Sarah Hozumi is a rewriter and Japanese-to-English translator who lives near Tokyo. She likes photography, drawing, baking and studying languages. She had a story published in OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters in December of 2020 as well. Please feel free to check out her blog and photos at sarahhozumi.com. Her dream is to continue being a translator while having her books become known well enough that one day she can talk to others about them. She would also like a dog someday that is small, poofy and would spur Sarah to go out and take a few more walks.
In Another Life
Kim Hughes, mother of two, was rummaging around her kitchen when she noticed the flour she had only just recently bought was gone.
“Alice? Mary?” she called to her twins in the living room. Both were engrossed in books and acknowledged their mother with brief eye contact. Kim stood by the couch with her phone in one hand, a recipe website promising oven-fried chicken nuggets from scratch staring up at her. Her twins looked up again when they felt their mother’s silent presence.
“What?” Alice said.
Kim shook herself away from her thoughts.
“Nothing, nothing.” She wondered why she had even entertained the idea of asking the twins if they had taken the flour. What could her 12-year-olds need flour for?
The mother wandered back into the kitchen and headed to the pantry door. She looked back toward the living room and saw her twins had already forgotten about her. After turning the oven off, Kim stepped into the pantry and carefully closed the door behind her.
For three seconds the walls of the pantry seemed to melt down toward the floor, as if they had been covered in watery icing. Then, in a quick flurry, the pantry seemed to recover itself, and the walls returned to something resembling the inside of a pantry. However, instead of the blue walls Kim had painted them the previous summer, they were now a bright red. Instead of cereals and baking ingredients neatly arranged on the top shelf, pasta, rice and other grains on the second and canned goods on the third, things were strewn about as if someone had emptied grocery bags upside down onto each shelf.
Outside the pantry, Kim could hear someone ripping open packages and tossing things into the microwave, followed by swearing and the frantic pressing of buttons. She opened the door to see a woman in worn clothes rummaging through the trash to retrieve the outside package of a frozen dinner.
The woman noticed Kim stepping out of her pantry and waved.
“Hey there,” she said. “I don’t suppose you know how to microwave?”
Kim sighed as she surveyed the dirty dishes that hadn’t migrated from the counter to the dishwasher, the food stains on the floor, a table groaning in the corner under the weight of unread magazines and a couple of school backpacks.
“I just came to ask if you took the flour,” she said.
The other woman laughed as she pressed her nose against the package she had pulled out the trash. Her eyes squinted at the fine print about preparing the food. She handed the package to Kim, who backed away.
“I can’t read this,” she said. “Do you need glasses in your dimension?”
“I wear contacts,” Kim said as she glanced at the directions. “It says three minutes.”
The woman grinned. “Always a lifesaver,” she said as she turned her attention to the microwave. “Why are you here again?”
“Flour,” Kim said again with a sigh.
Two 12-year-old girls came into the kitchen wearing clothing with small holes in them and a couple of unidentifiable stains. Despite the shabby clothes that deepened Kim’s frown, they seemed exponentially happier than her own version of these twins.
“Hey, Kim,” they said to her. They turned to their mother. “Do you need some help?”
“I got it,” their mother said with a thumb’s up and a wink.
“How come you’re here again?” Alice said as she seemed to marvel at Kim’s immaculate business suit.
“I bought some rather expensive flour yesterday, and it’s missing,” Kim said. “I don’t know why I thought it’d be here.”
Alice flashed a sheepish grin and hid behind her sister, Mary. “I’m sorry, I kind of…borrowed it. I wanted to bake a cake.”
This caused their mother to stop watching the frozen meals rotate in the microwave and stare at her daughter.
“You can travel through the pantry, too?”
Alice shrugged. “Kind of? I can’t open the door, but I can get to your pantry, Kim. The other one, too, but she stocks healthy stuff I don’t want.”
Kim’s own version of Alice held zero interest in baking.
“What did you want the flour for?” Kim said.
Alice grinned a smile Kim had never seen on her own daughter and ran out of the room, shouting, “Just a sec!”
Mary stayed in the kitchen and shyly stared at Kim, comparing this version of her mother to her own version. Her own mother was rummaging around the utensil drawer in search of a clean fork. Kim attempted to smile at Mary, but Mary immediately took to staring at the floor. Her own Mary was so outgoing it almost irritated Kim. This version seemed more plausible as her daughter.
The other twin came running into the room and held a recipe book inches away from Kim’s face. Cakes and Bread, the book declared in beautiful lettering across the cover. Kim had been missing that book for months now.
“I wanted to bake a cake in here,” Alice said. She opened the book to a vanilla cake with rich buttercream frosting. “This one,” she said.
“Where’d you get that book from, Alice?” her mother said.
“It’s fine,” Kim said as she glanced at the recipe. She’d baked that same cake half a year ago, and the twins had barely eaten a bite of it. Kim had had to take it into work. “This recipe needs cake flour, though. The flour you took from my pantry is all-purpose.”
“Then, I can’t use it to make the cake?”
Her mother gently took the book from Alice’s hands. “You can’t just take books like this, Alice,” she said. “I could’ve gotten you a baking book, you know. I didn’t know you even wanted to bake.”
Alice stared at the floor as she spoke. “I didn’t want you to feel bad.”
“Feel bad?” her mother said. “About what?”
“About your inability to cook, I think,” Kim said. “Stay here for a second.”
Kim walked back into the pantry and closed the door behind her. For three seconds, the walls melted again like a painting left outside in a downpour, and then the familiar blue walls were back.
She opened the door into her immaculate kitchen and immediately went to check on her own twins. They were still lying on the living room carpet, engrossed in their books. They probably hadn’t even noticed she was gone.
The mother walked around her spotless kitchen, setting cake pans, measuring cups and spoons, and an array of ingredients on her kitchen table as she went. She didn’t even trust the milk in that other woman’s fridge – how could that possibly be her? – and so put her own on the table as well.
While her twins started working together on their homework, Kim slipped upstairs and grabbed a tiny suitcase. She stuffed everything from the kitchen table into the suitcase apart from the milk, which she cradled in her free arm as she pulled the small suitcase into the pantry. She shut the door behind her.
A minute later, she was back in the disgrace of a kitchen. Mary had wandered off, but Alice was standing in front of the pantry door with a look of great hope dancing across her eyes like fireworks.
“Can you help me make this cake?” she said.
Kim had just meant to drop off the ingredients. She looked up at the other version of herself, who had pushed aside piles of magazines so she could sit at the kitchen table, enjoying a nice book while shoveling a microwave dinner into her mouth.
Alice leaned in closer to Kim and whispered, “It’s almost her birthday, you know.”
Her twins probably didn’t know that. Even with it circled on the calendar and highlighted, her twins probably had no idea when their mother’s birthday was.
“May I borrow your kitchen?” she called to her other self.
The other Kim waved at the disastrous kitchen and grinned evilly. “If you clean up afterward.”
From the Editor:
We hope that readers receive In Parentheses as a medium through which the evolution of human thought can be appreciated, nurtured and precipitated. It will present a dynamo of artistic expression, journalism, informal analysis of our daily world, entertainment of ideas considered lofty and criticism of today’s popular culture. The featured content does not follow any specific ideology except for that of intellectual expansion of the masses.
Founded in late 2011, In Parentheses prides itself upon analysis of the current condition of intelligence in the minds of these young people, and building a hypothesis for one looming question: what comes after Post-Modernism?
The idea for this magazine stems from a simple conversation regarding the aforementioned question, which drew out the need to identify our generation’s place in literary history.
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