Train Sailors

Story by Tyler McPeek

Artwork by Dean Christ


     Kumiko and Fumie always worked as a team, just like they always entered the teachers’ room at the vocational high school they attended hand-in-hand between bell periods, and just like they dated two boys who both belonged to the same local gang.  They were both seventeen, both died their hair a dull orange and both wore loose white socks to the top of their milk tea calves and rolled the skirts of their school uniforms to tortuously short levels.  Today, before school, in uniform, they were working N― Station.

     The idea had been thought up by Kumiko’s boyfriend, a tall 22-year-old named Yuuske.  Yusuke, leaning against the railing of a river bridge in the shopping district, in his baggy, purple construction worker outfit, white towel around his head, holding his long golden hair out of his face, had explained that there was really no risk for the girls, as they could simply walk away if the scheme fell through.  “Pick a shy, lonely looking loser,” he had explained, “but make sure he looks like he’s got money.  Better to do it when he’s tired and on his way home from work, or else early in the morning when he’s thinking about the day ahead and doesn’t know what the fuck is going on.  Pick a slob who’s standing, a real ugly, loser type.  Somebody nobody would believe, probably never been laid by anybody but his ugly wife in his whole life.  You know the type.”  Yusuke pulled at his crotch, then lit a cigarette.  “One of you girls sit down nearby, and one of you move in.  Get close to the guy.  If you can, try to get him to make a grab for real.  Let your skirt brush against the back of his hand.  If you think he’s a good fish, confront him even if he doesn’t make a grab.  Wait till he makes a move to get off the train, then follow him.  As soon as the doors to the train close behind all three of you, grab onto his arm.  Then, lay it out for him—either he pays, or you take the matter to the police.  Make sure you grab on tight, and don’t let him pull away.  If he refuses, then the other one of you should say that she saw him do it.  Call him a pervert, a groper; use the word chi痴漢kan.”  If he coughs up the money, get out of there quick.  If you know he’s not going to give it up, get of there.  I’d say you’ve got an 80% percent chance of hitting pay dirt, if you pick the right guy.  You know… not too old, not too young—glasses, suit, the kind of guy you’d make fun of at school…”

     “How much should we ask for?” inquired Kumiko.  The new Louis Vuitton purse she wanted was 50,000 yen.


     “I don’t know, 10,000, 2man, 30,000, depends on how he’s dressed and how scared he looks when you accuse him.”  Both of the girls shifted excitedly at the mention of figures like this, far surpassing the measly allowances that they received from their parents each week.  Kumiko petted her long bangs down on her forehead, shading her smiling eyes from Yuusuke’s view.  Fumie knew that she would have to give most of the money to her boyfriend after Yuusuke told him of the scam, but then again, the boys would never know for sure just how much the girls were taking in.  Kumiko, as well, knew that Yusuke would expect her to pay for all the love hotels from now on, or else he wouldn’t be laying out a scam like this.

     So, two weeks ago they had started roaming the busiest stations before school.  They had decided that the morning trains were better, everybody was going to work then.  People minded their own business.  So far, they had taken in 90,000 yen, 60,000 of which had been reported to and then taken by their boyfriends, and they were getting more and more bold each time.  Today they were at N― Station.  It was 8:10 in the morning.  Already they would be late for school, but they had agreed to wait 10 more minutes for a prospect, since they were flat broke.  It was Kumiko’s turn to take the front.  Fumie was seated a short distance away from her on one of the molded plastic seats, looking at the glowing screen of her keitai handset, glancing up occasionally to see if a situation was developing.  Nothing yet.

     The train stopped, and Kumiko glanced back at Fumie, who seemed to be engrossed in her outdated, flip-top handset.  As the doors closed, Kumiko turned and saw the back of a dull gray suit coat.  She examined the man from behind.  He was well dressed and balding slightly in the back.  Over time, the frames of his glasses had caused his head to be dented inward above the ears, which had unusually large lobes.  Even at this early stage in the day, a substantial amount of white dandruff flakes had gathered on the back of his coat and on the shoulders.  The man’s thinning hair was combed neatly, but it was oily and littered with the same white skin flakes.  His metal-banded Seiko automatic was visible below his white shirt cuff.  It had probably run him 80,000 or so—not a Rolex, but not a Casio either.  Kumiko looked around the inside of their train car, mostly office ladies and students.  He was the only one.  She looked back at Fumie.  Fumie had also noticed the man.  She made eye contact with Kumiko.   Fumie desperately wanted to update to a better phone.  Kumiko turned the front of her body towards Fumie and backed up slightly, getting closer to the man.  The doors of the train opened and more people piled in.  The man backed closer to the girl, doing his part to accommodate the influx, still unaware of the presence of Kumiko behind him.

