Cutscene: Sex Is Comedy

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Note: Rated R. You've been warned.



I've come to accept the likelihood that my new apartment is haunted. I never really believed in ghosts, the same way I never really believed in Santa Claus or any of my aunts. Why waste time believing in something until it actually visits you? Recently, my position on weird stuff like ghosts has changed. I've had my eyes opened to a lot of stuff I would never have guessed existed. I've also been living in a haunted apartment.

Masahiko Irie found me this place. It's Lunarvale, so it's 'American style,' whatever that means. No sliding doors, I guess. He didn't really give me any details before he had me move in. He was probably sick of me living in his house. I was definitely sick of living there, so I was all too happy to go along with the plan. I didn't have much to bring. Irie bought me what I needed, and told me I'd pay him back. I'm not sure if that's before I'm supposed to buy the Hamster Cafe from him, or after. Either way, I'm sure that even if I did have the money, he'd find some other way to hit me up for more cash. He might be my age, but he's still Yakuza. I'm in debt, so I'm in debt for life. No one's coming by with a boxcutter threatening to slice my nipples off, though, so for the moment I'm as comfortable as can be.

I didn't know the place's history until I'd already settled in. I'd noticed the stares as I walked down the hallway, but I'm used to that, and when I'm coming off of things I tend to get a bit paranoid anyway. Everyone's always staring, and the only way to fix it is to control the stares. So I gave them something to stare at, because that put me in charge. I'd answer the door in my robe and panties; "Oh, yes, of course I'd be interested in coming to the community gardening club meeting, that sounds really cool." If I knew they were talking about me, and I knew why, then the stares stung far less. Of course, I didn't put two and two together until the receptionist at the Cafe asked, "So is it true you live in the murder place?"

The story, as best I've been able to figure it out, is that a married couple lived here with twin babies. The wife was unhappy. People have suggested to me that she didn't want to be a mother, and all of this stuff that invariably makes it all somehow her fault. I'd lodge a proper feminist protest, but I've always been the kind of girl to sell out and set my gender back: I kind of blame her too. Anyway. She was miserable, and she tried to leave him with the babies. He must have been a pretty cool guy, because he flipped out, chased her all around the apartment, broke a whole bunch of things, and killed all three of them with a hammer. Then he killed himself.

My bathroom door has a hole in it, like someone bashed it in with a hammer. When I'm in there, all I can do is stare at it, and wait for a hand to reach through. There are scuffs on the floor that are either from furniture being moved, or not.

Most nights I get home after cleaning up at the cafe. I get ready to go out, if I have a date, but when I don't, I just take off some of my clothes and sit around, drinking wine, watching television, reading. Watching television when drunk isn't as captivating as when I'm fucked up on something good. Everything just seems dreary and it makes me want to go to sleep. Which I usually do, only to wake up on the couch the next morning and begin the cycle again. I get through the workdays totally sober. Not even caffeine. Drinking is my reward.

On the nights that I stay up but don't go out, weird things happen. I'll be reading in the bedroom and the light will go out. I'll be peeing and in the other room, my record player will turn on, playing whatever disc I lazily left in it. I hear clicks and thumps that are not reasonable ambience. At first, I entertained the possibility that I was just drinking too much, or having hallucinations from lingering drug molecules hanging around in my system. As time has passed, I've become less and less sure.

I don't talk to anyone about this. I don't talk to anyone about anything, anymore. He saw to that.


After speaking to Shinjiro, she called a cab to pick her up the next day. She'd already packed -- she planned to travel light -- so there was time to kill. She went to the gym. Yukari ran on the treadmill a while, until the irony overcame her. She wasn't sure that "irony" was the right word, and it wasn't, but that's what she called it anyway, and the effect was the same regardless.

She was walking over to the weight-training area when she noticed the crowd. All girls, cooing and oohing and ahhhing. She waded into the crowd to see what was happening. She should have guessed, really. Akihiko, training with the punching bag. She rolled her eyes -- even out of high school, some things never change. Still: she couldn't help but watch.

"Hey, aren't you Takeba-san?!" one of the girls squeaked after glancing over at her.

"Uh, yeah," she said, suddently feeling self-conscious.

"So you live with Akihiko-senpai!"

"Yeah," she repeated, wishing she had a more eloquent answer.

"So you can help us out with the most important question of all time -- it's been bothering all of us for years!"

