Hunk of Junk
A Slice of Life Shonen Ai
by : Team Bonet
He came home a bit later everyday. There had been a month, October, perhaps, when he could tell it was 11pm simply because the front door would creak open, the mosquito screen door slamming out of place against the wall, and his voice would drift in. Tadaima. He'd pick himself up from their bedroom floor then and pad over to greet him back. He'd bring groceries sometimes.
"Nichirei Acerola Juice?"
Sano would grin, shrugging off his wind breaker and flinging it over the beanbag chair they had pulled out into the den. "Yeah. It was on special. Thought you'd like to try it." That would be the end of the conversation. The Nichirei would find itself a spot at the back of the refrigerator and would sit there till all the groceries had been eaten away and there would be nothing else left to drink.
Shinta didn't really mind. He had no problem with the food. It was the money spent on it that worried him sometimes. He couldn't remember the size of his last paycheque, and Sano still had the wanted adds spread out across the living room. He'd stew over them Friday afternoons, day glo yellow marker between his teeth, bare feet slapping against the cold floor as the radio played.
"Maybe you should try that hardware job at JAS. Yah'ko says there's good money to be earned there."
Sano would just look at him with that expression bordering between detachment and a crooked grin, marker dangling from his teeth. Shinta could do little else but set down the drinks he had brought for him and pad back to their bedroom. The radio would play all afternoon, Sano's voice rising to sing along every now and then. He had a nice voice. There had been a time when Shinta would have curled up in their bed to hear him sing. But not that Friday. That Friday he had to figure out how much money he'd have by the end of the month. Rent was bordering on ridiculous in Tokyo, and the landlady never seemed as kind as she used to be anymore. Shinta sighed. Sano's radio was too loud.
It was better on Saturdays. Shinta had no work on Saturday. He had managed to squeeze in as a table boy at the Shabotsu Restaurant Monday through Friday, 8:00am to 6:00pm. Tips were pretty good, and the restaurant was close to the bookstore. He'd spend his break flipping through the newspaper, not paying much attention to anything but the opinion columns and movie reviews. He looked forward to Saturday. Saturday was the day Sano'd get behind the wheel and they'd drive out to nowhere in particular.
"Where we going?"
Sano'd shrug, eyes fixed on the road. "I dunno. Anywhere."
"How about the park?"
Another shrug. "Sure."
Shinta loved the swings. Time slowed down when he was on a swing. Sano would push him, higher and higher, the sky spinning silently above him, and he'd laugh, carefree and happy. They usually parked the car a few miles away, hidden from any passerbies, waiting for them for when Sano would grip the swing's chains and bring Shinta to a stop, bending down to whisper in his ear, "I think we've swung enough on this damn thing. Wanna listen to the radio in the car?" Shinta would smile. He had shared his dream of making love in a car with Sano the first year they had met, at the expo fair that had come to Tokyo Bay. It had been their special thing, their guilty, giddy secret.
"We haven't been to the park in almost a year," Shinta says now, taking the grocery bags Sano brings in. The digital clock propped up beside the beanbag chair reads 12:30am. Sano arches an eyebrow, shrugs. "It's too full of people now, since they built up those damn apartment complexes. I swear, Shint, Tokyo's becoming nothin' but an apartment graveyard. People'll be sleeping out on the balconies soon. Like fuckin' China, man."
"Don't say that."
"Well, that's how I see it." Stopping in the den, Sano pulls out a pack of cigarettes. He pinches one between his teeth and tosses the lighter at Shinta. Pushing back at his red hair, the young man lights his partner's cigarette. He coughs as Sano blows out a ring of smoke.
"It wouldn't be too bad with the people there, I think, Sano."
"The park, I mean."
Sano steps into the kitchen, slapping on the overhead lights. "Oh. Yeah, I guess. Hey, Shint, where th' Hell I'd leave that yoghurt I bought yesterday?" Slamming shut the refrigerator door, he moves aside the dishes piled up on the sink and pulls forward the blender. The cord comes loose from its socket and Sano grumbles as he plugs it back in. It wobbles a bit, but stays put. He repeats his question, pulling open the kitchen counter drawers till he finds a spoon.
