My parents were children of the sixties and remained big fans of Yoko
Ono to this day. They pinpointed the breakdown in modern society
exactly to the moment John Lennon was shot in New York on December 8th
"We're going to live a simpler kind of life," my father said.
I didn't like the sound of that. Simpler for them maybe, but what
Our new home was in Wakkanai, on the northernmost tip of
Hokkaido. On our first day there my father took my down to the beach
and stood with his hand up against his eyes looking out over incoming
waves. It turned out that he'd grown up in this wasteland. Who'd have
"This stretch of water is called La Perouse Strait," he said, "On a
good day you can see Korsakov. That's in Russian territory."
"Cripes Homer!" I said in my best Bart Simpson voice.
My father gave his shoulders a disappointed shrug and turned and
walked back up the beach retracing our footprints towards the sea wall.
At the wall he turned and shouted. "I used to have hours of fun here.
Best time of my life."
Who was he trying to kid? On two sides were sand, on one side sea, the
other side wall. What was I going to play? What was I going to plug in
and to where?
Then I noticed a figure. He was two hundred metres down the beach
holding a pole out over the water. Thinking what the hell I set off
towards him praying that the salt encrusted sand wouldn't wreck forever
the Red or Dead loafers I was wearing.
"I'm Hitoshi Sartori," I said loudly because of the buffeting
The fishing-boy turned, looked at me, looked back at the sea. He had a
harelip and these two deep-set eyes. Great, I thought, inbred.
I was wondering how I could make my leave without appearing rude when
the rod jerked and the spool of wire at it's base started spinning
"Eeeeee!" shouted the fishing-boy. "Hold on to my waist. This one's a
I looked around to make sure no-one was watching and then I grabbed
two handfuls of pack-a-mac and held on. We were twisted to the left,
the right, like two socks on a washing line. I dug my heels into the
sand and heaved back with all my might.
With a ping, the line snapped and we both fell back.
"Shit," I said. "What was that?"
Fishing-boy shook his head. "Don't know. Lot of big fish about
recently. I haven't caught one. Last week Takashi-san got one. Twelve
feet long. Three eyes."
Fishing boy pointed out across the water. "Twenty years ago. Nuclear
meltdown at Korsakov. Come on, you want come to mine? We listen to porn
on the longband."
Fishing-boy's name was Akinobu. He lived in a detached
bungalow with his mother. His father, he told on the way over, had been
a fisherman. He had been killed and eaten the previous Summer by a
"The only thing we bury was one leg and a badly chewed torso."
That wasn't something I wanted to think about. I'd been to enough
funerals myself recently. Those kids the fat boy killed, he boiled the
heads and ate the brains. The eyes he plucked out with cocktail
"About this porn?" I asked.
"Come to my room," said Akinobu.
Akinobu's room was traditional Japanese, right down to the Ando
Hiroshige watercolour on the wall and the worn out tatami on the floor.
I was surprised when he pushed a futon aside with his left foot and
pulled out an Intempo PG-01 digital radio from off a low shelf. The
Intempo, I knew, was a decent set of kit.
"You speak English, yes?" said Akinobu.
I nodded my head, hiding my further surprise that someone whose
Japanese was so stiltled should have mastered another language.
"The best porn is American," said Akinobu and with practised authority
he twizzled the white notched dial on the radio.
At first I thought it could have been seals but after a while I began
to make out words, 'Ooo yeah' and 'Come on baby' and the occasional
slap of hand on skin.
It was erotic and unerotic at the same time. Like half imagined sex
when you are on the point of sleep.
"What is this stuff?" I asked.
Akinobu shrugged. "I came across it last year. I don't know what. But
it always there. You wanna listen?"
I nodded my head.
What do they say? In the kingdom of the blind the one eyed
man is king. In this way Akinobu and I became friends. He taught me how
to fish and I taught him how to win on Double Dragon on the NeoGeo. We
slipped into a relaxed camaraderie that said more about our frozen
isolation than about anything we shared in common.
