23 November 2012

"Food for Thought"

By Curtis C. Chen

I have never actually liked Japanese cuisine that much. I've never even been to Japan. I was born and raised a Hawaiian girl, so my favorite dishes involve pineapple and pork and sweet bread.

I hoped my straight face held as I watched Sato fill a bowl with steamed rice, dark green seaweed, and yellow chunks of—carrot? I hoped I would be able to choke it all down.

Sato presented the food to me with a slight bow, as if it were some kind of great gift. I bowed back at him, took the bowl, and started eating. Thank God my parents had forced me to learn how to use chopsticks.

"Will you not eat as well, Sato-san?" I asked. Honestly, it's kind of creepy for you to just sit there staring at me.

"I have already eaten," Sato said. "I apologize for the lack of privacy, but the captain does not want you to accidentally wander into a dangerous area of the vessel."

I nodded while chewing the hell out of a piece of cold, rubbery seaweed. "Sato-san, may I ask what you are doing here? I understand if you cannot answer, for reasons of military secrecy."

He smiled. I was speaking the most formal, deferential Japanese I knew, and keeping my body hunched over, a small and submissive female. I promised myself that I would clock this guy before I escaped.

"I will answer," Sato said. "It is good to hear and speak Japanese again.

"I am a sorcerer of sorts," he continued, gesturing to the workspace behind him. "Emperor Hirohito loaned me to the Germans in order to investigate how we might interfere with the Americans' magic. It is the will of the Emperor that we should seek less confrontational means to injure our enemies."

"That seems wise," I said.

"The Emperor is a wise man," Sato said, but his eyes belied the conviction of his words. Interesting. "There has been enough killing. Whatever we can do to end this war quickly, I will do my best to help."

"You appear to have been somewhat successful already," I said. "You rescued me from the Americans. How did you do that?"

He hesitated. I scooped up more rice and puckered my lips around the chopsticks, sucking slowly. Sato was a man, and the way his gaze went to my mouth told me he was a man who was interested in women. Good. I could use that, too, when the time came.

"You have the talent, Hachiya-san," he said, looking back up at my eyes. "Is that correct?"

I inclined my head, as if bashful. "I am not trained in the magical arts, Sato-san, but I was told by my teachers that I have some inborn ability."

"So you know something of sorcery."

"Only what a schoolgirl learns."

"That is enough." Sato picked up a worn leather notebook. "I think it is time for you to learn more. As I have."

And then he told me one hell of a story.


Image: Crab Kimbap Rolls by Emily Barney, April, 2009