Salaryman

After passing the right exams, then gaining admission to and graduating from the right school, Uchida was conditionally hired by the Kosumo Corporation for an entry-level salaried position. For the first six weeks, he and the other recruits underwent the company’s training program, which was quite a change from his four years as a student at University. Instead of chugging beer while his encircled friends shouted “Icki! Icki!” he was in latex gloves cleaning executive toilets, and memorizing in detail Kosumo’s history, holdings and assets. Most significantly, he was learning how to bow.

“It is shameful that your parents never taught you to bow!” section manager Tora-san shouted at the young recruits, lined up at attention in the early morning on the skyscraper roof, the city below an endless puzzle.

“You learn facts, numbers and figures, yet no one teaches your generation respect, without which all else is irrelevant! It was different before, but today we have lazy youth ignorant of custom. This is what we get and what we are forced to employ, so we will teach you now! Sato!”

Uchida stepped forward of the line and stood before the others, with the aim of remaining as erect as possible, wishing his heart would not beat so painfully. All attention was on him.

“Bow!” Tora-san barked.

“Yes, Sir,” Uchida said meekly and prostrated. He remained bent over as the section manager walked slowly around him, inspecting his stance integration, neck angle, back incline, arm position, foot placement, and other details of posture. Uchida watched the swaying shins of his manager’s shark-gray slacks and sharp black leather shoe toes come into view as Tora-san circled back in front of him.

“You make an excellent example, Sato,” the section manager abruptly announced. “Raise yourself now.”

Uchida nodded but remained bent over to mask the smile crossing his face. Good, he thought. The long practice has paid off. He straightened up but kept his eyes down at Tora-san’s feet while privately congratulating himself on knowing the true importance of things.

Under the intense pressure of scrutiny, tendencies and secret practices that had consumed a lifetime of habit redoubled. Upon returning home late at night from a day of degradation by his superiors, Uchida would retreat, exhausted, to the magazine stack he kept hidden. The flat images of women, and wet scenes of sex and torture he could play over and over endlessly on his VCR simply by manipulating the remote. There he felt in control, like a strong man, never threatened by rejection.

さん

Following the completion of his training period, Uchida was one of those chosen by the section manager to be retained as a salaryman. It was a difficult life. He worked hard and long every weekday.

It would start as the sun was rising. He would stand before the long mirror fastened to the back of his bedroom door and survey the figure in the immaculate navy suit and matching tie for any imperfection. Any crease in the fabric could betray him. Then, pretending his reflection was the section manager, he would bow to it several times for practice.

He would say goodbye to his parents and put the bagged breakfast his mother had prepared for him in his briefcase. He would leave the small white house, walk to the underground staircase and descend to the subway platform. He would ride the Keihintohouku line from the suburbs of Chiba, which was not so crowded at first but picked up more passengers as it went along. He and other commuters would then transfer to the Yamamoto line going into and through Tokyo. It was three hours underground for him every day.

After repeating the process for over a month, on this morning, Uchida was dismayed to learn, on arrival at Yamanote, that the immense mass of people crowding the platform was because someone had thrown himself onto the track under an oncoming train and the mess needed to be cleaned up. Instead of a three minute wait, it would be eight to ten minutes, and the crush in the cars would be even worse.

Waiting in the congested concrete tunnel, Uchida felt he might vomit from too much sake with his coworkers at the bar last night, and tried not to sweat for someone might smell him. When the doors slid apart, like a valve in an organ of the great living city, the platform workers shoved and the crowd flowed into the train like blood cells pouring into a vein. Uchida rode with the rest pressed against him to Otemachi, “the big hand of town,” where Kosumo occupied several floors of a black glass skyscraper.

After exiting the train and ascending the escalator to the street, Uchida glimpsed the dark mirrored building against the bright sky, grainy with photochemical smog, before venturing inside. He stared at the backs of the elevator girl’s blue-stockinged calves on the ride up. “Twenty-four,” she exclaimed in an artificial childlike singsong when they reached his floor.

