「…! Oh yeah, I just heard this story from my grandmother on New Year’s!」
「What story all of a sudden?」
Mizuhara looked dubiously at me as I clapped my hands together, but I took no notice of it and continued. 「An unfortunate incident happened about 19 years ago. It’s known as ‘The Crayfish Incident’ in the neighborhood…」
It was before I’d turned three years old.
I went fishing for crayfish with my mom at the pond, and we put them in a fish tank as pets. One of them was huge, one of them was medium-sized, and one of them was tiny.
We called the big one ‘Dad’, the medium-sized one ‘Mom’, and the small one was Sagiri. One day as we were looking after them, using those names, a disaster occured.
We just conveniently believed that the three of them loved each other like a family, living together in the tank.
「Dad’s waving his pincers around! Sagiri’s in danger!」
「Mom! Ouch, ouchh!」
Crayfish are quarrelsome, cannibalistic creatures. In the natural world, it’s only obvious that the small and weak turn into prey.
But since I called the big one Dad and the small one Sagiri, my shocked mother cried out loudly, using the same names I did.
We quickly filled up the wash basin with water and rescued Mom and Sagiri. My mom was relieved, and decided to talk about what to do next with Dad when he got home, but there was a big problem.
Everyone in the neighborhood heard 「Dad’s waving his pincers around! Sagiri’s in danger!」 And not just that, they also heard me crying 「Ouch, ouchh!」
My clueless dad returned home, meeting cold eyes and hushed whispers from the neighbors.
The one good thing was that Mom’s family lived next door. My grandmother scolded Mom at the entrance. It seemed she chose the entrance on purpose so everyone in the neighborhood would see and realize what actually happened.
「Really… Just think about what you’ve done!」
At my grandmother’s concluding words, Mom sadly replied, 「Yes… I won’t keep crayfish in a small tank anymore, and I won’t yell.」
My grandmother began to truly scold Mom without a pause. It seemed what she actually wanted Mom to say was 「I’ll be careful not to do things that disturb the neighborhood anymore.」
Dad defended Mom as she sadly reflected on her actions.
「Akira-kun, you spoil Kotomi too much, over and over again…」 She thoroughly scolded Dad as well.
「Dad wasn’t my real Dad!」 I pleaded my dad’s innocence to everyone as my grandmother scolded my parents.
I meant to say that the dad waving his pincers about wasn’t my actual dad but the crayfish Dad, but the neighbors misunderstood and thought my mom meant her father-in-law.
「You could have just said ‘I was calling the big crayfish dad.’」
「Back then, I would confuse ‘s’ and ‘sh’ so I didn’t want to say crayfish. Like how kids turn ‘s’ into ‘sh’ and vice versa. For example, when people asked me how old I was I’d say ‘I’m two yearsh old!’」
I didn’t remember why exactly I didn’t say it – maybe it was out of a 2-year-old’s pride, or maybe I thought I could only say words I could pronounce so people would know my father was innocent.
「But your name has an ‘s’ in it.」
「Yeah, and that made the misunderstanding even worse.」
If I pronounced ‘s’ as ‘sh’, I should have called myself Noda Shagiri. But kids don’t care about following rules that precisely, so I called myself Noda Shaarii.
「I said I was Noda Shaarii after I said it wasn’t my real dad. It kept getting more and more suspicious.」
There were people who’d been living in the neighborhood for a while and who knew my name, so they figured it out quickly, but there were also people we had grown distant from who just showed up right then.
「So everyone was confused over what I was saying, my innocent dad was treated coldly by everyone, and on top of that, he got harshly scolded by my grandmother. To finish it all off, we even had a bonus crayfish search since they had managed to escape in the meantime.」
I ended the story and glanced at Mizuhara, who was eating one of Osaka’s finest cakes. I just wanted to tell him a story where someone hadn’t done anything wrong but still got in trouble.
「Uh… Well… So, yeah…」 My voice gradually faded away.
I had absolutely no idea if he was going to go to the wedding or not, or what he should do with his family. I wanted to encourage him to talk about it by telling him my story, but I felt like I’d gone wrong halfway through.
My innocent dad had to go through unreasonable things, but that was my own fault after all. What did I want to say in the first place…? I wondered to myself.
「Sorry, just forget I said this,」 I tried to act like it hadn’t happened at all.
「You take after your mother, don’t you?」 Mizuhara thankfully didn’t ask more about the story itself.
「No, I take after my dad,」 I replied, welcoming the change of topic. I thought I was just like my dad in personality as well as looks. 「I’m tall, like my dad, and everyone says I’m really manly, that’s just like my dad too.」
「I can’t judge about looks since I haven’t met your parents, but you’re clearly just like your mother on the inside.」
I shook my head, denying it. 「To be honest, my mom is… Well, how do I put it… She’s kinda clumsy, and a bit of an airhead, I think? The other day, my mother spilled a bit of piping hot udon on her foot. When I said she should cool her foot, she began to blow on her udon instead. Dad, meanwhile, immediately brought some ice for her.」
My airheaded mom and my levelheaded dad. If I had to choose, I thought I took after my dad more. Though I’d immediately deny it if anyone said I was just as sensible as my dad.
「It’s also troublesome when you start talking to me with ‘to be honest’ like you’re confessing something secret. I have nothing to say to it except there’s nobody who doesn’t already know that.」
「Yes, my mom really is an airhead.」
He nodded in agreement.
I was relieved that the topic had changed from my useless encouragement. Was it really alright to talk about family with Mizuhara, considering the recent events?
「Umm… Uh… In Osaka, you get pancakes with your meals as a special, right?!」 I forcibly changed the conversation.
I regretted it right after I said it. I wasn’t sure if that was even true. 「Um..」 I faltered, trying to continue.
「…It’s not like I dislike hearing about your family,」 Mizuhara smoothly said.
Sometimes, it felt like he was telepathic.