Coming Attractions 06 by Mark Anthony Jarman

Coming Attractions 06

EditorMark Anthony Jarman

Paperback | October 15, 2006

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Previous volumes in this series contained stories by the following<_o3a_p>

writers:<_o3a_p>

<_o3a_p> 

2005:  Barbara Romanik, J.M. Villaverde, Jasmina Odor<_o3a_p>

2004:  Neil Smith, Maureen Bilerman, Jaspreet Singh<_o3a_p>

2003:  Liam Durcan, Andrea Rudy, Jessica Grant<_o3a_p>

2002:  Chris Labonté, Lawrence Mathews, Kelly Cooper<_o3a_p>

2001:  J.A. McCormack, Ramona Dearing, Goran Simic<_o3a_p>

2000:  Christine Erwin, Vivette J. Kady, Timothy Taylor<_o3a_p>

1999:  Marcus Youssef, Mary Swan, John Lavery<_o3a_p>

1998:  Leona Theis, Gabriella Goliger, Darryl Whetter<_o3a_p>

1997:  Elyse Gasco, Dennis Bock, Nadine McInnis<_o3a_p>

1996:  Lewis DeSoto, Murray Logan, Kelley Aitken<_o3a_p>

1995:  Warren Cariou, Marilyn Gear Pilling, François Bonneville<_o3a_p>

1994:  Donald McNeill, Elise Levine, Lisa Moore<_o3a_p>

1993:  Gayla Reid, Hannah Grant, Barbara Parkin<_o3a_p>

1992:  Caroline Adderson, Marilyn Eisenstat, Marina Endicott<_o3a_p>

1991:  Ellen McKeough, Robert Majzels, Patricia Seaman<_o3a_p>

1990:  Peter Stockland, Sara McDonald, Steven Heighton<_o3a_p>

1989:  Brian Burke, Michelle Heinemann, Jean Rysstad<_o3a_p>

1988:  Christopher Fisher, Carol Anne Wien, Rick Hillis<_o3a_p>

1987:  Charles Foran, Patricia Bradbury, Cynthia Holz<_o3a_p>

1986:  Dayv James-French, Lesley Krueger, Rohinton Mistry<_o3a_p>

1985:  Sheila Delany, Frances Itani, Judith Pond<_o3a_p>

1984:  Diane Schoemperlen, Joan Fern Shaw, Michael Rawdon<_o3a_p>

1983:  Sharon Butala, Bonnie Burnard, Sharon Sparling<_o3a_p>

1982:  Barry Dempster, Don Dickinson, Dave Margoshes<_o3a_p>

1981:  Peter Behrens, Linda Svendsen, Ernest Hekkanen<_o3a_p>

1980:  Martin Avery, Isabel Huggan, Mike Mason<_o3a_p>

<_o3a_p> 

Most of these books are still available. Please inquire.<_o3a_p>

About The Author

Roseanne Harvey currently lives in Montreal, where she is the editor of ascent magazine. Since completing her BFA at the University of Victoria, she has lived in England, Japan and a yoga ashram in southeastern BC. She has published both fiction and creative non-fiction in subTerrain, Geist, Fireweed and Goodgirl. Larry Brown lives ...
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Title:Coming Attractions 06Format:PaperbackDimensions:120 pages, 8.5 × 5.5 × 0.75 inPublished:October 15, 2006Publisher:Oberon PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0778012891

ISBN - 13:9780778012894

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From the Author

Here's a toast to the leaves of summer and to the crisp light of autumn pouring in a window, and here's a toast to the fierce pleasures of reading three crisp new writers: Joel Katelnikoff, Larry Brown and Roseanne Harvey.The word quirky is dead from overuse, but it's a word that fits Joel Katelnikoff's utterly unique voice. This Saskabush boy, now living in Edmonton, is impressively idiosyncratic; his stories are never dull. He has been involved for years with the underground zine scene, worships Snoop Dog, and spends too much of his time observing large sweaty men wrestling each other in tiny panty-like outfits. Sometimes I think he is from some other solar system that is very similar to the one I move about in; sometimes I think he is a genius. Read him and weep.Larry Brown, the pride of Brantford, writes stories that are jittery and tough; measured, terse prose reminiscent of American authors like Hubert Selby or Ray Carver. His characters are up to skullduggery, yet they are oddly likeable---Brown is adept at making them understandable---and there are admirable qualities of humour ("Shorts, he wanted them") and affection in his treatment of the troubled actors stalking his slightly skewed stage. He is published in many quarterlies, but Brown doesn't waste a word.Roseanne Harvey, who has spent time in a BC ashram and now lives in Montreal, sets her stories in a Japanese theme park, a weird representation of the whole world, a Babel with southern blues singers set in wax, a Russian calliope, and an Eiffel Tower hard by the Great Wall of China---a twilight universe that is painstakingly realistic, and yet dreamlike, oppressive, haunting.Three new writers of massive promise and talent and charm, dedicated to reinterpreting our weird world and nailing down mysteries of the psyche.— Mark Anthony Jarman

