The first of a much longer thing
Miko Huruki’s marriage started suddenly in the summer of 1929- a fleeting fizz of pheromones and glandular secretions that felt good at the time, but ended up causing tears across continents and generations.
Her husband was this pathologically earnest nerd named Yoshi- an initially blameless virgin and victim whose involvement was really just an accident. At twenty eight he was an expert already on high altitude clouds over the Pacific, and what floated his boat was to be either on the roof with his camera/telescope or in the basement collecting stamps. He hadn’t thought much about girls previously, though sometimes late at night, if was feeling lonely, he would read through his old high school science text books and sigh with something like nostalgia.
Miko, by contrast chewed gum, failed math, read comic books, loved to laugh and sometimes had dreams in which she spoke fluent French and was being romanced by an insistent blonde stranger beneath the Eiffel Tower.
This thing was obviously doomed from the start, and everyone from total strangers to the ones they thought they knew best pampered them with syrupy clichés about how it would last forever.
“Such a lovely couple” they gushed- best friends from primary school who would be wanting invitations to the reception, wayward uncles attracted home from Tokyo by the promise of free booze, a conductor on an overcrowded tram who was saw the way they held hands and gazed into each others eyes whilst everyone else slowly suffocated and just had to ask: “When’s the happy day?”
All these people would have been insincere if they had have thought about what they were saying, but they weren’t, because they didn’t. Instead they were just making the expected noises, guilty of nothing but offering encouragement as two young people with their whole lives ahead of them went and hitched their mismatched selves together based solely on fluttering sensations in their digestive tracts.
“You’ll have beautiful children”. This was one of Miko’s aunties talking, again without the slightest bit of sense. Depending on methods of adding them up, there were at least six such aunties around the place, and at least four had converged one stifling August afternoon to gobble trays of cup-cakes and smear streaks of grease and saliva over the photos of the husband to be as they thumbed through the photo album Miko had compiled, dedicated exclusively to her man. Yoshi himself couldn’t be present, having been summoned to install a new type of automatic weather station on a remote island off Honshu that was inhabited only by fur seals and little blue eyed penguins.
Miko’s aunties squashed around their niece on the couch- an oddly aggressive jelly of fifty-something lady flesh- and licked the icing of their fingers in a way that made her think of lizards. This was months before the wedding, when she was still under the influence of deceptive but benign chemicals that had her believing she would see out her days in pleasant haze of lust with a weather scientist, and seemed so different from the bad ones that got to her twenty three years later and convinced her that she needed to throw herself under the number 48 bus.
“And”, added another one through a sticky pulp of masticated dough and sugar, “such a gentleman”. They had finished the album now. The margins were filled with flowers and cherubs that Miko had spent hours penciling in. Yoshi himself, who had never been photographed much outside trips to weather stations, could be a disappointing subject. He gazed from the grease streaked paper with an expression as straight as his soup bowl haircut, and always next to a barometer of one sort or another.
In a world full of disasters no one had the energy to pay much attention to this particular one. It had happened before, it would happen again, and although the pair was obviously ill-fitted, it wasn’t anything people couldn’t happily ignore. Even later, at what outwardly seemed their worst, Miko and Yoshi weren’t the sort to raise eyebrows. Their neighbors never sat up late at night whispering over just what was behind the latest bout of screams and smashing cutlery from over the fence and whether they were morally obliged to call the police. They did not traffic in black eyes or public bickering or the toxic body language of adults who find the sex has receded almost beyond remembering and left them completely and unwillingly tangled.
He thought he could see her looking over his shoulder whenever they spoke in public.
She was secretly convinced that one day he’d meet and leave her for someone smarter.
None of it seemed like anything much to worry about, and although there can be no question that their marriage was at least one of the critical events in the chain of improbabilities that would eventually lead to the horrific slaying of the poor McFadden twins aged just ten years old, they weren’t to know.
And still, as if being a part of two senseless slayings in small town Oregon wasn’t enough for a single couple, they were also responsible for the creation of a human being called Yoshi.
After his return from the war in 1945 Yoshi, who had a difficult start in life, shone for a brief time as Japan’s second best salesman of party hats and toy balloons. Later though the same bad chemicals that got to his mother would get to him. By the time he hit sixty he was known in Nagoya as the homeless guy who spent his days hauling round a billboard with all the reasons he didn’t deserve to live spelt out in immaculate calligraphy. “In conclusion”, it read, “I a worm. Nothing but a putrid, putrid worm”.
