Short Story: When the Ratchet Turns by Soramimi Hanarejima

The Best Asian Speculative Fiction

It’s just you and me, on the counter stools, enjoying our ice cream as the buzzing, shuddering air conditioner labours to tame the exuberant heat of sunlight, blazing through the windows. Just another one of our summertime visits to Harfu’s Creamery. Until in strolls who you could be, all seersucker and gabardine in assured motion. With the charisma of a star actress on break during a movie shoot, she orders two scoops, one sweet cream, the other ginger, all topped with crushed pistachios—clearly a superior selection to our picks: my blueberry single scoop and your mango double with coconut shreds.

You, as usual, pay her no attention and carry on like she’s not even there. I, however, become that much more enamoured with her. As she stands mere steps from me, my senses gather delightful nuggets of detail.

The sheen of alacrity upon eyes just like yours, a banterful tone of voice, her hands resting on the counter by the cash register with fingers poised to play the keys of an invisible piano.

These freshly observed characteristics are tucked into my mental treasure trove of impressions, alongside the ease with which she can make people feel special and revoke doubt, a deftness in gently witty comebacks and a knack for interceding with insight. That last one comes from just two days ago, when she breezed into the fray of poor manners poorly critiqued—an unruly parent-child dispute in the park that you and I just rolled our eyes at. With a couple of nimble remarks on the nature of their spat, she quieted both the annoyed father and upset kid.

One of her comments was something like, “How you teach can be just as important as what you teach,” delivered with confident empathy.

It was exactly the kind of thing you would have done if you had more spunk.

That’s who she is. The essence of you, taken to the next logical level of elegant authenticity. Highly articulate with better conditioned hair, stylish without being ostentatious. And that pulls upon not just my attention but my very consciousness, deliciously threatening to bend the entirety of my thoughts around her.

I watch as she now strides back towards the door with a calm majesty, holding her cup of ice cream steadily at chest level with the kind of dignity usually reserved for small trophies or memory orbs. She opens the door and glides out into the unrelenting heat of this August afternoon like it’s a morning in May out there. She dons no sunglasses! It makes me want to saunter down the street, through the humidity as though it were crisp autumn air.

You continue to busy yourself with your ice cream, constructing a spoonful of mango and coconut flavors in perfect proportions.

At night, I lie in bed and let the swirl of infatuation repeatedly wash over me, savouring it, all the while knowing that the longer it goes on unchecked, the groggier I’ll be at work tomorrow. I decide I must order a scoop of ginger ice cream with crushed pistachios as soon as conveniently possible.


Read the complete story in The Best Asian Speculative Fiction 2018. Show your support for contemporary Asian voices. Order your copy now:

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