Winter came and with it snow. Snow and snow. Even the water was white,
waves chopping the surface relentlessly, but we still fished. We had a
couple of close encounters with more big ones although we didn't catch
them. That didn't seem to matter. The spirit of fishing, Akinobu told
me, was not in the catch. He was full of shit like that.
Towards the end of February the Japanese national braodcaster started
repeating Baywatch late at night and from Tokyo came the news of a gas
attack in the subway. My parents felt vindicated in their move North.
Although they weren't totally happy. They said I was bottling up my
feelings after the beheading. In this vein and despite my protestations
they booked me into a sixth month programme with a crystal healer. Her
name was Mrs Watanabe and she lived in a small house on the edge of
At the start of every session she told me to take off my clothes, lie
face down on the floor and spread my cheeks. She said the anus was a
very strong centre of physical well-being. I told my parents this
thinking they would whisk me out of there faster than a fart in a wind
tunnel but they only nodded their head and said to make a step forward
it was sometimes necessary to take two steps back.
"I'm talking about having a crystal up my ass," I shouted.
"It's that or the psychiatrist's chair," my father said. I knew he
I began to spend more time with Akinobu just to get away from them,
from her, from everything. On some nights we would listen to the radio
porn. Other nights we would sit and chill.
And then one night towards the end of Winter it
That night we were in Akinobu's bedroom twiddling our thumbs
waiting for 'Ring 2' to be shown on Wowow when Akinobu said he would
give the porn another go. I should say at this point that for the last
two days the porn had mysteriously disappeared. Instead all we got was
that crackle crackle crackle of airwaves fuzz.
Akinobu spun the dial and there it was, these voices clear as if they
were in your shorts and shouting to let them get the hell out of
"What is it?" I said because it sure as tits wasn't porn.
"Eeeee!" said Akinobu and he put his fingers to his lips.
"Alpha 3 Zero," said the voice from the radio. "Can we have your
"36 East 46 West," came the reply.
"We're reading you."
There was a pause.
"Is this line secure?"
"This is Hokkaido. Who's gunna be listening up here?"
"Well we've got a little problem."
"You're calling it a he now, are you?"
"Just listen. He's acting weird. It's the drugs or whatever. They're
wearing off. He's agitated. Pacing. Banging."
"The cage. It's secure. Ain't nothing could break out of there."
"Listen. I'm not too sure. On this boat. There's nowhere to go."
"Cool it. Cool it."
"We request permission to come in sooner. Full ahead we can be at the
rendezvous day after tomorrow."
"You know that's not the plan."
"You don't know what it's like. He's?"
And then the crackle returned. Akinobu jumped up from the bed. He
twizzled the dial. To the left was all Nippon airwaves. To the right
BBC World Service.
"What the hell was that?" I said.
Akinobu shook his head. "Don't know. Sounded like something."
I've got to give it Akinobu. He'd hit the nail on the head. Drugs.
Pacing. A cage on a boat.
"We should tell someone," said Akinobu.
"Tell them what?" I said.
Akinobu shrugged. He knew I was right. We didn't have shit.
"Then we have to go investigate," he said suddenly. Akinobu had opened
his eyes wide and was leaning forward on the bed. "We have to see.
I drummed my hands on my thigh. What could I say? When you've seen
someone lose their head you pretty much want to avoid new experiences.
However, as Akinobu was the only lifeline I had on the living up here I
wanted to let him down gently.
"Maybe," I said.
"Maybe?" Akinobu let his word hang in the air like a bad smell nobody
wants to own and then he jumped up off the bed and crossed the room. He
fished a book off his bookcase and started to flick through it. After a
few minutes he looked up.
"That boat is here. Look." He had his finger on a map. "It's about
twenty-eight mile away. I know the area well. Used to fish out there
with my father. It's all rocks. There's only one place a boat could put
in." Akinobu was talking faster now and he was jittering the book up
and down in excitement. "We can hitch part of way, walk the rest. You
tell your parents you're staying at mine. I'll tell my mom I'm staying
"They'll think I'm your boyfriend. That's how they think."
"Then tell them I'm a girl."
"Difficult, they've met you after all."
Akinobu shrugged. "Then tell them the truth."
