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News & Features » July 2018 » “Evaporations” by Sacha Idell

“Evaporations” by Sacha Idell

Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.

This week, a Japanese driver’s job is to help his clients erase their identities. 

by Sacha Idell
Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan

No matter how many times you’ve done it, it’s never easy. Kandagawa knows that better than anyone. He likes to be the mover, not the driver. When you’re the mover, they’re still excited, there’s hope. And to be fair, hope lasts a lot of the drive, too. They’re starting a new life, they’re escaping their debts. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that? But the thing is, it’s a false hope. For most people, evaporating isn’t just erasing your identity and starting with a clean slate. It’s erasing your identity and starting over with nothing. You can’t get a real job, you have to settle for the things the thugs like Sakuragi are willing to offer you. For not enough pay, for no chance at escape.

Kandagawa doesn’t like to be the driver because the driver has to be part of the realization. The driver has to take the client to their new residence—one of a handful of special hotels and ratholes in Shinjuku or the edges of Yokohama’s Chinatown—and kick them out the door with nothing but the handful of things they think are most important. The driver has to see the look on their face when they know things aren’t really going to get any better.

So, of course, today Kandagawa is the driver. Nomura gets to be the mover. All he has to do is lift things, clean, make sure everything is disposed of. It started real quiet. Nomura knocked on the door and the old dude and his young wife were ready to go. The apartment was ultra-modern, the sort of thing Kandagawa would never be able to afford. East-facing double aspect, in-unit washer-dryer. The old dude had serious money. There was still furniture all over the place, but all of the important things packed away tidily. The girl still couldn’t believe the thing was happening, but hey, it was probably half her fault anyway.  The old dude probably lied about how much money he had, the chick probably spent way too much. That, or a messy divorce. Kandagawa likes to guess at these things because he’s not allowed to ask. It wouldn’t be any fun if he could ask.

Nomura finished early, anyway, so Kandagawa loaded the old dude and the chick into his van and turned onto the Inner Circular Route of the Shuto expressway. And now it’s the middle of the night, and there isn’t any traffic, and the old dude insisted that he didn’t want the radio, so things are quiet and the chick just keeps looking out the window. Kandagawa takes a peek at her in the rearview mirror whenever he can afford to take his eyes off the road. Her forehead is pressed against the glass, it might be too hot in the car, but Kandagawa is freezing in his t-shirt so he doesn’t bother to turn on the heater.

“How far is it?” the old dude asks.

“Not very.” Kandagawa isn’t allowed to be specific.


“Shinjuku. But it’s better if I don’t say more than that.”

“Shinjuku, huh.” The old dude runs his hand over a bald spot.

Meanwhile the girl is still looking at the window. Kandagawa can’t help but wonder what it is she’s seeing out there, but again, he knows better than to ask. Better not to be personal with people you’re about to disappoint.

A few more minutes of silence, and Kandagawa turns the van onto the off ramp. Minutes later they pull up at the hotel.

“Is this it?” the old dude asks.

“Of course this is it,” the chick responds.

Nomura just nods. He gets out of the van and opens the back door for the two of them. They stare at him in disbelief. The building is so old it looks like it’s probably half cockroach. A shirtless, emaciated man is crouched just outside the front door. It’s not a pretty picture.

“This can’t be it,” the old dude says.

“It’s temporary,” Kandagawa says.

“Temporary…” The chick trails off.

It’s three in the morning and the sky is purple from the light pollution. Kandagawa lights a cigarette and stares upward, trying to make out stars, trying to find the moon.

“Yeah,” Kandagawa says. “It’s temporary.”

The couple goes inside and Kandagawa finishes his cigarette. He gets in the van, flips open his phone, and calls Sakuragi to say that his part is done. He just gets the voicemail, as usual, so he leaves a message. All Sakuragi ever wants is confirmation, anyway. There doesn’t need to be a conversation.


SACHA IDELL is a writer and translator from Northern California. His stories appear in Electric Literature, New England ReviewPloughshares, and elsewhere. His published translations include work by the Japanese writers Toshirō Sasaki and Kyūsaku Yumeno. He holds an MFA in fiction from the University of Arkansas and lives in Baton Rouge, where he works as Coeditor and Prose Editor of The Southern Review.


Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—Accepted submissions are typically published 6–8 months after their notification date and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Jul 12, 2018

Category: Original Fiction, Mondays Are Murder, Original Fiction | Tags: , , , , , , , ,