Genji Shimada was ready for a kickass summer. The first week, he had plans to stay at Jamison’s beach house with a bunch of their friends. A few weeks later, he would be road tripping with Hana and Dae-Hyun. In August, he would be catching a cruise free of charge, thanks to Jean-Baptiste having connections with the cruise line. And in between he would be turning it up at parties and clubs all over the city.
Or so he thought.
“Genji,” his dad, Sojiro Shimada, called from the living room. Genji didn’t look away from the tv screen where he was playing Street Fighter.
“Yeah?” he called back.
“Come in here, I need to talk to you,” his dad said impatiently. Genji sighed, and set down his controller, letting his character get killed. He stretched, then stood to head downstairs to where his father was sitting with his laptop on the coffee table.
“Yeah, what do you need?” Genji asked. His dad fixed Genji with a cold stare over his reading glasses.
“You didn’t tell me you were on academic probation,” Sojiro accused. Shit.
“I am?” Genji said, feigning ignorance. “Whoops.”
“Yes, whoops,” Sojiro said with a frown. “It says here that you failed 3 of your 5 classes this semester, Genji. This is unacceptable.” Genji glanced away.
“I’m just getting used to the difficulty curve,” he said. “I’ll get the hang of it.”
“You will,” Sojiro said crossly. “You will attend more classes, and fewer parties.”
“Hey, who says I was partying-”
“You did, loudly, on the phone with your friends last night,” Sojiro cut him off.
“Oh come on,” Genji complained. “Everyone parties in college. I bet even Hanzo did.”
“Hanzo is graduating with honors. If he did attend parties, it did not impact his schooling. You are one semester away from being kicked out of the university.”
“Fine, I’ll do better next semester, okay?” Genji huffed. Of course Hanzo could do no wrong. He turned to go back up to his room.
“Genji, I am not finished,” Sojiro said. Genji turned back around. He really wasn’t in the mood for more lecturing. “I just got off the phone with your uncle Ichiro. He recently had back surgery, and will take some time to recover.”
“Tell him I said get well soon then?” Genji quipped.
“I volunteered you to go to New Mexico and work on his farm for the summer,” Sojiro informed him. Genji blanched.
“You what ?”
“Your flight is booked for the day after Hanzo’s graduation,” Sojiro said simply.
“But I have plans!” Genji protested. “I’m going to Jamison’s beach house next week! You can’t just volunteer me for shit. I’m not going.”
“If you wish to return to school next semester, you will go,” Sojiro said sharply. “I am not paying for you to get drunk with your friends. Some hard work will teach you some accountability.”
“I said I’d do better,” Genji pleaded. “Come on, I promised I’d be there, I can’t bail on my friends.”
“You will see them in the fall,” Sojiro reasoned. “I will take you shopping tomorrow for some clothes that are suitable for farm work. You can’t work in skinny jeans and crop tops.”
“My decision is final, Genji,” Sojiro said sternly. “Inform your friends that you won’t be going to the beach house.”
“Fine!” Genji snapped, storming off to his room. He shut the door and put his head in his hands. He had to get out of this somehow. He was not about to spend his perfect summer on a goddamn farm . He barely even knew his uncle Ichiro. He had better at least be getting paid for this.
The last thing Genji wanted to be doing the day before he was shipped off to the middle of nowhere was attend Hanzo’s college graduation. A day to laud attention on his perfect brother was the opposite of what he needed right now. He didn’t see why he even had to go.
Genji nearly fell asleep during the ceremony’s ceaseless speeches. He had hoped that this wouldn’t take too long, but clearly it was going to be an hours long affair, especially with how many graduates were seated in the auditorium. He actually did doze off as the grads began crossing the stage, until his dad shook him awake.
“Genji, pay attention, Hanzo is up soon,” Sojiro said, a note of pride in his voice. Genji yawned, and scanned the crowd for his brother. Hanzo’s long black hair was easy to spot against his red gown. Hanzo stepped onto the stage and gave the announcer his name card.
“Hanzo Shimada, graduating with honors with a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering,” the announcer proclaimed. Hanzo stood proudly onstage, and moved the tassel on his cap to the opposite side before exiting the stage. Genji glanced over at his father. Sojiro had a smile on his face as he snapped pictures on his phone. Genji sighed softly. His dad was always so proud of Hanzo. Always praising him. He’d even bought Hanzo a new car last year. Genji doubted he would get the same treatment, the same proud smile on his dad’s face when he graduated. If he even graduated.