The doors parted and he stepped out with the other office workers. White floor, white light, and rows of black metal desks spread across a room whose walls were far enough apart to be barely perceptible. On each desk was a telephone and computer terminal, and behind most were salarymen wearing navy-blue suits and ties, finger-tapping keyboards, shoulder-hugging receivers. Very good ventilation in this building, Uchida thought, moving into the swarm of voices.

He took his place at his desk between Takakura and Kobayashi. He pulled the folder with his list of clients from his briefcase and began calling their offices. He did this for almost six hours nonstop, keeping in mind the station of the contact he was speaking with and therefore what volume, tone and inflection he should apply. As he ascended in the hierarchy of an organization, his voice would diminish until it was barely audible.

As he was searching the database for information, he felt his chair moving, rolling him with choppy movements away from his desk. He looked over at the next station just as a teacup rattled off the edge, spilling a calligraphic liquid arch into the air before smashing on the tile floor. For about ten seconds, with the rumble vibrating audibly in the air, everyone silently waited, frozen like statues.

The moment the disturbance vanished, with a final shudder, they all reanimated and resumed working, like a machine whose plug had been stuck back in the outlet. The section secretary swept the glass away with a small broom and dustpan and gently swabbed up the tea with a cloth.

At lunchtime Uchida went with Takakura and Kobayashi to a stand-up noodle bar just inside the subway platform. After getting their bowls of soup and paying the cashier, they went back up to the street and sat together on a bench where they could see people entering and leaving their building.

Takakura, who had been there the longest of the three, slurped noisily at his rice noodles, feeding them with disposable chopsticks into his ovoid mouth. “Look!” he said suddenly, pushing black boxy-framed glasses back to his eyes. “Fresh fish!”

Uchida followed Takakura’s pointing finger to see Naomi, the secretary of his section. A man in a black suit held the door for her and she moved her lips in gratitude, lowered her eyes and walked inside.

“I would eat a meter of her shit just to get to her asshole,” Kobayashi declared, graphically illustrating his intent with hand motions and chopsticks.

“Naomi would never fuck you, limpdick,” mocked Takakura. He continued. “You know Uchida, she was an idol singer once, long time ago. Remember that song, ‘Dreamboy Baby?’ That was her, when she was around fifteen.”

Uchida remembered. That would make her twenty-one now, only two years younger than Uchida himself. In his mind, a frozen image against a misty background of silver and bubbles. A ghost-white milky-skinned girl, wide-open dark eyes, long straight hair with bangs. Wearing a pink flared knee-cut skirt, lace blouse woven with little heart shapes, large gold star earrings, white straw bowler hat, and red ribbon bowtied at her neck. Her lilting, filtered voice lip-synching over electronic drumbeats and keyboards, moving her hands like a puppet, unable to look directly into the camera.

Uchida remembered. The scandal, the teary public confession. Civic service ads on the evils of marijuana instead of lucrative endorsements of bubble gum and tampons. She was made an example.

“Besides,” Takakura resumed, addressing Kobayashi, “she’s one of Tora-san’s bitches.”

“I know, I know,” said Kobayashi, his gaze drifting to the sky. “But it’s still fun to imagine.”

Uchida pitied his fate. Someone as shy and pure-of-heart as Naomi would never consider a salaryman, especially someone as lowly as Uchida himself. Only a man like Tora-san, the section manager, would interest her. His throat constricted and a hollowness entered his chest.

Glancing at his wristwatch, Takakura muttered, “Time to go back to Hell.”

I will have to be careful, very careful to keep my thoughts secret, thought Uchida.

That night after work had ended Uchida went barhopping with his coworkers as usual and got smashed. They even convinced him to get up on stage and belt out his own personal version of “Like a Virgin” on the Karaoke mic, grabbing his crotch the whole time like an American.

On the train ride home, he told Yamoto, the one he always shared the ride with, that he was going to stay with a friend on Aoyama Avenue that evening, and he would see him on Monday morning. They parted at the Aoyama stop, Yamoto continuing on his way as Uchida watched the train recede into darkness. Then he sat on a bench and waited for the train to Shinjuku, for he had lied: he was not going to spend the night at a friend’s. Uchida was going to Kabuki-cho to fulfill a desire that had arisen in him over the course of the day.

