|Soba ni aru nara, inu no you ni by Maki Sakaya and illustrated by Daikokuya Ringo
||[Nov. 24th, 2008|10:21 pm]
Soba ni aru nara, inu no you ni by Maki Sakaya and illustrated by Daikokuya Ringo fits into a type of story (usually children's lit) that I adore to pieces. It's about a child who has lived such a deprived and abused life that he has developed a totally whacked out world view and/or coping mechanism, and how he slowly learns love and normalcy (such as it is) and happiness. How I wish that was all it was and not BL as well, because the BL stuff was either odd or awkward or just plain icky. But after rereading it I felt such pity and affection for the main character I decided I could live with the parts I didn't care for (of which the BL is really only a small portion). The story could be boiled down to a few sentences, so little actually happens. But a whole book is possible because it is filled with the main character's thoughts as he's thrown into yet another whacked out situation....which ends happily this time. XD
Sugiura Nobuyuki has lived his life in and out of an institution that cares for children. His mother Mizuki, a hostess, will take care of him for a brief time until she falls for some worthless man and life falls apart to a point where she can't (won't) take care of him, then she sends him back to the institution with a promise that she'll come get him soon. Which she does, only to send him back again and again. Three months before his graduation from junior high and compulsory education (and the beginning of a new life working), she takes him out again. This time she hands him an envelope and tells him to give it to a Sudoh Shoji. He goes to the place she had told him to go to and gives the envelope to the handsome but rather rude glasses-wearing man there. The man tells him to wait until he's done with work, which results in Nobu waiting all afternoon. The man then takes him to a public bath without any kind of explanation. Nobu is completely confused as to what is happening, but from experience knows he should go with the flow. After they take a bath, the man meets up with two other guys. One of them is not much older than Nobu, a happy-go-lucky guy named Momose Satoru. The other is a good-looking guy in his twenties named Kisa Junki and (jokingly?) comments that he'd love to be introduced to Nobu's older sister if Nobu had one. They all walk to a house, where they are greeted by a little girl named Karin and a pretty woman with gaudy make-up and clothing named Sakagawa Yumi (who turns out to be a cross-dressing--or is it transgendered?--man). Everyone walks off on their own, leaving an even more confused Nobu at the entrance. He stands at the entrance with his shoes still on, cold, because he hasn't been told where to go. The man who'd brought him here without any explanation sees him and tells him to follow him to the room with dinner laid out. Everyone settles down for dinner, upon which the head of the house enters. Nobu is freaked out because the man is obviously yakuza (he's big, has deep, craggy features, and has that aura). Though his mother had never dated a yakuza, he's seen enough of them that he wants to stay far away from them. The worthless men his mother had dated were bad enough for him.
Everyone dives into dinner. There is an astounding amount of food. At first Nobu is very hesitant, but when Yumi misunderstands his hesitance as a dislike for nabe and is about to make him something else he makes himself eat--and is amazed at how good the food is. His whole life he'd only eaten the bargain food at the supermarket, and not much of it either. He eats like a maniac and is laughed at by the others for his appetite. He finally learns what's going on when the man who'd brought him to the house teases the head of the house for gaining a son. Nobu is the yakuza's son. The yakuza turns out to be the Sudoh Shoji Nobu's mother had told Nobu to see, and is in fact his biological father. Nobu is shocked. He'd never known his father, and while there had been a time when he'd fantasized about his father coming to see him and showering him with affection, he'd outgrown such silly ideas long ago. His mother wasn't exactly dependable, why would he want to meet the man who'd abandoned him and his mother and hadn't bothered to see him all these years? Yet not only has Nobu now met his father, the man is a yakuza! Sudoh Shoji, whom everyone calls Sho-san, seems stunned by the news as well. Nobu also finds out that the house is sort of an employee dormitory, which is why complete strangers are living under one roof (he still has no idea why a little girl who is apparently not related to any of the adults, however).
Nobu is given a futon in Sho-san's room in a building detached from the main house. He attempts to avoid contact with Sho-san by hiding under the futon, but he's assaulted by eager dogs wanting to investigate the new person. Sho-san sleeps with four dogs, which include two dachshunds and one Shiba-ken. Nobu is freaked out by the dogs as he's never had any contact with one, but when Sho-san urges him to pet one he hesitatingly does. He knows from experience that it's best to go along with adult men because you never know what they may do to you if you do not instantly obey. He is very timid at first but finds the experience rather nice. Sho-san pets Nobu on the head and tells Nobu that he will never hit Nobu, ever. Nobu doesn't really believe him since other men have told him the same thing and had never kept their promises, but he makes the correct affirmative noises. They go to sleep. One of the dogs settles on his tummy, which Nobu decides is pleasantly warm.
