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TOKYO FLASH FICTION - ONE PHOTO, ONE STORY - Issue #5

Alex Lund
Alex Lund
Hi there,
Hope you’re doing well!
The story this time ended up a bit “deep.”
It’s weird getting emotional over something you’ve written yourself, but it happened every time I edited and proofread it. You’ll need to read to the very end, though…
Hope you like it and have a great day!
Alex

Tokyo Sky Tree
Tokyo Sky Tree
TOKYO SKY TREE
“Isn’t that Tokyo Tower?”
 
Dad’s thin arm, trembling somewhat, rose slowly in the direction of the massive, gray tower in the distance reaching for the clear late afternoon sky above it.
 
“No, that’s Sky Tree,” I said. “That one over there is Tokyo Tower. The red and white one.”
 
He turned his head slowly, his almond colored eyes, exactly the same nuance as my own, gazing in the direction of my pointing finger.
 
“Sky Tree is almost twice as tall and was built just a few years ago,” I added.
 
After a moment, as I worried about the increasingly strong rasping sound that accompanied Dad’s quick, shallow breathing, he said slowly, “What was wrong with Tokyo Tower? What’s the point of building another one?”
 
His comment didn’t surprise me. As a renowned architect who had dedicated his entire career to restoring old buildings to their original beauty, or rebuilding them in a way that honored their heritage and historical relevance, Dad’s opinion, considered conservative and even ancient by some of his more progressive peers, was well known to me and the whole architect community.
 
“What a ridiculous waste of money,” he added grumpily, as a bolt of anger shot out of his eyes under the bushy, gray eyebrows, revealing a glimpse of his feared hot temper from when he was younger, always getting worked up about new structures popping up all over Tokyo without any consideration or respect for what he called “the DNA of this wonderful city.”
 
A smile spread across my face as I remembered the endless discussions at our dinner table dominated by Dad obsessing over the works of many younger pioneering architects, believing they were slowly but surely erasing Tokyo’s old character and charm.
 
“There is a large shopping center with lots of restaurants and even an aquarium at the base of Sky Tree,” I said, not intending to argue, but simply hoping that the raison d'être of the colossus – that it was so much more than just a taller version of Tokyo Tower - would offer him some peace of mind.
 
It was like pouring fuel on the fire. “Completely unnecessary! People only buy on the internet now anyway,” he said with sharpness in his voice, his breathing speeding up even more.
 
“How do you know that?” I asked, surprised about his comment since he was already far beyond the point of being able to operate a smart phone or a computer.
 
“How do I know what?” he replied.
 
“That people do a lot of their shopping on the internet,” I continued.
 
He looked down, and I could tell by his tightening lips that he was desperately looking for answers but finding none.
 
“Look! Isn’t that Hotel New Otani?” I quickly said, wanting to offer him distraction and relief from the pain of yet another reminder that his mind was failing him – a difficult reality to face for a man with the impeccable logic and intelligence that Dad possessed.
 
“Yes, it certainly is! New Otani…” He tasted the words slowly as his wrinkled face softened into a smile, warming me up inside.
 
I knew the restaurant at the top floor of New Otani had played an important role in my parents’ lives when they were young, and bringing up the topic was always a sweet reminder for Dad of days long gone.
 
As his mind seemed to wander, I took his large, now thin and frail hand into mine, as we stood there together looking out over the city we both loved. It had now been twenty years since Dad retired from the architect firm he had created and built up to currently operate with over thirty staff. As an only child, I was from an early age well aware that it was my destiny to one day take over the reins of the business, and Dad had spared no effort to prepare me for the task, always lecturing me, at times scolding me, and on rare occasions praising me, making it all worthwhile. I knew I owed Dad more than I could ever express in words.
 
We remained standing there next to each other in silence admiring the view from the lounge of the hospital where Dad had now spent over three months, as his time in this world was nearing the inevitable end. The large, orange sun was now setting in the distance, casting a warm, almost magical glow over the sharp angles of the cityscape, as if it was attempting to comfort us in our sadness with its ephemeral golden-hour beauty, but slowly having to yield to the illumination of the beckoning neon signs of all shapes and colors, mixed with the sterile, white light from countless numbers of windows in the forest of office skyscrapers dominating our view in almost every direction.
 
“What’s that over there?” Dad said suddenly with a tone of almost childish curiosity in his voice, nodding towards something in the distance. “It looks like a giant torch. Very beautiful in the sunset!”
 
“That’s called Sky Tree,” I said, my heart sinking at the brutal reminder of how quickly Dad’s state of health and also memory had deteriorated, as I wondered whether this would finally be the last time he laid eyes on his beloved city.
 
“Sky Tree…” he said slowly, as if he was caressing the words inside his mouth. “That’s a fitting name. It reminds me of the Christmas tree we used to decorate every year when you were just a little girl. Do you remember?” A warm smile spread across his face, and he put his feeble hand on my head the way he used to when I was a kid.
“Sky Tree…” he repeated. “Now that is a design I really like. Whoever did that should be proud of himself!” he continued, his eyes shining with admiration, fixated on the now fully illuminated symbol of Tokyo’s evening skyline, as the blue, green, and purple colors played in the last light of day.
“I wish we had architects at our firm who could do something classy like that. Beautiful indeed!” he added.
I quietly struggled to hold back tears brimming in my eyes, wanting to spare Dad the embarrassment and agony of not remembering that his own daughter had in fact been one of the main architects for the design of Sky Tree, and that the firm that still bore his name had received a prestigious award for it. I put my arm around his thin waist and said, trying to keep my voice steady, “It’s nice, isn’t it?”
I then helped him sit down on his wheelchair, and after just a few moments, his breathing slowed and he was fast asleep.
I knelt down next to Dad, took his warm hand in mine and looked out again at Sky Tree glowing proudly in the dark like a tall sentinel quietly watching over us, as large tears started rolling down my cheeks.
“Thank you, Dad,” I whispered.
THE END
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Alex Lund
Alex Lund @AlexLundAuthor

TOKYO FLASH FICTION - ONE PHOTO, ONE STORY

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