Read from the Book

BETWEEN STOPSRoseanne Harvey  Part 1: The Last Train Kyoto Station The last train out of the city pulls away from the platform and I am thrown against the man next to me. He nods, continues reading his newspaper. Businessmen surround me, wearing rumpled suits and holding briefcases, on their way home from obligatory drinks with the coworkers on a Friday night. They struggle to hold themselves up, clutch the rings with both hands. The smell of alcohol and cigarettes wafts through the air. A man is sitting on the bench seat in front of me, holding a can of beer, his head tipped to one side, mouth open. The woman next to him leans to her right, clutches her Louis Vuitton purse. A high school student stands beside the door, still in uniform although school finished nine hours ago. She silently keys an e-mail message into her cell phone, her 'loose socks' bunched around her ankles like legwarmers.Half of the people in this car hold cell phones, engaged in silent e-mail conversations. I am the only foreigner, and so far nobody has tried to practice their English on me. I look out the window, past the people around me, avoiding my own reflection.Pachinko parlours, karaoke bars and bright convenience store signs whiz by. I start to feel dizzy. I don't know what it is, the smell of liquor everywhere or the flashing neon outside the window. I focus on a ferris wheel in the distance. Toji I have spent too much time on these trains, can recognize the station by the length of the platform, the sound of brakes scraping. Eight months ago, when I first arrived, everything was a mystery, each stop an unexplored possibility. But I know this stop is not so different from the one before or the one after it. The platform is grey concrete; there are some benches, some standing ashtrays, a vending machine full of coffee and energy drinks. Through the turnstiles and outside the station is a myriad of noodle restaurants, sushi bars, fast food joints.I ride these trains to work everyday, like all the people around me. I am Anne of Green Gables. I lead groups of schoolchildren through Wonder World's Canada pavilion, recite a memorized speech about the Rocky Mountains and Niagara Falls, sell tickets for the log ride. I answer questions about skiing and Canadian holidays and beavers.Today I went straight from work to a bar called Usagi, rabbit, and spent the evening drinking sake and talking to the master, a lovely man named Daisuke who wears his guitar strapped across his chest while he makes drinks. I managed to have a three-hour conversation in a language that's not my own about Japanese food, Canadian food, food of the world. Yes we have sushi in Canada, no we don't eat maple syrup with every meal, I like Japanese food more than British food.I am still wearing my Anne wig, long red braids hanging down my back. I feel them swing with the motion of the train. Daisuke loves the wig. He loves Anne of Green Gables. We listened to the Rolling Stones and he told me about his trip to Canada three years ago, how he drove a rented car from Vancouver to the Rockies, how he loved the town of Golden. Momoyamagoryomae The train tracks are lined with single-room apartments. Fluorescent lights flicker in some, TVs flash in others, brief glimpses of people living their lives. The trains must send shudders through the buildings. Past another row of pachinko parlours and karaoke bars is a massive apartment complex, similar to the one I live in. The windows of the five buildings face the other direction, all I can see are five grids of entrance lights.The train shifts tracks without warning and the sleeping, still standing businessman leans into me. I stumble into the woman next to me, she braces herself on the guy next to her. What am I doing here? I mean here on the last train, struggling for balance, I mean the muffled giggles of drunk college boys and the snoring businessmen around me. I hold onto the ring and focus on the outline of a three-storey pagoda temple against the haze of the city.Giggles and whispers behind me. I turn around, I shouldn't do it but I do. OLs. Office Ladies, another Japanese appropriation of English. Two of them, they hold their hands to their mouths, as if trying to hide their laughter."Kawaii!!" they giggle in unison, pointing at my head.I shrug and say "Wakarahen." I don't understand, in the Kyoto dialect. I'm not in the mood. It's been a long day and I'm sick of Japanese.The OLs are so cute and stylish, in their Chanel sweaters, their dainty feet squeezed into pointy high heels. They hold Gucci purses and wear a lot of make-up. They are drunk and clutching each other, swaying with the motion of the train. Bumping into, and held up by, the people around them. I feel like an ogre woman next to these ladies of the office. I feel large and vulgar in my running shoes and Anne dress, the stupid ruffled and