Book Review

Before The Coffee Gets Cold | Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Before The Coffee Gets Cold

Toshikazu Kawaguchi | Geoffrey Trousselot (translator)

“The present doesn’t change.” — Toshikazu Kawaguchi

The word “coffee” is in the title — I require no other justifications to read the book. I was not disappointed.

The book is divided into four episodic stories happening in a basement cafe, Funiculi Funicula. A lady who wishes to understand why her lover is leaving her, a wife who wonders about the message her husband is planning to give to her, a sister who wants to talk to her dead sister one last time after avoiding her for years and the cafe owner’s sick wife who seeks to meet her unborn daughter.

The problem? They are unable to circumvent what happens in the present and they must follow a long list of rules in order to time-travel successfully and return to the present safely. And through all these, the waitress Kazu serves them coffee in that one and only seat which fulfils their wishes.

Personally, I enjoy how the four short stories unfold. Kawaguchi expanded a simple idea into a short story using simple language. Nothing fanciful, nothing earth-shattering, nothing convoluted. Just four stories of people time-travelling in a cafe without the complicated laws of physics to distract me with a world of “what ifs”.

I also particularly like the way Kawaguchi describes the setting of the cafe, as well as the colourful characters in the cafe. No character is a simple star in their own story and they continue to appear in each other’s story. The cast is assembled neatly into the cafe. For me, this narrative technique brings the stories to life. I can almost envision myself in the cafe, observing the events as they happen.

And of course, the quote perfectly summarises the book in its entirety. Despite the time-travelling element in the book, it is never about going to the past or future to change the present. It is also never about inspiring or being inspired to become a better person.

It is simply about making peace with the present.


Four Walls and A Roof

Crimson’s Creative Challenge #180 | Crispina Kemp

The tourists marvelled at the historical cathedral as they listened to the guide’s explanation. “Built in 1807, this building has witnessed disasters, plagues and wars and withstood the passing of time. Of course, every region has its own stories and what good is a cathedral without any vampire stories?”

Everyone laughed at the offhand joke.

“Well, as it turned out, there were stories, not of vampires but of werewolves,” the guide continued. “It was rumoured that there was a colony of werewolves living at the edge of the forest, stealing into a nearby village for food, and worse, for women. And it is rumoured that finally, the villagers had enough so one night, all the womenfolk would hide in a cathedral while the menfolk fought with the werewolves outside the cathedral. This is the very cathedral, people.”

The group was hushed after the story.

“Well, moving on…” the guide’s voice trailed off as he led the group away from the cathedral.

But the ending to the story? The werewolves never died – they could never die, granted with immortality. So they were imprisoned instead, in the deepest part of the cathedral for 200 years.

Prompt: Crimson’s Creative Challenge #180

dream of a storyteller

Tien, Singapore (2020)

I dream a little dream — a secret dream of being a storyteller — to spread open a blank paper of possibilities and bring fantasy into reality. I wish to wander with ideas in the day and chase the words down at night; to give vibrant voices to silent thoughts; to create pleasure in mundane. I wish to poet the painful wisdom of maturity; to fiction fake worlds of memories; to weave the fabric of life with tapestries of experiences.

Let me live a life of a storyteller — translating thousands of lives with my pen and paper. No more weariness of a workhorse trudging through long murky road. Let me live a life of a storyteller — transcribing tragedies into comedies with happy endings. No more slavery of a worker ant circling the debris of what could not be whole again. Let me live a life of a storyteller — scripting merciful deaths to despair and despondency.

No more scavenging of a worker bee in the wild reporting to the beehive at the command of a whimsical queen bee. No more shod ox ploughing fields or shackled elephant performing in a circus. No. I shall be pleased with the precious lifeline of writing my time away.

So let me live a life of a storyteller.