To pass the time on the ride, Uchida reread the comic he had bought that morning on his way to work. He had to stop after a while though because the speed and lurching of the train made him more drunk and nauseas. To keep himself from passing out, he focused closely on one of the drawings: a sequence of black-on-white images, right to left, of large hands tearing a woman’s kimono down to her waist. But no further, he thought. Never any further.

Walking through Shinjuku was a new experience every time. Uchida noticed several buildings had vanished and been replaced by steel-frame skeletons partially covered in ferroconcrete, like the bone and meat of great decomposing prehistoric beasts. There were also many new stores, marked with radiant, pulsating neon marquees announcing their arrival, some larger than the structures from which they hung. A plastic city in an empire of signs, Uchida mused.

Arriving at Kabuki-cho, Uchida was overcome with shame at coming alone. He knew many men did so, and he was in that way not unusual, but it still felt strange to him. If he had come with his group, then he would be able enter the strip bars because he would not be alone and therefore not somehow suspect. Yet anytime he did anything alone in the midst of others he felt this way. To ignore his discomfort would be dangerous, for it could lead to disaster. Women, underneath their masks of sex-demon and mother, were as real, even more real, than he. With a group this threat could be apportioned out and he could absorb his share of it, but alone he would be overwhelmed and face disintegration.

So many others just like him, wearing navy blue suits and matching ties, walked alone in the same shamefaced fashion, salarymen all. Keeping their eyes down on the sidewalk only to dart up at the images and signs for a moment’s glance, they appeared as endless reflections of himself. Japan is a house of mirrors, he thought. The whole country, crawling with salarymen, like drones programmed to slave in a vast hive for an inscrutable queen.

The parking garage was located underground, beneath a seven-story shopping complex. He took the lift to the lowest level, four floors down, and walked the length of the lot. The vending machine sat in the glare of a floodlight, shadows bringing the slim, eggshell-white, rectangular shape into a strong dimensional presence against the gray concrete wall. He was disappointed to see cars still periodically pulling in and out, and that when they entered through the low corridor, their headlights shone right on the machine, illuminating the area against the wall like a police spotlight.

So he was forced to wait, with the thousand-yen bill smoothed out neatly and pressed flat between his outstretched palm and the fabric of his pocket lining. Alcohol still swam in his bloodstream and he felt it more viscerally with the quickening of his heartbeat. Cars came, people got out and slammed doors, walking past him to the lift. He tried to remain inconspicuous, checking his wristwatch, making it seem as if he were waiting for someone.

The lift had just taken a few people up, so it would take at least a minute for its return, and Uchida was the only one remaining for the moment. No sound came from the low corridor, no light cleft the dark, so he walked quickly to the machine, which he noticed was about the same size as himself. He pulled the bill from his pocket with a trembling, hurried motion.

Uchida felt the finely stippled portrait of Soseki Natsume, the novelist, disapprovingly scrutinizing him as he fed the money into the slot. Just as he did so, a tire squeal echoed from the corridor, where white light grew. The machine softly groaned as Uchida’s chest tensed, then chimed as a tiny red light brightened at the slot. He pushed his hand through the small plastic door just as beams settled on his form, casting his shadow against the wall. He grabbed the underpants, folded into an egg-sized ball, and fled to the stairway in the corner of the lot.

Uchida walked hurriedly out of the Kabuki-cho sector in case he might be recognized. A few blocks away, near the subway station that he would take back to Chiba, he entered a brightly-lit diner and ordered a cup of coffee, explaining to the waitress that he was going to the restroom for a moment.

He sat on the toilet in the stall, trousers around his ankles, trying to form an image of the childlike Naomi. He visualized lifting the pastel skirt to her belly, and sliding the panties down the length of her smooth, pale legs. He pictured the black patch of mossy hair and fondled the panties in his fingers. He knew they were probably worn by a girl of that age, fourteen or fifteen, and this excited him. All over Japan, it was a scandal that prepubescent girls sold their used underpants to venders. He sniffed them, taking in the scent with his breath. It is her, he thought. It is just how she would smell. Like fresh milk and cherry blossoms.

