Saturday, December 17, 2005

A chapter from my novel not-in-progress

I decided once to try to write a novel, a mystery story. I didn't get too far, and I don't know if I'll ever pick it up again. I'm kind of convinced that my attention span's too short for such a long project. On the other hand, every time I run across this file on my hard drive and open it up, I kind of enjoy reading some parts of it, and I think, in an idle, uncommitted kind of way, about finishing it.

Anyway, here's probably the most complete scene I wrote. It still needs some polishing, probably a little bit of Japanese dialog to add some atmosphere, and especially more description (my weakest point), but I'm actually pretty happy with it. I'm not gonna set it up or anything, except to say that this scene takes place in Tokyo. It's kind of violent, so don't read it if that bothers you.

The next morning, I checked out of the hotel and went outside where a line of taxis was waiting at the curb. The driver first in line used his inside controls—all Japanese cabs are equipped with them—to open the trunk and the passenger door. I tossed my bag in the trunk and got into the back seat. A chinpira – not one of the guys from the night before -- jumped in after me and shoved a gun against my ribs. I slid to the right behind the driver. He slammed the trunk and passenger door shut with his controls and pulled away from the curb in a hurry. The chinpira said "Donto moobu!"—don't move—trying to speak English and not doing a very good job of it.

I moved anyway. I slid forward and twisted in my seat and grabbed the wrist of the kid's gun hand with my left hand. I pinned his gun hand against the back of the seat with the gun barrel angled away from me and hit him twice in the middle of his face with my right hand. I heard a loud crack when I hit him with the second punch. I hoped it was the sound of his nose breaking and not my hand. He slumped on the seat and I took the gun out of his limp hand and held it pointed down and away in my right hand. I grabbed the back of his neck with my left hand so I could slam his face into the back of the front seat, but there was no fight left in him. My hand was okay, but his nose wasn't. I let go of his neck and shoved him—not real hard—into the far corner of the back seat, where he sort of bent over and whimpered and held onto his bloody face with both hands.

I held up the gun so the driver could see it in the rearview mirror and then shoved it far enough into the back of his seat for him to feel it. It was some kind of revolver. I wasn't sure if I needed to just pull the trigger or to cock it first, but the last thing I wanted to do in Japan was to shoot somebody anyway. They get so freaked out about guns over there that I wasn't about to take a chance on having to make some kind of self-defense plea. Once the gun was out of the driver's sight I kept my finger off the trigger. I'd have put the safety on if I knew how. If revolvers even have safeties.

What next? An attempted kidnapping by two more yakuza and me breaking one guy's nose and holding a gun on the other one hadn't been on my to-do list for the day. This kind of thing was only supposed to happen in movies. So I did what I thought a guy in a movie would do. I told the driver to pull over. I tried to sound like someone who did this all the time, but I felt more like a character in the Bullwer-Lytton bad writing contest. "'Pull over!' I snarled malignantly." It seemed to work though.

The driver said, "Hey, calm down, Professor." I told him to shut up and pull over now. He pulled the cab over to the curb.

Before I could get out, he said, "Professor, let me say something."

"Talk fast," I said.

"Listen, I'm sorry about the kid back there. He wasn't supposed to pull a gun on you. We just need you to come with us to talk to my boss, and we didn't think you'd come after what happened last night."

"Damn right I wouldn't." I was on a roll with the tough-guy dialog.

"So we decided to pull this little taxi stunt on you, but the kid got a little carried away." He glared at the chinpira, suddenly angry. He reached over the seat and slapped the top of the chinpira's head. The chinpira let out something between a squeak and a shriek and the driver threw a handkerchief at him. "Look at you, you idiot! You're getting blood all over the taxi! Clean yourself up." The chinpira picked up the handkerchief and held it to his nose, then started wiping feebly at some of the blood that was all over himself and his half of the back seat. The driver shook his head and said, "I'm sorry, Professor. These kids today just don't know how to act. And they can't fight. Three of those guys who came after you last night are in the hospital."

"Yeah, it's hard to get good chinpira these days. Face forward and keep your hands on the steering wheel."

"Sure, Professor, no problem. We don't want to hurt you. Just stay calm. How about putting down the gun?"

I shoved the gun harder into the back of his seat. If he made a move, though, I was going to drop it and fight him with my hands. I felt a lot more comfortable that way.

"OK, OK, don't get excited. Anyway, we know you've been, uh, talking with [TSS]. We want to know what about."

"So why don't you ask him?"

"We know what he says. We want to know what you say."

This whole thing wasn't making sense. "If you just want to talk to me, why'd you send those four punks after me last night?"

"Well, see, that's the problem. We didn't send those guys after you. [TSS] did that on his own." He sounded almost embarrassed now. "He wasn't supposed to do that. That's something else my boss wants to talk to you about."

"What, your boss wants to apologize to me?"

"Hey, we have our rules too, you know. I thought you were supposed to be some kind of expert on yakuza."

I'd actually written a book on how the yakuza are affected by movies and manga about them, how such depictions influence their real-life behavior, which in turn influences the movies about them, which again influence their behavior. But seeing as how I had just broken one yakuza's nose and he was bleeding on the seat next to me while I pointed a gun I didn't want to use at another yakuza, it didn't seem like a good time to be getting all postmodern. "Just movies about yakuza," I said.

"Well, that's what we're really like, you know. We do follow bushido and all that."

Before I'd met Claire, I might have gone into full lecture mode, gun in hand and all. But she'd cured me of that sort of thing. Mostly. So all I said was, "We both know movies aren't real life."

He did. "Yeah, OK, you got me there. But my boss promised that you'd be safe. We do have rules that some of us care about."

Some of us. "What about you? Do you promise?"

"Yeah. You’ll be safe. What do you say, Professor?"

I held his gaze while I made up my mind. He didn't look away. I looked over at the chinpira bleeding next to me. "Get in the front seat," I said. The driver and I watched him stumble out of the back seat and into the front. The driver growled a few insults in his direction, then turned and looked at me again. I needed to know what the connection was between [TSS] and the yakuza. "Let's go," I said. Search and destroy.

1 comment:

  1. Funny, I thought of writing a book once. I wanted it to be autobiographical. A sketch of who I am that was made up in a series of short stories told in the way I saw them. More polished than a journal but just as honest. Like a collage.

    This morning it suddenly occurred to me that my blog is it's own realization of that little dream.


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