Investigators by Rado Mida

September 5, 2011

When I ran down the stairs of Otowa subway station and rushed through the underpass, I saw a man and woman out of the corner of my eye. They were both sitting down on chairs in the passageway. Wondering what they were up to, I glanced over to where they were sitting. The women had a quick look over at me, but soon looked down again. She was wearing a yellow arm band which had the word ‘INVESTIGATOR’ written on it in black letters. The man was also wearing an identical arm band. I stepped through the ticket machine, turned around and looked at the two of them, but they were just sitting there doing nothing.

As I was being rocked about by the train, I wondered what the investigation which the arm band referred to was all about. If they were investigating the volume of traffic then they’d surely have one of those contraptions, what do you call them? The ones that professional baseball referees carry. Maybe it’s called a counter, maybe not. I can’t remember. Anyway whatever you call it, they usually carry a device.

Come to think of it, I can remember a pretty girl passing me a questionnaire as I got on the train once. She told me to hand it in when I got off, and when I asked her what kind of questionnaire it was, she told me that they were measuring people’s movements on the subway. That’s right, regular investigators would be carrying questionnaires or counter-like devices. So who were those two before?

Even at work, my mind occasionally wandered to the sight of the man and woman just sitting there, and my way home they were still there at Otowa station as I passed through the ticket machine. They were sitting on their chairs just like in the morning. I walked past them once and then turned back on myself.

“What sort of investigation are you doing?” I asked them.

“We’re investigating the level of indifference in the city,” explained the man, with a distinct lack of expression. “You’re the fifth person to come and talk to us today. Five people in twelve hours.”

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Yoghurt by Kazuo Komiya

August 25, 2011

The evening rush hour was setting in and the inside of the train was almost full to the brim. Of course there were still no people reeking of booze, but there were a few housewives on their way home from the department store.

In any case the middle-aged woman who got on at that station was holding something peculiar. She had lots of shopping bags hanging from both arms and was clutching a yoghurt pot in one hand. The lid of the pot had also been peeled off and the yoghurt inside was peeking out. Had she been walking with yoghurt in hand for a long time? It was in a bad way.

That sweetly sour yoghurt-like smell began to drift around the inside of the train and the other passengers, who had grasped the situation, made their moves to watch from a distance.

The middle-aged woman headed further into the carriage in search of a seat, which was obviously not to be found. She was left standing with the yoghurt in one hand. The yoghurt continued to wobble about inside the pot. It could have spilled out at any moment with the sway of the train.

One middle-aged salary man, who couldn’t bear to watch, gave up his seat for the woman. The passengers nearby were left wondering if that was what she had intended. The woman, who had sat down in the seat bowed her head to the salary man a number of a times, then said “Please take this small gift as a token of my gratitude,” as she held out the yoghurt.

Without thinking, the well to do salary man reached out for the yoghurt. Just as he began to question his move, the salary man found he was already clutching the pot in his own hand. He went to give it back but the woman had already fallen fast asleep, her arms wrapped around her shopping bags – boy that was fast work! The man was hit by a blast of cold stares from the other salary men nearby.

He carefully manoeuvred himself around the train so as not to spill the yoghurt. Some people kept quiet and cleared the aisle, some openly raised their eyebrows and some started up whispered conversation in disbelief. Amongst these people was one young man who stood up from his seat.

“Thank you very much,” said the salary man as he sat down in the seat, “I’d like to give you this if you don’t mind.”

The young man took hold of the yoghurt without a second thought. It seemed as though the yoghurt had the mysterious power to make anyone reach out for it when offered. The salary man wasted no time in starting his own pretend nap whilst the young man pushed his way through the passengers with the yoghurt in one hand and headed up the train to find a new receiver.

That yoghurt is quite possibly still knocking about on the train – well somewhere at least – right now. Is there anyone hanging around beside you with yoghurt in hand?

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