Life As A Collection of Short Stories:  The Wisdom of Yuki Onomatsu

First Meeting With Yuki


Life As A Collection of Short Stories:  The Wisdom of Yuki Onomatsu

Mighty Everest, the deadliest of proving grounds.

Following is an excerpt from the MARCH OF THE ECCENTRICS novel, in which Yuki Onomatsu, a young Japanese culture-rebel/alternative-fashion-and-music-lover/bully-basher is sharing a tent with Ellen Scheherazade Abu, brilliant introspective daughter of the mad scientist who is the 'father of the eccentrics movement.'  Ellen has decided to 'come out of the house' in a big way, to test herself in the world and step out from behind the shadows of the powerful male figures (Julius Abu and Freddy Wells) who have both sheltered her and eclipsed her.  On her agenda:  becoming enlightened in India, helping cryptozoologist friends track down the mysterious Yeti in the Himalayas, summiting Mt. Everest in Nepal, and then somehow freeing Tibet (Chapter 49, 'On the Roof of the World.')  This scene unfolds as Ellen and Yuki share a tent on the Himalayan slopes in the days just before the perilous attempt to climb Mt. Everest.  They have been conversing for a while, when the possibility of their demise surfaces... 


Besides talks of this nature, topics of little import but excellent for bonding, they had a couple of talks about life and death, and the things that mattered most to them; thoughts brought on by the nature of the days that lay ahead, and by the possibility that, if they faltered in any way, their time on the earth might be limited. 

“Do you think you’ve got enough out of life already?” Ellen asked Yuki, observing her friend’s face protruding out of her sleeping bag in the dim light of their tent.  “Could you face death, now, if it came, or would it be a devastating tragedy for you that cut your life off before it had attained fullness and meaning?”

“I like to think of life as a collection of short stories,” Yuki said in the end, not opposed to talking even though she was trying to sleep, because sleep was not being cooperative. “If you spend your life trying to write a novel, and you are killed at the end of Chapter 20, on page 235, and the story is unfinished and less than half done, because it was going to be over 500 pages, and you still haven’t even introduced the second most important character in the book, and the really big adventure is still being built up to and hasn’t even been reached, and the things you were going to tie together are still untied, and the things that don’t make sense now but are going to make sense in another 100 pages haven’t been explained, and the really cool twist in the plot hasn’t taken place yet - well, then, you are screwed!  But, on the other hand, if you write a collection of short stories – well, supposing you are killed in the middle of the book.   There were going to be twenty stories, but now there are only ten.  Still – that’s ten complete stories!  Ten stories that weren’t interrupted, or cut short, or left unfinished!  So you see, Ellen?  That’s how I like to live my life and to think of it.  It’s a short-story collection, not a novel, and I’ve already written lots of cool stories, which are complete and beautiful, and no one can take from me!  I live like that, not drawing one big circle, but drawing many little circles.  The worst that will happen is that I’ll be interrupted in the middle of drawing one of the little circles – so, then, I will have 6 ½ or 8 ¼ little circles done, instead of one big circle that’s undone.  Kill me tomorrow, but you can’t really wreck my life!  I’ve already lived so many complete lives within this one!”

“Very interesting,” admitted Ellen.  “And how do you do that – I mean, draw many little circles instead of one big one?"  

“It’s just a matter of focus,” Yuki said, thinking hard for a moment, because she did so many things naturally and without the slightest bit of thought that explaining herself was often like a process of reverse engineering.  “You break things down, give everything its own center and its own reason.  You learn to place more value on little things, until they become worlds unto themselves.  They are not parts of a world, but whole worlds!  -  It’s just the way my mind works!” she finally confessed, because she hated to appear wise.

“You develop a shorter time frame for achieving satisfaction, for experiencing joy, for perceiving symmetry:  a beginning, a middle and an end.  You measure worth in mm. rather than in meters.”

“Maybe,” Yuki yawned.


NOTE:  Of course she yawned!  Yuki hates the idea of anyone looking up to her, because who wants that pressure? - and people on pedestals have always been her enemies!

