I’ve been reading too much yaoi manga and too many yaoi novels. “The Pajama Boy” was born from the need to kick all those stray yaoi tropes out of my consciousness so they wouldn’t end up in something else I was writing. Probably this is a strange reason for writing a novel, but if novels were only written for normal reasons, I suspect very few novels would ever get written. I’ll try not to ruin it for you, but although this book is set in contemporary Japan, it has nothing to do with Japan. Or rather, this novel has about as much to do with contemporary Japan as those yaoi manga set in 18th century Europe have to do with 18th century Europe. Or has as much to do with gay sex as, well, yaoi. For those of you who might have wandered in here from reality, yaoi manga is gay porn comics created mainly by women for an audience of mostly women. There are lots of explanations on why yaoi is such a huge hit at this point in publishing history and you can look ‘em up yourself. It’s one of those why-ask-why kind of cravings. I don’t really have a solid hypothesis on the popularity of yaoi. Just when it all seems to be a combination of internalized misogyny, racism, androphobia, the denial or ignorance of the reality of male anatomy (in part due to Japan’s censorship laws) and gay sex (again, in part due to Japan’s censorship laws, but also because it’s messy, sweaty, and can be painful) and my face hurts from scowling at the entire genre, some yaoi manga or novel will make me smile because of its goofy sweetness and the whole crazy circus starts up all over again.
Although “The Pajama Boy” springs from my irritation with yaoi, the genre I love to shake my head at, and my need to exorcise my yaoi demons by writing them out, I can only hope, reader, that this novel makes you smile at least once or twice at its goofy sweetness. And if not, then I hope the bitchy prose and poco a poco accelerando plot will keep you reading.
Hey, live it up!
And lest I forget: Many many many thanks to Kris, Jane, Lene, Logan, and Lynn for the editorial and moral support while writing this book. Also huge thank yous to Robin for the gorgeous, and multiple, cover artwork.
“Sir? Here’s your order…Sir?” The boy at the cash register nervously held his take-out order to him. “Excuse me? Sir?”
“Yeah…yeah. Thanks.” Still staring, Shimada fumbled for his wallet and shoved money at the kid. He grabbed his take-out order and fled.
Rushing to his room, Shimada couldn’t eat his dinner when he got there. “The resemblance…too strong,” he muttered. Same soft brown eyes set trustingly in a little pointed face. Same untidy black hair. Same resemblance to a wary kitten with a new toy he’s not so sure of. “Too strong…” He splashed some water on his face and looked in the mirror. A man in his mid-twenties looked back, not the callow high school boy he once was. Still young, just tired and thin and in need of a haircut. His youthful phantom slid away and he was suddenly very hungry.
The newspaper Shimada wrote for had recently moved their office to a new building. The café was now on his route home. He’d never noticed it in the neighborhood before, but it smelled good, looked clean and the menu had everything he liked. After his first unsettling impression, Shimada avoided the café for a few days and then gave in. On that second evening, an older man was at the cash register and the boy was cleaning tables. There was no shock that night; the boy was just another teenage boy who looked like many other teenage boys. With a small feeling of disappointment Shimada went home. Even the noodles weren’t as good as they were the first time.
The side street café was cheap and cheerful. Shimada only noticed the name, Café Chango, on this third visit when he decided to eat there instead of getting take-out. Eating there afforded him a more leisurely view of the boy. “I really have to get over this,” he thought. “That is not Seiji, although he kind of reminds me of him…he’s not him.”
From behind his menu, Shimada cast furtive glances at the boy cleaning tables and taking orders. The boy was casting his own glances, and occasionally their glances locked before one or the other looked quickly away. When the boy finally came to the table to take his order, neither of them could make eye contact and Shimada decided to get it to go after all.
There really was something about this boy that reminded Shimada of his lost love left behind in Tokyo. He thought Nagasaki was far enough away from all that, but apparently fate wanted to torture him some more. He resolved to avoid the café’s street thenceforth.
His work kept Shimada busy for a while. He and his photographer were guests at a new luxury hotel and spa for a week. This soft news story reminded Shimada unpleasantly of advertising. Fortunately, he dug up some disgruntled employees, and exposed some shady labor practices and intimidation, as well as some slipshod construction and kick-backs to local contractors, which put that part of the story in the hard news section. This made him feel better, especially when his friend and editor, Ikoma, got a few threatening phone calls.
“I try to give you a vacation and you find a dead rat,” Ikoma said, shaking his head in mock sadness.
“I’m a newspaper man, not a fashion writer.”
“We’re just a little regional paper, Ryuu,” Ikoma said, lighting a cigarette.
“News is news, Jun,” Shimada said grimly. “Big, little, local, regional, national, international, it’s all news.” He walked out on Ikoma’s laugh.
“Careful you don’t win any awards, pal,” Ikoma yelled after him.
Shimada barely heard him. He was very hungry for noodles. But it was late and the café was closed. Disappointed, Shimada strolled on, but stopped when he heard voices in a nearby alley.
“You did it before, you can do it again.” A deep voice.
“I paid you back, once is enough.” A younger, frightened voice.
There was scuffling and a slap; the deep voice snarled, “Cock tease!”
Shimada stepped into the alley and saw the café boy fighting off a larger man. “Hey.”
“You fuck off!” the man screamed.
“I doubt it,” Shimada said. He dodged the man’s lunge and decked him with a right hook when he came up again.
Grabbing the boy by the arm, Shimada decided a little distance from the situation was in order. They were several blocks away when they finally stopped to catch their breath.
“Th– thanks,” the boy panted. “Oh, I know you! Where’ve you been?”
“Oh, um, thanks…”
“You’re welcome,” Shimada said, enjoying the resemblance/non-resemblance to Seiji in the boy. “What’s your name?”
“Katayama, Yoshi Katayama,” he said. “What’s your name?”
“It’s nice to meet you,” Yoshi said. “Thank you for rescuing me.”
“You said that.”
“It’s okay,” Ryuu said. “I’ll walk you home.”
~~~end of excerpt~~~
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