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Spencer Williams IV

The President  

What grave beauty! What azureous chrysanthemums lined the

overcast-colored walkways of Kelly’s state-funded university! How 

he bowed his head like a child of the Dark Ages whose parents sent
him unwillingly to monastery, the reluctant monks later clamoring
over ancient stone walls! How he clutched his brand new smooth
and reflective textbooks to his chest (Schulers’ Calculus, Octavio
Zieglers’s Spirit of the Times: World History from the Beginning to
the Middle Ages and his personal bibles: Ken Kuroiwa’s Hajimemashite: A Guide to Contemporary Japanese plus the workbook) like
a heart-shield, like his sole recourse to protection from the sea of
people that fight to get theirs at any cost to others’ well-being. They
were hardback (except the workbook) wooden breastplates pressed
against his sternum so as to deflect, or at least obscure the progression of, the soul-splitting arrows fired from what at first glance
seemed to be his fellow compatriots, but whom he knew would
lampoon him if they figured his demise would help propel them
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towards glory. At one point, it seemed to Kelly that charm would
last forever and you could always find good favor with good people.
There was no way that that was a realistic view of what was to come.
If you did not make good with some privileged or at least hardworking clique, you were done for.
What fire leaves dive-bombed from the dying and rebirthing oaks! What translucence they provided to his keen eye as he
scanned the pebbled and wood-chipped concrete squares that led
like a red velvet mat straight to Alley Hall where he was to conduct
Thursday afternoon’s Japan Club meeting! Sam was not able to make
it that day due to a sudden overtime shift her manager at Abe’s East
Asian Cuisine asked her to do from four to eight, phoning her that
morning (as she duly relayed to Kelly, only some ten minutes after
she had been informed), forcing Kelly to clutch his landline phone’s
blue plastic neck a little harder than he may have otherwise. Sam
was blonde and her eyes were blue and often very wide. Her white
skin glowed beneath aeneous silken hairs that grew a hilariously
conspicuous mustache on her upper lip and covered grey blemishes
on her arms. Her gaze was hypnotic.

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She would not be there so he was tasked with running the show
instead. Today they were to induct a slew of new members who had
emailed Sam early in the week. They were Justin, Bobby, Jordan,
Dan, George, Remi, and Paul. Sam forwarded their names to Kelly
and he wrote them down. It was splendid to have more people join
the club. He did not think that any of the new members came from
the Japanese language courses. Japan Club members tended to either come from those courses or they were Liberal Arts majors on
the Asian Studies track.
They must have been successful getting the word out about
their group through the online student newsletters and the cork billboards that randomly adorned building walls. Sam designed their
flyers. They were light yellow and had a picture of 2-D drawn middle-aged Japanese men with leaves for underwear shouting “Yatta!”
in jagged katakana, all of which Sam drew herself. Early 21st-century
sensation Happa-Tai (roughly, “leaf corps”, or maybe even “leaf party” [party, as in a group of people], but ultimately “Green Leaves”)
never ceased to amuse their tiny group and almost every session of
Japan Club ended with relishing the great mirth the song brought
to them. It was not uncommon for Riley, one of the founding mem3