As for how the expedition to Everest went - without giving away the answer, here's a little taste, featuring Ellen, Yuki, and their climbing team:


“Continuous balance,” Ellen reminded herself, her whisper audible to others on their headsets.  [You do not move from one balanced position through a zone of unbalance to another balanced position – the balance is constant; between-positions is balanced also!  “Let’s see how good a student I am,” she thought, remembering one of her distant lessons back in the Gorakshep training days.]

“Careful, wind,” Lobsang reiterated.

The girls momentarily dug in with ice axes as the bitter, rough hand of the wind tried to shake them from the mountain as they moved along the exposed ridge.  Yuki felt something loose jiggling beneath her feet underneath the snow and then breaking, as if a part of the mountain were attempting to withdraw its support, at the very last minute changing its mind about her getting to the top.  But she shifted her weight, went down on one knee, and moved away from a little spurt of snow and stones that shot out to the side, tumbling towards the edge. 

“Careful!” Vidal was urging her.

“What?” Yuki demanded.

Vidal repeated the warning which he had exclaimed in French, in English.  “There are loose areas up here!”

“No kidding!”

“Are you all right?” Vidal demanded of Ellen, who had stopped up ahead of them.

“I’m adjusting my scarf,” she said.  “It came down too far.  I don’t want to lose my nose.  The cold up here is unbelievable!  Talk about wind tunnels!  Wait, let me get it back up over my nose – ouch! – how strange – I can’t feel it, but it hurts all the same- I should have worn the full ski mask, you’re right!  My cheekbones – they’re creaking like floorboards in an old house, I think if I smile or laugh, they’ll fracture - the heat-retaining oil I smeared all over my face – somehow, it’s come off – well, never mind me; of course it’s not like a day at Brighton – we’re climbing Everest!”


In this chapter, little by little we witness the transformation of Ellen from cloistered genius, brimming with intellect and ingenuousness - as filled with knowledge as she is bereft of experience - into a fully developed and capable heroine dedicated to a life of effective, yet still idealistic, action.  Throughout Ellen's struggle to evolve, the fascinating charm, 'different mind', and romantic threat posed by Yuki Onomatsu (who is a serious competitor for Freddy's affections) plays a major part.  This is truly a classic case of 'frenemies', set on the slopes of a deadly, unforgiving mountain!  Will they both come down alive?

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First Meeting With Yuki

Yuki's style:  ganguro mod.

Yuki Onomatsu is the originator of the ganguro fashion (in the mid 1980s, a little before its actual historic time) in my alternative-but-almost-our-reality novel, THE MARCH OF THE ECCENTRICS.  Freddy Wells, star diplomat of the Eccentrics movement, is sent by mad scientist leader Julius Herman Abu to attempt to forge political connections with Japan, and to seal a package of crucial business deals with the Ishimatsu Corporation, whose industrial base has the capability of turning the international outcasts/rejects of the world into a global power.  Throughout the trip, Freddy is bugged by a pair of Japanese-culture experts sent to aid him, Dr. Hope and Dr. Arakawa, who are constantly feuding about the nature of the Japanese and the appropriate manner of interacting with them.  Also in his retinue are Cholo, Freddy's 'child soldier' bodyguard, and Umezu San, an obsolete WW2 veteran who spent years lost in the jungle (he never heard the war ended), and has only recently been fished out of the wild and reintegrated into society.  It is in the very first moments of Freddy's vital mission to the land of the rising sun that Yuki comes crashing into the middle of their plans, a character who could instantly overturn their efforts to be 'presentable', or, alternately, provide them with the authentic, sincere energy needed to make a lasting connection with the new Japan.   The following excerpt is from Chapter 35, 'The Way of the Businessman.'


Well, whatever fears I had about how I would be received by the Japanese, they were overcome within minutes of landing at the National Airport.  As I came off my plane, and was quickly escorted through the terminal and into a waiting limo, I was besieged by enthusiastic mobs of well-wishers, calling out my name, and brandishing signs which said:  “Freddy And Japan Forever!”, “Japan’s New Hero”, and “Stop the Bullies!”

