The Girl from Good Mood

Lisa Maguire


The phone line blinked red. Mr. Yoshida knew it was the Inspector. He lifted the receiver carefully, looking straight ahead. He regretted having glass walls installed in his office, originally intended so that he would have full view of the trading room. Every man at every desk knew Yoshida was watching the backs of their pink starched necks. But the traders could also see him in his fishbowl.

"Hai! Sacho-san! Fujiwara des!" the Inspector's voice was young and eager. Mr. Yoshida's throat tightened, but he held his head motionless, still looking ahead. They were watching.

"Yes," he replied in English. This was a trick he'd learned over the years. It threw off the young ones just arrived from Japan and gave him a few moments to gather his thoughts as his junior switched gears into less-than-perfect English.

"Sorry for bothering, but there is derivative trade which I like to discuss. A trade since six months ago—"

"You don't need to tell me details now. We will have a meeting to review it." Mr. Yoshida drew the attention of Miss Sogo with a slight jerk of his chin. She picked up the extension.

"Please make an appointment. I should mention that I am not free at any time tomorrow; I have meetings with the bank examiners." He looked at his wrist and straightened a French cuff. "Perhaps Friday." He did not in fact have any meetings with the examiners, but he needed time to decide what to do. "Hai. Arigato gozaimashita—" the Inspector stammered his thanks and apologies for disturbing him. Yoshida hung up.

He looked at the trading floor. It was late in the afternoon, and the local markets were closed. The American boys—who indeed looked more and more like boys to Mr. Yoshida as each year passed—were relaxing. The young woman who had come around with the coffee cart earlier in the day had been replaced by a junior trader circling with a picnic cooler of beer. The boys threw wadded bits of paper at each other over the rows of computer terminals. They tilted in their chairs. Mr. Yoshida's face fell into hard lines.

Young Wada on the rates desk was looking back at him. Wada cocked an eyebrow at Mr. Yoshida, his usual gentle inquiry if there was anything he could do for him. Mr. Yoshida shook his head slightly, not looking at Wada, and arranged his face into a more congenial expression.

An IM was blinking on his terminal. 11:30 FRI? He did not need to reply. Unless he proposed another time, it would be entered into his calendar. Miss Sogo sat with him in the fishbowl, but they communicated almost exclusively by computer screen. Once a year, he would make a small speech at the company party, thanking her for her hard work throughout the year. In between Christmases, they never spoke.

He guessed Miss Sogo was about thirty. She had flawless skin, wide-set eyes, and a mouth like a plum. He wasn't sure why Miss Sogo had come to work at Ogata Corp. She was already living in New York when she'd applied to be his assistant. Perhaps Miss Sogo had been a Christmas Cake and had come to New York when it became too hard to find a husband at home. "No one wants you after the 25th," he remembered the girls used to say. Two years later, Miss Sogo was still single and appeared to have embraced an accelerated spinsterhood of high fashion—she kept a picture of her Yorkshire terrier on her desk and spent her salary on boiled wool tailleurs and Herm├Ęs scarves—the kind of style that he recognized as favored by Parisian ladies of a certain age.

Drew Schulz, head of the commodities desk, strolled by Mr. Yoshida's glass door. Schulz was popular with junior traders. He circulated pornographic jokes and paid for the afternoon beer. He would often take over the floor's PA system to blast Zulu war chants when the market opened. Schultz's desk generated forty percent of last year's North American profits, so Mr. Yoshida had no choice but to tolerate him.

"Yo-yo-yo...Big Y! The Y-Man! Yo, you want to come out for drinks?"
"No," said Mr. Yoshida, not even feigning consultation of his appointment book.
"K," called out Schulz, continuing on, strumming an air guitar.

At 8:30, Mr. Yoshida closed the last of his files. Even if there was no work to fill those hours at the end of the trading day, to leave earlier would be unseemly. The chief executive should figuratively turn off the lights each night. Mr. Yoshida's black car waited on the Park Avenue side of the building. There was a train, but he was entitled to the car, which did not always take him straight home.

The night air was cool and windless. The Manhattan sky had no stars, but Park Avenue was pocked with lights from the windows of its dark buildings. It felt good to be outdoors. The only part of day that Mr. Yoshida was outside were these few steps from the revolving door to the curb. The buildings on the Avenue always receded behind the traffic during the day, but seemed to pull themselves up to their true height at night, when they looked as immovable as mountains. How did those particular words bubble to the top of his mind? They were on the battle standard of the great daimyo Takeda. Immoveable as a mountain. But there were four slogans. What were...? Silent as...the forest, fierce as...

Mr. Yoshida's musings were interrupted by his driver, who greeted him with a deep bow. It was the Japanese service tonight. The company had Japanese, Korean, and Chinese car services. Mr. Yoshida preferred the Japanese and the Chinese services. The Japanese drivers knew not to speak to him, and the Chinese drivers knew no English or Japanese. The Korean service employed American-born drivers who did not know enough to stay silent on the trip to Scarsdale and often drove recklessly.

Tonight, alone with his thoughts, Mr. Yoshida considered the trade that the Inspector was so eager to discuss. He knew which trade it was. In fact, he'd been waiting for this call for months and it was almost a relief it had come today. He still had to think of the best strategy to close the matter.

It started the day of that Wada indignity, when Mr. Yoshida opened his mail in the morning and found a thick pink card among the interoffice envelopes. It had not been opened by Miss Sogo, since it looked personal. It looked like an invitation. He picked up his letter opener and slit open the seam where it was sealed with clear pink tape. Someone had scrawled unevenly with a silver calligraphy pen. The letters were large and round.

"Hiro-san," it read.
We loved our evening with you!!!
You sing like Tony Bennett!!!
Please visit again soon!!!

The message was covered with bright pink and red lipstick kisses. Wada had been getting similar letters—and was even taking phone calls from the girls at Good Mood—against Yoshida's advice. Mr. Yoshida had already reprimanded the mama-san about this. Although the Ogata Corp employees gave out their cards at the club, Mr. Yoshida had made it clear that the phone numbers were not for the girls to use. What Wada did in his free time was his own business, but the trading floor was a sacred battlefield.

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Issue 4

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