puffy smock thing I'm forced to wear everyday.One of them leans over and tugs my right braid. I feel the wig slide. "Hair…real?" she blurts out, her friend giggling and applauding her English. The train pulls to a stop, the doors open, and the ladies are swept onto the platform, waving, shouting their e-mail addresses at me. Ogura This is where the city ends and the suburbs begin. The intercom crackles and a man's voice says: "Sumimasen, konbonwa. Tsugi wa…" garble garble garble. I have no idea what he's saying, it doesn't sound like English or Japanese, all feedback and fuzz. The businessman next to me automatically opens his eyes, shuffles through the open door. Several other people walk off. Nobody gets on. The driver leans his head out the window, blows a whistle held between white-gloved fingers. The train pulls away and I stumble again.No-one at home knows that I am Anne of Green Gables. I've told them, instead, that I host a game show and for some reason they believe this. When they ask for copies of the show, I tell them that there is nothing as archaic as VHS videos in Japan, people watch TV on their cell phones and e-mail their favourite shows to friends. My original purpose for coming here was an internship with an NGO. My position was cut three weeks after my arrival, and the Anne of Green Gables gig fell into my lap. My only options at the time were to be Anne or teach English or go home. I don't remember why I opted for Anne.The scenery changes from narrow streets and cramped apartments to rows of identical grey homes and rice fields. I can see only large spaces of darkness where the rice fields are, perfect lines of street lights, a 7-Eleven sign rising into the night. Iseda The high school student gets off and the train pauses at the platform to let a rapid express train go by. It passes with a rumble, the windows shake in their frames, I tighten my grip on the ring.I have had earthquake anxieties since I came to this country. I can detect the earth's slightest rearrangement under my feet. There have been three quakes so far. The first happened while I sat in the staff cafeteria at work, drinking coffee with Zeus and Paul Bunyan. The building swayed, people screamed, I was the only person who crawled under a table. The next happened while I was drinking sake and playing poker at a friend's house. Only a tremor, but we instantly sobered up. The most recent quake was while I lay on my futon watching TV. Again, the swaying sensation, I imagined my floor crashing into the apartment beneath me. I instinctively jumped out of bed and stood in a doorway. That was when I realized nothing has any support, it could all fall at any moment.I have since prepared an 'earthquake emergency kit': some instant ramen, candles, bottled water, Japanese-English dictionary in a gym bag next to my washing machine. It'll be no help if I'm at work, out with friends, riding the train when the big one hits. But I sleep better at night. Mukaijima My stop. With both hands I grip the rings and resist being pulled along with the stream moving out the door. Unable to hold myself up, I slide onto the green velour bench seat in front of me. Only three people remain in the car: myself, a sleeping college student and a girl with headphones on. The whistle blows, the doors close and I imagine the city at the end of this train line, shining and glistening in the night. I imagine a sprawling maze of lights and darkness. I will lose myself there, wait for dawn.I look at the advertisements that line the walls, hang from the ceiling. They look brilliant, as if they are lit from within, as if this is the first time I've seen them. These ads are an indecipherable code to me. Not simply another language, but three, possibly four other languages. A woman in a kimono stands next to a steaming hot spring, holding an iron in her hands. Four eggs with legs and arms wear little baseball caps. A man dressed like a Viking, the words 'NO LOAN' above his head.I look at myself in the window across from me. One braid hangs over my shoulder, my head looks lop-sided. I don't adjust the wig. Beyond my reflection is a line of pachinko parlours and karaoke bars, neon signs flashing a Morse code into the night air. A rescue message, perhaps a warning.  