Tokyo Cowboy Novel

An as-yet unpublished mainstream novel by Jorian Clair.
"Tokyo Cowboy" is, at one level, a "fish out of water," East meets West action/adventure/love story. On another level, it is a character-driven, intricately plotted novel that explores the fine line between honor and pride, the looming extinction of the American cowboy and the small family-owned cattle ranch, and the confrontations that can be triggered when people of different cultures clash.

(Chapter One)

Hiroshi Nakamura jogged away from the temple and past the last outer perimeter of the small old township of Kiho, some 90 miles north of Tokyo. Ahead of him he could see the park and an early morning mist lifting off of the lake and sifting through the wooded knolls, accompanied by the songs of birds welcoming a new day.

He breathed in the birthing scents of spring, then opened up the stride of his 36-year-old legs, his strong muscular frame an inch shy of six feet, easily accommodating the acceleration. Still, his heartbeat quickened, and perspiration began seeping from his pores, producing a sheen of moisture on his wide forehead which soon evolved into riverlets of sweat that wended their way in and out of the craggy landscape of his face, then coursed down between his shoulder blades and pooled at the waist of his pants.

Hiroshi left the park path and turned down a country lane, slowing his pace as he ran past tile-roofed, old-style Japanese houses, each sitting on a tiny plot of land behind a gated, mud-brick wall.

He paused long enough in front of one of these dwellings to open and close the gate behind him, jogging in place while he removed the sweatband from his head and finger-combed his straight black hair. When he had cooled down, he entered the genkan where he removed his shoes and placed them on the floor with his backpack before leaving the entry room to pad across the living and dining area in his socked feet. Like all the rooms in the house, this one was small and dark, with tatami-matted floors and sliding shoji screens.

He moved soundlessly down the narrow hallway past the bedroom he shared with his wife, Katsumi, and that of his son, Hajime. There was still some time remaining before they began to stir.

At the back door, Hiroshi slid his feet into sandals and stepped outside into a small yard that was unremarkable except for a collection of bonsai displayed there. The plants varied in age, size and style, and no attempt had been made to enhance their surroundings. Instead, the bonsai containers had been lined up on top of three handmade wooden tables which had been placed to form a squared horseshoe shape.

Hiroshi stood at the opening of the horseshoe, contemplating the collection as a whole before he allowed himself to enter into the controlled worlds he had created in each bonsai environment, saving his favorite until last. This was a durmast oak he had formed in the windswept style of Fukinagashi, its exposed roots gripping the soil with a tenacity that expressed an enduring spirit.

A bee buzzed Hiroshi and landed on his hand. He placed the palm of his other hand over the bee, closed his eyes and reflected on the insect, becoming one with the bee and then the bee itself. When he removed his hand, the bee lingered, still and quiet. Perhaps it had reflected on him, merged with the man, and become one with Hiroshi. If so, the bee ended both their meditations by flying away.

Hiroshi picked up a watering can and began quenching the thirst of his bonsai, as well as his own thirst for tranquility.

When the task was completed, he turned with reluctance toward the house. Anything but tranquility awaited him there. What would it be this time?

One look at his wife and son as he came in for breakfast answered that question.

They were prepared for coercion, and Hiroshi could only marvel that after eleven years of marriage, his wife still seemed unaware of how obvious she was in her ploys.

At 30, Katsumi was more beautiful than she had been at 18, when he had met her, and her preference for Western clothes and ways also had become more pronounced. Which was why it was so naïve of her to think that simply by wearing a yukata, instead of her usual T-shirt and designer jeans, her husband would be beguiled into being more receptive to her wishes. How could a woman as smart as she was not realize that the traditional Japanese robe and pulling her black hair up into a neat chignon on top of her head, rather than letting it swing loose in a long ponytail, failed to transform her into the image of an obedient wife?

Hiroshi slanted a sideways look at Hajime, who usually arrived tardy and disheveled for breakfast. This morning, his 10-year-old son was already seated at the table, wearing his school uniform and an uncharacteristic air of subservience.

