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Stories

Where the Wild Things Are

 
 

Setouchi Triennale. Shodoshima. Seto Inland Sea.

It rained that day. Not terribly, just enough to dampen things. Somehow they had the foresight to take the car ferry to Shodoshima. It was the last island of their trip—and the largest—getting around by bus and foot would not suffice. When the rain came the car proved itself doubly wise. Women scurried under their polyolefin umbrellas. Sightseers held their blue exhibition pamphlets over their heads. They followed the road as it meandered out of the bottleneck of the port town, past a post office and a car repair shop, and exposed itself to the sea. 

 
 
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To exhibit on an island was a wise choice. The idea of an island, inherently, felt removed, and stepping foot on one was an achievement. It was all in the effort. There was the mode of transportation, a car ferry this time, something that felt both novel and mundane. The protection it offered from the sea, a fleeting embrace of man and metal that ceased once land was sighted. And the sea. The endless sea, with drops of earth all around, pale blue in the horizon. The sea forced a feeling of isolation. Self-reflection was inevitable. The senses were muted with white noise; the wind, the deep hum of the engine, the splashing on the hull. They could do nothing but wait and think about what was to come. 

 
 
 
 
 

 

They turned inland. The hills cleared and opened itself into a narrow valley. They found a gravel parking lot and parked alongside a car whose dashboard was layered with plastic yellow toys. Down below the slopes were terraced for rice. There were spots of orange. They walked to it, passing by a cluster of little buildings and a bright red vending machine. A small pathway, meandering, that seemed to lead somewhere special. They followed it. The land leveled off and in place of the terraces were trees. Mandarins. Persimmons. Fresh persimmons. How nice. One dropped to the ground and split.

 
 
 
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A tall flag signaled the restaurant's existence. Next to it was the vending machine, bright red, with a display of plastic tea bottles and the ever suspicious Alinamin V energy drink. They rushed past a Chinese tour group, hoping to be first in line. Outside, boxes of things were stacked atop one another. Cresting was a blue plastic crate, full with empty Coke glasses. Inside, dark wood, warm lighting, and the soft chatter of Japanese eating their lunch. 

 
 
 
 
 

They ordered their meals. Onomimono? Drink. He spotted a Coke on the menu and ordered it. The crate of glasses outside wasn't for show. She had herself a fig milk drink, whatever that was. As the lunch crowd came (the Chinese tour group never arrived), an older woman began placing outside little school desks as additional seating. Lunch at 12. Recess at 2. 

He finished with a coffee and a muffin. That muffin. Fluffed like a marshmallow. Probably from a box. Delightful.

 
 
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art, architectureJonathan Rowell