Chapter 4 – Phone Calls
Silence. When I answered the phone, all I was greeted with was silence. “Hello?” I asked.
There was a shuffling of paper and what sounded like the clicking of computer keys. Whoever was on the other end shifted the phone and took a deep breath as if they were psyching themselves up. “Nakamura-san?” asked a deep voice.
“Yes, speaking,” I said slowly.
“I am Sato Daichi from Shinto Shrine Publishing,” the voice continued.
“Oh, Mr. Sato, thank you for calling. I was very excited to receive your email.”
“Ah, yes… thank you for responding so quickly,” he said hesitantly. I heard a murmur of whispered voices on the other end of the phone. “We very much enjoy your comic. Would you like…” Daichi paused and mumbled something. “Would you be interested in translating and publishing your comic in one of our monthly magazines?”
“Yes, I would, but my Japanese isn’t good enough to do translations,” I explained carefully.
The voice on the other end of the phone picked up in tone and the speaker switched to Japanese. “Ah, I was not aware that you spoke Japanese. That’s better,” Daichi stated in relief.
I carefully processed what he was saying and did my best to formulate a response both polite and understandable. “I can only speak a little Japanese. I grew up in the United States. My father is Japanese but my mother is not. My father worked many hours so I didn’t learn or practice speaking or reading Japanese as much as I did English.” I kept my sentences short and simple because I didn’t trust my ability to dive into more complex conversation.
“I understand,” he said, reassuring me. “We would need twenty-five pages a month. If you use your team for art, the pay is higher than if you use our art team. You will need to hire your own translator since you live overseas. We will run three months of your comic. If fans respond favorably, we will offer you a contract for a longer period of time. Do you understand?”
I was quiet for a long time as my sleepy brain did its best to process all the information. “Do any of the pages need to be in color?” I finally asked… or at least tried to.
Daichi seemed to get the gist of what I was asking. “Yes, we need one color lead page a month.”
We spoke for a while longer. He confirmed they would send me all the details, including pay, in an email. I thanked him again for his time and the opportunity before hanging up and immediately calling Nate.
“Did they call?” He didn’t even bother with a “Hey Jordan.”
“Why else would I call you at this hour?” I answered in a mix of exasperation and excitement.
“So what?” I asked.
“Did they make the offer? Are you going to do it? Details, woman! Aren’t you the one that always insists on the details?” Nate demanded.
“They are sending me all the details in an email. Once Mr. Sato found out I spoke some Japanese, that was all he spoke. I did my best to keep up but I was a bit overwhelmed,” I admitted.
“What happens if he sends all the details in Japanese with no English translation?” he finally asked.
“Then I guess I will call Yuki. He translates for a living. He would probably help us out.”
“You could call Dad?”
“Ha! Yeah, and listen to the lecture that men are not going to want to marry me if I do nothing but write stories and read manga. Do you remember when he told me that was why all my boyfriends in high school and college broke up with me?”
“And then I told him that you cosplaying all those scantily clad characters was why they dated you in the first place?” Nate laughed. “Man, I thought his head was going to explode. It was so funny.”
I cleared my throat. “Anyway, I don’t think involving Dad at this point is necessary.”
“If you say so,” he agreed. “So, are you going to move to Japan?”
“Why does everyone keep thinking that mangaka make enough that I could move to Japan?” I asked.
“Because Japanese mangaka afford to live there… well, except for all the ones living in Korea, but you get what I’m saying.”
“I have a job here,” I insisted.
“Yeah, that offers no benefits because they’re keeping you part-time. You can code anywhere in the world. Move to Tokyo! Get a two bedroom so I can visit!” Nate continued to babble but I stopped listening.
“Maybe, if we make it through the three month trial, I will consider it. What about you?”
“What about me?” Nate asked carelessly.
“You’re the actual artist.”
“They were your character designs. I just did what you told me to. This is your baby. I just help you out because it’s fun.”
“So I can move to Tokyo, but you can’t?” I asked.
“Not can’t, I won’t move to Japan. I will totally be down for visiting as often as I can, though.”
“How is that fair?” I argued.
“Look, I’m like Dad. I like American girls. I’m not going to find a good American girl if I live in Japan.”
“Dad did,” I retorted as I remembered my parents’ cute little love story.
“You’re never going to settle down, so you should go have an adventure. See the world. Make manga!”
“What do you mean, I will never settle down?” I took a few calming breaths. “What is it with the men in this family thinking the only key to a happy life is a ring on my finger and a bun in my oven?”
I heard a choking sound on the other end of the phone that spluttered into laughter. “I never once thought your happiness was dependent on finding a guy. I definitely never implied anything about you having kids. Quit putting all that on me. I was just saying that you are a free spirit and I don’t see you settling down. I don’t think you are incapable of it, I just don’t see it as something you actively want.” He tried to explain himself quickly, in hopes of avoiding my wrath.
“And you do?”
“Yes,” Nate answered simply.
We ended up talking for another hour before we realized that if we wanted to function at work we really needed to get more sleep. I hung up the phone reluctantly and opened my inbox. Sure enough, there was an email outlining the entire agreement… or at least, that’s what I think it did. They didn’t include a translation this time.
I made it to work by the skin of my teeth, just in time to slide into my seat seconds before Molly strolled into the meeting room with a latte in one hand and her phone in the other.
The meeting was pretty much what it always was. She gave us, the programmers and engineers, a list of deadlines she expected us to meet. We, one by one, explained why those deadlines were going to go whipping by unmet, as politely as we could. Then, when she left the room, we all rolled our eyes and spent another ten minutes devising a plan on how to best get the most work done we could in the allotted amount of time. Management here never seemed to understand how things worked.
I stopped for a cup of coffee before heading to my desk to get things started. When I finally finished my tasks for the morning, I paused long enough to forward Yuki the email I had received the night before. I rolled my eyes knowing that it would no doubt end in a call where he told me I was getting too old for all of this “crap”.
When lunch finally rolled around, I was hungry enough to eat my keyboard. I grabbed my bag and was headed for my car when a twinkling sound from my phone stopped me. I tugged it out of my coat pocket.
Hey, we need to talk about what you sent me. Let’s grab lunch, I’m already here.
I blinked at the message. Quickly my fingers moved over the screen.
Just hurry up and come outside.
I’ll buy you a taco
Burrito, and you’re paying!
I shoved my phone back into my pocket and pushed open the heavy door that led to employee parking. Sitting directly in front of the door was an expensive-looking black sports car. The window rolled down, revealing a handsome guy who had the face of my childhood best friend Itsuo, but I knew it wasn’t him. It couldn’t be. “Get a new car, Yuki?”
“Yes ma’am, now hurry up and get in. We have a lot to talk about.”