The next evening, my dad and I are on the veranda eating takeout ramen. Snatches of a broadcast on rising radiation levels drift from the TV inside.
“Itsu made tsuzuku no?” I ask my dad. Is this ever going to be over?
He glances at me, chopsticks midair, eyes bloodshot.
“Eh? Nan no koto?”
I can’t believe he’s asking what I’m talking about.
“When are they going to get things under control?” I ask.
“Don’t worry. Everything is okay.” He goes back to slurping his ramen. Then he says, “Why haven’t you been running? The track meet will be rescheduled.”
I shrug. “I might not run in it.”
“I just might not.”
“But the team needs—”
“Why don’t we get on a plane and fly away somewhere? Half my friends are already gone.” I watch a crow swoop down onto the stone wall of the house next door.
He raises his eyebrows. “Where do you want to go?”
“Anywhere but here.”
“We shouldn’t leave your mother.” His face is distorted in the shadowy light, like in a funhouse mirror.
“Who said anything about leaving Mom?” I say.
The ramen is heavy and oily in my stomach, and this thing starts cartwheeling through my mind: Maybe my dad isn’t working on his book in the middle of the night. Maybe he’s making a plan for just the two of us to go away, like Risa’s dad.
He coughs. “What I’m saying is, there’s nothing to worry about. The nuclear power plant is 150 miles from Tokyo, the aftershocks are going down—”
“Like you guys are really getting used to them.” Every time one hits, he screams at me to get under a table and my mom runs and grabs the earthquake kit from the entryway, as if that little backpack filled with rope and Band-Aids can save us.
“We live here,” he says. “We can’t just leave.”
The blooms on the jasmine vines along the veranda railing look blue and cold in the twilight. “But they said on the news that a really big quake could hit Tokyo,” I say.
“That’s always been true.”
“What if there’s a nuclear meltdown?”
“If that happens, we’ll have time to evacuate. Papa ni makasenasai.”
“Leave it to you?” I ask. “Which means stay here and wait for the next aftershock to crush us?”
He rubs his forehead and stares at the floor. His shoulders are slumped, and his shaggy hair is more gray than I’ve ever seen it.
What’s going on? I feel like shouting. He always knows what to do—why doesn’t he do something? Cats start yowling from the alley, and a siren whines somewhere close by. My dad stands up and goes inside.