She smiled tentatively, perhaps expecting a trap to be sprung. But really, who isn't flattered by the option of helping out with the most important question of all time? The girls all broke off from their viewing to listen.

"Does Akihiko-senpai wear boxers or briefs?"

Suddenly, she was eager all over again to go away for a while.


The show's tonight. He makes it. Barely. He pulls himself backstage. He has his bag. He's all bandaged up. He limps. He coughs. One hand is mildly broken. People see him and wince. His bosses see him. They don't wince. They're mad. They shout. They hold him responsible. It's each wrestler's job. Not just to wrestle. To stay in wrestling shape. To be able. To not cost them money. No wrestle, no pay. He knew this. He went anyway. They finally offer a chair.

He slumps into it. There are two of them. The owner, the booker. The owner is little. The booker is fat, old. The boys like them okay. They treat the boys okay. They don't bounce checks. They don't book squashes. The booker's a vet. He knows their market. They're "real" wrestling. Long matches, reasonable feuds. No silliness. Sometimes wackiness, but no silliness. Wrestling first. Spectacle second. Title gold above all. He's a bad guy. In the ring, that is. Backstage, he's just quiet. The owner keeps at him.

"What the fuck happened to you, Fujii-san, did you get hit by a fucking truck?! You look like you just went base-jumping into fucking traffic! Did you decide the day before the big show that it'd be a fun time to add 'rodeo clown' to your resume?! Fuck!" The owner paces circularly. His face veins are showing.

He keeps his head down. Bowing. Slumping. It's all the same. He's silent. Both men await an answer. Finally, he looks up. "What's a rodeo clown?"

The owner loses it. He hits the wall. He hits a file cabinet. He almost throws a lamp. He thinks better of it. He looks at the booker. "Deal with this!" The owner leaves.

The booker puts down chopsticks. He pushes his meal ahead. The booker regards him calmly. "So what really happened, kid?" His voice is rough. A sandpaper burp.

He has an easier time. The booker understands better. Wrestling, anyway. Physicality. Even if he's old now. Even if he's fat now. He snorts, and speaks. "Got into a bar fight. Bunch of guys. I coulda beaten one or two of them easy. Too many. Wore me down."

The booker squints. "Thought you didn't drink, kid."

"Yeah, well. I thought I'd give it a try. Didn't work out for me."

"Guess not."


"You in any shape to wrestle?"


"You gonna go out and tell the owner that?"


The booker sighs. This is his job, though. He puts his hands up. He covers his face. The booker thinks. Finally, the booker sits up. "Okay, well... we can use this, we can spin this. Was -- Was the fight because someone recognized you?"


"Okay, well, whatever, we'll go with that. You went out to a bar -- it's not out of character for RAID, right? Yeah. You -- RAID went to a bar, caused some shit, got beaten up by a whole crowd of... no. Hm. No, no, I got something better. We'll leave it a mystery. You're backstage, beaten to hell. You'll go out tonight, try to wrestle anyway. They won't let you. When the guy asks 'oh but who did this?' You'll say 'they know who I am -- they know I'm coming.' Something like that. You come up with something, as long as it's not too vulgar. The owner's getting pretty sick of the boys swearing at the shows. He wants to be more kid-friendly, or something."

He snorted. The booker nodded.

"Anyway, RAID-san, what we'll do is, we'll get a ringer to face Ricky tonight, and then you -- take time off, rest -- you come back, and by then we'll have finished the heel turn for those two American guys, and they'll be anti-Japan, blah blah. So they'll beat up Ricky and when you return, you'll come out, make the save, turn face. Think you got it in you?"

He looks over, blankly. "Got what?"

The booker smiles. His mouth and teeth, small. "Pay attention, RAID-san. You're gonna be a good guy. The girls all love Ricky, we couldn't turn him heel to save a life, he's too cute. But he's not dangerous. You, you're dangerous. Cute and dangerous. Think you're up to the challenge?"

He goes home. He lays back down. He gets up. He turns the fan on. He cracks a window. He lays down again. The fan does nothing. It pushes hot air around. No breeze comes through. He's broke again. Broke and hot. Bad place to be. Still. He wants to be upset. He tries to be upset. He's not. He's thinking elsewhere. He's thinking about his dream. He's thinking about the night. He's thinking too much. He lays back. His head hits the pillow. He doesn't sleep. He just lays.

