The hose squirms in my hands, a fat serpent. Water hits concrete, whirlpools in the chasm below, and steam mixes with smoke that smells like burning tires. The wind drifts the cloud over me, over the ocean and smudges the coming night. Two days ago when authorities called for all firemen to report to the No. 3, I wanted to hide. My wife whispered, “Be a savior for Japan.”
When I drink my tea, steam caresses my face, reminding me of Misaki’s hands cradling the bowl as she places it before me. Outside I am surprised at the sky’s brilliance. I gather stones, not smooth river rocks but sharp angular ones that sparkle with mica. I build the cairn under a wild cherry tree sheltered from wind. In the yellowed photograph, my grandfather’s face calm, serious under the scarf of the rising sun tied around his forehead. He flew his ninth flight 67 spring times ago; when he returned, they shot him for failing to dive into the enemy ship with open eyes. I weight the picture with the top stone, reach for blossoms fragrant, already wilted, and lay them prostrate before the tower.
My arms ache. I think of my wife pouring tea, of my grandfather unable to fling himself to his death. I think of flowers already withered and the invisible seeds of energy falling around me, on me, swallowed by me. I think of honor. Below, steam still rises.