Sho-san wakes him up early in the morning so that he can join in with the entire household in rajio taisou. After breakfast he explores the neighborhood until he starts to get hungry. He only has 300 yen to his name and he has no idea if he's to be fed at the house, so he decides to fall back on his usual method of getting money when he has none--stealing manga and selling them to used bookstores. He has the whole racket figured out so as to avoid detection, but only resorts to it when he absolutely needs the money. Unfortunately a bunch of high school kids also steal at the store and manage to get him in trouble. He's questioned by the store manager but won't admit to stealing. He hadn't done it (yet). Sho-san shows up, mad that Nobu hadn't told anyone when he was coming back. Yumi had been quite worried for him since he hadn't returned. Nobu instinctively flinches at Sho-san's anger, expecting to be hit, but isn't. Instead, Sho-san calms down and addresses the problem. He'd been called by the store manager after the manager had found his phone number among Nobu's things. Sho-san deftly defends Nobu and they leave. Nobu is struck by how cool Sho-san was in the store.
Sho-san asks Nobu how much in allowance he'd like. Nobu is very confused. Why isn't Sho-san mad? Why is he asking about allowance? Sho-san explains that he has failed as a father by not realizing that Nobu may not have much money and wants to rectify the situation so that Nobu doesn't rely on the shady methods he's used before. Sho-san is rather proud that Nobu had stubbornly insisted on his innocence, even as he fully realizes that Nobu had stolen manga before. Nobu racks his brain as to how much he needs. He figures 100 yen/ day for ten days and asks for 1000 yen (ready to be hit for it). Sho-san scoffs at the amount, telling Nobu he wants a monthly figure. And he reminds Nobu that when schools starts Nobu will need some money for supplies and the like. So Nobu thinks some more and very very timidly asks for a whopping 10,000 yen. Sho-san immediately gives him a 10,000 yen bill, which blows Nobu away. He'd never held so much money before. He asks if Sho-san isn't afraid he'll just waste the money, but Sho-san laughs at him. Sho-san figures Nobu will more likely NOT spend the money, and regrets not giving Nobu the money in smaller bills so as not to tempt Nobu into saving the precious bill. (BTW, if it isn't obvious 10,000 yen isn't really much money--it's just that Nobu's lived such a comparatively crappy life it's like a fortune to him.)
That night Yumi announces that she wants to flip the tatami in the house the next day since everyone is off. The others groan about it and complain that they had no advanced warning. Yumi gets annoyed and reminds them that when she'd told them in advance last year they'd all conveniently had other things to do. Glasses guy laughs that Yumi's won the argument and tells them that they need to clean up their rooms, making sure all their belonging fit unto one tatami mat or else he'll throw whatever doesn't fit away. They all run off to tidy up. Sho-san remains sitting for a while, despondent. Even after he goes to his room he is despondent. Nobu can't figure out why until he looks into the other room in the detached building. It's FILLED with bookcases FILLED with books. They stay up all night moving everything. Nobu doesn't really understand what's to happen with the tatami, but he learns the next morning when they pull up all the tatami and stack them two by two like cards in the sun. Junki and Satoru disappear, and glasses guy (sorry, I can't find the dude's name) goes off to find them. Yumi, Karin, Sho-san, and Nobu take a break and nap a while. Since all the tatami are outside they can't lie down, so Sho-san leans against a wall and has Nobu lean on him with Karin on his lap. Nobu is totally stiff at first, but the warmth and steady sounds of Sho-san's chest lull him to sleep (he had been up all night, after all). When they wake up they have to put the tatami back. This involves grouping tatami together so that they wear out evenly, forcing warped tatami down either by banging on it or placing furniture on top, and wiping them down (twice!) with really (really) hot water. Nobu grumbles to himself as he works until the missing three show up. They've brought TONS of food for New Year's.