Shinta watches him quietly as he spoons chocolate and butterscotch ice cream into the blender. "The yoghurt's below the eggs," he says. Sano slaps at his forehead, "Oh, man, of course! Thanks," and cracks open the pack, dumping the contents into the blender. He drops the empty container on the floor and hits the max button.
A grumble comes from the blender, its contents shuddering to themselves. "What the fuck? Work, you!" Sano strikes at the sides of the blender. It shudders again. As he sniffs at the air, Shinta picks up the smell of burning, a sharp, plastic smell.
"I think it's burning, Sano..."
His partner gives the blender a crooked grin, picking it up between his two hands. He shakes it, unplugs it, slams it down again on the counter. The clock in the den reads 12:46am. He plugs the blender in again. It shudders once and lies still, the smell of burned plastic becoming sharper. Sano strikes the blender one last time. Then, unplugging it in one savage motion, he turns to fling it outside the open window. It clatters down into the darkness, the glass shattering as it strikes the pavement. Sano takes a long drag from his cigarette and flicks the finger down at it.
"Hunk of junk."
The blender was the first Hunk of Junk. Shinta was willing to find the whole thing funny that night. It did seem sort of funny. Sano laughed about it as he climbed into bed that night and still chuckled about it after they had made love. He lay on his side, shoulders shuddering as he laughed silently to himself. Shinta lay at his own side of the bed, gazing at the patterns the moonlight formed on the ceiling, and managed a faint smile. It was funny, if he thought about it in that way.
He remembered when they had bought the blender. They had just found the apartment and had gone out to buy a futon. They had chanced at an appliance store because Sano had taken a wrong turn. He fumed at the steering wheel, unlit cigarette clenched between his teeth, swerving left and right and cursing the Tokyo streets.
"Damn, fuckin' labyrinth, Shint. Where the Hell they'd put that futon store? Osaka?!"
They disembarked in front of the appliance store feeling grateful that at least one store sold something close to chairs. They spotted the blender as they stepped out, the owners of two beanbag chairs and a pair of wooden bowls. It was a 1986 model Ostereiser, ¥1, 000 and ten percent off.
"How can we not?" Sano gushed. "It's perfect. We'll never run across a bargain like this again, Shint."
Shinta sighed, ignoring Sano's crooked, excited grin. "Yeah. We'll only be running off to buy another one after this one dies tomorrow." But Sano wouldn't listen. He never did when his heart was set on something. He paid for it himself and perched it triumphantly on their kitchen counter once he had swerved them back home.
"I give it ten good years," he proclaimed proudly. It had lasted four. It died that night. Turning on his side, Shinta glanced at the calendar nailed to the wall. November 19th. Sighing, he closed his eyes.
Shinta loved Sano. He had no doubts about that. He had loved him since he had first laid eyes on him, five years ago, leaning nonchalantly against the school yard fence, chewing on a blade of grass. Chicken boy, they called him. Sano the chicken boy, because his hair stood out in an uncombed tangle on his head. Sano the cow, because he liked to chew on anything. Sano the fag, because he wouldn't look at girls. "He checks out the boys on the soccer team," they'd whisper. He silenced them all with his fists and spent his hours at detention and moping the school halls. Shinta would watch him from his fourth period Modern Japanese Literature II class, watching the movement of his slim body as he scrubbed the floors, a faint blush travelling across his cheeks. He wanted so badly to talk to him. He'd daydream about their first meeting. Shinta tripping over a rag, Sano helping him up, their eyes meeting, faces inches apart...
He wasn't planning to really trip. But then again, Sano didn't exactly helped him up, either. He slammed the mop down on Shinta's head, soapy water running into the boy's eyes.
"Hey, teme, what's the big idea? I just scrubbed that part! Damn, man, you've cost me the afternoon."
Looking back the first few years, nothing had seemed more perfect. Sano was insolent, funny, not afraid of anything. He had listened to Shinta's confession of wanting to make love in the back of a car without flinching and had made sure to carry out his dream. They had driven out to the park, licking the same ice cream cone on the swings, running across the fields till they were too giddy to think. And Sano had carried him back to the car and whispered that it would be all right and that he really liked him, omae ga honto ni suki da yo. Shinta had never felt more loved, more complete, in his life. Sano's touch, his nearness, the sound of his breath against his neck, his slim body pressed against his own, were all that he had ever wanted. Life had been perfect with him. It didn't matter that they were living in a cheap apartment, holding down odd jobs and living on yoghurt. It didn't matter that when Sano lost his first job after beating up his co-worker he never bothered to get another one. It didn't matter at all. Shinta loved Sano.