Book Review

The Cat Who Saved Books | Sosuke Natsukawa

The Cat Who Saved Books

Sosuke Natsukawa | Louise Heal Kawai (translator)

“Unless it is opened, a book possessing great power or an epic story is a mere scrap of paper.” — Sosuke Natsukawa

I shall be brutally honest: I bought this book because of the picture of a cat and some books on the cover. And I did not regret my arbitrary decision. It was fascinating.

The book is structured in an episodic manner and begins with the aftermath of the death of the protagonist’s grandfather. Deeply affected, Rintaro, the protagonist, has yet to fully process and accept this fact, trapped in his memory of his grandfather’s knowledge and love for books. Until a talking cat suddenly appears in front of him.

This is when Rintaro’s adventures start as he travels through four labyrinths with the cat as his guide and his classmate, Sayo, who cannot stand him being withdrawn from everyone. Rintaro is also forced to draw on his courage and memory of his grandfather during his journey through the labyrinths. Each labyrinth is an allegory about different types of readers, challenging Rintaro’s perspective and love towards books.

A reader who reads to impress but not to enrich, an academic who reads for the gist but not enjoying the process, a publisher who cares about profits but not literary preservation and a lady who reads so much her perception of reading is warped. Rintaro converses with them to understand their rationales and expresses his opinions regarding their actions as well.

What I enjoy about this book is neither the defence of reading nor the relevance of reading in current times. Rather, it is the growth of Rintaro from a shut-in — a hikikomori — into a confident proprietor of a bookshop. The bits and pieces of his introspection, as well as observations of his surroundings and Sayo’s attitude towards him.

While it is not exactly a coming-of-age story, I still find Rintaro’s growth interesting to read — the growth mirrors the despair one faces in the event of a closed one’s death and the resilience of walking out from that shadow. The ending note is what I enjoy most about the book. It is hopeful but not overly optimistic, typical of a slice-of-life genre in which there is no definite answer.


“A what?” I stared my 5-year-old son.

“A hammock,” he repeated impatiently. “For the squirrels.”

I breathed in deeply as I tried to understand his logic. “Why would the squirrels want a hammock?”

“They live in this tree, Daddy! Of course they want a hammock! We have a hammock!” He thrusted his beanie towards me again. “Come on, Daddy! I know they’ll love it!”

I gave up understanding his logic and chose another tack. “You know, Mummy will be angry if you walk home without your beanie.”

I silently apologised to my wife. She would definitely want to talk to me for filling this boy’s head with nonsense, I was sure of it.

“But the squirrels will be happy! Please, Daddy? Please?”

This was so unfair.

That boy knew I could not resist those eyes.

I sighed as I took the beanie and started tying one end of the earflap to the branch I could reach comfortably.


Prompt: Crimson’s Creative Challenge #179


Photo: Tien, Singapore (2022)

when the world basks
in a brilliance
beyond belief
the blossom begins to
suspect simplicity is

to sustain
or to shrivel
or to embrace the sin

blooming by abandoning
shining superficially
of spurious shades

artificial utopia
in natural world


the single blossom
faces a forked tongue

swaying in the breeze

Originally published in Weeds & Wildflowers

Photo Challenge #383

Photo credit Angela Kelly Use the above image as inspiration for a poem or short story. Alternatively, if you are an artist or photographer, use this as an opportunity to showcase your own work. You have 1 week to complete this challenge. Please credit the artist! When you’re done, TAG the post Photo Challenge and […]

Photo Challenge #383

The Day Moon Landed among Flowers

Moon could not understand the concept.

“What do you mean, you just grew?” For all her life, she only knew constancy and changes. Her body changed constantly – things shifted and re-arranged and re-shaped. But mostly, her body remained unchanged, just different.

The concept of things “growing” from her body was alien to her. Not refreshing, simply alien.

Flowers swayed to the rhythm of Wind. “We were Seeds when we were young. Then we took roots to Earth as Rain nurtured us. And now, we are Flowers.”

