Proud Son

Shu Matsui

Artwork by Lee Wan Xiang


BROTHER (older)
SISTER (younger)

Center stage: a chair.

TADASHI’S MOTHER enters and sits in the chair.

After looking around, she drinks water from the glass in her hand and steadies her breath.

TADASHI’S MOTHER:  . . . (Drinks some more water.) . . . Don’t blab so much in front of others, that’s what my late husband used to tell me. “The way you say things, none of it makes any sense . . . better you just nod your head.” Yesyes, Yesyes—just keep nodding.

(MAN enters. He eats chunks of fruit—with a pocket knife rather than a fork.)

MAN:  Yesyes, and?

TADASHI’S MOTHER:  And before I knew it, it got to be a habit. Just nodding my head like this . . . (Nods her head in short, quick motions.) Nodding yesyes to anyone and everyone, yesyes while talking to myself . . . (Nodding her head.) yesyes to the mirror (nodding her head) yesyes, yesyes . . .

MAN:  A one-trick pony.

TADASHI’S MOTHER:  My husband thought it creepy and he wouldn’t go out with me or talk to me. Can you believe it? He’s the one who started it. But then one day, he brought home a pedometer, tossed it to me, and told me to put it on. A pedometer. What could I do but get a scarf and tie it to my head? And then, guess what . . . it worked. I’ve got a purpose . . . in life.

MAN:  I see.

TADASHI’S MOTHER:  It was like, “Wow, I nodded seven thousand times today. I’ll try for even more tomorrow.” A whole new world had opened up. From then on, my husband would check in with me, asking “Hey, how many today?” Though that just was about it for our conversations.

MAN:  He sounds like a nice husband.

TADASHI’S MOTHER:  Yes, I suppose so . . . come to think of it, I feel bad, rather sorry for him. For having married such a nitwit. He could’ve found a better fit, I’m sure.

MAN:  I highly doubt it. (He pulls a souvenir doll out from his bag.) Think of this as your husband. Do you see any resemblance?

TADASHI’S MOTHER (appraising the doll):  No, not really.

MAN (putting the doll back into the bag):  Okay, I see.

TADASHI’S MOTHER:  . . . Yeah, well, but my son, I have an only son, and unlike me, he’s really very impressive. Not to brag or anything, but . . . well, let me tell you . . .

MAN:  And off she goes.

TADASHI’S MOTHER:  Some say, he’s, maybe, greater than that man . . . you know who . . . the one born in the manger, who got pelted with stones . . . you know? He was uhhh . . . crucified . . .

MAN:  Jesus Christ?

TADASHI’S MOTHER:  Well, for example, you know . . . some say . . . ? It’s not me saying it, but there is this rumor I hear, or something like it, right?

MAN (pulling a crucifix out from his bag):  A steal. Only eight hundred yen.

(TADASHI’S MOTHER ignores MAN’s offer.)

(She pulls out a postcard.)

TADASHI’S MOTHER:  Take a look at this.

(A postcard from Hawaii is projected onto the wall.)

TADASHI’S MOTHER:  That’s Hawaii. I want to visit Hawaii, I’ve been saying that for a long long time. He remembered, and he sent me this card. Here’s what he wrote, “I built a nation. Things are good. Tadashi.”

(TADASHI’S MOTHER pulls a muumuu and a pair of sunglasses out of her bag and puts them on.)

TADASHI’S MOTHER:  Amazing. He built a nation! I bet it’s just like Hawaii. Tadashi’s nation. That’s his name. Tadashi Furukawa. That’s my son’s name. Tadashi. To right the wrongs, to fight for justice, this is why Father named him Tadashi.

MAN:  I see.

TADASHI’S MOTHER:  I’m overdue for a visit, the sooner the better, but well, let’s see . . . suitcase, clothes . . . and . . . my pickles. What else do I need?

MAN:  You’ll need to acclimate yourself to the atmosphere there.

(The Hawaiian postcard dissolves.)

(MAN pulls a number of goods out of his bag. Many are random tchotchkes like postcards and a small music box.)

MAN (pulling out a small bottle):  Here you go: sand from Waikiki Beach . . . (pulling out a plastic bottle and a can.) Here we have Waikiki seawater, and here, its air.

TADASHI’S MOTHER (nodding):  Oh my, oh my . . . are these things real?

MAN:  They’re all real. Do you want them?


(MAN pulls a calculator out from his bag and adds figures.)

MAN:  Five thousand yen total.

TADASHI’S MOTHER:  Never mind. No, thank you.

MAN:  Your loss. So, please wait here. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the pleasant trip.

(MAN exits.)

(A song is heard, perhaps the sort one would hear chiming from a cheap music box.)

(A night landscape is projected onto the wall. MOTHER looks at her postcard and soon falls asleep.)

(The ideogram (Tadashi) appears on the wall. Below it appears, “The Kingdom of Tadashi.”)

(TADASHI and SISTER enter.)

(TADASHI spreads out a large cloth sheet, covering the entire stage.)

