The room smells like chalk and morning. A long rectangular window has been opened letting the fresh cool AM air in. The blackboard has been cleaned; it would shine if it could. The day and date are written in Kanji going down the right side. You cannot read it.
Outside there are mountains in the distance, but first there are buildings and rivers, streets, trains, rice fields with small old people hunched working, bicycles and vending machines. The mountains will wait for snow. They will eventually be recognized for their patience. You understand the word patience.
In front of you are forty teenagers wearing matching outfits:
Boy=Black pants, white shirt, black coat, no tie.
Girl=Blue skirt, white shirt, black knee-high socks, thin green tie tied in a loop.
Girl & Boy=White slip on canvas shoes with a blue rubber toe.
You=Pants that are becoming bigger on you by the day, a roomy button down shirt and a pair of brown slip ons.
"Good morning class."
"Good morning sensei."
"How are you today?"
"I'm fine thanks and you?"
"I'm _____________________. Please sit down."
(great, hungry, sleepy etc.)
Your throat is slightly dry from the morning coffee and toast. You would like a sip of water, but learned a few weeks back that the only water welcomed in the room is meant for cleansing that blackboard that wants so badly to glisten, sparkle and gleam.
The sun gleams through the grimy curtains that try in vain to keep it out. They were white when Carter or Reagan was in office, but now have a sun stained yellow hue. There are two patches in the left corner of the curtains—patches not yet transformed by sun. You should know who the Japanese Prime Minister was instead of making a Carter/Reagan reference.
One boy seems as if he might pop out of his desk. He is not so overwhelmingly excited about learning English, but is the height and size of a man. The desk legs and the blue plastic chair legs both raise, but everything has their limits. His has reached there's. Still he sits, contained to the stifling set up, not even looking at the clock that is over your left shoulder. You need not look either, you have a watch and will be startled when at twenty till the Grandfather clock bell chimes over the silver intercom installed in the reign of Ichiro Hatoyama. Time is still ticking towards the chime bells, the sun persists with its warmth, you're still hungry, or sleepy; great or fine and now ask the forty uniforms in front of you to take out their book and open to page 32. "A Mother's Lullaby."
The story tells of a hot summer day. It is told in the present tense and utilizes flashback. "On the morning of that day, a big bomb fell on the city of Hiroshima." This history over sixty years ago seems like long ago to the forty teenagers, it doesn't seem so long to you and surely it seems so recent to many. You read the story one time through before having students repeat line by line after you. There are also new vocabulary words:
The students repeat these words after you. You feel strange about it and are happy to feel the morning air come whispering through the crack.
About the author:
Daniel Moyer is teaching English with his wife outside of Kyoto. He has completed two collections of short fiction and a hybrid novel. Currently he is working on a memoir of his time living and teaching in Japan. He received his MA in creative writing from Eastern Michigan University. Work has appeared in Word Riot, 3ammagazine.com and The Ann Arbor Paper. Check out his website, van38.com for more work.
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