Part 2: Usagi Daisuke wears his guitar at work so he can practice when business is slow. It's Friday night, seven o'clock. He usually doesn't open this early, but I e-mailed his cell phone when I got off work and told him to meet me here. He rushed down only because he knew I'd be wearing the wig. I am the only customer, and will be until people show up after So-on-ji finishes playing at the 'livehouse' down the street.He makes a couple of rum and cokes and says, "I want you to listen my favourite record of all time." He puts on David Bowie, silently strums along with the opening bars of Ziggy Stardust.The wall next to the bar is lined with shelves of records. Records, records and more records, I couldn't even count how many. They are alphabetical and sort of chronological. They are all rock and nothing but rock. No techno, no jazz, no country (except a little Patsy Cline), no hip hop, no blues (other than two Howlin' Wolf albums).The place is small. It's dark, too, the only light coming from two hanging bulbs, a lava lamp and a string of white Christmas lights twisted along the bar. Records occupy one whole wall. I am sitting on one of the chrome stools at the bar, and behind me are two wooden tables with long bench seats. It's cozy and woodsy in here, making me feel like I'm in a cabin or ski lodge. The walls are plastered with Led Zeppelin posters and vintage American concert flyers. The back of the door is a collage of photos: Daisuke performing with his band; Daisuke fishing with friends on Lake Biwa; Daisuke boarding a Greyhound bus in Calgary.I discovered Usagi by accident a few months ago. I was exploring the back alleys of Kyoto when I saw the checkered door squeezed between hostess bars and ramen shops. The name of the bar was indicated on a signboard with a hand-painted Beavis and Butthead cartoon, Beavis saying, "Let's party!" and Butthead responding, "Yeah! We don't give the fuck!" I went inside and was surprised to find an English-speaking bartender who proudly informed me that he had spent hours painting the cartoon characters himself. He introduced himself as Daisuke, then insisted I call him 'Brian.' "Like Brian Wilson," he said. "He is genius. And Bryan Adams. He is not genius, but he is Canadian."I'm suppressing the urge to woo Daisuke. There's nothing I want to do more than convince him to fall in love with me. I'm so crazy about his mullet, the tight black jeans he always wears, his cute broken English. And the guitar, of course. But I'm holding myself back. I'm giving myself time, don't want to rush anything."Listen to the new song I write," he says, gently lifting the needle off the record. He strums a discordant melody, croons "whoa baby, oooh yeah, baby." It sounds like metal strings slapping against wood."That's the most beautiful thing I've ever heard," I tell him.Daisuke bows his head, sings "Arigato gozaimasu," and plays the rest of the song for me. Daisuke has told me bits about his life, and I have tried to piece these details together into some kind of coherent whole. I know he studied business in Tokyo after graduating from high school. He had no interest in business, but his university entrance exam scores determined his major. After finishing his degree, he went to London to study English as a Second Language. He dropped out of school, squatted in north London, and worked in pubs. Somehow, he ended up directing music videos. He says some words with a slight British accent, for which he credits Robert Plant rather than life in England.I'm not sure how long he lived in London. Or even how old he is now. His stories have no dates or lengths of time, he tells me only random, loosely connected events. After London, he came back to Japan. He travelled around Southeast Asia, North America, he lived in Los Angeles and worked as some kind of designer. He also mentioned living with a woman, an artist/musician he described as "a white Yoko Ono." When I asked Daisuke why he came back to Japan, to run a small rock bar and play guitar in a band, he placed his hand on his heart and replied, "Here is my home." Daisuke makes me another rum and coke, but he has hardly even touched his. He's just started working, has a long night ahead of him. "Are you wasting tonight?" he asks."'Getting wasted,'" I correct him. "No, I don't think so."I've been on one date since I came to this country. I met Shuhei, who runs the Amazon Jungle Safari ride at work, in line at the cafeteria and we started up a cell phone e-mail flirtation. I charmed him with a series of haiku about the theme park, and he asked me out for dinner. We ate at a prison-themed restaurant, sat in a tiny jail cell bound to our chairs with handcuffs. After dinner, we walked through Gion to Yasaka shrine and watched cherry blossom festival revelry. I haven't heard from him since. I see him occasionally at work, not too often because we work on different continents. He is nervous and jittery when we do talk, flinches as if he expects me to hit him."When are you going back to Canada?" Daisuke asks me in Japanese, tuning the guitar."I don't know. Not for a while, I guess. I have another four months until I finish my contract.""You won't get homesick. You are around Canada things every day. You are lucky to work in a place that's just like Canada.""Yeah, sure," I say, handing him my empty glass for a refill. I think about all the Canada things I see every day: the airbrushed mural of the Rocky Mountains, the miniature illuminated Niagara Falls, the massive