This much was true.
For a brief time, between dropping out of high school and marrying, Miko had been the one to watch within pre-war Tokyo's minute ballet scene. She had a trophy to prove it, and was insecure enough that she would later have this trophy mounted on a specially installed shelf that overlooked the dining room table. She had resolved that neither her ungrateful husband nor her delinquent son would swallow so much as a potato without being reminded of the future they had robbed her of.
They might have reduced her to the status of their house slave now, she wanted them to know, but there had been a time when things could have been different. Specifically this was 1926 the year before she married. This was when the Tokyo region ballet association had awarded her a trophy that read “Unquestioned Junior Princess of Ballet”, although the little copper figure on top of it was inexplicably that of a small cat crouched on its haunches with its forepaws held out imploringly, possibly begging for another helping of tuna.
Later, as the years went by and the date of May 4th 1944, which is when Miko would throw herself under the bus, grew closer, she would often think of those few short years after she left school and before she married, and how they had been the very best of her life. Everyone had agreed, she liked to fantasize, that her skills in prancing and pirouetting set her aside as a freak of nature, and in so far as any little girl from Tokyo could be the next big thing in professional dance, she was very probably it.
As she grew older she nurtured her initial resentment of her husband into a fairly elaborate conspiracy theory. At the heart of it was the idea that he was sympathetic too if not actually in league with her many enemies, who had always resented her natural talent and assured prospects for future success. They had, she believed absolutely, arranged to ensnare her in marriage and child wrangling as a way of destroying her dreams of moving to Europe and becoming the next big thing in Paris.
Oddly, given that this was a paranoid fantasy, it did in fact have a slender connection to reality. Although she never suspected it, at the time, back in 1926, there had been a genuine plot to do her in.
The people behind it had been a group of girls she thought of her closest friends, her sisters in dance. They didn’t necessarily want her dead, just permanently out of the way. As a group their color was pink and their sound was high pitched. They were talented and trained just as hard as her and looked, as anyone could objectively measure, exactly the same prancing about in leotards. Whatever it was that put Miko ahead was invisible and would, presumably, always be beyond their reach- and it was the sheer injustice of this that put them in a killing rage.
They plotted her death each afternoon in the half hour they gathered over the road at a cafe called Rupert the Bear. This place was a garish travesty of a coffee shop where framed pictures of stuffed toys dressed in ballet gear adorned the walls. The coffee all came laced with marshmallows and a viscous pink syrup, and the girls bought it mainly for appearances sake. They believed sugar was evil and would invariably heave the sickly sweet concoction back up as soon as they had a chance (although in keeping with their years of training and elite ballerinas they instinctively did this with grace and nearly complete silence)
To give them a little credit the murder option was only ever raised as a contingency plan. There were so many stories of talented people who had been brought undone by some fatal flaw, but these gave them absolutely no solace at all because Miko Huruki didn't seem to have any- surely an unreasonable advantage. They didn’t know, of course, that Miko would eventually throw herself under a bus, and thus felt that dropping a few thumb tacks into her ballet slippers would be an entirely justified course of action that would prevent her from being unreasonably happier and more successful than they. Nature had slipped up by making the girl perfect, they were just correcting the balance sheet.
Although it’s hard to see how she could have chalked it up as a positive in the short term, it’s possible that, had they gone ahead with their attempt to maim or kill her, Miko’s fellow ballerinas might actually have saved her life. The thumb tack plot, or even the back-up plan of slipping a few pellets of rat poison into her glutinous cream and marshmallow drink on one of the rare occasions she came to Rupert’s, would at least have denied her the ability to look back on that time, and fantasize about some halcyon land of sisterhood and bright horizons that had been blotted out forever by her husband.
Yoshi, who was in his quiet way just as unhappy, put the whole thing down to forces beyond his control, although he wasn't right either, not when it came to the details. For example, the best explanation he could come up with for how he had ended up with Miko was fate, whereas the correct answer was in fact termites, specifically the colony of them that lived under the wooden tiles of the Central Japan Meteorological Institute. They were just witless woodland creatures that had nothing against Yoshi, Miko, the McFadden twins or the Central Japan Meteorological Institute per se, and in the unseasonably warm spring of 1924 they thrived and multiplied as they never had before.
