Fast Fiction: Japanese Baseball and Midnight Day Trading

Hello everyone,

It’s time again for another pre-scheduled blog post of fast fiction from my monthly writers group’s warming up exercises. For more on the whole premise, check out this post. In the meantime, here’s a quick recap of what this is all about:

Rule #1: These pieces of fast fiction were generated from a prompt chosen at random during one of my monthly writers’ group meetings. I will label that prompt at the top and where I use it in the prose.

Rule #2: WordPress allows me a ‘click here to read the rest of the story’ break, and that will be used before the fast fiction begins in earnest so people browsing through this blog are not overwhelmed.

Rule #3: The prose of the fast fiction shall be transcribed from my handwriting accurately: Line breaks, grammar, punctuation, spelling, what-have-you. The point of showing a 10- or 15-minute first draft is saying what you tried to do in that time, so what does editing really get me? The very rare changes I really do deem necessary shall be noted with an asterisk and an apologetic explanation at the end.

Rule #4: After the fast fiction I will include a few sentences about my first thoughts of the prompt. These entries are less about the actual prose and more about the exercise as a whole. Post-gaming that exercise will be a big part of the end result.

Rule #5: I have all these posts set up to go out through Twitter. If I’m going to queue up twenty or so of them into the distant future, I will schedule them to go out at 3 am on a Sunday. I reserve the right to reschedule these posts based on other things that should take priority on this blog.

And that’s it. Here we go.


Did it bother him that I was indifferent to his nighttime activities, even repelled by them?

Men find odd hobbies in their middle years.

No, let me qualify that: Some men, odd men, find odd hobbies in their middle years.

My husband was one of those odd men.

Now George had always been a strange duck in our family pond. As newlyweds he would set an alarm each morning to announce the minute before the coming sunset, and whatever he was doing when the alarm rang –even me– he would drop without ceremony and run outside to admire the sky in its moment of glory.

In his thirties he took up slot car racing and bingo with the old men and women of the nearby retirement home. He only gave it up in his forties when he discovered his new passion:

Day trading on the Nikkei, the Japanese stock market.

Now let me qualify that for a moment: When I say day trading, I mean exactly that. Day trading. The funny thing about day trading on the Nikkei, though, is it happens in the middle of the night.

Instead of an alarm for sunset or an alarm to hang out with Mortimer and Eleanor after the early bird special wrapped up, now George set his alarm for the opening bell of the Nikkei, a stock exchange in Tokyo.

As crazy as that sounds, the crazier thing was he made a lot of money on it!

You see George had a system: Japanese baseball. George would read the box scores of yesterday’s Japanese ball games, figure out which town’s sports fans had had a wild night of drinking, figure out which companies had their offices in those towns, and then short the stock the next day.

And it worked.

It worked so well George quit his day job and became a nocturnal day trader, waking when other people went to bed, having opinions about Japanese pitchers and catchers and designated hitters, and trading against the worst hangovers the Japanese Ziabatsu –the business titans– could muster.
Did it bother him that I was indifferent to his nighttime activities, even repelled by them?

No, of course not. George thought only of his latest passion to the point where sometimes he would leave me grocery shopping lists written in Kanji.

Still, I couldn’t really complain. As midlife crises go, George was a peach: Read the baseball scores that happened half a world away and bet the winners’ fans had a bad day ahead of them? That’s not a terrible vice.

No hookers, no blow, no fast cars.

No, just baseball and the stock market with a thick Japanese accent, and most of it happened while I was sleeping anyway.

Then one day George shook me awake to tell me the good news: Osaka had beaten Kyoto in the 18th inning. He was going to be able to take me on a second honeymoon!

I was very very excited until he announced triumphantly, “Spring training is in Kyushu this year. We’ll be able to see the cherry blossoms!”

That’s when I told George Sayonara. I figure he can afford to pay me all the alimony I want, and I will not have to choke down anymore green tea or sushi ever again…

Note: As weird as this one is, it actually came to me very easily and naturally. I’ve mentioned in some of the other writing exercises that I’m a little squeamish about trying to write a first draft involving passion in just ten or fifteen minutes and then share it with my writers’ group. So when I heard the prompt, I immediately went looking for something else a man might do that could be described as ‘nighttime activities’ that would fail to impress a narrator. As luck would have it, I have a friend who went on a hot streak gambling on baseball and began applying his system to the Japanese league. He was literally gambling on games he would never watch based on some metrics that he believed would be universal among all baseball games anywhere. It was interesting, and a little weird, and then it occurred to me he didn’t actually stay up to watch the games, so where did the ‘nighttime activities’ come in? That’s when I added the wrinkle about day trading based on the baseball game results.

I peppered the thing with a few Japanese words and places I could manage off the top of my head: The Ziabatsu, the Nikkei, Kanji, Osaka, Kyoto, Kyushu. On the whole, it was very well received by the group.

The weakest part, to me, is the ending. I knew I had 30 seconds left, so I dashed off sayonara and sushi and green tea for the sake of a conclusion. With five more minutes, I could have done more, but isn’t that true of all of these exercises?

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