stuffed beaver who welcomes guests with a squeaky robotic "Konnichiwa!!!" Totally just like Canada.My most recent obsession is a man known only as Crazy Life, so called because of the cryptic 'Crazy Life Kar Klub' T-shirt he always wears to the gym. He caught my eye with the rhinestone 'Crazy Life' pendant he wears around his neck. I see him at the gym every Wednesday night, and it's come to be the highlight of my week. Crazy Life is a hunk of manly manliness, much more buff and built than the average Japanese male. We talk every week, banal conversations about the weather or TV, which I memorize and recreate for my co-workers. He brought me a picture of his Crazy Life-mobile, some kind of 'hopping' van, with flashing lights and wings and tinted windows. Last Wednesday, I worked up the nerve to ask him out for drinks, but he didn't show up at the gym.I started going to the gym when I felt like I was going to bust out of my Anne dress, when I felt the zipper straining to hold it all together. I couldn't understand why this was happening, since I live on convenience store sushi and canned coffee. I joined the Joyous Healthy Club because I couldn't stand the idea of telling my 90-pound supervisor, who eats Calorie-Mate food bars for three meals a day, who has a six-inch waist and no hips or thighs, that I need a new dress."No more rum for you," Daisuke says, taking my glass. He puts a ceramic sake cup, no bigger than a shot glass, in front of me. "You must try this. It's awamori, from Okinawa and it's very special. This cost more than 20,000 yen." That's roughly 200 Canadian dollars. He pulls a bottle from under the bar and fills the sake cup. Curled up in the bottom of the bottle is a snake."Jesus Christ, Daisuke." He gives me a mock-stern look. "I mean Brian. Jesus Christ, Brian. What the hell is that?""The snake's poison makes it power." I tip my head back and shoot the poison-infused elixir. "Oishi, ne?" Delicious, isn't it. I nod. My nose is burning, my throat feels numb, the hairs on the back of my neck curl. He pours me another. At eleven o'clock, the bar fills with people from the 'livehouse'. They are drunk and rowdy, tell us about So-on-ji's amazing performance. Their voices and drinking games sound like they're coming from far away. I let my head fall to the bar because I can't hold it up any longer."I need to go home," I slur to Daisuke."It's getting late. You better hurry to the train station." He leans across the bar, tips the wig back from my forehead, then laughs. "You are wasting!" This time I don't correct him.I slide off the stool, balance myself on the bar. It's a good thing I'm leaving before I do anything stupid. I am yearning to touch his hair, craving a kiss before I walk out the door. Instead, he strikes his guitar and calls out "Kiyotsukete, ne!" Take care. I step into the fresh air, hope I sober up a bit on the walk to the train station.  Part 3: End of the Line I am awakened by a train attendant tapping my arm. "Sumimasen," he says, bowing. He nudges awake a man sleeping on a bench seat across from me, urges him out the door. The man stumbles along the platform toward the escalator. I have passed out on the train and awakened in the heart of the city. In the dead centre. I get up and walk off the train, with a few other groggy-looking people. The escalators have stopped working for the night, so I walk up the down staircase, beginning my ascension to the surface of the earth.There is no train back to where I came from, I am stuck here until morning. Five hours until the first train, I will have to find a way to amuse myself in central Osaka. I push my way through the turnstiles, leaving the train station behind me.Outside the turnstiles is a long underground tunnel. I have been here before, I know the passages I must go through, the escalators I must ride up before I am at street level again. I have walked past these restaurants with displays of plastic food in the windows, these closed clothing stores and bookstores and juice bars. This place is like a mall, except it's not, it's underground, it's part of the station. This is the city under the city, ghostly and subterranean.I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the window of a sock store. My dress, my Anne wig, I am fully intact. I can't see my face, but I can imagine the dark circles under my eyes, my puffy lips, my smeared mascara.I come to a sort of intersection. A sign hangs from the ceiling, yellow letters on a black background. To my right are Exits 1-5, to my left are Exits 9-13, straight ahead are Exits 16-21. None of this means anything to me, these exits, these numbers. Usually, when I come to this city, I go straight to Exit 8, which isn't even indicated here and which I don't even know how to get to. But usually I go to Exit 8 and I ride the escalator to street level, to my favourite shopping mall and