Soy or Miso?
By James Pollard
The portal to Tanaka’s Noodles shop slid open and two men came in. The 3D waitress, standing outside the door, said “Irrashaimase.” They sat down at the counter closest to the door.
“Nani kuu ka?” Hideko asked.
“Uhhh, I don’t speak Japan,” said one of the men. “Do ya understand her, Al?”
“Nope,” said Al. “I guess she’s askin whatcha wanna eat.”
“Shaddup, Al,” the man said. “Hey dame, what grub you got?”
It was twilight in Neo Tokyo. The woman picked up two menu pads and deposited them in front of the men. A 3D neon bowl of noodles steamed in the air above the counter, a larger version hung outside over the small shop. From the far end of the counter Tomoko Nakamura watched the men. She had been talking to Hideko when they came inside.
“Good. I want a bowl of noodles. Gimmie a fork, don’t want those dumb sticks to eat with,” the man said.
“I want the same,” said Al.
“Soy or miso?” asked Hideko.
“What’s that?” asked Al.
“Soy or Miso?” repeated Hideko.
“What the hell am I supposed to do with a soy or a miso?” the man exclaimed.
“Soy is soy and miso is miso. It flavor noodles.”
“Soy or miso?”
“I dunno what miso tastes like,” said the first man. “But I dun like soy. Too salty.”
“Miso is a bean, I think,” said Al.
“Shaddup Al. You dun know nuthin’. Hey dame, which one you recommend? Is the miso any good?”
Hideko raised two thumbs up.
“Alright, alright. Gimmie a bowl of miso noodles.”
“Make that two,” said Al.
“Hey. You speak English?” asked Al.
“Iya, eigo dekimasen. Sumimasen.”
“She’s pretty cute,” said Al. “Ain’t she, Max?”
“Not my type.”
Al looked at Max. “Are you blind? Both of these dames are hot.”
“Shaddup Al. No, they ain’t,” said Max.
“Hey, what’s your name?” Al asked.
“Tomoko,” she said.
“Tomoko, I’m Al.”
“I’m getting sick of telling ya, Al. Shaddup!”
Hideko set down two bowls of noodles in front of the men. She put a fork and napkin next to each bowl. She watched the men eat.
“Whatcha lookin at, dame?” asked Max.
“She’s looking at this handsome fellow.”
Max laughed. Tomoko laughed.
“Hey, no need to poke fun. What’s your name, good lookin?”
“Me no speak Engrish.”
Max laughed. Tomoko laughed.
They continued eating. Both men wore identical black leather trench coats. The man called Al wore a chain link utility belt. Two long vibroknives hung from each side. Smaller knives filled the rest of the belt slots. He was short with white pasty skin. He wore white lasgoggles above a long nose. The man called Max was taller, broader, darker. A bandolier containing multiple power clips hung across his chest. The stock of a Mark IV blaster poked out of his coat pocket. He had a round face. He wore purple colored lasgoggles. Max finished first. The other man pushed his noodles around the bowl with the fork.
“Who’s in the kitchen?” asked Max.
“Tanaka,” said Tomoko.
“Call him out here.”
“Funny flavor,” said Al.
“What was your name again, Tokoko?”
“Ok Tomoko. Listen up. You know why we are here.”
Hideko picked up the empty bowl and dropped it down a chute in the counter. She wiped the counter with a rag. “Noodles?” said Hideko.
Tomoko laughed. Al laughed. He put down the fork and pushed his bowl away. Hideko slid the bowl down the counter to the disposal chute.
“You talk silly,” Al said.
“Shaddup, Al,” said Max. “Tokiko, get Tanaka out here.”
“Tomoko,” she replied.
Hideko wiped the counter in front of Al.
“Tell him to come out here.”
“Why?” asked Tomoko.
“Because I said so, smart girl,” said Max.
“Let me handle this, Max,” said Al. “Hey, pretty girl. You smart too eh? Call the cook out here, will ya?”
Max laughed. Hideko laughed.
“Shaddup, Al. You really talk silly.” Max unbuttoned his coat. “Now Tokoko, get Tanaka out here.”
“Huh?” said Max.
“Tomoko,” she said. “Me name Tomoko.”
“Whatever,” Max pulled out the blaster and set it down on the counter.
Tomoko looked at Max. She slid her hand along the counter to a small button panel. She pressed a blue button, “Tanaka san. Chotto soto e onegai.”
Max looked at Al, “See? Ya dummy.”
Al was looking at Hideko.
A large android stepped through a recessed door behind the counter. The door slid shut.
“Are you Tanaka?” asked Max.
The android bowed low. It wore a dirty white apron and a red bandana around its head. The silver face showed no emotion.
Max picked up the blaster. “Ok, now all of you here,” he said. “We have a question for ya.”
