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  • Writer's pictureStuart Docherty

On the Deliberation of Value

Tetsudou watched soap swirl around the drain, the bubbles clogging all the holes. He raised the shower head above him one more time and let the warm water wash over him, flushing the last of the suds away.

“I am Tetsudou Eiyou,” he said to himself, walking towards the bathtub, “and I will be champion.” He sank into the bath, pleased with the rush of water that cascaded over the edge as he did so.

Though he was close, he was not the champion yet. That would be determined tomorrow. But, with the benefit of planning and certain agreements, his statement was more than just bravado. These things were never explicit, not among the other sumo, but concessions had been agreed upon, assurances made. 

Tetsudou rubbed the wooden rim of the bathtub, enjoying the slick, slimy feel of the old wood under his hand, warped and swollen through years of washes. He sank lower and stretched his feet out in front of him, feeling the water rise up to his chin; he closed his eyes and allowed himself a small smile. 

“Will you be proud of it?” a voice said. 

“Who said that? Who’s there?” Tetsudou opened his eyes and looked around the bathhouse. He was still alone, and the voice had come from inside the room. 

“Can you even call it a victory?” the voice said again.  

  This time, Tetsudou could tell it came from the same bath he was in. He looked across the water, over the bulbous parts of his body that bobbed up and down on the surface. 

“Show yourself, coward.” Tetsudou let the anger in his voice show. 

“How can you call me such a thing, when it is I that defends your heart?” 

“Ignore him,” said another voice. “We all know that victory is gained on the front foot and I am always the aggressive side. You always attack with your right side.” 

Tetsudou scanned the water again, seeking the speakers. 

“Down here, you lummox.” 

There, on each of his breasts (long ago he had become comfortable enough with his anatomy to refer to them in such a way), was a mouth. 

“Plus, you are right-handed, clearly I am the more valuable side,” the right breast said. “What you are doing, will do, is not only logical, but fair. All of the others play this same game; shame on you that you did not commit to it sooner.” 

“Such garbage. Can it even come from the same body?” Left responded. “What you are doing will taint you for longer than you know. Surely you know this, Tetsudou?” 

Tetsudou stared down at his breasts, both floating on the surface of the water, both smooth and shiny. He glanced up at the temperature gauge, worried he was experiencing some heat-induced psychosis. But no, the water was not especially hot.

“How are you...?” 

“You have an opportunity to redeem yourself. But the cost will be great. Either abandon the match tomorrow or throw it yourself,” Left said. 

“Awful, awful advice,” Right said. “First, we must fight honourably, now we should meekly give it all up when the spoils are within reach? Just think of the consequences. If you do that, we’ll never get near the top again. It’s basically over. And don’t you think someone will want some recompense, their pound of flesh?” 

Tetsudou could not form a sentence and could not yet talk to his body parts with ease. 

“Just think about it,” Right continued, “this is our chance at glory, maybe even the last. You are not a young man anymore. Do you want to be forgotten? To go down as another sap who couldn’t cut it at the top? The rest of them do the same damn thing, and you know it. We’ve fought for years, amicably, and what has it got us? You saw, just last year, when Noriba fell from the stage?” 

“You have no right to bring him into this,” Left responded. “His death was a tragedy.” 

“A tragedy of the poxy rules we have to compete under. Why wasn’t there any damn paramedics? Where is the damn honour in that?” 

“That’s completely different, and you know it.” 

“It still stands. There is no honour in this sport, only glory.” 

Tetsudou was certain his left breast tutted as the conversation paused. The falling water grew loud and cacophonous. When he tried to grip the wood around the tub, his fingers slipped and he could not hold on. He felt down for the base of the tub with one foot but could not find it. A terror took hold of his heart. 

“You know what you have to do,” Left said. 

“The only sensible thing, of course,” Right responded.

The door opened and the coach poked his head through the doorway. “Come, Tetsudou, it is time for supper. You should not stay in here too long, lest you tire yourself out. Tomorrow will be busy.” The trainer winked, grinning, and closed the door.

Tetsudou floundered, wrenching himself out of the bath and onto the cold, wet floor. When he stood, heaving his considerable frame, and looked down at his chest, the mouths had both disappeared. He moved to the shower and allowed the water to run over his head. Scrub as hard as he could, he could not remove the slimy feel from his skin.


Stuart is a British writer and poet based in Tokyo, where he writes, eats too much, and pretends to speak Japanese. You can find his work at ergot., Calliope, and Black Hare Press.


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