Ten Days of Cleanup

Hiroko Houki, the proprietor of the cleaning business, Souji RS, reluctantly agrees to take on a mysterious client who wants her to clear out his storage unit. However, it’s the middle of the pandemic, and Hiroko’s usual recipients of used items—thrift stores—are closed. It turns out some of the items have historic value and Hiroko attempts to return them to various previous owners or their descendants, sometimes with disastrous results. 

Ten Days of Cleanup is a 12-chapter serial story published exclusively on Discover Nikkei. A new chapter will be release on the 4th of each month.

Read Chapter One

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Chapter Twelve—The Reveal

I was familiar with the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena. It was where my ex, Stewart, taught some art classes in a conference room which overlooked a courtyard and a Chinese garden. I was amazed when Stewart first took me there. In the middle of a large boulevard in Pasadena was a re-creation of a Chinese imperial palace. What was it doing here, of all places? I learned that it had been commissioned in the 1920s by an antiques dealer, Grace Nicholson, who collected Native American art as well as artifacts from Asia. 

At first I wasn’t going to go …

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Chapter Eleven—Sparkling Sea

I stood in front of the open storage unit, my hands on my hips. I felt like I was an Olympic athlete who had accomplished a marathon or swim relay race. All I had done was clear out a full container at EZ Storage. Well, almost cleared it out. There was still one bag in the corner. Sycamore, my daughter, was at my side, as she had been through this whole project. Today was Saturday, one day before the last day of May 2020, our deadline. Would we complete our project a day before our established deadline? I had already …

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Chapter Ten—Smell the Roses

I found the e-mail for my client, Ryan Stone, and began typing him a message. 

Dear Mr. Stone:

I know that I’m two days away from my deadline to clear out your storage unit. I’m close to finishing but I regret that I’ll have to drop the project.

You can imagine that attempting a project of this size during a pandemic is quite a challenge. I’m discovering that it has been a strain on me and my daughter.

I know under the provisions of our agreement, if I break the contract, I will owe you $5,000. Since I’ve done almost …

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Chapter Nine—Hurricane Popcorn Days

“Mom, we need to make some hurricane popcorn.” 

My daughter Sycamore and I had designated Thursday our movie night. We watched animation, most recently old episodes of Dragon Ball, the Japanese version from my childhood when I was Sycamore’s age. I was amazed how all these streaming channels could resurrect old shows from the past.

It was strange to see the episodes again as a mother. The protagonist, the monkey-tailed Goku, seemed too naughty at times. What was I teaching my 10-year-old daughter? On the other hand, the colors and the old-school animation delighted me, transporting me back to …

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Chapter Eight—Zip A Dee Doo Dah

I couldn’t believe it, but we could now see the back of the storage unit. Well, at least one corner. We had only five days to go before I had to completely empty it out. 

Next was a black box. My daughter Sycamore and I had come prepared with a box cutter and I carefully guided the blade along the center seam. We flipped open the flaps. Bubble wrap. A lot of it. Whatever was inside must be fragile.

Sycamore dipped her head in and came up with her hands full. “Look at these mini-records.”

“Those are 45s.” I knew …

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camellias descanso garden Fiction fiction JACCC JANM Kenji Liu Miyosaku Uyematsu Morio Hayashida Motown music Naomi Hirahara naomi hirahara pasadena poetry Suzee Ikeda umeya