(The music-box-style song transforms itself into telephone hold music.)

(The sound cuts out.)

SISTER:  Hello. Thank you for waiting.

TADASHI:  . . . Uh, hello, yeah, um, hey, what the heck? . . . I mean, uhhh, another ten seconds, and I was gonna hang up.

SISTER:  Very sorry, sir.

TADASHI:  . . . And so?

SISTER:  The manager is busy at the moment, so we’ll need to call you—

TADASHI (interrupting):  Huh? So you’re saying no one else is around? Clearly, I’d get nowhere with you . . .

SISTER:  Well, as I said, because flyer distribution is outsourced—

TADASHI (interrupting):  As I’ve been saying, over and over, just tell them to stop stuffing my mailbox. That’s all.

SISTER:  Am I correct in assuming that your apartment building has a common trash area?

TADASHI:  What the? . . . That’s not the point. The point is . . . more junk means more trash. More trash means more carbon dioxide. If we go on like this, what’s it all going to come to?

SISTER:  Well . . .

TADASHI:  I’ll tell you what. Doomsday.

SISTER:  I see.

TADASHI:  So the question is: what does happiness look like? As I was saying. Are cicadas happy? Or unhappy?

SISTER:  Cicadas, you say? . . . I’m not sure.

TADASHI:  You’re not sure. Too bad. So shall we now discuss the happiness of cicadas?

SISTER:  Ummm, well, my apologies sir, but in order to express opinions and engage in consultations, you will first need to subscribe to our premiere monthly—

TADASHI (interrupting):  So I have to pay money in order to express my opinions?

SISTER:  No, not at all, you can start with a trial subscription. So long as you cancel within two months there will be no charge.

TADASHI:  I will not subscribe.

SISTER:  But for now, it’s complimentary, though—

TADASHI (interrupting):  I’ll say it again: transfer me to your superior.      

SISTER:  You won’t consider a trial member—

TADASHI (interrupting):  I don’t need a trial membership.

SISTER:  But sir, good news, I’ve just double-checked and if you add up all your customer points, you’ll be eligible for another two months of—

TADASHI (interrupting):  You have no right to add up my customer points!

SISTER:  Well no, of course not, not without your permission, um—

TADASHI (interrupting):  Put your boss on, dammit! No trials, no subscription, no points, no nothing!

SISTER:  . . .

TADASHI:  Um . . . hello?

SISTER:  There’s nothing you need? Nothing at all?


SISTER:  . . . What a coincidence. That’s the third time I’ve heard that today . . . You don’t need me?

TADASHI:  No, it’s not you I don’t need, you know?

SISTER:  You’re absolutely right about everything. No need for junk mail, no need for trial subscriptions, no need for me . . .

TADASHI:  Now hold on, that’s not what I said.

SISTER:  But this is my duty. It’s my job, as Operator Asanuma, to stand by, to listen to you.

TADASHI:  I don’t not need you.

SISTER:  Please now, there’s no need to pretend.

TADASHI:  No, really, I mean it.

SISTER:  Well, then. But you did still yell at me, right? . . . So, do you mind if I yell back?


SISTER:  It’s unfair. Cause, like, here at work, we’re always getting yelled at but we never get a chance to respond, so as a result we receive regular counseling. It’s hard on the nerves.

TADASHI:  That’s your company’s fault.

SISTER:  You’re right . . . Agh! Dammit! I’ve had enough!

TADASHI:  Huh? Who are you yelling at?

SISTER:  . . . It’s not working! Venting anger isn’t calming me down. I’m just getting more upset. Even worse, I’m done for—they’re gonna fire me.

TADASHI:  Really?

SISTER:  Yes. They record everything . . . Oh no, the boss is looking this way. Oh no, here he comes, here he comes. Oh no, agghhh, agghhh!

TADASHI:  Hey! . . . Do you want to come here?


TADASHI:  Well, I . . . well it’s no big deal, but I’ve started this fun place.

SISTER:  A fun place?

TADASHI:  Yes. Maybe you could come visit, if you have some free time?

(High-pitched rock music, possibly from an adjacent apartment, may be heard leaking through the walls.)

TADASHI (looking toward where the music is coming from):  Agh! Dammit!

(TADASHI hangs up the phone and exits.)

(NEIGHBOR enters.)

(She is dressed in a trashy outfit. She hangs laundry on a clothesline, stretching out some flashy and sexy lingerie, a T-shirt with a skull on it, and a leopard-patterned blouse among other items.)

(She sings along with the music while hanging her clothes to dry.)

(NEIGHBOR exits.)

(TADASHI enters. He stares at the hanging lingerie.)

(NEIGHBOR enters.)

(TADASHI exits, flustered.)

(NEIGHBOR hangs another piece she’d forgotten and exits.)

(BROTHER and SISTER enter from opposite sides.)

BROTHER:  Hey. Hot, right?

translated from the Japanese by Kyoko Yoshida and Andy Bragen