“Where did you get these earbuds?”
“Why? What’s wrong?”
“They’re certainly not an Apple product. And I’m sure Samsung…”
“They came in the mail. A promo deal for some new game I checked out.”
“How long have you worn them?”
Ricky went to scratch the back of his ear but the doctor intercepted his hand. Ricky flopped his wrist back into his lap.
“A week. Maybe less.”
“I’m going to have to destroy them to get them out.”
“Yeah, whatever. They were free, remember.”
Each time the ENT physician had attempted to remove the silvery earpiece plugged into the side of Ricky’s head, the device would extend a bit then snap back into place. Pop.
“I can see fine wires that must have grown out of the device and burrowed deep inside your ear canal.”
“Very fine, finer than silk, I believe.”
“I just want ’em gone.” Ricky cocked his head. “Did you hear that?”
“All I hear is the humming of the florescents.”
“Yeah, like a whisper. Something about The End and how only those with…”
The doctor slid open a drawer and removed a hefty extraction tool. “Those silken wires should snap right off if I can get a good enough grip.”
“Hold on.” Ricky lifted his elbows to fend off the doctor. Canting his head back and forth he narrowed in on the signal. “… those with weapons and Zeepbuds may survive…”
“Enough,” the doctor told him. “Stay still now, while I get a hard purchase on this right one here.”
Ricky turned and looked up into the man’s face. He gazed sideways at the clean, heavy tool, a crooked set of chrome pliers. “Those are small, but, they’ll do…”

Secondhand Sushi

Ikiro hated his father. He was not alone in this sentiment; he knew one of his sisters hated him too. Ikiro’s father wasn’t a bad man. Bad was reserved for Maachi the street-sweeper who, Ikiro had seen, kicked young dogs he found nibbling at nothing in the gutter. Once the man swung his broom and Ikiro would swear the man had broken the back of a cat that yowled as it scuttled away. Bad applied to Nini, the old sweets-seller peddling from her cart. Sweets for the rich and sweets for the poor, with the only difference being the sand and sawdust found in the latter.

No, Ikiro didn’t hate his father because he was bad, he hated him because he was white. Even the man’s hair glowed with the color of the sun.

But, the village adored the man. He’d brought prosperity in the form of work for many making decorative ceramic tiles which were packed and shipped back to Europe. All the merchants knew his name, even the teachers at Ikiro’s school appeared to kowtow to the tall blond fellow and his substantial donations, given without strings in altruistic communalism.

Ikiro’s and his sister’s hatred might have also stemmed from the fact that the man despised sushi.

Ikiro’s only dream growing up had been to follow in his real father’s and uncle’s footsteps and become a master sushi-san. But his father had died two days before Ikiro’s third birthday; a storm had washed he and his assistant overboard from their small skiff while they were out catching celebratory fatty-mackerel.

Blondie, as the villagers called him, had arrived a year later. He’d fallen in love with Ikiro’s widowed mother, wooed his sisters, and dazzled the boy’s senses with exotic mechanical toys.

The hatred may have come later when his uncle, partnered with his birth-father, left, abandoning the family’s restaurant business.

Blondie showed no remorse. “It’s the smell. Even in Denmark, I couldn’t stand the smell. Herring, cod, salmon the odor of rot and unsavory women.”

Ikiro had no idea of what the man spoke. The smell of the sea within the luscious flesh of fresh seafood lured Ikiro to stand for hours, a cane-pole with line dangling in the tidal waters near the village. When caught, he would delicately slice and consume his catch there in the privacy of the rocks, imagining eating the translucent ribbons with tangy rice and pungent wasabi.

But, even Ikiro couldn’t truly hate the man only for his dislike of fish, or the color of his hair and skin.

If Ikiro were to admit his true feelings to himself he would conclude that it was jealousy that simmered within his heart. But to be jealous was shameful. Better to hate for empty reasons than to allow his admiration to show.