I had a request to write about Amy, so that’s what I’ve done today. Though I’m not sure which Amy this is, and whether things happened exactly as I’ve described them. Here’s an excerpt from today’s events.
Beginnings: A Bus, Some Schoolgirls, and a Handful of Fish Eggs
Today Amy took the bus to Kokura. As usual, the bus driver was in uniform, and had on a headset and microphone for announcing the stops. But instead of one of the usual dour-faced old men in rumpled black pants and a white dress shirt that was yellowing around the collar, a perky young woman in a smart beige uniform—complete with a cap that would have been fashionable on an airline stewardess ten years after the bomb hit Nagasaki—sat at the wheel.
The ride was uneventful, and after she got off the bus, Amy began exploring the Uomachi arcades. Half a block from Heiwadori—a major street that runs east-west through the downtown core—she went into one of the culinary souvenir shops—the one facing the ice seller’s—and proceeded to scrutinize the assorted packages of spicy cod roe, a regional delicacy known to the locals as mentaiko.
The shopkeeper was wearing a stiff black apron, and appeared to have stayed up late into the night worrying about her older daughter’s upcoming wedding. She remained silent as she checked through the inventory sheets on her counter but then snapped to attention, emitting a high-pitched nasal irrashimase—welcome—when the group of plaid-skirted high-school students who had been following Amy walked in giggling.
She tried to ignore the girls but could feel all eyes upon her as she picked up a package from the cooler. “Heavy for its size,” she thought. But then she wondered what the texture would be like. Though she knew it was a pointless exercise, she stroked the orange tubes with her fingertips anyway, trying to discern the suitability of their contents.
“No good,” she thought. And by the time she had made three small indentations in the back of the box, the girls had all but surrounded her. As soon as she saw how close they were, Amy put down the package and pushed past the girls and into the street. Small droplets of rain had started to fall, and as this area had no glassed-in archway above it, Amy made my way toward the pachinko parlours and the hundred-yen shop just beyond, in search of refuge.