By the time their civilization had reached its zenith they had chewed up the school’s wooden roof tiles so badly that what looked like saw dust and started to filter down from the ceiling, along with fat droplets of water that had a way of landing unexpectedly on the back of peoples necks. The earnest young weathermen periodically stopped their studies to listen to an ominous wooden groaning coming from somewhere deep inside the roof and look at each other with naked fear.
The people who made the decision that their new seat of learning would be a classroom above a ballet school were concerned only with the potential tragedy of losing an entire generation of fledgling meteorologists in a building collapse, and whether or not they could get permission to install a weather station on the roof. Ballet, meteorology and elevators were all very new in Japan at the time and the potential galaxy of complications that might arise from combining them in the small few cubic meters for a few minutes a day was not considered. Even if it had been it’s hard to believe that anyone could have seen things going wrong the way that they did.
The weathermen were, after all, not just scared of girls but totally indifferent to ballet, and how exactly Miko came to be spending her evenings on the roof-top of the building with one of them is unknown. She was far too wrapped up in her status a star in pointy shoes to pay attention to the outside world, let alone the gangly nerds who they occasionally had to share the elevator with, and Yoshi, like the rest of barometer wielders wouldn't have known where to start with sweet talking ballerinas.
It was a complete mystery to everyone, possibly even to them.
Strictly speaking there was nothing about this transaction that was against the rules, it was just deeply strange. They were rehearsing at the time for a new concert, ‘Sugar Plumb Fairies of Enchanted Blossom Orchard’ that had been written specifically for them by no less a figure than Enzo Suzuki, composer to the Imperial Court, and commissioned by the Emperor himself.
At the time he was a weedy little man who had a thin moustache that he waxed obsessively and particularly virulent strain of syphilis. School children were taught was he was an infallible descendent of the Sun God, although questions such as how a man descended from the creator of the universe had decreed the composition of no less than three ballet performances concerning sugar plumb fairies in two years and contracted syphilis, was never made entirely clear to them. What was known is that it was quite likely he would be at the performance and watching with interest.
In spite of the name, past experience had shown that life for Imperial Sugar Plumb fairies that didn't prepare properly was anything but sweet. At the height of the second act, when the fairies did battle with a swarm of devil toads from the vomitous swamp, unprepared dancers had been known to snap their tendons, or even more catastrophically, collide with one of the toads in in mid air. With her triumphant crowning as unquestioned junior princess and the honor of her appointment as Sugar Plumb fairy number one still fresh, it made no sense that Miko would start slacking off now. She knew, as did everyone, that after all those years of dreaming about it the next step really could be Paris.
And yet, instead of turning up for the evening training session Miko started to going up to the roof to sit on the wooden bench underneath the wind speed gauge to look, with dilated pupils, closed ears and no sense at all of the hours flying past, at a pimple ridden weather balloon scientist called Yoshi.
Yoshi, wasn't sure what Miko was doing there either, and if he had have realised that such a thing as an Imperial Sugar plum fairy even existed he probably would have encouraged her to go back downstairs and practice. Instead, suspecting that were he to stop speaking she would vanish as quickly and mysteriously as she had appeared, he instead prattled on for hours about what the shape of the ice creamy flecks of Cumulus they could see skimming over the North Eastern suburbs of Tokyo may or may not say about wind speeds high over the southern Philippines.
Although she would not admit it for many years, Miko wasn't really interested about the latest meteorological thought on high altitude winds. She was listening only because, without really knowing why, she liked the sound of his voice.
Once, feeling the need for a diversion as he fearfully stretched out an arm and brushed it lightly against Miko's shoulders, he had in fact murmured something inarticulate about how some people said that the formation of clouds was nature's greatest ballet, and without really meaning to sparked off in Miko something that is probably best described as a form of temporary insanity. This man, she concluded, was nothing less than perfect- a sensitive angelic figure with the soul of a poet who she loved absolutely and in a way which would make absolutely everything OK forever.
From somewhere below the dusty thump of the Miko's class mates practising to be Sugar Plum Fairies and the tinkle of the piano kicked up through stair well. She knew that if she kept on skipping rehearsals she was going to miss out on the concert, but after a week of sitting together on the roof Yoshi had got up the nerve to put his hand comfortingly around her shoulder, and it no longer seemed to matter.