by Barrie Jean Borich
Asako Sasaki will capture the favor of, and outside work privilege from, Heart Mountain, laundering clothes; gem-cut every textile-washing plant she touches and erect an upper-middle-class dry cleaners on Chicago’s Broadway; become known as “Mona,” queen bee; ingratiate the Rainbow Room, Rockefeller Plaza; manipulate her sons, wigs; hag fags; posture for thousands of photos with her telephone and eccentricities, wearing bulbous jewelry and closets of outfits, on the counter of her cleaners, with big fish, in front of automobiles, at parties, on top of exotic beasts; never video; pit her two only-sons against each other by every mean; never hug or tell them, I love you; deride their wives; dote her grandchildren; cut her teeth with J&B, rocks; blub toasts and whiskey-sleep at parties, smudged with mascara from an unhinged false eyelash; endure a mastectomy; feed an old family-less Japanese internee in her basement; wildly pedal her organ under a painted portrait of a photograph of her in a white dress, pearls, and diamonds; and, as she dies, lose her mind and address-book-full-of admirers.
Japan-born-of-grape-farmer-seed Yoshitomi Sasaki wed America-born-of-Japanese-nobility Asako Sasaki, both nee the same, through a dubious California arrangement; adopted her from domestic-step abuse; sired business-minded gamblers, Fred Yoshitomo and John Tomoyoshi; calculated cash-heavy books; gambled on weekends; divorced Asako and came back by common law; and was remembered, one Sunday-afternoon Scotch at grandma Mona’s; his son, Fred Yoshitomo, will put down his J&B and rocks on the glass coffee table next to a magic toy plastic bubble balloon tin glue tube and thin plastic straw and shift in the long, hair-oil scented sofa and begin to rise and find himself a little too heavy and a little too drunk and relax and let the whiskey steep a little, and recover, look at his son, Fred John, named after himself and his brother, and say to him, “Your grandfather was a good man,” and Mona will shit-strain in son-filled yellow plastic dish pan and high-pitch some stop it goddamn it and Fred won’t stop saying “He was. He was a good man. Came from nothing. My son should know,” and she will pant goddamn it stop it and Fred will O.C.D., “My son should know he was he was my son should know he was,” burping through his nose, “a good man.”
From left: Fred Yoshitomo Sasaki, age twelve; Asako “Mona” Sasaki; John Tomoyoshi Sasaki, age eight; and unidentified friend and hatted shadow. War Relocation Authority (WRA) relocation camp, Heart Mountain, Wyoming, c. 1944.The figureheads Fred, Mona, and John were represented as a trio of three-pointed crowns on the Barry Regent Dry Cleaners’s back-building mural, calling cards, pens, calendars, hangers, hanger holders, blow-up Easter bunnies and reindeer and Santas and beach balls and snowmen, garment and laundry bags, jar openers, address books, measuring tapes, magnet memo-pads, desk caddies, billfolds, and pick-pocket-proof wallets (“because,” Fred will say, “hey, I figure, who gives away a wallet?”); staged equity-base F.M.J. Corporation; alienated kin; placated strangers; rued for affection; expensed everything; and on Mona’s timely nursing-home-senile death Fred and John will be unable to eulogize her, her grandchildren unwilling to grace her; and a portion of her ashes will be taken to Japan, pocketed in a man-purse, walked around her unfamiliar homeland, past a fleet of Sasaki-family semi-trucks, fighting dogs, and ditched, with a littering flick, under a diseased grape-tree, her bone and dust tightly sealed in cellophane.
In sixty years, the two only-brothers will have clothes-lined a small fortune through Barry Reagent Incorporated; brought-up bourgeois children and suffered their ingratitude; bought-out a plush retirement; full heads of hair; together played kick-the-can, football odds, stud poker and smoked through pipes, cigars, and cigarettes; married employees; acted good-cop-bad-cop over hundreds of sweat-shop Mexicans, Blacks, and Slavs; gotten drunk and fat at Ma’s house, barbecues, and banquets; courted habit; whored; owned summer homes and condos, Cadillacs and Town Cars, a mint in stocks and bonds, and land disputed with bad blood; irreparably severed their fraternity; and will communicate solely through lawyers; be mistaken for one another; goddamn each other; side-sit wives with malignancies and hatred in their offspring; offshoot grand-nephews they’ve never known; and be reunited face to face at their respective prostate exams, fatefully scheduled the same afternoon, and say…nothing.
Fred Sasaki is the assistant editor of Poetry and editor-at-large for Stop Smiling. He has written naughty stories for Newcity and Venus Zine, among others. His piece in this issue, “Issei, Nisei, Sansei” (first-, second-, third-generation Japanese Americans), is from a novel in progress.