bers, to insist showing new members the song’s Flash-animated parody video. Today’s meeting would surely hold no exception.
And so, Kelly ascended Alley Hall’s brick steps with his eyes
consistently pointed downwards as he pondered his awkward situation of seeing terror in what should have made him see hope. Was
Sam not a gorgeous human being? Did she not singly embody the
reason why their kind was classified as homo sapiens sapiens, the
doubly smart hominids that decided to screw (perhaps physically
screw indeed, if not outright kill) their Neanderthal brethren in the
name of less hairy skin, more forward facing eyes, and frontal lobes
of larger capacity and utility? Did she not convince him of hope for
personkind and did he not see in her anti-evolutionary tactics like
compassion, teaching for free, trust in random strangers, and an
unwavering commitment to the Catholic faith? These characteristics can certainly get in the way of personal conquest, but then again
they can also be advantageous, he thought while taking the front
entrance’s immediate first left down the marble-tiled hallways and
entered the second carpeted room on his right.
Inside, several girls sat in desks. He stopped right in his tracks
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at the classroom’s doorway fearing that he had entered the wrong
one by mistake. The crowd of young women had been talking to
each other rather loudly and abruptly fell silent right after noticing
him. He stepped out, tip-toeing backwards and looked at the gold
plated room number directly above the door. “87”, it said. This was
certainly the right room and besides, the walk to that location was
familiar and intimate. There was just no way he was at the wrong
place.
He entered the room this time and set his books down near a
table next to the podium, both made of wood. He then approached
the podium and slowly uttered, “Eh…. Konnichiwa…”
“Konnichiwa!” the group responded in unison and then
laughed. One young woman covered her mouth.
“I… or…” Kelly began, scanning the small classroom. Everyone sat in wooden chairs with miniature desk space attached to the
chairs by hollow metal bars. The legs were also made of metal. Most
of the girls were leaning towards the lectern either grabbing the
front of the flat desks or their hands were folded. A perm-haired girl
whose skin was something of a cocoa butter color looked confused
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and was sucking her knuckles faintly.
“Um…” she started, “I thought… wasn’t Sam… is it Sorbet? Sam
Sorbet, isn’t she Japan Club’s president?”
“Are you…” He pointed towards everyone with both hands and
his arms flailed like wild antennae. “Are you all here for Japan Club?”
“Hai!” they all shouted once again in unison. Kelly couldn’t help
but to crack up along with them this time. He held on to the table
with one hand while bent over. He stood back up with a giant grin
on his face and took a few seconds to catch his breath before continuing.
“But… alright, I have a list here… I have in my hands…” He
laughed again. “Or I guess I have in my pocket, a list of all known…
Hold on, there.” From his pocket, he pulled out a sheet of very clean
paper folded in fourths. On it, were the names of the new members
he was expecting. He unfolded the paper and saw their names in
dark pencil that had indented the sheet on the other side. Smudge
marks backgrounded a few of their names where he had written
down the wrong letters by mistake, or where he wrote first and last
names too close together and decided to space them. He had even
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written katakanized versions of their names, just in case anyone was
curious.
“Let’s see…” he said while peering through his list. “I was expecting a Justin?”
“Yeah, that’s me,” said a dark-brown haired obviously Caucasian girl. She wore ragged jeans that appeared to fit tight around her
thighs and then splayed out near her shins like bell-bottoms. She
raised her hand to indicate herself and the cyan-colored bracelet
of large plastic beads fell down from her wrist and caught halfway
down her arm. Her face was flat and looked as if it was drawn on
her. Black eye-shadow surrounded her already intense brown almost
pupil-less eyes. Her lips were also dark and chalky. Powder was on
her face.
“You’re…” Kelly almost let out another laugh, then thought better of it, but finally chuckled anyway. “There’s no way you’re Justin.”
“Oh, I’m Justin,” she insisted. “But yeah, I know. You don’t meet
a lot of girls named Justin. It’s usually Justine or some shit, but—”
Once again, everyone in the room laughed.

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“But yeah… Here I am. So, this is Japan Club, right?”
“Yes, it definitely is. Sam, she’s the president but she was called
into work, so we’re not going to be seeing her tonight. So, instead,
you’ve got the Deputy President. But anyway… hold on…” He examined his list.
“I also thought a… Bobby Vasquez would be here?”
“Yep, she’s right here,” said a short maroon-haired peach-colored girl who might have been Hispanic. Only a month ago had he
seen a bizarre little movie with a young Mayan gentleman who held
an older Mexican professor and little child hostage with a rifle and
called them both white. She was sitting upright in her seat and had
been flipping the desk portion of it up and down several times on
the hinges since Kelly walked in, and surely many times before he
entered. Her hair frayed out from her head in a similar fashion to
Justin’s bell-bottom pants. Light brown freckles marked her cheeks.
“Seriously, you’re Bobby?”
“You know it. Short for Roberta.”
He looked down at his list of names and then looked up at the
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people in the room.
“So…Remi?”
A clearly Japanese girl raised her hand. She wore a men’s kimono: drab gray with a thin black sash.
“Are you—”
“Eeto…” she interrupted him. “Gomen nasai ga… (I’m sorry
but…) Eigo o sukoshi dake dekirundesu… (It’s just that I can only
speak a little English…)”
“I— or—Hontoo? (Really?) Nihonjin no da? (You’re Japanese?)”
“Mochiron! (Of course!) ‘Nihon no kurabu’ to iu kara… (It’s
called ‘Japan Club’, so…[I assumed that…])”
“Ee, demo minna wa nihongo no kurasu o totte inai (Yes, but
not everyone [here] is taking Japanese language class). Sore kara…
or, I’m sorry. Does anyone speak enough to understand what we’re
saying here?”
Everyone looked at each other and then shook their heads.
“Well… that’s no problem at all. This club was actually intended