Junki grabs Nobu to show him how to cut up the seafood. Nobu is rather squicked by fish eyes and doesn't want to cut them up, but Junki doesn't make him do anything. Instead he rewards Nobu's hard work under Sho-san's strict supervision by giving him tastes of the tasty seafood.
Nobu spends the rest of the year helping Sho-san put his rooms back to order. On New Year's Eve he's given presents of clothing (that aren't from the bargin bin at the supermarket) from the adults in the house. They tease Nobu when he sincerely thanks them, one of them commenting that he can't ask for otoshidama on New Year's Day. He agrees quickly, upon which they tease him some more. Kids should ask for things from adults, not be so obedient. They eat toshikoshi soba (and TONS of other food) and formally greet each other. They all then go to the local shrine to pray. Nobu is kind of afraid to be so bold, but he prays that he'll be able to stay at the house at least until he graduates. They head back to the house, joking about the fortunes they'd pulled. They are happy until they get close to the house, where they see a pretty young woman waiting for them.
As soon as she sees the woman, Yumi picks Karin up and starts to run away. She trips, however. The woman approaches quickly, but Sho-san gets between the two. The woman is Karin's mother. She wants her daughter back. Karin has her face buried in Yumi's chest, afraid and trembling. In the end, Junki and Satoru drag the woman away with Sho-san following them.
Glasses guy, Yumi, Karin, and Nobu enter the house. Glasses guy is mad. Karin is frightened. Yumi is distressed. Nobu is confused. Glasses guy explains that Karin's mom had been abandoned by her man, had turned to drugs, and had abused Karin very, very badly. He decides to take things into his own hands and announces that he will marry that bitch. Then he can adopt Karin and take care of her. He demands the marriage license form that Yumi has hidden in her room and fills it out. He tells Nobu to deliver it to Sho-san.
Nobu goes over to the place glasses guy had told him to go to and delivers the form to Junki. Sho-san and Karin's mother are talking. Junki shows the form to Sho-san, and Sho-san begs Karin's mother to marry glasses guy and give up on Karin. Karin's mother resists at first, but when she's (gently) reminded just how fucked up Karin is (Karin is so afraid of adult women, especially those who scream hysterically, she can't go anywhere. She can't even go to school properly. She's eight but looks more like five. Nobu is dumbstruck that the girl he'd thought was so happy and so unlike him had such a crappy past. He'd been hit, yes, but from when he was in elementary school, not when he was three years old.) Sho-san tells Karin that Yumi has never ever raised her voice after figuring out Karin's trauma. He asks if she's capable of doing that. Karin's mother breaks down and agrees to give her daughter up. She tries to act tough, even grousing that Sho-san is horribly cruel in his kindness. Why couldn't she at least falsely marry Sho-san, whom she's always loved? Sho-san apologizes and admits that he's kind of already married. Karin's mother gets worked up at this. She starts yelling about hearing rumors of Sho-san being tricked into a marriage as part of a scheme by Sho-san's cousin to gain Sho-san's money. Nobu is thunderstruck and runs outside. Junki catches him and offers him a place to cry privately. It's not safe for a kid to wander about on New Year's Eve. Junki takes Nobu to the office where Nobu had first met glasses guy and shows him to a room with a futon. Nobu wraps himself up in the futon but doesn't cry. Instead, he despairs. Sho-san is not his real father--he'd just been tricked into thinking it. He can't go back to that warm and happy house again. He was being punished for daring to even wish to stay there. He beats himself as unworthy of being near Sho-san. He wishes he'd never gone to the house and known such kindness. Then he wouldn't miss it so fiercely. He manages to fall asleep eventually.
The next morning he is surprised to find out that Junki had slept downstairs in the office. Junki tells Nobu that his mother's been found and asks if Nobu wants to see her. Nobu does, so they drive over. When they get to the hotel, there is only Sho-san and Nobu's mother, Mizuki. Mizuki immediately clings to Nobu, and Nobu comforts her. Turns out that Sho-san's worthless cousin had married Mizuki pretending to be Sho-san and had faked a family registry to make it seem like Sho-san was Nobu's real father. He'd tricked Mizuki into sending Nobu to "him" and had lied to her by saying Nobu had insisted on going back to the institution and took her on a vacation. Mizuki had been so happy at being treated so nicely she'd not followed up on Nobu. The cousin had sent Nobu to the real Sho-san knowing that Sho-san was kind-hearted and would take care of a kid, regardless of whether the kid was being used as a pawn in a nefarious plot. The cousin had planned on killing Sho-san and getting Sho-san's money through Mizuki and Nobu, who'd be Sho-san's wife and son. Sho-san apologizes for his family having manipulated Mizuki and Nobu.