     She was close enough to hear his accelerated, heavy breathing and to smell the coffee stench that came with this wheezing.  She moved a bit closer, crinkling her nose.  Fumie tilted her head toward her keitai again, but it was held in front now, so she could watch the situation unfold to her left.  Kumiko knew that the man must have noticed her now.  His smell grew heavier, and she could feel his eyes on the back of her slender neck, where earlier Fumie had used hair spray to create a slight part in Kumiko’s hair, providing a glimpse of the white skin above her shirt collar.  The train stopped again, and a few people exited.  They had to go soon; he still hadn’t gone for it.  She used her left foot to gently and provocatively itch the back of her right ankle, causing movement in the back of her short skirt.  She knew he was looking.  He was so close.

     The train lurched a bit and she moved into him slightly, pressing her rump against his limp forearm.  This seemed to startle, instead of encourage him.  He turned away, and when the train stopped again, he exited.  Fumie stood up and nudged Kumiko with her elbow, gesturing with her eyes towards the open door.  They exited behind him.  As the doors closed, the man stopped after only a few steps and pulled a phone from his pocket.  He was facing away from the nearby track, and the girls.  Fumie pushed Kumiko a bit.  Kumiko took a deep breath then reached out and grabbed the man by the arm.  The man stiffened and froze.  Then he spun around.  He stared down at the girl for a moment, seemingly puzzled, then glanced at her friend in the background, dressed in an identical navy blue uniform, sagging red-rimmed bow tie, and loose white socks.  Back to the girl holding him.  “Do I know you?  What do you want with me?”  He directed his glance at the girl’s offending hand in consternation.

     “You molested me on the train, old man.  I’m taking you to the police!”

     “But I didn’t…”  The man was perplexed.  But then his glance dipped a bit down and to the left.  He seemed to be remembering some forgotten, unrelated errand.  His voice trailed off as he thought, and his arm went limp in Kumiko’s grasp.

     Kumiko misinterpreted this developing reaction as the beginnings of resignation.  “Let’s go.”  She said.  But she didn’t move, just looked at him.  “Of course,” she continued, “if you compensate me now, I’ll forget it.”

     “But I didn’t…  The man’s eyes returned to the girl before him.  He looked almost as if he might start laughing.  …Or crying.  When he finally looked up at Kumiko, his face had changed completely.  He stood upright now and the corners of his lips were turned up slightly.  His eyes narrowed, “How much do you want?”  But Kumiko was not listening, she was looking back at her friend.  As the man recovered his composure, he became aware of the fact that his keitai handset was still in the free hand at his side.  As he spoke, he moved to replace it in his suit pants, but the handset missed the pocket and fell from his hand, landing on the rippled yellow pavement behind him with a plastic clack.  The orange backlighting flashed on.  He turned and bent over to pick it up, facing the tracks.  Kumiko, preoccupied with Fumie, let his arm drop from her hand as he turned.

     “Hurry up and get the money from him.”  Fumie whispered.  The sound of the coming train could be heard as it rounded the bend toward the station.  “Go on, the train is coming.”  Fumie pushed Kumiko’s shoulder, overdoing it slightly and causing Kumiko to loose her balance.  Kumiko took two correcting steps backward and bumped into the man’s protruding buttocks, as he was rising with his newly recovered phone.  The man made a grab for the edge of the platform as he fell forward, but overshot hopelessly.  He landed with a thud on the tracks bellow.  He did not stir.  Kumiko turned quickly, then moved forward slowly with her eyes on the ground.  She was just about to see over the edge of the platform, when she was pulled back roughly by Fumie, just as the incoming train sped by in front of her face.  The passing of the train was accompanied by an awful double thump as it passed, but slowed at its normal rate.  The girls stood for a moment in shock at the realization of what had happened.  Fumie was the first to look wildly around her, to see if anyone had seen.  Kumiko recovered herself and looked once around, then at Fumie.  The train doors opened and a crowd of people poured out, carrying the girls away from the platform in their current.  Not knowing what to do, the girls took the easiest path and followed the crowd up the stairs, toward the exit.

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