The US Army has a file on me at least five hundred pages thick. An OMPF. That’s what Mom says, anyway. She says we ought to request it so I can “learn the effects of my behavior” and “start to think before I act.” She always sighs when she says that. Then she looks up at the ceiling and asks, “How did I raise such a delinquent?”
I like it better when she gets mad. Her face gets all red like a pepper, and she uses my full name: “Airi. Evelyn. Sano.” Like that. You can hear
the periods. It always makes me giggle. When she sighs, there’s nothing to laugh at.
I had to look up the word “delinquent” online when she first used it. There were a few definitions. Here are my favorites:
a usually young person who regularly performs illegal or immoral acts
—neglectful of a duty or obligation; guilty of a misdeed or offense
Synonyms: offender, wrongdoer, malefactor, lawbreaker, culprit, criminal
I also found a bunch of mug shots. Turns out that means pictures of criminals, not actual mugs. At first I thought “mug” stood for something, like MUG: Mostly Unwashed Guy. Then I remembered back when Dad was stationed at Fort Mackall-Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina, I heard one of my teachers say a kid had “a mug only a mother could love” after he broke his nose falling off the jungle gym. I asked Dad about it later and he said “mug” is an old-fashioned way of saying “face,” but he didn’t know why. I didn’t get it then, and I don’t get it now.
These days, when Mom calls me a delinquent, I leave little drawings of what my mug shot might look like—if I ever actually get arrested—all over the house for her. I even asked my obaachan (that’s what I call my grandma in Japan) how to write “delinquent” in kanji (꼇좁큽) to really make my point. I like to hide the pictures so she’ll find them when she least expects it. Sometimes I’ll be across the house and I’ll hear her yelp when she opens the bathroom cabinet and sees me smirking back.
“Smirking” means “to smile in an insincere manner.” A teacher once accused me of smirking and gave me a demerit. When I said I didn’t even know what a smirk was, she gave me a second demerit and a note to give my parents. Mom sighed extra loud that day.
I started drawing the mug shots because I thought they were funny. I hoped they would make Mom laugh. Dad likes them. He collects them all for my file and compliments me on the different faces. But Mom never laughs. Which is the whole point.
What I’m saying is that she thinks I’m bad. Everyone thinks I’m bad. People just don’t have a sense of humor. They don’t get it. That’s why I started my own case file. An Official Personal Personnel File (aka an OPPF). If the army is going to keep a report on me, I want to tell my side of the story too.
Now when I get put out in the hall or sent to the vice principal’s office, I’ll be documenting it. Then the next time I get called in for a “talk” on why I’m not “fitting in,” I won’t have to say a word. All I’ll have to do is give them my file. This portfolio of information, all for them to see. Just like the ones that Dad brings home sometimes, the ones that aren’t classified. That way when Mom or my teacher or anyone asks, “What were you thinking, Airi?” I’ll be able to show them this.
And if you still think I’m bad, then fine. If this is bad, then I’ll be bad. I’ll be the happiest, baddest delinquent you’ve ever seen.
Copyright © 2022 by Zoe Tokushige. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.