I laughed at that. "The truth. That we've heard about cages and drugs
and god knows what. They already think that I'm cracked. No, Akinobu,
I'm sorry I don't want to go."
"If you change your mind."
"I won't," I said.
They were fine last words, and very wrong.
When I got home mom was doing her yoga exercises while
listening to the latest Coldplay CD and dad was yelling at a friend
down the telephone. Apparently some stock market had collapsed in
Thailand or something.
Dad finished his conversation, put the receiver down and then noticing
me, said he wanted a word.
"Watanabe-san called earlier. She was concerned. You missed your
crystal aura session."
"Dad," I said, "I don't need that shit. You should see the size of her
crystals. I've told you what she does with them."
My mother turned down the music. She was in some crazy lotus position
and it looked as if her head was poking out of her ass.
"Son," she said, "Watanabe-san is a good person and very talented. She
is worried that this fear of rectal invasion hides some deeper
"We are here to help you," said my father.
"You need to talk about it," said my mother. "You need to heal."
"You two are freaks," I shouted. "I don't want to heal. That beheading
thing, I just want to bury it." Then I said it, that sentence that
could only lead to one place. "I need to get away."
My mother gave my father a meaningful stare. "So you'd like to go to
Shezu was this Buddhist retreat in China. You got up at the crack of
dawn and beat yourself with a stick for eight hours. Mum had been there
and she thought it was the coolest thing. She said it was just what I
needed to get over that incident in Tokyo, she practically had the
tickets booked. What could I say? I'd rather be beheaded than go
"I'm going away with Akinobu," I said. "He's going to take me fishing
way up the coast."
"Oh darling," my mom said, she put her hands together, "that's great.
You need to talk to someone."
"We'll be listening to porn and jerking off," I said.
"Well that's a start," said my father.
"I agree," said my mother. "The release of sexual tension is a way of
releasing also your inner anger."
"Christ mom," I said, "put a sock in it."
Twenty-six hours after that Akinobu and I were walking along
the highway with our thumbs out. The highway was long and narrow and
went in only one direction; two if you counted the way we had
It seemed pointless us both having our thumbs out. Mine might as well
be up my ass as wiggling about in the air so I shoved it in my pocket
and cradled my balls. This set my mind thinking and I was just about to
ask Akinobu if faced with the choice of Pamela Anderson with only one
tit or no Pamela Anderson at all when a car stopped and a large round
face under a deerstalker hat peered out.
"Which way you boys going?"
"That way," said Akinobu and he pointed down the road.
The face broke into a smile. "Well hop right in then. That's the way
My freakometer was going off big time but Akinobu had already got in
the car and was peering out at me expectantly from the nearside window.
It appeared that I didn't have any choice.
Our driver was a theatrical agent from Hiroshima. He had been
representing a troupe of Komodo drummers. He had got them booked into
the Royal Variety Performance in the UK but one week before show time
they had committed mass suicide. They had kept their cult membership
quiet from the agent and he was pretty pissed. Now he had only one week
to find a new set of drummers.
"You boys don't know any drummers, do you?"
"Not really," I said.
"I heard of some in Mashike," said Akinobu.
"Been there, done that," said the agent. "They're in the States. Doing
a High School tour. I mean High Schools! They need a better agent! And
you know what?" The agent's voice had gone high, like the wind. "I'm
After this outburst the agent lulled into a silence. The only sound
was me breathing, Akinobu breathing, and the agent's fingers drumming
against the steering-wheel.
His drumming had a rhythm to it and I nearly suggested he go off to
that Variety Performance himself but I didn't. I had other things on my
mind. Like what the hell was I doing.
At a specific corner Akinobu leant forward and told the agent
that this was us. As we got out the car the agent leant across the seat
and passed us a card.
"If you come across any drummers. Tell them to call me. My cut is 25
per cent. If they squirm offer 20. But only if you have to."
I looked around me. On one side cliff rose. On the other sea crashed.
In the middle was road.
"We see what we can do," said Akinobu. "But what do we get?"
"You got a lift," said the agent. "What is this fucking world coming
to?" And then he was off.