“Wow, so we’re rock stars here, too?” asked Cholo.  “Where is Nora?”  (He was referring to the cute lead singer of a Japanese salsa band known as la Orquesta de la luz.) 

“We are going to protect you, beloved Japan!” Umezu cried out to the crowd of mainly young people, as police escorted us through the unexpected throngs.  “We will not allow all the good soil to blow away!” (This was a reference to an ancient poem, which went:  “Crops used to rise up from here, but now the winds have come, and blown all the good soil away.  The man with the plow is still the same, but now nothing will grow.”)

“Umezu!” some of the Japanese shouted, with delight.  He was regarded as something like a circus freak by the modern Japanese, and yet, they were beginning to grow attached to him, in the manner of one of the absurd monsters of their cartoon shows, which they cherished.  “Umezu San, thank you for being so loyal.  Now, to find something worthy of being loyal to!”

As we moved through the airport, a crazy teenage girl with orange hair and an artificially tanned face, eluded the police, and succeeded in hurling herself into me.  Two of my bodyguards grabbed her, but Cholo ordered them to let her go. “Can’t you see, she just wants have sex with the boss?  Let him make up his own mind, carajo!”

In Japanese, the girl shouted out, “I love you!  I love you, Freddy!  You have to take me with you, I’ll tell you everything!  We have to be in private, and then I’ll tell you everything!”

Umezu  gasped:  “I’ve never seen anything like this in all my life!  She must be crazy!  Is she Japanese???”

It turns out the girl’s name was Yuki, and she was a complete fringe character, a girl from a strict, unsympathetic home who had run away and now hung out in Tokyo’s underground youth world, experimenting with the most outrageous clothes and looks she could put together.  “Orange hair is so wonderful,” she said, “because no one else has it.  This tan I painted on, is just the perfect antidote to the white-face beauty ideal of women here, why should I have a long neck like a crane and a white face, like Marcel Marceau?  Stupid!”  And she had all kinds of incongruous bracelets and necklaces and beads as well, which made a racket as she walked and waved her hands around and mumbled all sorts of remarks which were aimed at brilliance but most often only reached strangeness; as well as a freakish silver eyeliner which stood out against her fake tan skin.

“So, what’s this all about, Yuki?” I asked her, once we had all arrived at the apartments which would serve as our diplomatic compound.

“Freddy, I know you will be our hero!” she exclaimed.  “We are like people living underwater, without air, like mermaids without tails and gills, we are drowning!  There is no room to be different, here!  We have to fit in!  That is the secret of the Economic Miracle: fit in, work, work, work, look like your neighbors, act like your neighbors, sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice, for who, till when?”

“Young lady, excuse me, but you are only a child,” Umezu complained.  “It is too early for you to be exhausted by sacrifice!”

Yuki said, “Every day I can’t be myself is a sacrifice.  Every day I have to read a stupid schoolbook that tells me nothing worthwhile, that’s a sacrifice.”

“You are too young to be so sure it is not worthwhile.  Trust your elders.  What seems useless today may be the key to unlock a great treasure tomorrow.”

“You sound just like my teachers!”

“You should listen to them!”

“Freddy!” Yuki exclaimed, turning away from Umezu.  “I have seen the old people who spent their whole lives satisfying the demands of others, living the lives other people wanted them to live, repressing themselves so they didn’t offend anyone, or hurt anyone else’s feelings, until they were sick and hardly able to stand up, and had this awful miserable look in their eyes because life was ending and it had never been lived!  I don’t want to be like them, I don’t want to pretend I don’t see the futility of it!  I don’t want to give my youth to things that don’t matter!  To things that make buildings high, and bridges long, but don’t do a single thing for the heart!  I don’t want to march into the trap like the rest of them!  I don’t want to be trained to do a stupid job that will only eat me up like a monster, and I don’t want to keep my mouth shut so that not a sound comes out.  When the deer is killed by the tiger, it is its duty to cry out in pain, to warn the others!”