"Damn hunk of junk!"
The crash wakes Shinta with a start. He rubs the sleep from his eyes and glances at Sano's empty space on the bed. Awareness creeps over him slowly and he realizes with a jerk that Sano is kicking at something in the den. Pulling on a long shirt, he rushes out of their bedroom to find Sano poking with his foot at the radio. When he sees Shinta, he grins.
"I think I hurt my foot."
Shinta pulls down on his shirt, runs a hand through his dishevelled red hair. "You broke our radio."
Damn thing was nothin' but a smouldering' hunk of junk, Shint. Nothin' but static." With a grunt, he kicks at the radio again, sending it crashing against the wall. Shinta cringes at the sound of metal against concrete, not daring to move from his place. He watches, immobile, as Sano pokes at it again with his foot and chuckles. He spins it on the floor and sings the jingle for a Morinaga commercial as he kicks it towards the other wall. Stuffing his hands into the pockets of his worn, holey jeans, he walks towards Shinta.
Shinta didn't expect to slap him. His hand had risen and raced across Sano's cheek before he could realize what he had done. Sano stood mutely, impassive, his face twisted to the left under the force of the slap. Trembling, Shinta backs away from him. To his surprise, he can't feel any tears about to form, only a numb cold. A prickling sensation, like the one in his hand. It shivers somewhat, the veins beneath the skin burning with the sudden rush of blood. He had never slapped Sano before. They had never hurt each other before.
He draws in a shaky breath and steps around Sano. He picks up the beaten radio and sets it upwards on the floor. It rocks slightly on its legs, the dial rattling on its side. "Sano, I... I want you to go out and buy some milk. I don't want to see you for a couple of hours... I'm not sure what I'd do if I did. Ok?"
Sano's bare feet pad across to their bedroom. A few minutes later, his boots clunk towards the door, the mosquito screen slamming shut after him, his footsteps fading away on the stairs. For a long while, Shinta can't move. At length, he plugs in the radio and tries the knob. Nothing but static comes in. He listens to it for a while, his fingers resting over the dial.
They slept apart that night. Shinta lay naked and awake in their bed till Sano slipped in at 1am. He cursed to himself as he pulled out his boots in the darkness, the beanbag chair crinkling a couple of times as he settled into it. Alone in their bed, Shinta closed his eyes tightly and curled up into himself. He could hear Sano breathing in the den, could smell the cigarettes and the alcohol and the pimp's perfume. The clock struck 1:11am.
The last Nichirei tasted terrible in the morning. Shinta sat at the far corner of the den, dangling the can from his hands. Sano was at the kitchen counter, spooning butter rum ice cream from the container.
"Sano?" Silence. "I'd like you to get a job." Silence, Sano's tongue running over the spoon. "I don't want to pay for you anymore. You gotta get a job."
The ice cream container clatters into the trash can. Shinta grits his teeth. "That's what you always say. The truth is that you don't look at all."
Stepping out of the kitchen, Sano glares down at his partner. The silence grows between them, a broken thing, the smell of burning plastic. Sano growls under his breath. "Listen, man, don't you the fuck tell me what to do. I said I'll look, ok?" He picks up his wind breaker, flinging it over his shoulders as he pulls open the door. Shinta flings down the Nichirei can, the acerola juice splattering on the wall and his shirt. Sano doesn't look back.
"I'm the one who pays our bills," Shinta hisses. "Don't you dare treat me like this. I'm not the one who breaks our blender."
"What the Hell does that fuckin' blender have to do with this?!"
Shinta picks up the can. His hands are trembling, the can rattling in his grip. He can feel the veins begin to stand up over his skin. He can't keep his eyes off Sano's wind breaker. Shinny black leather, with a fur collar and the little strings they'd pull to tighten it if they went walking in winter. It had cost ¥80, 000. It had cost him ¥80, 000. He hates that wind breaker. Hates what it stands for. With a curse, he flings the can, hears it strike Sano's face.
"Don't you dare come back! Don't you dare come back without a job. Or I'll leave you. You just watch me. I'll leave you."