I looked at Akinobu. "Where are we?"
I could already see where we were. Nowhere.
Akinobu pulled the map out of his pocket. He had it folded up in four
like a handkerchief.
"Look," he said. "Here. That's the place the boat must be going to
land. There's a kind of harbour and a flat area at the back."
A wave hit the rocks to the left of me and spume hit my face. Wind
whistled around my ankles, down my neck.
"This way," said Akinobu and he set off in the direction of the rocks.
I should have known it. I could kiss my Alexander McQueen's goodbye.
And for what?
"We'll stop here for the night," said Akinobu.
We had been climbing over rocks for hours. The sun had done its thing
where it had moved from one place to another and night was on its way.
The road had gone. Everything had gone. It was just us and nature and
my McQueen's, as expected, were fucked.
"You pitch the tent," I said, looking out across the sea that had been
the one constant throughout the day, "and I'll catch us some octopus
"Good plan," said Akinobu.
"I was riding you," I said. "I don't know how to catch octopus."
"Ok," said Akinobu, "you pitch the tent. I catch the octopus." And he
set off towards where the waves crashed relentlessly against the
The tent was one of those igloo ones. I'd never put up a tent before
but luckily it had instructions. They were in eight languages. I knew
by the flag that one of them was Iraqi. Jesus, I knew it was a world
economy, but Iraq. Don't those people live in tents anyway?
By the time Akinobu got back from the whatever he was doing to get the
octopus out of the water I'd read the instructions in both English and
Japanese and I'd laid the poles out. I'd done it so they spelt 'Help!'
in kanji. I thought that was a nice touch.
"I'm a city boy," I said to Akinobu's disapproving glare.
"Well, city boy," said Akinobu, "skin yourself an octopus."
Even I knew he was joking. You don't skin octopi, you fry them.
"What the hell are we doing here anyway?" I said. That radio message
seemed a lifetime away.
"You having second thoughts?" said Akinobu.
What could I say? I had never even wanted to be here in the first
place. Instead I waved my hand in the air like I'd seen Jean Reno do in
Leon. "Third. Forth. Fifth." And we laughed at that.
Night came down like a curtain and stars went up like a round
of applause. Akinobu and I were sitting cross-legged on a thermal mat
in front of our tent. We had a fire going and we had octopus sizzling
in a pan above the fire. There was something I wanted to ask Akinobu.
The darkness and the cold seemed to provide a protective cover for
"It must have been a shock," I said. "Your father being eaten by a
Akinobu shrugged, leant forward to the pan, and bounced an octopus leg
between his palms.
"It was expected, kind of."
Kind of? What did that mean? I leant forward too and did the same
bouncing trick with the octopus between my palms.
"A month before it happened we went to the temple. We rang the bell
three times. We took our fortunes from off the branch. My father's it
said, 'You will have an accident'."
"What did yours say?" I said.
Akinobu laughed. The sound was low like a wave dragging back across
fine rocks. "'You will not die in a car crash'. We don't even have a
"No shit," I said.
"No shit," said Akinobu. He smiled and handed me a piece of octopus.
"My mother, she is philosopical. She says she will meet my father again
one day in heaven."
Akinobu tapped the side of his head. "I see him every day in here. I
see him right now in his boat. The sun it is beating down. He has a net
full of fish and they are wriggling. He is happy."
"No shit," I said and this time I meant it.
We finished the octopus and then at Akinobu's instigation we told
ghost stories. We had to sit close together in front of the fire
turning to heat up our asses when they became too cold from the night
Akinobu had this one story about this headless woman and a school trip
to the Korean mountains. He said it was true but other things that he
had said seemed truer and that night when I closed my eyes all I could
see was his father out across the water in the sun, fishes wriggling at
In the morning I woke up curled up with Akinobu like shit
around a string. I watched his breath going in and out, his harelip
vibrating softly. I wondered if that was why he didn't speak well, or
rather, why his sentences were clipped of words; to draw less attention
to his mouth. Kids could be cruel, I knew that for a fact.
