creates a day
by Rana Eros
Written for the A Picture is Worth 1000 Words Challenge. Eliza did beta duty. The title is from poem number 7 of e. e. cummings' "Days of Innocence," quoted in its entirety after the body of the story. This year's theme was the five Chinese elements. My element was metal, and below is the image I was given:
The first time Tokitoh encounters an intercom, he's accompanying Kubota on his rounds of legitimate deliveries for Koh. Kubota's only had Tokitoh a few months, and he's endlessly fascinated by the way Tokitoh views the world, caught between suspicion and wide-eyed wonder at nearly everything. The intercom is no different, first startling Tokitoh, then setting off a round of questions.
"Did the building just talk?"
"That wasn't the building, it was the client." The lock buzzes as it releases, and Tokitoh jumps. Kubota pushes the door open.
Tokitoh gives Kubota that look that lets him know Tokitoh's not sure about trusting him. Kubota really doesn't know what he's done to deserve that look. Well, he does, but Tokitoh doesn't. "Didn't you say she lived on the third floor?"
"She does. It's kind of like cellphones." He herds Tokitoh inside, moving behind him up the stairs.
"Kubo-chan, it's a building. How is that like a cellphone?"
"Well, it's more like the phone at our apartment. There are wires in the walls."
"Oh." Tokitoh considers that for a moment, silently. Then he says, "So if buildings can do that, why do we have to plug the phone in?"
"Not all buildings are wired for it. Ours isn't."
Kubota used to smile a lot before he got Tokitoh, but he doesn't remember meaning it quite as often. "What do you want to eat, after this?"
"Not curry. Why isn't our building wired for it? It'd be more convenient than plugging in the phone, and I could call down and make sure you didn't forget anything when you went to the store."
"That's why I got you the cellphone. We'd have to move for an intercom."
"Yeah, but you don't always answer your phone."
"Ah. I guess I better start, then."
Tokitoh gives him the distrustful look again, but they're at the third floor, and Kubota wants to get this delivery done so he can feed Tokitoh something not curry. He moves past Tokitoh, looking for the right door.
He presses the doorbell, and the door opens almost immediately, a safety chain across the small gap between door and frame. A wrinkled face appears at about the height of the bottom of his ribcage, and dark eyes peer up at him owlishly from behind a pair of thick glasses. He holds up the bag with Koh's handwritten logo on it, and smiles pleasantly. He even means it, with Tokitoh at his side. "Hello."
"Oh, hello," the old woman says, and closes the door. He can hear her struggling to get the chain free, and beside him Tokitoh blows out an impatient breath. At last the door opens again, wide enough for the woman to take the bag and see them both clearly. Her face lights up immediately as she spots Tokitoh; Kubota knows that look. He's seen it on enough women in his time. "Please, come in. Come in. I've just made tea."
For a moment, Kubota's tempted. He could get a lot of entertainment out of watching Tokitoh be fussed over like somebody's grandson. On the other hand, it might annoy Tokitoh into a sulk for the rest of the day, and Kubota has other plans, provided he can coax Tokitoh into cooperating.
Except he's hesitated too long, because Tokitoh moves past him into the apartment, looks around, and declares, "There's no intercom in here, Kubo-chan."
The old woman blinks. Kubota smiles again. "Ah, you must forgive my friend, obaa-san. The wiring in old buildings really interests him."
"Oh." The old woman tilts her head up at Tokitoh, offering a tentative smile. "Are you studying to be an electrician, goreisoku? My middle son's an electrician."
Tokitoh tilts his head. "An electrician? Kubo-chan--"
"Actually, he's going into communications," Kubota intercedes smoothly. Then, before Tokitoh can protest, he adds, "So sorry, obaa-san, but we have more deliveries to make. Another time, yes?"
"Oh." She only blinks again as he catches Tokitoh's shoulder, drawing him back out into the hallway. "Well, I wouldn't want to keep you--"
"Next time you order something from Koh-san, we'll bring it and have tea."
He keeps smiling, keeps pulling. "Will that be all right? I'm sorry, we just want to get everybody their medicine."
"Of course," she says, returning his smile at last. "Such nice boys. Oh! Wait a moment."
She turns away, going back into the small apartment, and Kubota can see her going through a change purse from the door. Not the smartest thing, but he's betting Tokitoh reminds her of her middle son.
"Kubo-chan, we don't have any more deliveries," Tokitoh hisses, but his voice is pitched low.
"Do you want to stay?" Kubota returns at the same volume, continuing to smile.
Tokitoh's silent through the exchange of tip and pleasantries, except for echoing Kubota's, "Take care, obaa-san."
Once they're back on the street, Tokitoh says, "There was no intercom in her apartment, Kubo-chan."
"It was probably behind the door. Tempura sound good?"
"That's the fried stuff, right? I liked that. Could she talk to others in the building on the intercom?"
"No, it only works with the one outside."
"Oh. That's too bad. She seemed lonely."
That stops Kubota, and he asks honestly, "Do you want to go back?"
"No," Tokitoh answers just as honestly. "I want to eat."
"Do you think her son visits her?"
Tokitoh sighs, kicking at a crack in the sidewalk. "I wonder...."
Kubota knows what he wonders, whether anyone's waiting for a visit from him. Kubota doesn't have an answer to that, and he knows it says something about him that he's glad. For now, he's all Tokitoh has, and he's not quite ready to give that up.
He reaches out to catch Tokitoh's hand, the left one, the one Tokitoh doesn't mind being touched. Tokitoh looks up at him, and Kubota tilts his head, smiling the smile he'd never worn before Tokitoh. Maybe he was waiting for a special visitor.
"Come on, let's go eat."
who were so dark of heart they might not speak,
a little innocence will make them sing;
teach them to see who could not learn to look
--from the reality of all nothing
will actually lift a luminous whole;
turn sheer despairing to most perfect gay,
nowhere to here,never to beautiful:
a little innocence creates a day.
And something thought or done or wished without
a little innocence,although it were
as red as terror and as green as fate,
greyly shall fail and dully disappear--
but the proud power of himself death immense
is not so as a little innocence
e. e. cummings
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