Time passes. He lifts with a start. He grabs his phone, charging. He nearly destroys the outlet. He's too strong. Even hurt. He looks at the phone. He looks at old voicemails. Tatako. What about Tatako now? He feels bad, suddenly. He feels weighted. It's difficult to move. He goes back to bed. He feels uncomfortable. He can't align himself. He can't figure it out.

She had a phone, too. But he doesn't know it. No numbers exchanged. A name on a screen. That's it. That and what he did. All the damage. Bad turns to worse. He breathes laboriously. He closes his eyes. Tighter. Tightest. His face aches. He relents. Only after a few minutes. Only when he feels it. A blood vessel, near bursting. Something like that. He's already hurt. No sense in worsening it. As if it's that easy. Thinking way too much. Way too many girls. He doesn't like it. He likes it a little. He likes them a little. He likes her a lot. Doesn't make it less confusing.

What would he even say? Would they just fight? No words. No phone notepads. Nothing. Just a bow. A fight. A proper fight. A sparring match. A show of technique. A show of ruthlessness sometimes. Testing each other. Feeling each other out. Her boots against him. Headphones around her neck. No. Red hair. No. Focus. Freckles. No. None of that. It's nice, though. But no. Focus, focus. Think. Tall. Big. Strong. Stronger? His fist at her ribs. His shoulders hitting the ground. Dirt kicking up. Sweat sticking to sweat. Muscle rippling. Grunts of exertion. Hot sun. He thinks on it hard. He thinks vigorously. He finishes thinking. He cleans himself up.


The Hamster Cafe's clientele is a little less upscale than I'd hoped for. Here's the thing. Those cafes that have cats, or puppies, or ostriches, or whatever? They appeal to people who, for whatever reason, can't go out and get one of what's being offered. A man whose apartment building doesn't allow cats will go to a cat cafe. In contrast, just about anyone can smuggle a hamster anywhere. If they're so easy to get, why not just go get one? That's the question that adults have to deal with, and their answer is usually one that does not make me any money.

My strategy to counter this is twofold. One, I chose a menu that would offer something at least kind of different from the other fare around Joy Street. During lunch, we put the hamsters away, put the air fresheners out, and do okay from people working in the area looking to eat sweet crepes for lunch. We're not exactly setting the world on fire, but we're not insolvent yet.

After that, we get the hamsters out, turn the radio to a more annoying station, and brace ourselves for the influx of kids. That's the target audience for hamsters. Kids who ask their mother and father if they can have a pet and get told "no." Cat cafes are full of salarymen who are probably pedophiles, so the Hamster Cafe is just about safe. They buy crappy cola and get themselves all worked up and turn my business into a jungle gym, and I want to slap all of them in one long sweep of successive strikes.

I don't really have a maternal instinct. When I see children my first thought is how awful and stupid they are, and then they open their mouths and confirm it. I don't know why I don't like kids. I guess I just can't relate to anyone who doesn't have a functional sex life. Even when I was a kid, I desperately tried to paint myself as older, in various ways. Unfortunately, they bring in a lot of our income, and I can't chase them away by being an ogre, as much as I'd like to eat their bones.

So I just do whatever I figure my mother wouldn't do, regardless of circumstance. When a kid gets bitten by a hamster, I take them to the sink and help them wash and disinfect their finger, and put the Neosporin and Band-Aid on for them. My mother would have looked at me as if I'd just put my pants on my head, and snapped at me to stop bothering the stupid animals or I'd get a disease. That's an almost verbatim quote from the first time my cat scratched me. She made me feel like an idiot. I try to keep the kids from feeling like idiots. I just privately consider them such.

Every now and then moms will bring in their brats and let the little monsters go wreak merry hell on my hamsters, while they sit off to one side drinking coffee and gossiping about who's getting fatter than whom. I get to deal with the kids wanting to throw the hamsters in the air, or peeing themselves, or spilling cola, or getting into stupid little kid fights. "Wow," one of the moms said to me after a particularly grueling shift. "You really have a way with kids, you know that? They like you."

I just smiled while thinking about French kissing a shotgun.

"I bet when you and your boyfriend get married, you're going to want lots of them, huh? Lots of little ones to help run the family business..."

I laughed, and shrugged noncommittally. "Well," I said, "my boyfriend and I are kind of... long-distance right now, due to work."