Outside a wave crashed and Akinobu shifted throwing an arm around my
waist. I left it there momentarily and then poked him awake and said
where the hell was our breakfast.
"Your turn to cook," said Akinobu sitting and rubbing his eyes. "I did
I unzipped my sleeping bag and then zipped it right back up again. The
cold was like a boxing glove on a prize-fighters hand. "Can you put the
heating on?" I said.
Akinobu laughed at that like it was the funniest thing I'd ever said
and he grabbed one his socks and held it over my nose. I gave him a
friendly jab to the ribs which wasn't so friendly cause the air shot
right out of him and then I twisted us around so I was on top of him
and the sock was in my hand and over his nose.
"So who's cooking breakfast?" I said.
He was laughing now and I was laughing too. Back in Tokyo you could
have shot me if one of my friends had caught me in a tent holding a
sock over someone's nose. But things were different now. And of course,
my friends were dead.
"I'll do it, I'll cook breakfast," said Akinobu.
"Thank you," I said. "Thank you."
Eight o'clock saw us packed up and ready to go. Akinobu had
swum naked in the sea. I had half expected him to come up with a fish
in his mouth. He hadn't.
"Join me," he had shouted.
"Get me in there," I had said, "and my dick will be shrivelled for
"Like you been using it," shouted Akinobu.
What did he know? One day Keiko had asked me if I would like to take a
bath with her. It was new and she said it had all these bubbles. That
was what she said but I knew it was an excuse to see me without my
underpants. I had just got in it when her mom came home.
Of course her mom was on the phone to my mom right off and before I
knew it my mom had taken me to the John Lennon condom shop in Tokyo.
She told me to pick what I wanted. She thought she was being cool. She
wasn't. I chose a Yoko Ono nipple rub. I was pulling her ripcord. My
mother didn't see that. She put it into her basket and waddled up to
the cash desk like she just popped my cherry for me. With parents like
that who needs an erection?
"What are you thinking?" said Akinobu stepping out of the water.
"You are shrivelled," I said.
"Yeah right," said Akinobu, "and you didn't even have the balls to go
into the water."
"Watch me," I said and I started to take off my jacket. Then I
Suddenly I realised I wouldn't be seeing Keiko anymore. She was
This was exactly the kind of shit I had been trying to bury.
We packed the tent in silence and then Akinobu pulled out his map
"Are you ok?" he said.
"Just what is it we're looking for?" I said.
Akinobu put his arms out in front of him and walked around like a
zombie. "We're going to find a monster." He laughed. "We're going to
find a monster."
"If I'm right about this then the boat should be just over
here," said Akinobu and he stopped.
I stopped by him. We were at the top of this high bluff. Neither of us
had looked down yet. If we did and there was nothing there then we had
come this way for nothing. Or not for nothing. I wasn't sure.
"Go on then," said Akinobu, "look."
"You first," I said and then before he had chance I glanced downwards.
"Shit," I said. "And I mean it."
There was this crescent shaped beach with a wooden jetty sticking out
like a dick in the middle of it. Parked up next to the jetty was a big
boys trawler. It was fishing boat cum oil tanker. I could just make out
the name of the trawler, 'Nana'.
"Short for banana?" said Akinobu.
He was making a joke. That's what you do in times of stress. That or
jerk off and jerking off wouldn't have been appropriate right
On the deck of the trawler was the cage we had heard talk about. It
was about a hundred feet high a hundred feet wide. In the centre of
this cage holding onto the bars and looking out was King Kong. There
was no mistaking him. It was the full monkey.
"I don't fucking believe it," I said.
"They must be making a film," said Akinobu.
I shook my head. "Even in a film they wouldn't have a real one."
"You know what I mean."
"What are we going to do?" I said.
"Let's think," said Akinobu.
"What about?" I said. "It's fucking King Kong. He's fucking
"I fucking see that," said Akinobu and he punched me on the arm and
broke his face into a grin. "What do you think they'll do with
"I don't know," I said. "Put him in a zoo, I guess."
That's when Akinobu said it.
"We've got to set him free."
As soon as he said it, I knew he was right. We had made a journey and
this was the conclusion.