restaurants.I feel a panic attack coming on. I imagine the morning janitor finding my unconscious body in a heap on the floor, beneath the sign. I take a deep breath and walk straight. I will go out the first exit I see. It's starting to get late and I need another drink. Exit 9 is a long corridor at the top of the escalator. I walk toward the end. I see a dark narrow stairwell; beside it is a thick black door. I choose the door, I choose the darkness over the stairs. I don't know what it is, the blackness or the pulsing throb of beats coming from behind the door. But I choose the door.Before I can pull it open, a skinny shirtless guy in black vinyl pants pushes out and heads toward the stairs. I slip in as he leaves and find the entrance to a club. Some kind of goth club, black clothes and make-up everywhere. A woman with long black hair and a bandage over one eye sits behind a small table. I feel her eye assessing my puffy dress and long red wig. I hand her 2000 yen for the admission fee and she stamps a skull and crossbones on the back of my hand. I push through the door into the main room.Goths are scary creatures. Morbid, dark, macabre, their black fashion reflecting their black outlook on the world. I remember there were a few goths at my high school. I didn't have much to do with them. I aligned myself with the hippies and skateboarders rather than the kids in black who sat in the back of the classroom, the kids who walked down the halls like a thick sea of death, a united front of evil. I always found them intimidating, depressing, and just weird.There are some of those here, women in long black dresses, guys with white face paint. There is lots of vinyl and leather and blackness. But there is another strain of goth culture, one that can be unique only to Japan. 'Lolita Goths,' girls who dress more like Little Bo Peep than Siouxie Sioux. I have seen these girls before, in magazines, hanging out in downtown Tokyo and Osaka, but I have never seen them up close.I head straight for the bar and order a double gin and tonic. I stand against the back wall and take it all in. The cute goth girls in their frilly and puffy frocks. The more traditional long-haired goths in draping layers of black lace and satin. Skinny guys in vinyl and white face paint. One girl, in a pink Bo Peep dress and striped stockings, holds a red, fluffy devil doll. The drink feels cool and sharp as it slides down my throat. It's about time. I sobered up a bit on the train and feel a hangover coming on. I finish it in a few big gulps and make my way back to the bar for another.As I'm returning to my spot, a boy grabs me by the arm. He is shouting something in Japanese and waving around a tiny digital camera. I can't hear anything he says over the pounding industrial, and I indicate this by pointing at my ears and shaking my head. He holds up his camera again, and points back and forth between us. I get it. Together. He wants to take a picture of the two of us together. He in his PVC, me in my Anne dress.He gives his friend the camera and poses with me, then they exchange places. I flash a 'peace' sign. They say something to me in Japanese, but I can't hear them, so I nod and pretend I know what they're talking about. I do this a lot, and not only when I'm in loud nightclubs.I down two more gin and tonics and hit the dance floor. What happens next is blurry, pixelated, like a flashing strobe light. I dance with some Bo Peep goths, they tell me they are seventeen and live in the countryside three hours away by train. Everybody clears the floor for an S/M performance. A woman with a whip lashes a silver-haired girl, the crowd cheers her on. I meet some foreigner guys filming girls making out in the bathroom; they claim they are making a promotional film for the club.I encounter the boys with the camera again. They pet my hair, cooing and giggling. One of them asks me a question, I can't hear what he says so I smile and nod. He carefully removes the wig from my head and places it on his own. His friend and I jump up and down, laughing and pointing. His friend pulls out the camera and takes a picture, then they trade places. People come over, friends, the girl from the door, put on the wig and pose for mug shots. Spots from the repeated camera flash swim in front of my eyes. I watch the wig being passed from hand to hand, crowd surfing above the dance floor. I push my way out the doors, back into the corridor and up the stairs to Exit 9. I am craving fresh air. The street is full of people making their way to wherever they're going. In front of me is the entrance to Babylon, a tall building full of bars, which my co-workers and I call a 'tower of bars.' A directory lists some of the contents of Babylon: Bar Indies 4 fl, Pica Pica 3 fl, Skydive 6 fl, Heaven 9 fl, Rock Bar 7 fl.I climb the stairs to Happy Karaoke on the fifth floor. The guy at the