The door swings shut. Sano's footsteps die out on the stairs again. Shinta trembles where he stands. He almost calls out to Sano. He hadn't mean to say the things he did. He hadn't. A sob escapes his throat. He hears himself pad towards their bedroom, footsteps unstable across the floor. Objects materialize at the corners of his eyes. The broken radio, the beanbag chairs, the clock, the newspaper stack with the day glo marker on top. The Nichirei can, oscillating to itself in the corner.
Their room has little more besides their bed, a dirty white sheet, a few shirts and their winter clothes hanging in the closet. The ironing board clatters down as he pulls down his coat, the bright red one. He flings it down on the bed with his three good shirts and snow boots. With a heave, he clambers his old suitcase on the bed, flinging in his things without folding them. He works swiftly, without allowing himself to think about what he takes, what it means. He throws in his toothbrush and shampoo and the remaining rolls of toilet paper. From a drawer he pulls out his Hiroyuki Asada manga, a keepsake from high school, and snaps the suitcase shut. He almost sits at the edge of the bed, but he catches himself in time. Through the bedroom door he can see out into the den. The clock reads 9:12am. And he doesn't cry. He has to remember where he put the train schedules. He has to call his brother. But he remembers that the phone no longer works. It had short circuited last Christmas.
"Hunk of junk," he murmurs. And sits. And waits. The clock strikes 9:14am. He picks up the suitcase and carries it out into the den, pulls on his shoes. Going into the kitchen, he pulls out a strawberry yoghurt from the refrigerator. It doesn't taste like anything. But he sits in the beanbag chair and licks the spoon. The clock strikes 9:17am.
He didn't love Sano. He realized that now. Sano was nothing but a leach, sauntering into his life with his crooked grin and his expert hands and sucking up his money. He was a door slamming shut at midnight, a faceless lover that aroused his body to the breaking point in the darkness and then rolled onto his side when he was done. Shinta had been happier without him. Without his lavish spending and lazy lifestyle. The house would have been cleaner if he had ever volunteered to wash something every now and then. But he never did anything. Only bought groceries Shinta didn't like.
"Look at this tofu I got at half price." Shinta hated tofu. "I got you some chocolate ice cream." He knew Shinta only really liked vanilla. "And I got us some peach yoghurt." Only Sano liked peach yoghurt. Shinta hated it. He couldn't believe he had let all those things gather around him all these years. He didn't love Sano. Had never loved him. He only needed someone in his bed, someone to hold, to keep the darkness at bay. To hold the loneliness back. Anyone could do that.
No, he didn't love Sano. He had never loved Sano.
The clock beeps out 3:23pm. Shinta sits up with a start. The house is empty around him. Weak white sunlight lies in puddles on the floor, glinting off the glass windows. Outside, Shinta can see the balconies of the neighbouring apartment complex. White and impassive. The sound of a hammer rings up from the street. With a start, Shinta sits up straight. Bounding up, he flings open the door, racing down the stairs, stumbling in his haste. He reaches the sidewalk breathless and giddy.
A shinny black leather wind breaker keeps its back to him, Sano grunting with the effort as he hammers at the twisted object in his hands. He doesn't see Shinta behind him, eyes fixed stubbornly on his work. Shinta feels his heart contract quickly, his hands balling into trembling fists by his side. He bites his lip and takes a step forward.
"This is what you went out to do?! You never even went to look for a job! You idiot!"
At the sound of Shinta's voice, Sano's shoulders stiffen. The hammer clatters to the floor as he turns his head slowly. Surprise is etched out clearly across his features, mingled with the guilt of a child caught playing in the mud again. As he turns, Shinta takes another step forward, tears of shame beginning to form in his eyes. What he sees stops him in his tracks, his mouth gaping open. Clutched in Sano's left hand, base hammered back into shape and crowned with a brand new top, is their blender. Sano holds onto it sheepishly, a blush spreading out across his cheeks. It's the first time Shinta has seen him blush since the first time they went to the park.
"Damn it, huh? You had to find me. I swear, it was fixed good as new. I just thought the base looked a bit crooked, so I borrowed Mr. Fujita's hammer and tried to fix it. Stupid me for doing it under your window and... Hey, are you all right, Shint?"