The restroom door opened, letting the noise of the café in for a few seconds, and as it faded someone entered the next stall. Uchida stopped touching himself and pretended to use the toilet. The man in the adjacent stall made vulgar sounds in his defecation, dispelling a gas-cloud odor that permeated the entire restroom.

Finally, the man finished and left. Uchida continued despite the stink until he came, standing up, spurting threads of pearly glue into the pellucid water.

As soon as Uchida left the restroom, he approached the waitress and paid for his coffee, explaining that he had to leave. He could not help feeling that everyone was watching him.

ろく

One of Uchida’s clients was a man named Mr Takechi, a managing consultant for a legal firm that occupied offices in the same black glass building as Kosumo. Uchida had carefully cultivated his relationship with this particular man over the last two months, taking him out to lunch and even playing golf with him one Sunday afternoon. Mr Takechi had taken a liking to Uchida, he once said, because of his studied attitude of passive dependency, which he called amaeru. This thereafter became a matter of tacit understanding between them which both sought to preserve.

On Wednesday, Mr Takechi telephoned to suggest that he and Uchida have lunch together that afternoon, and Uchida agreed, very satisfied with himself that he had so ingratiated himself with this influential man. Mr Takechi asked if Uchida had ever been to the top of the skyscraper. Even though Uchida immediately recalled the rooftop training on his first day at Kosumo, he replied that he had not. Mr Takechi proposed to order sushi for both of them and meet Uchida on the roof at the shrine of the fox, Inari. They agreed on a time and Uchida thanked him graciously for this honor.

Just before one o’clock, Uchida arrived at the agreed-upon spot to find Mr Takechi kneeling silently before the stone icon of Inari. He remained absolutely still as Mr Takechi conducted his prayer. A muffled, high-pitched electronic chirping emitted from where Mr Takechi knelt. He reached into his inside jacket pocket and brought out a slim black phone. He pressed a button, put it to his ear, and mumbled a short indecipherable sentence into the receiver, paused, then folded and returned it to his pocket. When Mr Takechi rose and turned around, Uchida quickly walked the five paces across the roof to where he stood and execute a bow. Mr Takechi returned the bow, though not as deeply, in accordance with their relative stations.

“I make a practice,” Mr Takechi began, “of offering up prayer to Inari as often and sincerely as possible. Just as our ancestors relied on Inari as the guardian of their rice crops, so do I entreat him to keep Japan’s export figures strong.” He reached inside his jacket and removed a pack of cigarettes and took one out. Uchida proferred his lighter and ignited the tip for him. “Thank you,” said Mr Takechi.

“It is my honor, Sir,” Uchida replied.

Uchida was careful to observe the complex etiquette of eating with Mr Takechi, always following his lead, as perfection could easily be interpreted as arrogance. He was sure to remain on the proper level, just less than equal with his social and professional better.

“Do you have a wife?” said Mr Takechi, as he dabbed the corner of his lip with a sharply folded cloth napkin.

“I do not,” Uchida responded, looking down.

“I thought not,” said Mr Takechi, slowly nodding his head. “I know that my opinion is not a popular one, but, as I see the matter, the life of a salaryman is a difficult one, which makes the life of a salaryman’s wife, in some ways, even more difficult than his own. Do you understand my meaning, Mr Uchida?”

“I am not quite certain, Sir,” Uchida said softly. “Please elaborate.”

Mr Takechi’s sight seemed to search the empty sky, showing a hidden reflective side of himself. “It would seem that while, as husband and wife, Man and Woman may spend their lives together, they are in many ways very much apart,” he said. “Whereas Man spends his days composing himself for other men and his nights in dissolution, Woman stays locked away at home, alone and wanting. Man has neither the time, energy, nor capacity to fulfill her true need.”

“And what is Woman’s true need?” Uchida asked with intense curiosity.

“She needs love,” said Mr Takechi bluntly. “She needs to be filled, just as we do. Man may not recognize this, in his state of constant distraction, and it explains the death of our souls. But Woman has time, alone, to consider the true importance of things. And Woman shares herself with others. Women tell one another how stupid their men are, how they wish they were married to real Men. Did you know that is what women talk about together? Did you ever think of this?”