The doctor was summoned at 5:22 AM, although it was mostly out of courtesy. The girl had been dead for a short while at that point, and Jack Lerner needed time to wash, shave, and get dressed. He had mostly finished the last of these tasks when the doctor arrived. Jack, a lean grey-haired man with eyes that perpetually seemed on the verge of trouble, answered the door in between buttoning his cuffs, his white shirt fastidiously tucked in to his slacks, but left open at the collar.

The doctor, a younger man, dark-haired and with a shape given to mild jowls and love handles, treaded carefully on the hallowed ground of Jack's townhouse. "Where is she?" He knew why he was being summoned. He could not completely conceal his distate, although he made an admirable effort, and indeed his admiration of that effort is why Jack relied upon the man.

"Upstairs," Jack sighed, as if directing the gasman to the meter. "You really need to find me better girls, you know. This one lasted... hm."

The doctor began up the stairs, but paused to look down at Jack, giving him the tense stare of someone curious to learn something, but not sure he'd like the result. "I..."

"I think I noticed she'd lost consciousness after about five hours," Jack said, picking up a piece of his mail and then chucking it back into the small basket he reserved for envelopes. He looked up at the doctor on the stairs, and provided a muted, somber frown. "Really, my good man, this is the third one. I gave you a very specific set of criteria, and one of them is that she must be able to survive the process."

Jack moved toward the stairs, which caused the doctor to hurry up the rest of the way, as if he was being chased by a fire. He entered the master bedroom and tried not to breathe, for fear of some horrid fume entering his lungs and poisoning him. Magickal sigils in circles and runic structures that the doctor did not understand had been drawn on most available surfaces in chalk and paint, and the doctor hoped nothing else had been used. He would be attending church this Sunday and meaning every word of the prayers.

Jack entered and glanced around, unmoved by the scene. He strolled over to the bed without hesitation and pulled the sheet off of the girl. She was lithe, a dancer maybe, with skin so pale that her relationship with sunlight had to be called into question. Her hair, fine and blonde, pooled around her head. She looked at peace, albeit nude.

The doctor stepped in front of Jack and examined her. With a gentle gesture, he parted her legs. The sight nearly made him vomit. "Jesus Christ, Jack," the doctor said, turning away, clutching his cheeks.

"I'll thank you kindly not to invoke such crass deities in my home," Jack murmured, walking over to the drinks cabinet and pouring two glasses of whiskey, despite how early it was. The doctor took his gratefully and drank it all in one go. Jack took his time, sip by sip. "So. Three strikes and you're out, my friend. As in baseball, so in life. Get rid of her, and then we'll be done."

The doctor looked over at Jack, flabbergasted, nearly dropping his now-empty glass. "Get-- What-- /Rid/--?"

Jack arched a grey brow. "I believe I was quite clear, sir. Take this loathsome, weak husk with you, and dispose of it in such a way that I shall not be connected. You're a smart fellow, and you know that I know your family's daily routines, so it would be in your best interest to not foul it up. Are we on the same page, vis a vis our friend over here?" Jack took a sip of whiskey.

The doctor stammered. "But where-- how--"

Jack turned away. "I'm quite sure I don't care." At that moment, a phone went off, the vibrating ring loud and shrill. Jack walked over to an antique rotary piece and lifted the handset. "Yes?" A pause. "Speaking."

The doctor looked from the girl, to Jack, and slowly felt his life wither out from underneath him, as if the ground itself was dying of cancer, and the barrier separating him from Hell would soon be gone. He watched Jack, unperturbed, listen to his phone call while silently sipping at his drink. He wanted to run away, to hide, anywhere. But he knew it'd never last. And he knew it'd be taken out on the people he loved.

"I see," Jack finally said. "We'll discuss this more in person. Yes, yes. That time sounds quite agreeable. Ta then." The phone was hung up. Jack turned around, eyed the doctor with a frown of annoyance. "Are you still here, you simpleton? Get to work. I want it over and done with by tomorrow." Because tomorrow, Jack Lerner will be en route to Japan.


The Junes employee bows respectfully as he approaches Detective Adachi. "Are you interested in a new television set, sir?"