Hiroshi, who had changed into a shirt, tie and the trousers of his business suit before joining his family, exchanged silent bows of acknowledgement with them before lowering himself onto the cushion at the head of the low table, the morning’s newspaper in his hand. His wife and son then took their places on each side of the table.

He set the small porcelain bowl of miso soup aside, glanced at the piece of broiled salted fish and some pickles already on his plate, and opened his newspaper wide with both hands.

“Rice,” he ordered in a gruff voice, pretending to be absorbed in his newspaper, but covertly watching his wife to see how she would react to his preemptory manner.

The serving bowl of rice was closer to him than it was to Katsumi, but he invariably reacted to her periodic acts of subterfuge by goading her, just to see for how long she could maintain her ruse.

Conflicting clouds of emotion moved across the delicate landscape of Katsumi’s lovely face as her independent nature warred with her need to appear passive.

Hiroshi knew which had won when she adjusted the sleeves of the yukata and moved around the table on her knees to serve him. The small victory made his gut wrench with guilt for having coerced his wife into doing something he knew she considered humbling. He tightened his grip on the newspaper, wishing she would simply say what was on her mind so they could stop this painful charade.

“Father — ,” Hajime began, and at once clamped down when his mother shot a warning glance at him.

Hiroshi pretended not to have noticed the exchange.

“Yuko’s husband bought the snack shop for her,” Katsumi said in that soft voice she used when she wanted something from Hiroshi. But she kept her eyes on the bowl of rice as she returned it to the table.

“Tea,” Hiroshi responded, turning a page in his newspaper, even though he had read nothing on the previous one.

The pot of tea was next to his hand. But again, his wife assumed a pose of meekness and served him.

“She’s asked me to help,” Katsumi continued, her gaze now fixed on the teapot. “And since all my friends are getting jobs, I thought —” She broke off when Hiroshi folded his newspaper and scowled at her.

“We have had this conversation before. There is no need for you to work.”

“But I want to.”

“And I want to join Little League!” Hajime blurted out.

Katsumi flashed a look of reprimand at her son.

Hiroshi, frowning at Hajime’s outburst, folded his newspaper and stood up.

“There is no time for this,” he announced, his gaze taking in his uneaten breakfast and the faces of his wife and son. “I will miss my train.”

“If we don’t talk at breakfast, then when?” Hajime demanded, jumping to his feet. “It’s the only time I ever see you!”

The boy’s body, small for his age, was tense, and his eyes burned with open rebellion. But the expression on his father’s face, stern and disapproving, sent the child running for the door.

“Hajime!” Hiroshi’s curt command stopped the boy. He froze, then composed himself before turning to his father with a bow.

“With your permission, sir, I will leave for school.”

Hiroshi hesitated, then gave a nod of consent.

Hajime abruptly stormed out the door, slamming it behind him in wordless protest.

Hiroshi looked at Katsumi, who rose from the table.

“He didn’t mean to be disrespectful,” she said, still maintaining her role of traditional Japanese wife and mother.

“No Little League,” Hiroshi replied, putting on his suit jacket. “Hajime must spend his spare time studying, so he can get into a good university.”

Katsumi’s false façade began to crumble.

“But that’s such a long way off,” she said, her voice rising. “Let him be a child first. Let him play for a little while.”

“He must prepare to be an adult,” Hiroshi said, retrieving his briefcase, “because that is where he will spend the rest of his life.”

The dam Katsumi had forged to contain her emotions broke, and anger poured out. Her stance turned rigid and her hands fisted at her sides.

“I will not let you deprive our son of a childhood the way your father did you!”

Hiroshi’s stomach clenched at his wife’s disrespectful tone.

“My train,” he replied in a voice tight with control. And with a polite bow to Katsumi, he left.

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Tokyo Cowboy is an action-adventure-love story. Karate master/Zen Buddhist Tokyo businessman, deep in the heart of Texas, locks horns with the widow who owns the cattle ranch he must have.

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Last Updated 06/01/14
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