"How though?" I said.
"Where there's a cage," said Akinobu, "there's a way out."
"No shit Tripitaka," I said and followed Akinobu as he set off down
Sometime later we were hunkered down in the rocks in the
shadow of the boat looking up at Kong. He looked just like he did in
the movies. Monkey head on a monkey body. Only way too real. Know what
There was movement on board. These lean-limbed tattoo-armed sailor
guys were attaching ropes the top of the cage. Kong didn't like this
and he was reaching up trying to grab them but he couldn't get his
fingers through the bars.
"You sure you want to do this?" said Akinobu.
The ropes had tightened and this engine noise had started up and the
cage was being lifted up. Kong was dangling between the sea and the
air. It didn't suit him. He should have been in a jungle somewhere.
There was a natual order to things and this wasn't it.
"I want to do it," I said. "But I worry. We let him out? What
"In this life," said Akinobu, "you always have choices. It is best to
worry about only the choices that you can make."
"But what if?"
"Yes?" said Akinobu.
"What if you make the wrong choice?"
"Even a wrong choice leads to an option. Who knows? From the bad, may
"You are full of shit," I said.
Akinobu held out his hands. "We are all full of shit. That is the
human condition. Luckily God has given us the power to dump."
At the last second I saw his smile and he jumped easily away from my
punch. I had to admit. He was growing on me this
We set up camp a distance from the boat. Akinobu fished and I
put up the tent. I got it right this time and by the time Akinobu came
back with the octopus I was sitting in the centre of it trying to
distract myself by reading Banana Yoshimoto's Kitchen.
"Does she mention anything about cooking seafood?" said Akinobu
nodding at the book.
"It's not that kind of book," I said.
"I've read it," said Akinobu, "I thought it was."
"Very funny," I said. "The first time I saw you I thought you were
"I am," said Akinobu. "I am my own father. After dinner I'll show you
how I can put my dick up my ass."
"That's a trick I've seen before. Do you get Okey-Dokey up
"Like six times a week city boy. Now rub some sticks together and make
like some heat. I wanna be doing this plan on a full stomach. That's
the first rule of war."
"What's the second?"
"Have a bigger gun than your enemy."
I laughed at that. It was the nerves and something more. Something I
couldn't yet put my finger on.
Night came and we crept towards the jetty. I was shivering
with cold, with adrenaline, everything. I felt like I needed to pee but
I couldn't go. Someone had shoved a bung up there.
We passed the head of the ship and there was the jetty, the cage, a
Quonset hut. From the hut came the sound of music, The Bangles, Walk
Like An Egyptian and the sound of glasses clinking.
Kong in his cage was sleeping. He was lying on his back, his massive
belly retracting, contracting, his hands palm up like rubber in the
starlight. Next to the cage was a makeshift sign, daubed in large white
letters. 'Princess, this way' it said and then there was an
"Jokers," I said under my breath and my breath was visible in the
Next to me Akinobu stifled a laugh. Or a fart. He nodded towards the
cage. "How do we get this thing open?"
"You're asking me?"
"You're the city boy."
Behind us Walk Like An Egyptian segued into Eternal Flame. You might
have known it was a Greatest Hits collection. Greatest Hits say
something about the person who listens to them. It says we're the kind
of people who'd sell our own mothers for the right price. Or the right
"Come on," I said. "This way."
We crept around the side of the cage. We were close now and we could
smell him. His hand was as big as my body. His head bigger. This was
Kong. It was really him.
I took a deep breath and I felt something give in my ass and this time
it wasn't a crystal but it had the same effect. At least the effect my
parents wanted the crystal to have.
"Here," said Akinobu from my right. "Here, I think I've found a
Akinobu was standing by this wheel. It was about waist height, made of
iron. That wheel was all that stood between us and one big monkey. I
glanced at Akinobu.
"If we turn it," I said, "and he comes out then he might go for
Akinobu shrugged. "What is the alternative? We leave him in
I looked over to where Kong was. I shrugged my shoulders. "We could
"And then what," said Akinobu, "we spend the rest of our lives
thinking about what might have been?"