Head bowed, Shinta bites at his lip as the tears roll down his cheeks. "Y-you idiot. You big, stupid idiot." He can't stop the tears. He doesn't know why he's crying. His suitcase is packed. Sano still has no job. He had no right coming home with a fixed blender and making him cry. "What? You think a new blender will fix everything, Sano?"
Sano sighs and scratches the back of his head. He's never known what to do when Shinta cries. He draws a deep breath and steps closer to him. His hand rises and hovers over his partner's shoulder. For a moment he doesn't know what to do. What to say. Shinta looks so beautiful, so damn sad. Sano lowers his hand and reaches into his pocket. He pulls out a crumpled, folded piece of paper. He looks at it for a moment before he presses it into Shinta's hand. Turning away, he runs a hand through his shaggy dark hair.
"When I, ah, went t'borrow Mr. Fujita's hammer he sort'a offered t'let me work shifts at his hardware store. I start this Monday, but I won't get paid till next week 'cause I started fuckin' late. Not my fault, ok, Shint? Um. There. That's it. I'm sorry I've been such an asshole. You can... you can still leave me if you want to, but I want t'give you back this shit piece'a blender anyway, 'cause y'seem to like it so much."
Shouldering the blender, he picks his way back towards their apartment. As he stands on the curb, Shinta's hand close over the crumpled piece of paper Sano gave him. The tears are flowing again, spilling down his cheeks and choking him. He hears Sano's footsteps moving away and he clenches his fists.
Sano starts as two frail hands wrap around him. He feels the world spin for that moment, a strange sensation running down his limbs. He can't tell what it is, relief or love or something greater. He feels tears begin to well up at the corners of his eyes and he blinks them away. With a choked laugh, he pulls Shinta closer, kissing his hands urgently till he's turned him around and is pressing his lips against his. He feels his breath leave him, Shinta's body crushed against his own as he sobs and clings to him. He doesn't want to bring the moment to an end, but, slowly, he pulls free of Shinta's embrace. He wipes Shinta's tears away with his thumb and shoulders the blender again.
"Don't cry, you idiot. It's only a blender." Shinta nods, laughing through his tears. Sano grins, straight for once, his eyes softening for an instant. With his free hand, he pulls Shinta closer to him and turns to climb the stairs back to their room.
"Come on. Let's set this hunk of junk back on the kitchen counter. We'll go somewhere before we both become slaves of the government tomorrow."
Shinta rests his head on Sano's shoulder. "The park?"
Sano smiles. "Sure. We'll listen to the radio in the car."
And now, the author will ramble for a while....
August 24th, 1998, 2:54pm. I'm at the UCF computer lab, with no walkman and feeling a bit lost without one. Heh. I wrote this out on the 17th, though, listening to Lindbergh and June Sky Walkers and B'Z. I keep hearing the June Sky Walker's song 999 even as I type this... Dial my number 999... 999... Wo0ooOOhhhHh... Ha ha. If you view fan fiction as OVAs, consider that the closing theme for this one, na?
Now, a bit of explaining. You must be wondering, why Shinta and not Kenshin? The reason is that Kenshin didn't sound 20th century enough to my ears. I was very much inspired by the shonen ai manga of Fuji Tamaki and Yukari Yashiki (Gust Comics' Love maker) when I wrote this, and the name Kenshin sounded too samurai for the context of the story. Shinta sounded more natural somehow. Abbreviated to Shint by the 199X Sano because as Team Bonet's own Sanosuke I've fallen into the habit of calling Kenshin Kensh. Don't know why.
But I've rambled enough. If you'd like to discuss anything further, have any questions, or simply want to ask me for a copy of 999, then send in a letter to: Mr. Fujita's Hardware Supply Store Thank ye kindly.
@August 17th, 1998 Team Bonet. Rurouni Kenshin is @1994 Nobuhiro Watsuki and Jump Comics. Please do not use this story without asking first. I always say yes. Special thanks go out to Katherine and Kasha way over in Ohio for sending me Lindbergh, B'Z, and June Sky Walkers in the first place. Subarashii ongaku da rotsute!
- Owari -
Hunk of Junk (END)
Copyright © 980817 by Team Bonet
HOT is © 1999 - 2000 by T-chan
All Rights Reserved 1999