Kawakami Delicatessen's Smallest Helper

I am cracking eggs into a large plastic jar in the kitchen,
Kawakami Delicatessen's smallest helper,
as the morning rush of construction workers order okazu from Aunty Fumi out front.

I stack broken shells on top of each other,
high enough that it begins to tip in its saggy carton,
and Aunty Aki-chan compliments my egg-cracking abilities.
"But no crack too hard," she reminds me.

She lets me write my breakfast order on the same notepad and pen she uses for customers.
I always ask for pancakes and Portuguese sausage,
but she lets me write it down anyway.
I practice my cursive.

Grandma and the aunties play the Ka'au Crater boys on their dusty boombox.
Between songs, I wipe off flour fingerprints from the play button
and they hum their favorites together in the kitchen,
calling each other Japanese names I've never heard before.

I watch Grandma scoop the rice onto the big sheet of nori,
sculpting it carefully into a log.
It crunches as she rolls it,
and then wets her finger to seal it in one smooth movement.

In the afternoons, I make coke-floats in small dixie cups with plenty of ice cream.
I hand them out one by one and Grandma thanks me with a big hug.
Aunty Aki-chan wipes her hands on her apron before taking a sip,
then goes back to kneading the macaroni salad in a big, steel bowl.
We laugh when the noodles squish between her fingers,
as I scoop more ice cream into my cup.

Talk story

  1. appleblossum says:

    This was so comforting, what a great memory! Thank you for sharing it with us. Your pieces always have this wonderful… atmosphere about them, yet they're very grounded. I'm a fan.

    "Aunty Aki-chan compliments my egg-cracking abilities."

    Also..mmm okazuya.

  2. kristel says:

    Thank you for being so nice 😀

    And yes, okazuya! My aunty used to make the best fried chicken! That's why I was such a chubby kid lol

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