The Japanese House, Effie Jia
(Imitation of Vincent Scarpa’s “I Go Back to Berryman’s”)
All the Chevys were from different eras—a candy-apple ‘63 Impala, a wine red ‘85 Monte Carlo, a maroon ‘07 HHR—and if you see them, you’ll see their place in the house on Grandon Street, although you’ll also see a plethora of other cars coming and going from the homemade auto repair shop on the left side of the garage, and in that same garage you’ll see remnants of too many smoked cigarettes and cheap lawn chairs that come out on the cozy summer nights, where the neighbors all gossip with Coors for the gents and wine for the ladies, and you’ll see their grandkids run around them and through their front yards trying to catch fireflies, and later you’ll see them come inside for some of grandma’s delicious spaghetti, where she uses large chunks of beef and half-cut linguine, and you’ll see the grandkids laugh at how papa pronounces it Ohia and not Ohio, and the next morning you’ll see him bring back Boston crème and pink-frosted donuts for grandkids who don’t need them, and when they crash after the sugar high you’ll see them driven back to their parents’ house right down the road, just waiting for the next time they can go back to papa and grandma’s, and when they do it’ll be the next weekend or at a holiday party, where you’ll see the house packed to the brim, exchanges of how’ve ya been? and a façade of friendliness between the aunts and uncles and cousins, but you’ll also see mom and dad preach to their kids on the ride home about what it means to really be a family, and how you should actually raise your kids, and how the family would fall apart without their grandparents, and you’ll see this cycle repeat every year, through the neverending winter snow and the cozy summer nights of Michigan, but then you’ll see tensions slowly rise when one of the aunts comes to Easter looking sickly thin, and you’ll see papa appearing both unnerved and anxious when he too begins to look the same way, all the while the family doesn’t want to address the two elephants in the room, and you’ll see the kids and the grandkids not look upon the house in the same way once grandma sells the Chevys because she can’t look at them without crying, and years later you’ll see my mom and dad and the rest of my family trying to clean the house out once it loses its other passenger, and I’ll stand in the driveway, giving it one last look, and even though I can still come by and remember the cinnamon roll Pop-Tarts on Sunday morning and driving around on the mini motorcycle in the too small backyard, I can never really go back to the house on Grandon Street.
About the Author
Jonathan Mann · Hope College
Jonathan was born and raised in Michigan, and is a graduate of Hope College. He is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Butler University in Indianapolis, where he writes speculative and historical fiction. He enjoys reading; however, he doesn’t enjoy looking at his ever-growing reading list. This piece first appeared in Opus.
About the Artist
Effie Jia · Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Effie recently graduated from MIT, where she studied design and architecture. She loves to build things, draw, travel, hike, garden, and make Spotify playlists. Her interests range from fabrication to sustainability to literature and more; she is curious about everything. This piece originally appeared in the September 2020 issue of plain china.