They met up with Hanzo after the ceremony, and Sojiro hugged his elder son tightly. Genji only nodded to him. He and Hanzo used to be closer when they were little, but they didn’t have a lot in common anymore. Hanzo was all smiles, for once, as Sojiro took more photos of him.
“Genji, go stand with your brother,” his father instructed. Genji silently shuffled over to Hanzo and put on his best fake smile. Best not to give his dad a reason to be irritated with him on Hanzo’s big day. Sojiro took a few pictures of the two of them together, before asking a passerby to take photos of all three of them. Sojiro came to stand between them, and Genji wanted to roll his eyes. Was all this necessary?
Once they were done with pictures, they walked back to Sojiro’s Bentley. Genji climbed in the back, while Hanzo sat in the front.
“I am so very proud of you, Hanzo,” Sojiro said genuinely.
“Thank you,” Hanzo replied. He said more than that, but Genji already had his headphones in. The two of them continued to converse without him the rest of the way home, and as soon as they pulled into the garage, Genji quickly made for his room. He supposed he should pack his things for the flight tomorrow, but he opted to lay in bed listening to music instead.
After about an hour, he heard a loud knock on his door. He groaned, and took one earbud out.
“Yeah?” he called. The door opened, and to his surprise, it was Hanzo, not his dad who entered.
“Thank you for coming today,” Hanzo said. “I know you didn’t want to.”
“Dad made me,” Genji said flatly.
“Right…” Hanzo trailed off.
“Congrats or whatever. I guess you’re going to grad school next?”
“Yeah,” Hanzo said. “I haven’t decided on a school yet, but I have 4 offers.”
“Course you do,” Genji said bitterly. Hanzo scowled.
“What is your problem?” he huffed. “It’s like everything I do is a personal attack on you.”
“I don’t wanna talk about it Hanzo,” Genji grumbled. “Leave me alone. I have to pack.”
“Fine,” Hanzo huffed. “But none of your problems are my fault. You’re just being an asshole.”
“I said go away Hanzo,” Genji said, raising his voice a little. He knew he was being childish, but he really, really didn’t want to discuss this with his brother. Hanzo wouldn’t understand how he felt. He was always the good kid, the center of attention. Their dad’s favorite. Hanzo sighed irritably and closed the door, and Genji put his earbud back in. He really should start packing.
He spent another half hour just laying in bed with his eyes closed, before finally sitting up to start packing up his things. His dad had taken him to buy some truly ugly clothes. Work jeans, boots, plain t shirts, leather gloves, he was going to look ridiculous. He begrudgingly shoved his new attire into his suitcase, but he left room for a few actual trendy outfits. Surely he could find a club somewhere in New Mexico.
Genji spent the plane ride from San Francisco to Albuquerque sulking against the window, listening to music that he should be hearing from a breezy dock by the sea. The passing scenery below was breathtaking, but Genji couldn’t bring himself to notice or care.
After the plane touched down, Genji filed out into the airport with the other passengers and started looking for his uncle Ichiro. He hadn’t even seen him in years. Would they even recognize each other? After a few minutes, though, he spotted a man who looked strikingly like his father, wearing a back brace. Genji approached him, and Ichiro smiled broadly.
“Genji!” he said cheerfully. “You’ve grown so much. It’s good to see you. Thank you for coming.” Genji nodded unenthusiastically.
“No need to thank me, it’s not like I was given a choice,” he mumbled. Ichiro patted him on the back.
“Don’t look so put out. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the farm,” he said. Genji nodded listlessly. The two of them started walking, following the signs for baggage claim.
“It’s about a two hour drive from here to the farm,” Ichiro informed him. Great. More sitting, this time with small talk. “The guest room is all set up for you.”
“Okay,” Genji mumbled.
“I can tell you’re not thrilled to be here,” Ichiro continued. “But it won’t be so bad. And I don’t know if your dad told you, but I will be paying you for your work.” At least there was that.
“Thanks,” said Genji. They arrived at baggage claim, and Genji grabbed his suitcase off of the carousel.
