The Brothers Murakamov

He entered the room and immediately felt a grudging hatred for everyone within it, or perhaps it was a deep sense of detachment from his own body—he couldn’t be quite sure which. Lesbos Ivanovna was there, of course, to torture him, or maybe because anyone could be anywhere at any moment without any real reason for it. She was wearing a simple black dress and a giant plastic flower in her hair. It would have almost looked absurd if she didn’t wear it with such seriousness of purpose. That she had been a prostitute in a former life only made her now chaste and absurd appearance that much more intolerable for him, or was it of no concern since what constitutes the individual is simply a series of seemingly disconnected events controlled by the flow of an unseen and purposeless hand?

His brother-in-law, Ichiro Murakamov, was present too—that hateful creature who had defiled the beautiful Lesbos, not physically, for no man could touch her inner purity no matter how deeply he penetrated, but psychologically, by forcing her to borrow money from him to pay for her consumptive father’s medical expenses and a private eye to search for her lost cat. Because of this defilement, Lesbos had lost all olfactory powers and roamed the city imagining the smells that others might be enjoying in each location—a train station, a bakery, an abandoned playground. It was a living hell, but also gave her a feeling of serenity that she couldn’t quite explain except to say that it was both utterly metaphorical and also a black, throbbing mass taking up actual physical space in in body.

He brushed past Lesbos and his brother with a disdain one only feels when one knows deep down that one is guilty—utterly guilty!—and entered the kitchen. There he made himself a simple ham and cheese sandwich, cut it neatly in half, opened the fridge, took out a single beer, opened the beer, drank the beer, ate half the sandwich slowly, and suddenly felt a heaviness in his limbs as though he could drift off to sleep right there in the kitchen. He resisted his fatigue and headed back into the living room where Lesbos had sprawled herself across a chaise lounge and Ichiro was sitting in a straight-backed dining table chair. Dvorak played on the record player.

“We are all here, no doubt,” began Ichiro, “to settle the question of our painful mutual arrangement once and for all.” These words filled him again with the utmost disgust, as though Ichiro had, simply by broaching the subject at all, offended his deepest moral center, even the very core of his existence—or perhaps he was just hungry for another sandwich. He got that way sometimes.

“Everything you say is hateful to me, Ichiro!” he yelled, throwing the plate with the half-eaten sandwich across the room where it shattered against the wall, the sandwich dividing into its component parts which flew every which way and then dropped to the ground.

“Of course! Of course I knew this was how you would approach such things, both because I know your nature, Ivan Fukiyama, and because I dreamed this entire scene already last night as I slept at the bottom of a well,” said Ichiro, a wry smile playing at the edge of his mouth. “You, no doubt, have your pride, which prohibits you from entering into any sort of ‘deal’ with a ‘character’ like me,” Ichiro continued. “And yet, your love for Lesbos Ivanovna has you reconsidering. I can see by the look on your face that I have hit on the very heart of the matter, Ivan Fukiyama. Or were you just thinking about whether or not to have a second beer?”

He was thinking of whether of not to have a second beer. “I was thinking of whether or not to have a second beer,” he said.

“Well then by all means, do so,” replied Ichiro.

“Would you like one too?” asked Fukiyama.

“Why not?” said Ichiro.

Fukimaya got two beers from the fridge, one for himself and one for Ichiro, and they drank them in silence for twenty minutes. When they looked up from their beers Lesbos Ivanova was nowhere to be found.

“She’s gone off again,” Ichiro sighed.

“It makes no difference to me,” replied Fukiyama. “What were we talking about again?”

“I can’t remember. I’m suddenly so tired,” Ichiro said.

“So am I, but I have to pick up the dry cleaning.” Fukiyama said.

“Do you have to do it now?” asked Ichiro.

“I suppose not,” said Fukiyama. “Do you think Lesbos Ivanovna will ever return?”

“I imagine she will when the time is right,” said Ichiro.

“I guess you’re right,” said Fukiyama.

And they both fell asleep on their respective couches and had wet dreams about how if there is no God then all is permitted.

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