front counter doesn't say anything as I walk past him and down the hallway lined with frosted glass doors. Badly sung J-pop hits and enka classics fill the hall.A man steps out of the bathroom and sees me standing in the hallway. "Oh, pretty girl!" he says. "Pretty hair!" I nod, not really in agreement, more of a greeting. He opens the door to his karaoke box and beckons me to follow him. I step into the tiny room he and his friends have rented by the hour."I am Takada," he says. "These are my friends. What is your name?" He speaks as if he is chewing on a hard candy, or toffee. Trying to remember the order of English words, their shapes foreign in his mouth."Anne," I answer."Nice to meet you." He speaks seriously, with intent, and hands me a glass of beer. He points at a guy across the room, who sings along with the words on the screen and claps his hands. "He is Matsuda. Today is his birthday."He calls out for his friends' attention and introduces me. They greet me with a unanimous "Hooiy!!" The guy who I met in the hallway is in his mid to late thirties and he's wearing jeans and a T-shirt. He's with six friends, all men, all around the same age, all dressed differently. Some are dressed in white shirts and suits, as if they went out straight from work, others are more casual. They seem to have known each other for a long time, like friends from university or something."Anne-san, sing a song," says the birthday boy, passing me the remote and a thick book of song listings. Mostly Japanese songs, of course, but there is a small section of English classic rock and top-40 songs in the back. I scan the pages until I find the substantial B section. I press 9-5-4-3-7 into the remote and wait for my selection to flash across the monitor.This is how the karaoke box works: you rent a room by the hour and the price may or may not include drinks and food. When you want to sing a song, you press the code into the remote control and within a few minutes, depending on how many other selections there are, the tune will play and the lyrics will come up on the monitor screen. There are two or three mics in the room and anybody can sing. The room is set up almost like a living-room, with couches and a low table. Sometimes there's a stage, sometimes there isn't. There's a phone on the wall, and you can call down to the front desk and order drinks or food whenever you want.The guy with the mic finishes off his mournful old ballad, another guy sings a girly pop song, and then my selection pops up on the screen. I take the mic as the opening piano bars fill the room."When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me," I sing. The men sit up in their seats, mouth the lyrics. "Singing words of wisdom, let it be, let it be."Takada picks up another mic and chimes in with "Though the nights are cold and lonely, there's still a light that shines on me." Everybody in Japan knows all the words to all the Beatles' songs. The rest of the guys stand up and join in. I pass off my mic to one of the suits, grab a lighter from the table and hold it in the air, everybody follows the motion of the flame. Soon we all have our arms around one another, singing along to "Let It Be." I push up the last flight of stairs and walk down a long corridor lined with secretive doors that lead to closet-sized bars. At the end of the corridor hangs a cloth with the hiragana character yu---hot water. A sento, public bath. I take off my shoes at the door and put them in a little shoe locker, locking it with a little wooden key.I hand 350 yen to the old man behind the counter and walk to the women's change-room. Japanese public baths don't have the same negative connotations as public baths in North America. They are simply places to bathe, to become clean again. A TV is set up on the dividing wall between the men's and women's side, so both genders can watch. An old samurai drama plays on the screen. I open a locker, undo the zipper at the back of my grime-coated dress and peel it away from my skin. I put it in the locker and take off my bra, underwear and socks. I take off the wig and look at myself in the mirror. My short hair is matted against my skull. My make-up has run and I have black circles around my eyes. I look like hell.On the wall above the mirror is a poster of Brad Pitt. He is wearing a suit and posing with a can of Roots coffee. I live for canned coffee. And I live for Brad Pitt's advertising campaign with Roots canned coffee. My favourite TV commercial is where Brad, playing a disgruntled office worker, drinks a can of coffee and pushes a photocopier down a flight of stairs. I know the feeling.I open a sliding door and step into the room with the baths. There's nobody else here, I have the whole place to myself. I walk across the tiled floor to the row of low showers against the back wall and sit down on a little plastic stool. I fill a