As Ordered: A peek at Kyoto

Several months ago I submitted a short story to a local writing contest. While it didn’t win, I was granted a unique experience with an Urushi-san (see my post from this past spring). I thought it might be fun to share the piece here.

As Ordered

When was the last time you had cream soda?

Yet there it is on the menu, which looks half professional and half like someone’s kid got to go wild with the remaining pages. You order, then turn to stare out the window. Despite being led to believe this was a riverside café, there’s a row of houses between you and the water. You wonder how old the venue is.

One wall is packed floor to ceiling with books and comics. While waiting it’s fun to poke through the ancient, faded comics, the garden books, the Kojiki—wait, what’s that doing here? You open it and try to read the text inside. The key word being “try”. You soon return to your seat, pretending you merely lost interest.

The drink coaster was upside-down when the server brought it, so you turn it over to reveal Sakamoto Ryouma staring balefully up at you. You opt to turn it back over and fiddle with the small glass of water that came complimentary with your order.

“…the cake appeared again,” you hear a nearby customer saying to her boyfriend. Her spoon clinks against her coffee cup as she stirs.

Which cake?”

“The giant, plastic one. I think it only appears after it rains.”

Her boyfriend grunts.

You’d spotted it yourself before—a slice of strawberry shortcake as big as a person—sitting by the Kamogawa, but had never stopped to wonder about it. It was just there, like certain samurai you could name, at the edge of your Kyoto subconscious. Your eyes stray to the coaster.

The server arrives with your drink, setting it down with a clunk. Confusion gives way to resignation.

Ah. It’s melon cream soda.

You stir the ice cream into the pop, and drink.

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