Adachi had been standing in front of a wall full of flat-screen televisions, taking in the sight of three or four channels spread across fifteen screens. It's disorienting, but not unwelcome. It even takes him a moment to register the employee talking to him. "Huh? Oh... just... looking, I think. These things are pretty pricey." He laughs, self-consciously.

"No, tell me about it," the employee says, the laugh opening up a small rapport. "The new ones are worth it, though. What model do you have now?"

Adachi grins. "A Sorny."

The employee laughs, now. "Then wow, no offense, sir, but I think it's high time for an upgrade. We do have a number of payment plan options, layaway..."

Adachi walks over to a 56" flatscreen, HDTV, 1080p, top of the line speakers. He eyes it carefully, like he would a car. He takes a moment before he looks at the price tag. "Layaway, huh...?"

The employee nods. He's happy. He's making a sale. He'll get a compliment from his manager someday. "Yes, sir. That one, might I add, is perfect for a budget-conscious gentleman such as yourself -- it has all the features of the best, newest stuff, just not quite as... mind-blowing, do you know what I mean? It's everything you need, without too many bells and whistles, which makes it a very popular choice. People don't buy that one and come away unsatisfied."

Adachi smiles broadly. "Let's talk layaway, then. It'd make a hell of a surprise."

The detective looks over at the employee as the light of the television sets wash over both of them.

"You know. For my girlfriend."


"I thought you were keeping sober," he says, an undercurrent of coy judgment in his voice.

I hold the joint between two fingers. It's expertly rolled, because I rolled it myself. I turn it around, and again. "It's not mine," I say. "It's Miyuu-chan's. She asked me to hold on to it."

"One joint?" He doesn't believe me. I can hear it in his voice, in the way he's about to laugh.

"One joint," I repeat, dryly, a little tiredness creeping into my voice. I hold the joint just under my nose and sniff boredly.

"Why would she give you just one joint to hold onto?"

I shrug. I walk over to a chair and sit down. My glass of wine is next to it, as is my bottle containing more of the same. "She didn't say. She just asked if I could hang onto it. She didn't want her landlord finding it." I say 'landlord' with all due mocking.

"You'd think she'd have more to hide," he says, almost innocently, but not bothering to hide the passive-aggressive undertone.

I lift a brow very slightly, and then reach over for my lighter. I set fire to the tip of the cigarette while inhaling. It burns pleasantly, both in the open air and inside my lungs.

"I thought you were holding onto that for Madamoiselle Noboriyama," he says, an undercurrent of coy judgment in his voice.

"Yeah, well," I sigh as I exhale, "You know what?"

"She obviously gave it to you to tempt you, so that next time the two of you were together you'd want to bring it out and maybe forget her boring cunt of a girlfriend?" The self-satisfaction in his voice nearly puts a shiver in my hips.

"Exactly," I reply, a grin forming without resistance. "So it serves her right."

I don't know why, but I feel profoundly relaxed almost instantly, well before the chemicals in my blood could properly reach my brain and pretend to be other chemicals, tricking me into being what nature didn't have in mind for me. I don't question it. I go with the flow. I look across the room at him, and lift a toe to point over his way. He reaches out and takes my foot, rubbing it. I close my eyes and drown out a moan of thorough pleasure with half a glass of wine.

"You're not happy," he says, as he rubs my foot in his large, broad hands.

"Nope," I reply, before having a long drag and blowing it back up into the air like a geyser letting off steam.

"Why?" He stops rubbing. My foot dangles. His curiosity is genuine, so I put my now-wet foot down on the ground where it squelches against carpet. I have to think on it. I'm more drunk than I thought I was.

"Because... when I was fucked up, I didn't care that I wasn't in control of anything," I say, choosing my words carefully, right down to choice of expletive. My eyes open slowly and gaze out at him without fear. "And now... the lack of control... frustrates me. I'm not their retarded three-legged dog."

"Of course you're not," he says, reaching out again, hand on my thigh. "I can help you, you know. I can show you what you need to do. If you lust for even the slightest thing, power or otherwise, I can guide you to fulfillment."

"Oh," I murmur, his touch making my back arch involuntarily. Needless to say, my lap is completely soaked.

"Do you want me to show you?" His hand comes up to my face, cupping my chin, thumb brushing my lips. I part them and am rewarded.

"Yes," I whisper, as his spectral hand leaves pearly, sticky residue on my features. "Yes, Marquis." I lick my lips and am not satisfied yet.

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