Moon pondered the words. “So you’re just part of Earth who re-formed from Seeds into Flowers? I can do that too, to re-arrange a part of myself into Flowers, except I don’t have what you call ‘Rain’.”

“No, we’re not part of Earth. We’re quite separate entities.”

Moon struggled with that thought. “My memories are dim but I seemed to remember such an event, when separate entities landed on me. And coincidentally, they are from Earth.” She looked at the flowers hopefully again. “Is that what it means to grow?”

Flowers swayed to the rhythm of Wind again. “No, it’s not. But you’re getting close to the idea,” they congratulated Moon.

“This is confusing,” Moon admitted. “I shall need more time to contemplate on this subject.”

Flowers only swayed in concession to the rhythm of Wind.

“Little separate entities of Earth, I shall consult you on you this subject once more to clarify my understanding,” Moon announced. “Would you mind my visit again? Just give me a year.”

“That depends.”

“On what, Flowers?”

“What do you mean by ‘a year’?”

Crimson’s Creative Challenge #149

Welcome to my weekly challenge—open to all—just for FUN, FUN, FUN Here’s how it works: Every Wednesday I post a photo (this week it’s that one above.) You respond with something CREATIVE Here are some suggestions: An answering photo A cartoon A joke A caption An anecdote A short story (flash fiction) A poem A […]

Crimson’s Creative Challenge #149

When the term “global warming” first appeared, they paid no attention to it. “Good lord, do you know how cold it is where I am? There isn’t any global warming!”

To describe the situation better, the term “climate change” was used. “Nope. Where’s the change?” they challenged. “We still have our four seasons. The erratic weather changes are nothing more than an occurrence that happens in the history of humankind!”

And so they denied the construction of more windmills in an attempt to harness renewable energy and ridiculed the existing structures as false alarm and nothing more than a cry for attention.

They laughed. And laughed. And laughed no more three years later, when ice age hit them and the civilisation they grew up in disappeared.

Now, these structures standing in barren lands only mocked their denial of the plain truth.

Kreative Kue 322

Kreative Kue 320 asked for submissions based on this photograph: SONY DSC John W Howell is a multiple nominated and award-winning author who blogs at Fiction Favorites. Details of John’s books can be found on his Amazon author page Home by John W. Howell © 2021 “We finally made it.” “What did we make.” “I […]

Kreative Kue 322

The Outsider

“…and you’ll be surprised. I mean, just look at the son. You could tell that something is wrong with him, but the school is insisting that her son just needs a bit more time and space to adjust. Sickening. Well, I don’t know about you, but if I were you, I wouldn’t let my children go near her son. In fact, I’m going to talk to the principal to demand for a reason why that child is in the same class as my daughter!”

“Yes, we really need to talk to the principal. You should have seen the way her son just sits quietly in one corner of the class. He doesn’t talk and he doesn’t play with other children. He just stays in that corner and stares at everyone. Who knows what he is thinking?”

“Right, right! The other day, I saw him walking home. He saw me but he didn’t wave or greet me. He just looked at the ground and ran off! What kind of kid is that? And my son wanted to go after him to greet him. Something about the teacher telling everyone in the class to be friendly with him because of one reason or another. Luckily I grabbed him and we went the other way. I was so afraid he would suddenly turn around and come after us!”

“Hmm, I heard she got into trouble in another neighbourhood. Something about fighting with a man and screaming like a crazy woman. And her son was hiding behind some lamp post and crying. Right out in the street! I heard even the police got involved and they carted her and her son to the station.”

“That’s it. I’m talking to the principal today! This can’t wait anymore. Who knows what is going to happen if we don’t act?”




There was a chorus of agreement from the group of women as they reached a consensus. They did not even bother to keep their voices down.

Just around the corner, another woman leaned against the wall, her eyes red.

What had she done to deserve such a life?

She felt someone tug the corner of her shirt and looked down. Her son looked up at her and slipped his hand into hers.

She sniffed and whispered, “Let’s go.”