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"The Confectioner" by Francesca Leader

His last name was Sugar.

At least that’s what I thought,

until he wrote the characters

on a napkin, and showed me,

with his grass-fluid Japanese writing,

his stumbling English words:

“Sound same . . . but . . . meaning different.”

“Sato” was, he said, a surname as common as “Smith.”

I was disappointed,

since “Sugar” made such an apt name

for a crafter of shockingly sweet powder cubes

that melt on a tongue hot with tea,

globulous balls of bean jam

and glutinous sticky-rice cakes

scented with cherry blossom,

black sesame, and mugwort,

the last of which sounds noxious,

but tastes of dulcet sage.

Mr. Sato, the young confectioner,

let me sit in his shop, at 6:20 a.m.,

and served me tea,

just because he’d happened to see me on a morning walk,

looking red-nosed and friendless,

tall and lonely,

in the chill of dawn.

Mr. Sugar,

rough-haired, petal-cheeked,

his small, dry hands

with skin fine as the rice paper

in which he wrapped

a dozen pink and green swirls,

out-sparkling the lingering spring snow,

for me to take home.

I said, “No, I couldn’t,”

and he gently insisted.

Francesca Leader is a self-taught writer and artist originally from Western Montana. She enjoys exploration and experimentation, working in and across all genres. Her story "Now You See Him," in the Fall 2022 issue of the J Journal, recently was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

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