“And your orange hair is that cry of pain?” I asked her.

She ran her fingers admiringly through my hair, and said:  “Long hair, orange hair. They come from the same family…”  And she kissed me on the cheek.  “Freddy, you’re the perfect guy for me!”

At this time, Dr. Hope came over to me and said:  “Look out, Freddy, this girl is unstable or something.  Yes, she’s sort of interesting and expresses herself well once you get past the mumbling, and the melodramatic way she twists her face and pouts, but if you let her influence you in any way, you could end up jeopardizing the work you’ve come to do.  The Japanese will see her as a destabilizing symbol, a symbol of self-centered individuality pitted against social harmony, of egotistic wants placed above the common good; and if you give her any kind of positive reinforcement at all, they will regard it as a blow against Japan; and they will wonder if you have come to strengthen them, or to undermine them”

For once, Dr. Arakawa agreed with him.  “You are obviously dealing with a dropout and social fringe case, here.  Japan is a repressively conformist society, in the end, filled with social pressures, plagued by bullying and built upon the sacrifice of individual dreams, which are chewed up by obligations and reformatted as ingredients of the national dream. There is progress in the field of individual freedom of action –considerable progress – in recent days.  But even so, this situation, right here, is extreme.  If you endorse it by taking this girl under your wing, you will seem to be defining the Eccentrics as a movement committed to unraveling the very fabric of Japanese society.  I believe Dr. Abu wishes to present himself, in Japan, as a purveyor of technology and power linked to the national interest, not as a promoter of individual revolt…”

“At last, you are making sense!” Dr. Hope exclaimed.

Meanwhile, the girl was saying:  “I request political asylum from conformity.  I read the Eccentrics Manifesto in a newspaper, and I agree with it 100%.  I trust in your words to support my right to love the real me.  I am more than a bowl of rice for the big, fat, boring ogre to eat.  The rice in the bowl wants to get up and dance.  It wants to sing and to count every single star that’s in the sky!”

“If you want to make something of yourself, you need to work at it,” Umezu chided her.  “You need to study, girl, to read those books you have put down much too soon.  Or else, to get rid of that ridiculous appearance, those paints or creams or whatever they are, and those dyes, so that a nice young boy may take an interest in you, and marry you one day.  I am sure you are quite pretty underneath that awful disguise of yours.”

“Oh, am I ugly, now?” the girl asked, turning towards me.  “Now tell me the truth, Freddy!”

“No,” I admitted.  “You are not.”

“Don’t encourage her,” warned Umezu.

But the girl, herself, laughed, and said:  “You are only being polite!  Of course, I am ugly!  That is the point!  I look like the Mountain Hag, the evil witch from the forest, the crazy girl who ran away from the asylum.  How did I get out of the straitjacket?  I wonder if I scratched anybody’s eyes out on the way?”  And she laughed heartily, then reached into her bag, and pulled out a tab of paper which had stickers of stars on it, and peeled them off, and began to apply them to her face, one by one.

“Young lady, you should get some rest!” Umezu told her.

 While a member of the diplomatic corps said:  “Yuki, do you think that’s tasteful?  Those are stars – stickers like children have – you should act your age.  How old are you, exactly?”

But that only made her laugh more.  Then, becoming serious, she said:  “I am making a constellation – the constellation of the lemmings – see, here they all are – and here, this star is me – and instead of jumping off the cliff, all the lemmings are coming to attack me because I am not going off the cliff with them – so I am actually saving them, by drawing them away from the sea to kill me – I am sacrificing myself, Umezu San, just like a Kamikaze pilot, don’t you see? – so, doesn’t that mean I am Japanese, after all?”

He looked at her with tears, tightly reined in, visible in his eyes.

“We’ll let you stay with us for tonight, Yuki,” I told her, “while we sort things out.”


And this is how Yuki Onomatsu found her way into the Eccentrics' entourage... Things would never be the same!

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