Western Courtesy – Very Short Story 

The music and the motions of the violinist mesmerised him. The beauty and the skill in creating those notes were unmistaken. It formed the perfect atmosphere for the purpose of the party. He glanced around, finding people in fancy suits and pretty dresses that mingled amongst themselves; bowing politely as they discovered the prestige and wealth their conversation partners.

He had never understood this overly polite culture, where a person became someone’s better by having more money and power than the other, and should be revered and respected beyond common courtesy.

He did enjoy Japan, however, that was not the problem. It was his job, and the things he was expected to achieve. The brutal hours; the hierarchy; and the almost total lack of free time, made the generous salary less attractive the longer he stayed. It sucked the life out of him.

Standing near the scene where the orchestra played, he eventually moved to the buffet table and nodded politely as he encountered co-workers on the way.

He picked up a plate and stared at a tray of strange looking fruits. Curious, he filled his plate with the ones that looked the strangest, finding pleasure in trying new things. One of them was pink and had spikes poking out from its shell. It tasted sweet.

As he savoured the taste, he heard his name being called in the distance. But the voice was almost drowned in the sound from the couple next to him, arguing loudly. He sighed and looked for the man that called for him.

“Frank!” a stubby man with big glasses called.

He forced a smile and shook his hand. “How’s it going Akashiro?” he said, while noticing sweat trickling down his neck.

Akashiro took a napkin and cleaned his face before saying. “You must come with me Frank, there is someone I want you to meet.”

Frank sighed at the thought of having to recite the common phrases of courtesy… because there were dozens of them! Each more difficult to pronounce than the last. And he had to recite them all in his head because you can only choose the correct one AFTER meeting the guy. Despite this, he had been bored out of his mind, and he felt like being useful.

At the far end of the party, his eyes caught the attention of a man dressed in white. A mismatch among the otherwise black suits of the other guests. He respected the man for breaking the norm and he glanced down at his own formalwear and wished he had brought something else.

As they got closer he noticed that the small man in white was accompanied by a larger man in black. Tall, even by the standards of a westerner. As he and Akashiro approached, Frank found the shorter man’s smile unsettling. Akashiro introduced him as Mr. Rakashi. Franks eyes drifted towards the tall men who glared at the two of them.

Suddenly, Akashiro nudged him on the arm and flicked his eyes towards Mr. Rakashi. Frank realised that he hadn’t paid attention to what they had been saying. Instead of looking like a jackass and bow too deeply, he put his hand out, thinking that despite the man’s looks, a man who did not conform to the parties dress code would appreciate a casual greeting.

His hand hung in the air for an uncomfortable while and Frank glanced towards Akashiro who just stared with an open mouth. Shit! he’d made the wrong decision. As he lowered his hand, their eyes met. There was only detest in Mr. Rakashi’s eyes and the burly man behind him grunted something in another language. He knew Japanese well enough, but somehow he could tell if they spoke it or not.

Mr. Rakashi murmured something to Akashiro, and even though he could only discern two words, those words were enough to boil his blood. “White moron.”

He could feel the humiliation welling within him. He looked at his plate that he still held, and picked up a piece of the pink fruit from before, chewing loudly. They turned their attention back to him and he stared definitely back at Mr Rakashi.

A seed stuck in his teeth and without thinking, he spat it in Mr. Rakashi’s direction.

It was true he secretly wished the seed would land on the man’s face, but he didn’t want so in reality, yet it did. Frank’s adventure in the country ended that day, spitting in the face of his better, the one that is above normal western courtesy.

© Christopher Stamfors

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