Ohkawa stood in front of the store front glancing down the shopping district's street. A weak rain was sputtering down, making the scenery all the more choppy. Seeing past the town hall, the Gotouda Clothing Shop was closed. The other day his wife had met with Gotouda Kumi, and it seemed like at that time the shop was turned over to some relatives when Kumi and her daughter left the village and that night it seemed a truck had come to move them out.
That in itself might have been a small thing. But Ohkawa didn't like even small things like that. Gotouda Kyouko was remarried they said. Kumi went along with her they said. That should have been glad news but Ohkawa didn't like the taste of it. In that case, Kumi should have stayed in the village, and thinking of her mother, Kyouko should have threatened to give up on the marriage or otherwise convinced her partner to live in together with her. at least that was the rule of how things went in Sotoba. This was how things went in the village. And yet lately that rule wasn't being kept at all. It was being all too indifferently violated. Somehow Ohkawa could only view that as an affront to his own dignity.
He thought of the world as having "a way things should be." Until now--or until some point at least, the village had abided by that. One could say that now it'd been overturned so many times that there wasn't a single thing going the way it should in accordance with the rules.
The Gotouda mother and child handed over the store to some woman he didn't know and had never seen and left the village in the dead of night. There were four other shops that had gone the same route, and one household whose house had been handled the same way. The general store's Tomikou left the village, and left it to some relatives only for some unknown, unfamiliar couple to move in. But those two stayed holed up in the house, without even a word of greeting to the neighbors. The shop too was essentially still closed. Sometimes, as if on a whim, the store would be open. That also only happened in the evenings.
August ended, the resident officer Takami had died, and his successor an officer by the name of Sasaki had come. But the number of people who had seen this Sasaki were few and far in between. At times he'd be seen at night sitting in the police substation but he had no idea what he normally did or what kind of action he took. At the start of September, Osawa from the post office had moved out. For a while Nagata had succeeded him as the chief of the office but in mid-September a new Post Master had been assigned, but he was another one he hadn't seen. Nagita once again took over acting the part, and he wondered if he had taken over the position.
In September, his own worker Matsumura's daughter died. Since then, Matsumura had a habit of skipping work. He'd never had much work ethic to start with, he was a coward whose only redeeming feature was his honesty but he was skipping work without calling in. Constantly making mistakes, Ohkawa was always shouting at him. Before he would be afraid of Ohkawa and straighten up a bit but since losing his daughter, Matsumura was indifferent to Ohkawa's moods. No matter how much he shouted, he wondered if Matsumura even heard him, given he only nodded and didn't become any more formal pr proper. He felt himself growing desperate over something. The tradesmen who came and went were always new faces now. Each time they deviated from the set arrangements, which angered Ohkawa. ---Not a bit of all this happening did he like.
The village wasn't as it should be. Somewhere the wheels were off the road, with no sign of anything getting back on track. Far from it, each day the deviation grew wider. The rules were being one by one trampled underfoot.
"Honestly... What's going on?" Ohkawa mumbled, putting away the sales receipts with a scrunched up face. The delivery slip. Just a bit ago he'd told Atsushi to go on the delivery but it looked like he hadn't gone yet.
Ohkawa's angry voice carried up to the second floor. Normally this would be when his son would sullenly show himself but no matter how much he yelled he didn't appear. He didn't think he'd gone out and forgot to bring the slip with him. Wondering about that, he went up to the second floor seeing his son laying about lazily, still in his room.
"Atsushi! I done told you there's a delivery, didn't I?!"
Ohkawa entered the room shouting. Atsushi looked up but none of what should have been in his eyes was there. The resentment towards Ohkawa, the sulky, irresponsibility---In their place was surprise and submission.
His son turned dispassionate eyes to Ohkawa, turning over as if going back to sleep. Ohkawa was not used to being ignored by Atsushi like that.
"You punk, the hell you lazing around for? You didn't hear me? I said there's a delivery!"
Ohkawa kicked at Atsushi's back. Atsushi curled into himself and still gave no reaction. The blood rushed to his head. If Ohkawa shouted he obeyed. That was supposed to be a family rule. When he jeered at him and started to drag him along, his sister Tamami showed her face.
"Dad, Onii-chan is sick."
Ohkawa turned around. It seemed she'd just gotten back from school, as she stood there still in her school uniform giving a smile meant to soothe him.
"He was sick this morning too. I wonder if it's not a cold? Go ahead and let him sleep. If you're worried about the deliveries, Yutaka and me'll help."
Ohkawa turned his eyes to Atsushi who groaned. "Whatever, it's obvious he's faking it. ---Oi, Atsushi, I can see right through you, you know!"
Atsushi didn't respond. He just kept his back to Ohkawa curling into himself. The bites on his tanned neck that were out of season for bugs went unnoticed by Ohkawa. Of course after he left he also didn't notice his son quietly murmuring "You'll see."