The following story is by guest contributor Mark Kolody. Mark has been a co-founder of a nationally distributed literary magazine, the vice president of a community theatre troupe, and the principal of a creative agency. He is a writer, traveller, and idealist living in Toronto, Canada. To read more of his work, check out his website – Kolody.com.
“It’s wearing bathroom slippers at the dinner table!” Kotomi hissed at her husband.
The alien’s enormous feet were indeed mashed into grossly undersized rubber slippers, with the majority hanging out over the heels. She would’ve found it amusing if the creature was on television, but it was in her home, not properly dressed for dinner, and stinking of some odor she couldn’t quite put her finger on – the bastard scent-child of slightly spoiled meat and expired butter.
“I’m surprised you noticed after turning off the main lights, dear.” Hiro ventured a smile towards the alien in a failing attempt to counter his wife’s acidic tone. The television and a single overhead light provided the only illumination in the kitchen. The alien was so big, it had to hunch forward to avoid hitting its head on the low-hanging fixture.
“Can you blame me? Just look at it! Its body’s three times the size of yours. And the smell! Even freshly bathed, it’s disgusting. And it won’t stop sweating! I can’t believe you invited it into our home.” She set down her chopsticks, adjusted the crisp line of her summer yukatta, and folded her arms defensively across her chest. “And it bathed without showering first. I spent all morning scrubbing the tub.”
“You already mentioned that, dear.”
“Explain to it why it’s disgusting,” she insisted.
The alien kept its body perfectly still. Its eyes were darting back and forth between the married couple as though it were watching a tennis match.
“I don’t speak alien anymore than you do, and it can hear your tone, even if it doesn’t understand the words. Would it kill you to smile?”
Kotomi glowered at the creature, and momentarily pursing her lips thin in an attempt to follow her husband’s instruction. Her expression might’ve been mistaken for a smile if observed from a distance, or an asshole if observed from very close.
“Tas-ty,” the alien mispronounced, as it stabbed at the last last strip of meat on a communal plate. The chopsticks looked like toothpicks in the its oversized hands.
Hiro was nodding aimless encouragement, looking very much like the cheap, sculpted birds in mass-produced fountains who’d bob their empty heads mechanically when they filled with water. All he was missing was the hollow sound of striking wood, she thought bitterly.
“See, Kotomi? It’s trying. Why can’t you?”
“I don’t know, Hiro. Maybe because I’m hungry? It ate almost all our food. Amazing, considering how terribly it uses chopsticks. Just look at the way its holding them. A retarded child could do better.”
“Smile while you say things, dear.” Hiro forced an empty laugh, gesturing to the muted television, hoping to distract the alien from his wife’s scorn. He sighed audibly as his gambit backfired. Both the alien and his wife were now focusing on him. “We’ve both had a bowl of rice and tsukemono. That will have to do.”
“That selfish creature ate every last piece of meat.”
“Meat. Tas-ty!” The alien bobbed its head excitedly in word-recognition.
“Kanpai,” Hiro exclaimed as he raised his drink, recognizing the alien understood at least the one word.
The creature’s enormous hand wrapped around the small glass of beer, raised it to its face, and then set it down empty.
Kotomi wanted to smack the stupid expression from the alien’s ugly head. Those oversized eyes seemed to hold no intelligence at all. They had tried unsuccessfully to say the alien’s name a dozen times already, but half the sounds didn’t exist in proper language. A short, decidedly unpronounceable name. Resentfully, she refilled the alien’s empty glass, and needlessly topped up her husband’s out of habit.
She shuddered thinking of that awful alien pinning her down. It’d smother the life from her with its sheer size alone, she speculated in horror. She further infused the imagined scene with its suffocating odour, its mouth thickly masticating, and hot, rancid saliva dripping on her face. It would be like that Western science fiction movie, she decided, only with herself playing the role of Ripley. The fact her daughter, her own flesh and blood, would willingly choose to be with such an abomination was the purest form of betrayal a child could offer. Since learning of the relationship, Kotomi had prayed aloud every night for the alien’s death, and that it would happen soon enough for Keiko to find a proper Japanese husband who could look past the defilement. Keiko stranding them alone with the alien after Kotomi had shared her thoughts was beyond vindictive. Who in their right mind would shed tears over such a despicable creature, she wondered?
“Make it leave, Hiro!” she pleaded as her frustration boiled over.
“They’ve come all the way from Canada to visit, dear.” He softened his voice, imploring compassion. “We need to accept our daughter has chosen an international marriage.”
She couldn’t believe her ears. Her own husband was favouring the creature above her. The betrayal was too much for Kotomi to stomach. “You know, this is all your fault. You’re the one who encouraged Keiko to go abroad to study. Against my wishes, I might add.”
“Please, Kotomi. Not this again. And not in front of the alien.”
The creature sat motionless – a mute monolith with tennis-match eyes.
She stood, propelled by a surplus of eviscerating thoughts. Before this despicable union, the Matsuda bloodline had been pure, traceable all the way back to the Muromachi period. Although her daughter had already been partitioned from the official family registry, the reality was less sanitary. Her only child had retroactively poisoned countless generations with this grotesque atrocity of a marriage, and Kotomi’s own husband had supported the murderous decision. She alone recognized the depth of their humiliation, their burden of shame, and the anger of her ancestors. It was all she could do to hold back her rage-tears.
“You foolish, man,” she rasped, trembling in indignant, barely-contained fury. “You’ve destroyed us!”