bucket with water and pour it over my head, feel the hot water cascade down my neck and my back. Rivers of black run down my legs. I squirt a handful of soap from the dispenser and rub my hands together. Thick foamy suds flow from between my fingers. I rub the suds over my body and scrub and scrub, until there are red streaks across my skin. I feel dirt and dead skin cells and city grime squeeze out of my pores. I want to scrub until the top layer of skin comes off, until all that remains is tender baby pink skin.I turn on the shower head and rinse myself off, until the last trace of soap and grime washes down the drain. There are six tubs in here: cold, herbal, jacuzzi, electric, and two normal tubs.I walk over to the electric tub and stand at the edge, looking in. An invisible current vibrates across the surface of the water. The electric tub seems like it should be dangerous. I've never been able to get into one before, turned off by the idea of electric-charged water. I dip my foot through the electric current and into the water. There's no flash, no bolt of electricity, no shock. I feel only a small muscle spasm, my foot jerks away from me. I submerge the rest of my leg, and my other leg, and slowly lower myself into the tub, feeling the spasms move up my body. It doesn't hurt or tingle, but all my muscles feel as if I'm clenching them. I wonder about the possibility of a heart attack or something.The electric tub begins to freak me out, so I move to the jacuzzi tub. I sit down until only my head is above water. The jets send a pulsing surge into my back and my thighs, like a massage. I take a deep breath and pull my head under, feel bubbles scurry across my face. I count to ten, then twenty---the water is scalding---I keep counting until I reach 106, then I break through the surface and inhale. The air rushes into my lungs.I lean against the smooth tiles and sit in the tub until my toes wrinkle, until I feel soaked all the way through. Only a thin wall separates the women's tubs from the men's tubs. I can hear three or four loud animated voices discussing something on the other side. Probably yakuza, Japanese gangsters. Who else would be using the public baths at five in the morning?I re-enter the change-room and buy a little towel from a vending machine, dry myself off. Next to the vending machine is a stack of clean and folded yukata, cotton robes, available for rent for 500 yen. I take one from the top of stack and tie it around my waist. It is a soft blue, feels like it's been washed and dried many times.I take my Anne dress out of the locker and put it in the garbage. I take the wig out and replace the key for the locker. I walk out of the change-room, past the guy at the counter, and put my shoes on in the entrance way. I walk down the hallway to a final flight of stairs, a chain link gate across them, marked with a sign. I can't read the sign, but I can assume it says something like 'Danger, don't come in here.' I push the gate, it opens without resistance. I walk up the stairs and come to the roof. There's no other place I could go. I can see most of the city from here, rooftops and power lines stretching out to the suburbs and eventually the ocean. The sun is starting to rise, casting a soft pink glow over everything. A cluster of skyscrapers erupting from the business district catches the morning light. Toward the west it is still night, a few stars sparkle above the horizon. An airplane, taking off from Kansai Airport, leaves a scar across the sky.I'm still holding the Anne wig. It feels soft and limp in my hands, like a dead rabbit. Strands of hair have come loose, stick out everywhere. I sit down and dangle my legs over the edge of the building. From here, the city looks clean and peaceful, the neon muted, the dirt and grime obscured.I imagine layers of train tracks twisting beneath the streets, a whole other city below this city. The trains have started running by now, it's almost time to make my way home. Make my way to my little apartment between two cities. To my single room, tiny balcony, my futon, TV, bookshelf.I hold the wig up, try to smooth the escaped hairs. It's covered in dirt from strangers' hands, smoke and alcohol from the dance floor and karaoke bar. I'm glad that it's not my own hair, that I can hold it between two fingers, from the top of the crown. The braids hang even. I pull my fingers apart and let it fall. It tumbles over itself, an acrobatic dance through the air, to the pavement below. It lands next to a mailbox, the braids stuck out at awkward angles, like broken legs. I pull my yukata tight around me, re-tie it, and start the descent to the station below, to the train ride home. 

Editorial Reviews

"Reading Coming Attractions is like test-driving the year's new cars" — London Free Press

"Coming Attractions is a who's who of our best young writers" — The Fiddlehead