Evan Morgan Williams
“The Dodgers defeat the Padres, two to zero.”
“Steve Garvey? His performance?”
“Four walks. They are afraid of him, his power.”
Afraid. Osorete. Erica Hashimoto chose this word because she too was afraid. Wary, a fish in the shoals, the dappled sunlight, glimmering as the—
Mr. Noguchi’s voice broke in. “What about Fernando?”
Erica said, “Fernando made twelve strikeouts, a complete game.”
Mr. Noguchi chuckled. “Ah, Fernando.”
Risking impertinence, Erica offered, “A farmer, he was.”
Noguchi corrected her. “The son of a farmer.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Erica Hashimoto was interpreting baseball scores, English into Japanese, for her employer, Akihiko Noguchi, vice president and heir to the Noguchi Concern, a shipping company with offices in Nagasaki and Los Angeles and berths around the world. Erica sat behind Mr. Noguchi and to his left on a leather stool. She interpreted from the sports section of the Los Angeles Times, the ink still moist with the latest scores. She held the words away from her blouse, the ivory blouse her mother frowned at, sheer on honey skin, a splurge. She whispered the scores, and the slide of silk made the greater noise.
“An error, however, was committed from the mound…”
Mr. Noguchi turned, tilting his jaw. Erica perceived that a girl such as herself earned a tilt of five degrees.
He said, “Fukaku?” An imprudence?
God damn it, Erica thought. She missed it.
He said, “Still not good at this?”
“Machigai.” She whispered. Error. Mistake. Blunder.
“This is what they taught you, American girl, at your University of Southern California? The last girl—”
“Forgive me, sir. It is I, not Fernando, committing the error.”
Mr. Noguchi raised his hand. He swiveled his chair to face her. He gazed at Erica on her leather stool. “My interpreter is not an I.”
Erica looked down.
He said, “Look at me.”
A girl always looked down. But to ignore your employer’s directive smacked of impertinence. Erica raised her eyes.
The secretary had warned her. “The last girl, impudent and indiscreet…” Erica had nodded, though she couldn’t have known what she was assenting to. When the secretary added, “I hope you like baseball,” Erica, uncertain of the best answer but recalling fondly the Dodgers games she had attended with her dad, nodded again. Now Erica raised her eyes to her employer, the very thing she was warned against, and repeated the correct word, machigai.
Mr. Noguchi had beautiful light brown eyes.
“An error, a mistake, was committed from the mound…”
Mr. Noguchi turned, leaving no shared space for conversation.
Erica resumed the scores. “The Angels, in a tight contest…”
She watched the shoulders of his suit rise and fall. The blood vessel in his neck throbbed. She offered to interpret news from the front page, the latest on the hostages in Lebanon, President Reagan’s progress in the hospital, the tide of anti-Japanese sentiment rising across the land, but Mr. Noguchi said no, the baseball scores. Erica spread the newspaper on the lap of her pencil skirt and returned to the sports. From Old French, desportes, to carry you away, but more at borne, as though—
“Chîsai tori!” He broke into her thoughts.
“My mistake again, sir. Nolan Ryan sustained a no-hitter into the eighth inning before giving it away.”
He called her Chîsai tori, Little Bird.
Erica leaned closer. She registered the warmth from his skin. His hair was thick, shiny black, no gray. Erica guessed thirty five. She smelled Drakkar Noir, a young man’s cologne. She lowered her guess to thirty. She had bought a vial for a boy in college, bought it at Bullock’s downtown, at the men’s counter, oddly named, for the only customers were girlfriends, fiancés, newlywed wives who hoped—
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