Junki isn't having none of it, however. He points out that Sho-san's cousin had chosen Mizuki because he'd seen that she was a mother who'd be willing to allow her man to use her son. Some women aren't ever fit to be mothers, and Mizuki is one of them. He reveals that he can relate to Nobu because his own mother was also a bad woman. She'd dragged her own son into her bed while her husband was away for two years on a boat. He kisses Nobu and offers to protect and care for Nobu. Nobu is tempted by Junki's kindness since he has no illusions about his mother, but in the end he declines. He doesn't want to inconvenience the wonderful people at that house, even though he wants to be with them. He choses to be with his mother.
Nobu and Mizuki rent a small apartment near his school. Mizuki, feeling guilty, "takes care" of him instead of working. She greets him everyday when he comes home from school and cooks for him (mostly bad food). Despite her shortcomings, Nobu is fairly happy since he can feel her desperate desire to be maternal to him. However, one day he comes home to an empty apartment and a note that says "I'm sorry. Bye-bye. Be well." He's devastated. He'd hoped that things would last until graduation. Plus, she'd always promised to come and get him each time she returned him to the institution, but this time it was good-bye. He quickly turns to blaming himself. It was punishment for trampling on Junki's kindness. He should've known things would turn out so badly yet he had turned away. How stupid could he be?
Nobu lies on the floor and ponders his future. He'll have to stop by the institution and ask to be taken back. He remembers the pitying looks of the staff and the darkly exultant looks of the other kids, which he could never get used to no matter how many times he's experienced it. He then wishes he could be a cat, since even when they aren't lovable they are still cared for. He figures that no one would want a kid whose his own mother has abandoned him. Though he knows it's foolish, he can't help but remember the five days he'd spend at Sho-san's house. He regrets not having taken up Junki's offer. He then wishes he could be a small dog, so that he could be allowed to wait for Sho-san. If he was a dog he could wait even if he's told not to, because that's what dogs do. He wishes to be reborn as a dog if he could...So that he could be near Sho-san.
Nobu hears footsteps approach. A key is inserted into his door and the door opens. Nobu, expecting Mizuki, is astounded to see Sho-san. Sho-san explains that Mizuki had left the apartment key in the mailbox with a note to Junki to take care of Nobu. Sho-san offers Nobu a job after graduating junior high. If Nobu wants to, he could even attend high school. Nobu rejects Sho-san. He demands to know why Sho-san bothers with him, since he's just a nuisance to Sho-san. Sho-san had stated on New Year's Eve that he couldn't be Nobu's father, which Nobu had taken as a rejection. But Sho-san explains that he can't be Nobu's father because he's from a yakuza family--he takes off his shirt to show Nobu his tattoo. His brother had inherited the clan but hasn't had a kid yet (despite having fucked many women), so people are bugging Sho-san as well. He can't drag an innocent kid into a life as a yakuza, which is why he can't be Nobu's father. But he is willing to take care of Nobu like how he does Junki and Satoru (who, apparently, were picked up like strays by glasses guy). Nobu, however, doesn't want any of it. He wants a special relationship that will let him wait for Sho-san forever. Nobu starts babbling about wanting to be a dog. Sho-san tells Nobu to not talk like that because a bad man would take it the wrong way....And realizes that he could in fact take it the wrong way and make Nobu his. Sho-san tells Nobu he'll indulge Nobu's wishes. What does Nobu want? Nobu asks that Sho-san tell him he can wait for him and only him. Because that's all he wants. Sho-san is bowled over by Nobu's pure devotion. He explains that the only other option for Nobu besides being Sho-san's son is to be his lover. Nobu thinks he'll be a kept boy, but he's okay with it. If it gives him what he wants, he'll be whatever. He wants to belong to Sho-san.
