The Lacquered Box Added£1.59
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(A short story of 2552 words)

The Lacquered Box


by Elaine Ewart

Yasuko works in a brothel in Tokyo. One night she is visited by a new client...

The front door was already closed against the storm, and I thought I was finished for the night. Crossing the landing, I was on my way to borrow a jar of face cream from Mayu, when I heard the bell. Then, Mama-san’s fulsome stream of welcome: of course it was not too late, it was her pleasure, she had the prettiest girls, as well as the most refined and cultivated... Her tongue ran on. That meant a stranger. How old? I paused, silent-slippered, at the top of the stairs. From here, you can see, in Mayu’s words, ‘close enough to spit’. Older men are generally sent my way. The ‘traditional’ clients, Mama-san calls them, those who like my tiny, doll-like feet and hands, and want to kid themselves they’re connoisseurs of high culture. I can even perform a tea ceremony and, in theory, play my late mother’s ancient koto, although I’ve not fitted the pick on my finger since I first left home. Fortunately, no client has ever asked me for that form of entertainment.

I leant over the balcony and saw the newcomer in all his foreshortened portliness, as the maid relieved him of his raincoat and a soaking hat. The overhead chandelier shone on his damp pate as he wiped his spectacles on his handkerchief.


‘One moment, Mama-san.’ I slipped back to my room to shed the light robe I’d thrown over my kimono, and by the time I was descending the main staircase, the visitor had been made quite at home, perched at the bar with a whisky...

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A review of The Lacquered Box from the CUT team....

This story tells of Yasuko, a young woman who works in a brothel somewhere in Tokyo. Her life is one of routine and restriction, punctuated by the visits of her clients: some, regulars; others, like tonight, new. An elegantly written short story about responsibility and consequences, and how the past lives with us in the present.

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