Uchida did not know how to reply, but he knew that he had secretly known this, and that it was the seed of the great fear that had grown inside him, that had kept him alone and in place with others of his kind. He was suddenly terrified: how could he possibly go on living in such dreadful emptiness?

“Perhaps,” said Uchida finally to Mr Takechi, “considering the truth of your statement, it is better to be alone, to try to satisfy oneself, rather than to have to rely on another for fulfillment.”

Mr Takechi gazed off into the sky again and said nothing. They finished the meal in silence, then returned to their respective offices.

なな

On Saturday, Uchida was again before the mirror practicing his how. He bowed to his reflection as if it were one of his colleagues, his section manager, an executive, the company president, the Emperor. He then turned so that he could observe his profile if he shifted his eyes far to the corners and turned his head slightly. He bowed to the same persons in the same consecutive order, and by the time he came to the last, he noticed how flexible he had become since beginning his employment at Kosumo, and was proud of himself. He noticed also, while bent over in this manner, prostrate before the imaginary Emperor, how near his face was to his privates.

An impulse struck Uchida and almost immediately became an irresistible compulsion. Uchida stripped himself to the skin, stimulated himself to erection, and bowed once more to the Emperor. Yet, inconsequential of how much effort went into his struggle, it was not enough. It was only a matter of a few centimeters of empty space, even with his lips protruding like flower petals, but it seemed a chasm to him. Just far enough away to keep him from gratification, yet just close enough to make him believe that with practice the purpose of his obsession could be attained.

Maybe if dick was longer, Uchida mused.

はち

Uchida had to consider himself very lucky: an employee of Kosumo for only three months, and already he was taking part in Bounenkai. It was a holiday, a day off for everyone, and they were all invited, at the expense of the company, to the very same ceremony hall in which his cousin had married last year.

For the first time, Uchida saw the company presidents in person. Far away with the top executives they sat, side by side in the center of the long head table. One of them, Mr Tsuda, rose, and a wave of applause washed over the room. His lustrous silver hair perfectly complemented his gray pinstriped suit. Though Uchida was far away, he could see the dark crevices carved into his bronze face.

“Employees and friends,” President Tsuda said, speaking through a microphone in a booming voice. “Bounenkai is a celebration in which we show our appreciation for one another. It is for us, the company, to remember how hard you have worked and how important you are to the success of our company. It is for you, our employees, to remember to continue working hard and fulfill your duties to your families, as you have done for the Kosumo family. Keep working hard for us, and we will continue to make it possible for you to provide for your loved ones. Thank you. And now my esteemed colleague, Mr Yamaguchi, will say a few words.”

There was more applause as Mr Yamaguchi rose and the two presidents bowed to one another.

“I know this has been a difficult time for Kosumo,” he began. “Many have struggled to adjust to the new order: Mr Tsuda and myself perhaps most of all. Most of you worked for only one of us before the merger, and of course this change has been challenging. It is akin to a marriage arranged by a third party, one that almost certainly promises a rough road ahead. We must never forget that this union occurred as the result of circumstances we cannot hope to control. It was consummated in order that we may compete and prosper in a truly global economy, and that we may do business internationally.

“Yet, I strongly believe that this joining together is much more than a mere marriage of convenience. Only six months ago, we were two separate families, whole unto themselves. But now we must strive to become one family unit, under one corporation, under the great nation of Japan. I thank you all for the diligence and care you take in your efforts, and I wish you a joyous Bounenkai!

“A toast,” Mr Tsuda said, “to the new Kosumo!”

Everyone lifted and clinked their sake glasses together, nearly in time with the dual presidents, and the celebration was officially underway.

Tora-san, the section manager, said to his salarymen seated around his table, “I want you all to know that I am proud to say I trained you. You have come far. To my Men!”

They all drank another toast. The secretaries poured drinks for the men and drank also, but at a much slower pace. A band in frilly pastel-blue leisure suits played a long set, and as the men began to get drunk, they coaxed their female underlings to the dance floor with them. The women, knowing well their public duties, could refuse only salarymen and none else.