“I won’t be able to do much to teach you the ropes, because I just had my surgery. But the young man from the farm next to mine has been helping me. He will teach you what you need to know,” Ichiro said as they made their way to the parking garage.
“Okay,” Genji replied. His uncle led him to a black pickup truck, and Genji hoisted his suitcase into the back before getting in. Immediately, he rummaged through his carry-on bag for his headphones. He wasn’t about to chatter with his uncle that he barely knew for two hours. Ichiro got into the driver’s seat with some difficulty due to his injury, and started the truck.
“You must be tired from your flight, so I will let you be until we get to the farm,” he said, to Genji’s relief. He put his headphones in and watched as they drove out of the airport, out of the city, through the desert countryside. It was pretty, but to Genji it just represented a prison sentence. He would have seen something similar on his road trip with Hana and Dae-Hyun anyway. About halfway through the drive, he fell asleep.
“Genji, we’re here.” Ichiro’s voice startled Genji awake. He rubbed his eyes, and looked out the window at a quaint farmhouse, several acres of fenced in fields, a barn, and… not much else. There was another house a ways down the dirt road, but that was it. Genji opened the door of the truck and hopped out to get his luggage. He grimaced at the sight of his suitcase covered in dust from the road. Ichiro led him up the front walk to the house, and when he opened the door, Genji was taken aback at how modern it wasn’t. The floors were uneven wooden boards in some parts, stone in others, and there was a wood burning stove in the corner. The room was dimly lit with only one lamp, there was actually a cow skull on the wall.
“Welcome to your home for the summer,” his uncle said warmly. “I hope you enjoy your stay. Your room is to the right, past the kitchen.”
“Thanks for having me,” Genji mumbled. He walked through the small kitchen to an equally small bedroom, with a queen sized bed taking up about half of the total floor space. There was a small dresser, and a closet, and a big bay window. Genji propped his suitcase against the wall, and immediately searched for the outlets. He needed to charge his phone.
“By the way, Genji. This house is solar powered, so please be mindful of how much electricity you use,” Ichiro said behind him. Genji wanted to groan. He had brought his laptop, his tablet, and his Switch expecting to use them all liberally to keep himself from going out of his mind with boredom. So much for that, he supposed.
“Got it,” he said. “Anything else I should know?”
“Well, there is no heat here, and it gets pretty cold at night, so feel free to use the extra blankets in your closet. The comforters are all real down, so they should keep you warm.” Genji looked at him incredulously. No heat ? “Surprised? I built this house myself, you know. It can’t have everything,” Ichiro explained.
“Alright. I’m sure I’ll get used to it,” Genji sighed.
“I suggest you turn in early, since you had a long day. I’ll be getting you up at 5 tomorrow to show you what your job will entail,” Ichiro informed him. Genji nodded numbly. Not even a few days to relax, huh?
“Okay. I’ll see you tomorrow then,” he said.
“Goodnight Genji.” His uncle closed the door, and Genji flopped face down on his bed. It was nice and cushy, at least, with lots of pillows. He pulled out his phone and searched for nearby nightlife, but as he expected, Albuquerque was the nearest spot with any to speak of. He doubted his uncle would be willing to drive him two hours just to go drinking and dancing. Just fucking great. Genji laid his phone to the side and rolled onto his back to stare at the wood beam ceiling. Everything about this was terrible. Jamison and his other friends were probably sipping cocktails on the boat right about now. It wasn’t fair.
After several minutes of laying there feeling pissed off and sorry for himself, Genji got up to change into the warmest pajamas he had packed: a loose t-shirt and a pair of thin cotton lounge pants. He went to the bathroom to wash the gel out of his hair and brush his teeth, suddenly realizing that he probably wouldn’t be able to keep his green hair nice out here.
Once back in his cramped bedroom, Genji plugged in his phone and climbed under the covers. He lay there for a good thirty minutes before finally groaning and rolling over to pick up his phone again. He couldn’t go to sleep at 7pm when he was used to staying up until 2am every night. He eventually got bored of checking and rechecking his social media accounts, and resorted to just laying in the dark. This sucked.
Finally, at 1am, Genji drifted off. He didn’t know what his uncle had in store for him the next day, but he was absolutely certain that this summer was going to be positively eternal.