The Contrast Sharpened the Grief: The Three Mistakes of Ryu Murasaki

Yo, a group of us writers with diverse styles, skill sets + aesthetics are doing a LITERARY BLOG RELAY. Here are the rules:

Each writer writes 250 words (e.g. a piece of flash fiction, a novel excerpt, an acrostic poem, a bathroom limerick, whatev) and then tags the next writer on the relay list. Basically, we can write whatever the fuck we want, but each post must begin with the last line of the previous post (in bold here) + must be linked (however loosely) to a central theme, in this case, “A Stranger Comes to Town.”

Here's my contribution, using the last line from Christine Zilka's piece (below in bold).

Jennifer Derilo is next.

The contrast sharpened the grief.

He was not in Osaka anymore + the tekkamaki he'd bought at Itami was starting to smell like a drowned sea mammal. Ryu realized that his first mistake (+ there were many) was arriving on a Saturday. The taxis were crammed with wobbly college kids adorned in kelly green, navy blue and cardinal red t-shirts, tubby alumni and barking military families, all of them heading towards campus with dead-fish eyes and poinsettia-red faces. He felt like American football (whatever the hell that was) was turning people into pieces of tuna sashimi.

Ryu's second mistake (which is directly related to his first mistake) was getting into town on the day of the Notre Dame-USC game. After he'd finally hailed a taxi to the edge of campus, Ryu dragged his gigantic plaid suitcase behind him into the hornet's nest. A middle-aged couple wearing "Notre Dame Mom" and "Notre Dame Dad" sweatshirts and chinos swaggered past Ryu. A twiggy girl with a leprechaun decal ironed onto her freckly cheeks bumped into him + then burped into her hand, apologizing to him with a wax-on, wax-off wave. Three college boys in matching baseball caps, their arms interlocked on their shoulders, stumbled past him. When Ryu tried to move around their rugby formation, the boys patted him on the shoulder and shouted: Yeah, bro! Go Irish! It took Ryu two hours to make it to his campus apartment, + when he'd finally plopped his keys on the kitchen table + saw the cable wires dangling from the wall + the sad brown couch with the frumpy cushions + the sad brown bed upstairs with the plastic mattress, he walked into the bathroom + threw up on the floor.

But it was Ryu's third + final mistake that upset him the most, a mistake he didn't even realize he'd made until he was boiling water for his first cup of ochya in America. When he stood up to phone his mom, he suddenly realized he'd crossed the international time line. It was 1:30pm in South Bend but it was 3:30 am in Osaka. And Saturday was the day his mom took obasama to the Geranium market to buy blue stargazers. It was the only day she didn't need to hear his voice.


THE FULL LINE-UP, IN ORDER (Completed posts in bold)….

  1. Wah-Ming Chang:
  2. Jamey Hatley
  3. Stephanie Brown
  4. Andrew Whitacre
  5. Heather McDonald
  6. Christine Lee Zilka
  7. Jackson Bliss
  8. Jennifer Derilo (to be posted on
  9. Alexander Chee
  10. Nova Ren Suma


  • Start with the last line of the previous entry.
  • Poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction.
  • 250 words.
  • Thematically linked.
  • Link to the next person on the list, as well as those who posted before you.
  • Post something within four or five days of the most recent piece.
  • Posts should start with an explanation, with links to the previous posts as well as the next.