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Baishakunin, Inc.

Chapter Five—Full House

>> Chapter four

“Cool. This going to be a soft-porn gig?”

I look incredulously at Kyle Honda. If it weren’t for the tattoos and the two hoop earrings in his ear, he would look like a fresh-faced baby boy. Kyle is getting his bachelor’s degree in filmmaking in USC and is desperate to work for close to nothing to get any kind of credits on his resume. So, in other words, a perfect fit for my new company, Baishakunin, Incorporated.

“What made you think that this job would involve pornography? This is a legitimate high-class match-making company.”

“Oh, over the phone I thought that you said that it was an escort service.”

I sigh as I fast forward through his reel on my computer. No matter his apparent IQ level and appearance, the young man is talented. His use of lighting and mastery of a simple digital video camera are evident in his clips. He’s good with people—well, at least his camera is.

When I tell him how much I can pay him, the guy is still smiling. I’m encouraged. “Well, if you’re willing, we’ll love you to have you on Team Baishakunin.” I extend my hand and he fails to grasp it immediately. What’s with this younger generation?

“Okay, Boss,” he says instead, and I like the sound of that. My employees at my former workplace, the human resources department of a bank, sometimes referred to me as “boss,” but it’s different when it’s your own business. Then I remember my charade—whenever we are dealing with clients, I am no longer the boss—just a lowly personal assistant.

I need to explain so I go on the other side of our miniscule office and drag a napping Oizumi-san from behind a Japanese screen. “Kyle, this is the boss whenever clients are around—Oizumi-san. The face of Baishakunin, Incorporated.”

Oizumi-san, who is wearing a Japanese kimono I bought on clearance in Torrance, bows deeply. “Hajimemashite.” Oizumi-san usually cleans houses, but I was able to hire her for a little less to meet with new clients for the first time. And our first paying client, only known to us as LakerFan2009, was due to arrive any second.

“Ah, hello,” Kyle says awkwardly. “Does she speak English?”

“Yes, I speak English. Not so good but my ears work real good.” Oizumi-san cups her giant ears and then smiles, her face, a wash of wrinkles. You got to love those wrinkles.

Just then my landlord, Jake, walks in. He checks in at least once a day to make sure that everything has been going well. The building’s actually kind of a dump—well, at least old—but he’s offered me a deal that I cannot refuse. If I find him a match by the end of the month, my office rent will be free for rest of the year.

“Jake, perfect,” I say, rising from the conference table. “This is Kyle, our new videographer. Our landlord, Jake.”

Kyle beams in response to the title, “videographer.” You’d think I had said director of cinematography of a major studio film. “Hey,” he says.

“Hey,” Jake responds back.

“You’ll be recording Jake for the service. A special deal for the landlord. When would you like to come in?” I ask him.

“Well, I could do it now. Unless you think that I don’t look good enough.”

He’s wearing a dark-blue button-down shirt and worn jeans. His bed head hair is teased up as usual. He looks good enough…perhaps too good. “You look fine,” I say.

Someone knocks at the door, and I think that it’s our first paying client (Jake is a freebie, after all). But no, it’s my other part-time contracted employee, my webmaster Sophia Kim. “Wow, are you having a party or something?”

Our office is now as stuffed as a martini olive. It doesn’t seem to bother any of the others—in fact, our Cecil B. DeMille seems quite taken with Sophia. “Kyle—video setup,” I remind him, not so gently.

The Japanese screen is our backdrop for our video stage. I know what you’re thinking—Japanese screen, kimono—just a little too much “Oriental” exotica. But I’m desperate. If my new condo’s mortgage is going to be financed through selling my cultural soul, I’ll do it.

As Kyle sets up his camera on a tripod, I adjust Jake’s collar. I get a tissue to blot some shininess on his forehead. I smell Irish Spring soap again on his skin—something about that seems so endearing.

“Do you want to see yourself in a mirror?” Before Jake can respond, I’m behind the screen, trying to locate our hand mirror. The air conditioning must not be working because why do I feel so hot? It’s not that I’m attracted to Jake, right? I mean romance for me has been buried for almost close to a decade.

The door opens and I hear Oizumi-san greet our client with a hajimemashite.

I only learned recently that my stand-in is from a small town in Japan where all the women instead of men perform kabuki. Oizumi-san’s putting her acting experience to good use right now. She’s actually flawlessly delivering the lines I gave her earlier.

I can’t hear exactly what the man is saying in response, but somehow the tone of his voice sounds familiar. And not a familiar that’s comforting. More like a familiarity that you are seeking to avoid at all costs.

I peek behind the screen and almost audibly gasp. The voice belongs to the man who trampled on my heart and put it through a garbage disposal seven years ago: my ex-boyfriend, Rick, who is apparently LakerFan2009.

Chapter six >>

* "Baishakunin, Inc." is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

© 2009 Naomi Hirahara / Image: Neal Yamamoto and Vicky K. Murakami-Tsuda

baishakunin Baishakunin, Inc. fiction little tokyo naomi hirahara romance serialized story

Sobre esta serie

"Baishakunin, Inc." is a new work of fiction from Naomi Hirahara the author of the Edgar Award-winning Mas Arai mystery series and two biographies published by the Japanese American National Museum. Its main character, Caroline Mameda, starts her own match-making business after being fired from her job. Set in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo.

Read Chapter One