After about two hours and much alcohol, Takakura, the bold one, brought the conversation at Tora-san’s table around to the subject of Naomi.

“Tora-san,” he said, addressing his boss, “tell the rest the story that you told me in the bar the other night.”

“Yeah, we are dying to hear it,” Kobayashi chimed excitedly.

“Okay,” said Tora-san, leaning in and speaking low, “this is how it was. One night, Naomi was getting really wet and sticky, so I took her to the love hotel zone, and we went in and looked at all the pictures of the rooms, up there like at a cheap take-out place, and we checked into one that was all like S-and-M whips and chains and shit. When we get up there, she gets right into it and starts telling me how she wants me to tie her down and whip her, and she pulls her skirt up and lies on her stomach on the bed, wiggling her ass around like a worm on a fishhook. So I tie her hands together, and she has this sneaky smile on her face, and I’m thinking, does she know what she’s in for?

“I pull her legs straight, slide her panties off, and start in with the whip. At first, sort of soft and she goes ‘Oh, yes! Hit me, Tora-san, yes!’ And then I do it a little harder, and she really starts to feel it and her jaw gets tight and her face is red. I whip her even harder and, you believe this, she’s crying and she yells ‘Tora-san, it hurts! Please stop!’ But I say, ‘Then what did you come here for, bitch? I’m going to make you bleed!’ And I did! You should hear leather crack against such a smooth ass!”

All of the men at the table laughed. “And then what?” said Takakura. “Tell them what happened next!”

“Well, I used the handle of the whip,” he said, looking round at their encircling faces, “to put inside, and she screamed even more!”

“You are a sadist, man!”

“Fucking cool!”

“So then what?” asked Kobayashi. “What did you do then?”

“Not much really,” Tora-san admitted, cocking his head sideways. “I left her there for a while and watched some TV. You know how they have those porno channels. I untied her later and told her to take a bath because it was getting me sick to look at her.”

Uchida immediately thought of the tale of the demigods Izanagi and Izanami, the brother and sister whose coupling, in the ancient myth, brought about the birth of the Japanese islands. When she died and disappeared into the nether regions, Izanami begged her brother not to set eyes on her decaying corpse. Yet Izanagi could not resist looking, and thereby incurred his sister-lover’s wrath: a death sentence that Izanami never quite managed to carry out, from which her brother always managed to narrowly escape.

“Damn,” said Kobayashi, “so that’s why she never sat down for a week!”

“And now she refuses to even let me bang her anymore. What a cunt, eh?”

“Why don’t you just fire her?” asked Takakura.

“‘Cause I don’t give a shit! What do I need her for? I got two others in the office right now. I bet that’s torture enough for her, knowing that she don’t matter.”

Uchida spotted Naomi heading out of the hall toward the women’s restroom. He excused himself, claiming he had to piss, and followed her, weaving across the crowded floor with a tumbler of whiskey in one hand and a cigarette smoldering in the other. He tried to keep himself focused on getting there without tripping or smashing into someone.

He waited at the end of the corridor for her to come out, leaning his back against the wall. When she did, it was with another secretary. He called her name anyway, and she looked at him surprised.

“Naomi,” he slurred. “Please, I need you. I love you.”

Her facial expression changed drastically, betraying her astonishment and disgust. She abruptly reversed direction, walking away as if he’d never been there.

He shouted after her, “I know what Tora did to you!”

Naomi stopped and turned to the other secretary, who regarded her silently with a soft face and placed a hand between Naomi’s shoulder blades, gently pushing her on.

In the hall, the men had taken off their shirts and were doing the hadaka odori, the “naked dance.” Some were drawing faces on other’s torsos with markers, black features with red lips around the navel, and the sweat streaked their skin with dripping ink as they danced. The thick essence of perspiration and alcohol permeated the air, rising in steam from their slick bodies.

In the midst of the dance, the two presidents screamed madly, silently at one another over the cacophony. As if feudal lords in an ancient territorial dispute, or Ronin drawing swords to defend their Samarai masters’ honors, or arch-enemies Godzilla and Megalon laying waste to Tokyo, they warred and battled. Shirtless and sweating, their bodies marked with melted faces, they each embodied an anger that made them seem merely vehicles for the souls of demons.