Sho-san kisses him and partially undresses him and gives him a hand-job, telling Nobu that he'll teach Nobu everything, good and bad. When Sho-san starts to dress, Nobu asks why Sho-san doesn't keep going. Sho-san asks that Nobu not ask such questions when dressed that way. Nobu thinks Sho-san is referring to his uniform and offers to take it off, but Sho-san doesn't mean it that way. He's a bit sharp, and Nobu flinches. Sho-san modulates his voice and tells Nobu that they can take things slowly. He asks if Nobu actually understands what he's suggesting they do. Nobu, who'd done a bit of research after being kissed by Junki (and had seen his mom having sex several times), says he does. More or less. Sho-san stares up at the ceiling for a bit, then suddenly opens up his pants and takes out his dick. He shows it to Nobu and asks if Nobu thinks it could be used for that purpose immediately.
Nobu doesn't respond because he's staring at Sho-san's dick. Which is big, and grotesque. It's not shaped normally, at least as far as Nobu knows. After a long (long) silence Sho-san sighs and explains that there are pearls in it. He tells Nobu to be a good boy and take the escape Sho-san is offering. He mock-threatens to fuck Nobu if Nobu doesn't. He doesn't mean it, but Nobu takes Sho-san's threat seriously and nods. He says okay, but wonders if it will fit. Sho-san loses it again and yells that he means that they will take things slowly. He'll eventually make sure Nobu won't be able to live without Sho-san's dick, just...not yet. Nobu agrees, even though he doesn't understand why not now. He'd prefer to have the reassurance of being Sho-san's kept boy, but he doesn't want to upset Sho-san either so he drops the issue. He vows to not make Sho-san mad and to be as close to being as devoted like a dog as he can be. They dress, and head toward their home.
Worried about how he'll be received back at the house, especially by Junki since he'd spurned Junki but had accepted Sho-san, he offers to live in the apartment and wait for Sho-san there. You know, like a proper paramour. But Sho-san utterly rejects that idea. He needs to keep at eye on Nobu. Nobu'd lost a lot of weight in the short time he was gone from the house. Sho-san lets slip that Nobu's mother had come crying to Sho-san because of it. Nobu doesn't understand, and Sho-san tells him he doesn't need to. Nobu doesn't need to worry, he just has to be near Sho-san. Sho-san will indulge Nobu.
Nobu is greeted joyously at the house. Yumi is dismayed at how thin Nobu has gotten. She promises to fatten him up, at least 10 kgs. Everyone had been waiting for Sho-san to come home to eat dinner, because that's the one rule of the house. That everyone eat together. As they head towards dinner, Yumi notices something. She very coldly asks why Sho-san isn't wearing his tie. Or his undershirt. Sho-san tries to brush Yumi (and Junki who adds his two-cents in as well) off, saying it wasn't any of their business. Yumi laughs and agrees. But then she drops her voice to her natural male register and threatens to cut off Sho-san's filthy dick if he sticks it into Nobu. She yells at Sho-san that he should wait until Nobu is at least twenty since he'd acted like Nobu's parent at one point, regardless of whether it's consensual or not. Glasses guy laughs, noting that Yumi would totally do it. Karin shows Nobu a photo of everyone taken the day they'd flipped the tatami. She loves the picture because everyone is in it. She asks if Nobu will always be with them. Nobu nods again and again, so that everyone (but especially the person he cares for the most) understands his wish. And he sees Sho-san's stern face smile gently. Filled with happiness, Nobu smiles as well and hugs Karin.
I've got to admit, I wanted to hug Nobu a lot. It's so sad how calculating he's learned to be, in order to protect himself. How he instinctually doesn't trust adult men. How he's learned to be uber-obedient to minimize damage to himself. How he's cynical at his chances in life and how he puts himself down in order to live with the shit life throws at him. And how when he finds kindness and affection he clings to it fiercely, even as he derides himself for being foolish at dreaming so big. It makes me sad that he clings so hard that he's willing to settle for a relationship he doesn't really understand because it's pretty obvious that he's not emotionally mature enough. He's certainly not "in love" with Sho-san (yet?). And that Sho-san is weak enough to take advantage of Nobu's innocence even a little. Thank goodness for Yumi and her scary knife threat, it makes me feel a little better that Nobu will have a chance to mature.
Oh noes! Fear the miniature dachshund.
Morning exercises go!
Teasing Nobu on the way home from the shrine.
Nobu notices the cat living in the office and is a bit jealous that it has a home.
Sho-san shows proof of his unsuitability to be a father.
And then shows that he's suitable to be something else. Which kind of icks me out. Why couldn't they keep with the wonderful heartwarming father-son relationship? *sighs*