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for people who were up for learning more about the culture since the
Japanese Student Association was mostly dealing with people who
wanted help learning the language. We get a lot of people from the
language class anyway. Although today appears to be an exception,
which is totally fine. And I’m not sure where our other officers are.
But what I’m confused about is… is there a Dan Hershey here?”
A girl with a large scarred nose and what Kelly had come to call
dirty-blonde hair rose her hand.
“I… see… And, I’m sure that, somehow, George is also present?”
A younger girl with hair that was so blonde it was almost white
shot her hand into the air. Her sandals had very thick heels and
looked rubbery. She wore lipstick that was precisely penciled.
“Wow… and what might George be short for?”
“Well,” she said, uncrossing her legs, “my friends like to call me
George of the Jungle.”
Kelly nodded. “Right. Due to your… savage appearance, I’m
guessing?”
This elicited a chortle which she stifled with a fist to her mouth.
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“Yes, that and I’m known to swing from trees and forgo showers for
weeks at a time!”
Kelly nodded again. “Well, that makes sense. And so in that
case… Paul?”
A young lady dressed in black jeans and a black jean jacket
who, if Kelly had to guess, looked mulatto raised her hand. Her
black hair was long and curly and practically glimmered in the florescent light. She was the one who had asked about Sam.
“Short for Pauline, I’m guessing?”
“Yep.”
“Alright. So you must be Jordan?”
A short, thick lipped and slightly acned lady quickly looked up
and flashed a smile to confirm her presence as she sifted through her
cloth bag on the floor. From it, she produced a large white binder,
slammed it down onto her desk, and flipped through some pages.
Kelly started to feel awkward waiting for a more detailed response
and so he once again scanned the room.
“Well… it’s good to have you all…Or, that is, it’s good to have all
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of you here…”
They stared at him. He was not prepared to present or share
anything. Usually Akiko, another original member, or Riley would
have something planned and insist on talking about some current
fling from Japan. He himself had nothing, he now realized. No other
seasoned members were present to help him. The professor who
sponsored their group was frequently busy and no one expected her
to appear too often, but now he could use some official backup. Any
backup, really. The new members continued to look at him as if they
expected him to do or say something of interest. He had nothing.
Now he felt ashamed for how he had talked earlier, the way he
revealed so much surprise to learn that the people coming today
were women and not men. Why would it matter at all? What was he
expecting and why did he feel some kind of disappointment to be
in a room full of women? Everyone here seemed very good-natured
and easy going, but this did not quell the shame that overtook him
for being so lighthearted with his realization. Had he offended
anyone? Of course not. Look at them. How did he not know Remi
wasn’t too keen on English? He did not recall Sam relaying such cru12