Hideko said, “Soy or Miso?”
“Shaddup Al.” Max waved the blaster in the air. “I expect answers.”
“What is the question, sir?” asked the android Tanaka.
“Don’t get smart, tin man.”
“You know why we are here,” said Al.
“To enjoy my noodles?” asked the android.
Tomoko laughed. Hideko laughed.
“Whaddaya know, Max. A smart tin man!” said Al.
“Shaddup, Al,” he replied. “I’m warning ya.”
Max tapped his blaster on the counter. “We are here to kill the Martian. Do ya know the big Martian named Ole Sammy?”
“He’s one of ya regulars, right? Comes in every night?”
“Sometimes,” said Tanaka. “He doesn’t come in every night.”
“And he comes at the 6th watch cycle, don’t he?”
“If he comes, yes.”
Al looked at Hideko. “Hey gorgeous, whaddaya got to drink around here? That soup was too salty.”
“Sake?” she asked.
“Yeah, sake sake. That sounds nice.”
“Shaddup, Al.” Max tapped his blaster on the counter again. “We’re working here. No drinking on the job.”
“Excuse me, sir.”
“You said the soup was too salty?” asked the android.
“Yeah,” said Al. “My throat’s all dry.”
“Please accept my most humble apologies, sir.” Tanaka bowed. “That recipe is several hundred years old, passed down by the founder of Tanaka Noodles.”
“Wait a sec,” said Max. “Someone programmed you to cook?”
“No sir. I learned firsthand from the previous owner, who died without a male heir.” Tanaka pointed to Tomoko. “Tomoko has continued her family’s tradition, but given me the family name as tradition dictates a Tanaka male in the kitchen.”
“Didn’t you say to stay focused, Max?”
“Excuse me, sirs.”
“What should we do if a customer comes in?”
“I’ll tell you what to do,” said Max. “Tell him to go away. Tell him you’re malfunctioning.”
“But sir, that is impossible. I have 78 years left on my power source. I can never malfunction.”
“You better if you know what’s good for you.”
Max looked at the wall time piece. It was fifteen sectors past cycle six. The portal hissed open and the 3-D waitress repeated the traditional greeting. A young man walked in.
“Sumimasen, kyo wa hayaku yasunde imasu node,” said the android with a bow.
The young man nodded and left.
“You see Al, the tin man is really smart.”
Two other people came into the noodle shop. Tanaka said the same thing to each of them. The android pointed to the wall time piece. It was 5 sectors past cycle seven.
“The Martian will not come tonight,” said Tanaka.
“Let’s give him 10 more sectors.”
“Come on, Max. He’s not coming. Let’s scram.”
“Shaddup Al. Alright, let’s jet.”
“What should we do about them?”
“What about them?”
“Well, we can’t just leave them here. It’s sloppy.”
“Shaddup Al. I dun like it either.” Al pushed away from the counter. “But it’s their lucky day, I guess.”
“Yeah, real lucky, I guess.”
The two men left the noodle shop. The 3D woman said “Domo arigato gozaimashita!” as the portal closed.
“Should we warn the Martian?” asked Tomoko.
“I think you should forget about it,” said Hideko.
“I don’t like it,” said Tanaka. “I don’t like any of it at all.”
“But they were going to kill him!”
The android cook turned away.
Tomoko pressed a few keys on a recessed keyboard. A 3D screen opened up in the air above the counter. After a buzzer sounded, a large man appeared on the screen. He had dark hair, eyes, and skin.
“Excuse me, Ole Sammy. I need to speak with you.”
“What is it?”
“Two men were just here in the noodle shop. They said they are going to kill you.”
“Oh. Ok, is that all?”
“Would you like their descriptions? Should I call the police?”
“No, and no.”
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
“No, there isn’t anything you can do.”
“They want to kill you, Ole Sammy.”
“There isn’t anything anyone can do now. But thank you for informing me.
The 3D screen fizzled out.
“Told you to not think about it,” said Hideko.
“I just can’t stand the thought of Ole Sammy just sitting there, waiting for death.
“It’s awful, that’s for sure.”
“He must have got mixed up in some shady business on Mars.”
“I suppose so.”
“Double-crossed the wrong person.”
“That’s what people get killed for.”
“I’m closing the shop early tonight.”
“Ok,” said Hideko. “That’s great. I’ll call my boyfriend.”
“But I can’t just do nothing!”“Well,” said Hideko, “you best just forget about it.” She folded the rag and placed it on the corner of the counter.
- - -
Born and raised in South Louisiana, James enjoys traveling and reading. He loves to write poetry, especially haiku, as well as fiction and non fiction stories, though only his poetry and non fiction has been published so far. He currently lives in Hong Kong. This particular story is science fiction parody of the famous Hemingway short fiction "The Killers".