"There's always a might have been," I said. "That stands to
"And there's always a should have done."
"When those kids got beheaded in Tokyo," I said. "It wasn't my
"What?" said Akinobu.
From the Quonset hut came the sound of a cheer, loud above the beat of
"Yes?" said Akinobu.
"That day," I said, "I was there."
"No shit," said Akinobu.
"The fat boy was my classmate. I don't know. He must have given us
some kind of drug because the next thing I knew I was on my knees and I
was awake. I was at the end of the line and in the line were my
classmates. The fat boy he went down the line and one by one he cut off
"Jesus," said Akinobu. "Why didn't you run?"
"I don't know. The drug. When he got to me the fat boy put the blade
against my neck. He swung back the sword and then he stopped. He said
no, he said he wanted me to tell."
"Tell what?" said Akinobu.
"I don't know," I said, "this. After it happened everybody wanted me
to talk. Everybody wanted me to go over it and over it and find some
meaning. But you know what I don't think there was any. There was
nothing to believe in so he wanted to create meaning. And you know
what, I understood. Beneath the horror, the fear, the blood on the
floor, I understood. For the first time in that room I felt alive
because for those seconds I was facing death. That's what I feel so
fucking guilty about."
Suddenly the sound of music behind us was louder.
"Get down," said Akinobu and he put an arm around me and pulled me
Lying flat against the ground we watched as a door on the Quonset hut
was pulled open and a man stepped outside. He moved a few metres along
the side of the hut and then tool a leak against it. Sticking out the
waistband of his jeans was the handle of a gun. He went back inside
shutting the door behind him.
"How do you feel now?" whipsered Akinobu.
"I'm shitting it," I whispered back. "Big monkey on one side. Armed
men on the other."
"But you feel alive?"
I nodded my head.
"You see," said Akinobu, "there are many ways to feel alive. Not all
such feelings are linked to ones of guilt. Come, we don't have much
"Quickly," said Akinobu and he placed his hand on the wheel that
opened the door to Kong's cage.
"Ok," I said. "Turn the wheel. Turn the fucking wheel."
I put my hand on the wheel and Akinobu put his hand on top of mine and
we leant our weight against it like we had done with the fishing-rod
that first time we met. The wheel sighed and then it moved. Slowly at
first and then after more quickly.
There was a grating sound behind us and the door to the cage was
opening. At any minute I expected shouts to come from the hut but all I
heard was 'Manic Monday'. Today was Tuesday.
Sweat ran down my back. I saw myself reflected in Akinobu's eyes or I
didn't and I felt that I did. The wheel stopped turning under our hands
but we remained like that hand in hand and our breathing stopped and
Kong's breathing changed and he was opening his eyes and standing
My head went back, my eyes went up. He was there in all his glory,
this creature. He moved like in slow motion, his motion I could feel in
the earth beneath my feet and I was grinning like an idiot, a moron, a
dork and next to me Akinobu had that same grin on his face and I wished
that I had a camera and I was glad that I didn't because I would never
forget this moment.
Kong twizzled his head. He shook his upper body. Then he crouched down
and placed the back of his knuckles on the floor. He leant forward and
down so his face was level with mine. His whole head was as big as my
body and his monkey breath was sour and made me want to retch but I
His eyes looked into mine and he put his head on one side and then he
pulled back his lips from his teeth.
This is it, I thought. And it was.
He spun around and he was off.
We watched him go. Taller than the trees. Larger than life. And behind
us 'Manic Monday' became 'Walking Down Your Street'.
Back at camp I did the tent and Akinobu buried our rubbish.
As dawn broke we were ready to go.
"Once we get to the road, we'll hitch again," said Akinobu.
"We might get that agent again," I said.
"Yeah," said Akinobu, "we might. You never know."
"Yeah," I said, "you never know."
And with that. We were off. On the way home.
No fireworks this time. But, hey, who cares about that shit anyway?
Listen, I've got this story to tell you. It's about these kids who got
beheaded. I'll tell you right off. It wasn't my fault.
It wasn't. It wasn't. It wasn't.
You got that?