cial information to him. There was something conspiratorial about
the whole thing. Consider Jordan, who still sifted through sheets in
a binder, making him think that she was there to gauge his progress.
It looked as though she was evaluating him through some unknown
yet obvious metric. Surely, it was silly to think that, but he still did.
He looked at everyone again and hoped that he did not portray the
surging fear and self-disgust in his face. He tried to look as expressionless as possible.
Justin leaned towards him in her seat. “Yeah, so. Do we get to
go on, like, field trips or something? Or do you guys, like, show us
stuff? Or what?”
Kelly was paralyzed. He dared not think of Sam again or he
might just run and jump straight through the glass windows behind
his audience.
Jordan now looked up. “Oh, found it.” She turned to face the
group and said, “Sorry, everyone. I was looking for this thing about a
karaoke bar in Denver. It’s like a real karaoke place from Japan where
you rent a room and order drinks. You know, real karaoke where you
can select through a huge, like, thousand-page song book and they
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even have Japan and Korean songs. I went there with my friends last
summer and I swear it’s just like what they have in Tokyo and not
like the American-style ones.” She turned towards Kelly. “Do you
think we could arrange to do something like that?”
“Yeah, that sounds neat!” Roberta answered almost immediately. The other ladies chimed in with agreement.
Paul raised her hand for a split second before immediately
bringing it down and said, “Hey, what about bringing food? I know
how to make mochi now and it’s pretty good. Is it okay if I just bring
in some next time… um… Sorry, I don’t think we learned your name.”
Kelly was still staring out the window. Everyone was talking
again and he wasn’t sure if he was being addressed.
She tapped the shoulder of the pure white-blonde girl in front
of her who turned around. “Hey, what’s his name again?” Pauline
asked her. George shrugged, but then turned to the front and called
out, “Hey, dude!”
This got Kelly’s attention. “What? Yes? Sorry. Yes?”
“What’s your name?”
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“Oh, yeah. Sorry. I’m Kelly. That is… you know… Kelly’s my
name.”
“Paul was asking if we could bring food one day? Maybe next
meeting?”
“Oh, of course,” he said, while motioning to them with his paper. He kept glancing between it and them.
“Hey,” continued George, “are there other people in this group?”
She said this while his mind was enmeshed in his list and so he
once again failed to hear her.
“Hey, Kelly!” She turned back around to Paul and whispered,
“What’s with that dude?” George now waved a hand in front of him
like he was several yards away. “Kelly!”
He returned to earth and gave her a classic deer-in-the-headlights look. “Wow… I’m sorry. I don’t know where my head’s at today.
Did you ask me something just now?”
“Who else is in this group?” she said slowly and with more volume. She pointed down while saying “in this group”.
“That’s a good question. There’s maybe four other people and
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they’re not here today. Other than Sam, I don’t know why. But these
are all good suggestions and no one will oppose them, so yes. Keep it
up…” He returned to his list.
George huddled in towards the new members and said softly,
“‘No one will oppose them’? Is that guy… alright? What’s he looking
at?”
“You know,” said Justin, “I think we kind of freaked him out or
something. We’re anomalies, I guess.”
“Really?” asked George. “Was this a bigger turnout than he was
thinking? Is he bummed that the other people aren’t here? I guess I
don’t get it. I mean, it’s like he’s ignoring us now.”
“Yo, Kelly!” Justin hailed. But he was gone.
“Whoa… Yeah, he’s fled the coop,” she concluded.
Dan Hershey asked, “So, you know, I’ve never done karaoke. To
be honest, it doesn’t really look all that fun—”
“Oh no!” Jordan interrupted. “You haven’t done it for real! I
swear, what they have in Denver is more like the real thing. They
have almost every song there. Every popular one and a lot of, you
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know, obscure ones. And they serve you all the drinks you want! I’ve
gotta take you all there!”
This made the entire room laugh, with the exception of Kelly.
“Wow,” said Dan. “You’ve got this all planned out already! Were
you coming here just to take some people to karaoke with you?”
“Ummm… maybe…”
“Well,” said Bobby, “It worked. Now we have to know what
you’re talking about. And it looks like we have a ride down there.”
“Yeah! Absolutely!”
Unbeknownst to Kelly, the now twice as large Japan Club made
arrangements for their next two weekly meetings and a weekend
trip. He could not tear himself away from the names he had written.
He saw Sam typing all of them up for him in a single column. Her
grimy vanilla keyboard had years of food crumbs stuffed underneath
each key. She clicked “Send”, grabbed her apron, and zipped out the
door. Her apartment was a one bed one bath with tanned carpet and
immaculate white tile. He was once there with her typing up skit
dialogue for the language class and she let him stay in her room after
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she had left for work so he could finish it up. He walked over to her
balcony and saw that it faced west, towards the mountains. He was
barefoot and the concrete floor of the overlook was chilly and spiky
with small rock granules. Tan paint flaked off of the wooden railing
and some of it stuck to his hand.

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