One father is enough for any family, Uchida mumbled unheard over the din.

きゅう

When the short holiday ended, Uchida returned to his usual routine of calls, appearances and bowing. He surmised that Takakura and Kobayashi knew about his encounter with Naomi. Their offhand jokes were a little too cryptic and exclusive for him to believe otherwise, and they left for lunch without him.

Naomi came by and gave everyone cups of tea from a tray. As always, she wore the Kosumo secretary’s uniform: a navy blue skirt cut below the knee, a matching navy vest over a white blouse, and a blue silk ribbon tied in a bow at her collar. When he heard someone say he needed copies made, Uchida rose from his desk, almost involuntarily, and followed her to the photocopy room, accosted by sharp stifled laughter.

She was already at the machine with her back to him. Pages spit out the side, stacking one on top of another.

“Naomi,” Uchida said to her back. “Please listen. I am in love with you. I want to marry you and for you to be my wife. I will take care of you. Just tell me what you need and I will give it to you.”

For a moment there was only the soft repetitive grind of the photocopier. Then, keeping her back to him, Naomi spoke.

“You are a very stupid person,” she said. “That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard, and if you do not leave me alone, I will tell my boyfriend.”

“Sato!” Tora-san the section manager bellowed from the doorway behind. Uchida’s body shuddered once before he slowly turned, trembling. Tora-san continued. “What the hell are you doing!”

Uchida muttered incomprehensibly and stood paralyzed, not knowing what to do.

“Back to your desk, immediately!” roared Tora-san. Uchida bowed automatically, like a machine, and obeyed.

じゅう

That evening Uchida was not invited to go drinking with his coworkers. He bought a bottle of Jack Daniels from a vending machine and sat on a park bench, caressing the soiled underpants between his fingertips, occasionally raising the crotch up to his nostrils.

He quickly became drunk and tired, and it was too cold to sleep outside. He considered going to a capsule hotel, but then realized he hadn’t enough money with him. So he departed for the station to catch the last train of the night home.

On the ride, as he stared into his reflection in the window with distant city lights blurring by behind it, the solution to his problem suddenly became clear. He knew how to attain the purpose he was compelled toward, and how he might fill himself. He felt very proud having finally thought of it.

As soon as Uchida got back to his small room, he immediately went into his closet and dug out the weights that he had used in high school for the short time he tried to train for judo. He also took out two thick leather belts. He proceeded to remove all of his clothes, scattering them on the bed which his mother had made to folded origami perfection that morning. He lowered the chinup bar so that it was even with the uppermost part his thighs. He slit one of the belts lengthwise down the center with a razor until it was held together only by the silver buckle. These two leather strips he strung through the holes of the round metal weights, twenty-five kilograms on either side, and tied a knot at the split end. Next he crouched under the bar, stood up on the other side, and closed the door behind him. Placing the backs of his thighs against the door, Uchida tethered the other belt to the chinup bar and looped it through his legs, finally buckling it securely.

At this point, Uchida induced an erection, and, making sure his heels were flush with the door, he picked up the belt with the weights on it. Bending down, he slid it over his head and under his armpits. With fifty kilograms weighing him down, his mouth slid easily and fully over his stiffened prick to the hilt.

His plan was a success, and it was not long before, in the excitement, he felt his climax approaching. It was then that he heard a loud pop, like the snapping of a dried bamboo shoot, as warm semen squirted the skin at the back of his throat and his mind saw only black.

最後

It was Uchida’s poor old mother who found him the next morning, his doubled corpse seeming to choke on his own genitalia. She had to be rushed to the hospital in an ambulance for a stroke.

Uchida’s father oversaw the body’s removal and waved inquisitive accosting news teams away with one hand while covering the side of his face with the other. His shame was so great that he contemplated suicide, and decided that, if no better option presented itself in the near future, he would take this recourse.

The workers at Kosumo laughed when they read about Uchida in the newspaper, hunched together in small groups over their black desks. Since he had never really been one of them, they reasoned, they need not feel any shame whatsoever.

終わり

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