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Vol. 15, No. 3

Penlight
by Ryu Murakami

Translated by Ralph McCarthy

I just got back from New York, the man said.
     "White broads have horrible skin, dry as hell. I couldn't wait to get my hands on a Japanese woman again, but gimme a break, don't they have anything better than you?"
     Then he called my office.
     "Yeah, she looks young enough, but I mean, come on. I'll pay for her taxi back—just send over another woman, will ya?"
     Kiyomi, I said to the other person inside me, it's happening again. He says I'm a pig.
     What do you expect? You are a pig. But what a view from up here! It's like the hotel I stayed at in Hong Kong.
     Kiyomi, you've been to Hong Kong?
     I've been everywhere. In Hong Kong, a gentleman from Sumitomo Bank named Kawamura-san took me to a secret club. It was in an old building with no sign out front or anything, where you go up a metal staircase to I think it was the third floor, and there's a thick wooden door with a little window about as big as the palm of your hand, and when it opens you say the password, which was a Czech or Serbian word or something, because in Hong Kong there are a lot of tourists from Eastern Europe, and they open the wooden door and there's this man about two meters tall with a squashed nose who used to be a pro wrestler, and you go down the hall and there's a pink curtain and you can hear jazz playing and girls from all over the world laughing, and nasty sounds, too, coming from behind the curtain, and there are women dancing in the nude.
     What did you do there, at that club?
     Well, I just watched. I thought, you know, it never hurts to learn something about the world.
     Where did you meet this man Kawamura-san?
     At the hotel, the Mandarin Palace in Kowloon, in the tea lounge. He came up and introduced himself. A real gentleman. Tall, too, and single.
     "What are you mumbling about?" the man said, and held out the telephone. "The broad from your office wants to talk to you."
     I gazed out the hotel window at all the lights that Kiyomi said looked like Hong Kong at night while Auntie from the office started yelling at me.

To read the rest of this story and others from the Fall 2011 issue, please purchase a copy from our online store.

Image credit
Rodarte Backstage Staircase Fall 2008, colored marker and pencil on paper, 8.5 x 11 inches (2008)
drawing by Mari Eastman

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