My Inspiring Journey by Sean Nishi

Photo of rows of awards
Photo by tommao wang on Unsplash.

Studio City, November, 2016

Had a great time going back home for Thanksgiving. Everyone was there—Mom, Dad, my Sister, our championship horse Spencer. My room is basically the same except Mom moved all my water polo trophies to the living room. But then on my bed I find a first place ribbon from the Getty Center Rising Artist Contest!

“I found that coffee mug you painted in third grade ceramics class,” said Mom. “The one with the dinosaurs on it. I thought it was so good I decided to submit it on your behalf!”

And good thing she did, because it came with a cash prize of ten thousand dollars! I could’ve spent it all on myself, but instead I took my parents out to dinner. Mom was so grateful that she didn’t have to cook this year. Instead of dry turkey we had Chinese food, like Jewish people. Ha ha.

“Your mother and I have been talking,” said Dad at the dinner table. “And we’ve decided you should be the sole inheritor on our will. You’ve never asked us for anything your entire life, and we feel we owe it to you.”

“But that wouldn’t be fair to your daughter, my sister,” I said. “She’s extremely kind and talented and deserves an equal share. In fact, I don’t want any of it. She should keep it in case she gets married and has a kid someday. You never know what could happen to a nice girl like her.”

Suddenly a waiter came over with a cart draped in a tablecloth, when suddenly who should pop out of it except my sister!

“We figured you would say that,” she said. “Which was why I agreed that you should get the entire inheritance.”

“We’ve always admired your honesty and humbleness,” said Mom.

“And we didn’t tell you but your inheritance is actually double what you thought!” said Dad.

“So please enjoy all of it,” said Mom. “But only after we die. Ha ha.”

“Wow thanks you guys,” I said. “I feel so loved right now.”

Then we went home where I played a few of my most recent guitar compositions for them to hear. Of course I didn’t tell them one would be featured in the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis. We were here for the holidays. Not me.


San Francisco, September, 2018

Just completed my MFA degree in creative writing. I hadn’t even thought about going to grad school. Then one day I was at a coffee shop scribbling some story ideas on a piece of receipt paper. I got up to buy a scone and returned to find an adult woman reading what I’d written.

“I apologize,” she said. “But based on how focused you look I could only assume what you were writing was amazing. And it is! I’ve never read anything like this. It’s as if Toni Morrison and Haruki Murakami had a child who also happened to have a swimmer’s body.”

“I try,” I said.

“Listen,” she said. “I’m the head of the creative writing program at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Have you ever thought about enrolling? I think you have what it takes.”

“Sounds expensive,” I said.

“Your tuition will be paid for, of course,” she said. “Anything else you might need like food, books, lodgings, a car, cigarette cartons, some gambling money, will all be provided.”

“I’m sure there’s somebody more deserving,” I said. “I’m just some upper-middle class Catholic school kid from Studio City. There are people out there who’ve gone through a lot more than I have.”

“Lord no,” she said. “The last thing we need in the program are more sob stories about molestation and generational trauma. So are you in or not?”

When opportunity comes knocking you have to answer the door and let it in. So before I know it I’m at the University of Iowa and in my first workshop led by The Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood. We had a lot of talented writers in that class. Like this guy from the Democratic Republic of Congo who grew up without hands. Or this blind poet who’d been on Oprah, The View, The Drew Barrymore Show, and The Goop Lab With Gwneyth Paltrow.

When it was my turn I read the story I happened to have crumpled up in my wallet. It was called “My Cat Freckles.” It’s about a boy who doesn’t have any friends until he adopts a cat named Freckles (based on my own cat Waffles). Then a few years later Freckles gets run over by a motorcycle and the boy writes a story about it.

I looked up to see the whole class sobbing. Someone said it was the most emotionally provocative thing they’d ever heard . Someone else asked how I was able to convey grief like that. Even Ms. Atwood lifted my story up to the class and said “This. This is what you should all aspire to in your own writing.” Everybody took out their notebooks and wrote that down.

After class we all went out for drinks at a nearby natural wine bar. I wanted it to be a calm evening but everybody kept asking me questions.

“How long have you been writing?” they said.

“About six, seven weeks,” I said.

“Which books inspired you the most?”

Goosebumps, I guess,” I said.

“Do you prefer revising your drafts when you’re done, or do you edit as you go?”

“I usually just write whatever’s on my mind and don’t change anything,” I said.

After a few hours of this Ms. Atwood thankfully pulled me aside

“I won’t lie to you,” she said. “I was losing hope with this generation’s writers. All they do is whine. But you’ve shown more potential than I’ve seen in a long time. I’m thinking you skip the whole MFA thing and just make you a faculty member right now.”

“Wow are you sure?” I said.

“Positive,” she said.

After that they put me up in my own cottage with a writing studio, a kitchen, and an aluminum baseball bat for protection. My parents were so thrilled to hear about this.

“And to think you used to just sit at your computer looking at pornography and surrounded by action figures!” said Dad. “I knew it was all adding up to something. I love you, son.”


Iowa, December, 2020

It was a difficult year since the pandemic began. My third novel, The Blind Dishwasher (about a blind dishwasher who secretly knits really well), only sold 10,000 copies its first week (compared to my last book, The Puppy Who Got Horribly Burned in a Grease Fire, which sold over 100,000). My class “Writing for Sex and Profit” was cancelled after half my students died of Covid-19 and the school shut down. I thought I’d hit rock bottom until I went to get a Covid test and the doctor noticed something very peculiar about me.

“I haven’t seen this before,” said the doctor. “Have you gotten sick yet?”

“No,” I said. “Actually I’ve never been sick in my entire life.”

“Astonishing,” said the doctor. “Your white blood cells are able to destroy the Covid-19 virus on the spot. I believe you may have the key to ending this horrible pandemic.”

“I never would’ve guessed,” I said.

“I’ll have to call the CDC about this,” said the doctor. “You have no idea how happy I am to have found you.”

So they helicoptered me over to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia. Things were looking bleak. Hordes of infected were roaming the streets. Some were eating their young. The National Guard was called in to shoot anyone with throat congestion. When they got me in to their headquarters the doctors wasted no time in drawing my blood and giving me a full rundown.

“Not only are you in perfect shape with ten percent body fat and thick bouncy curls,” said the head doctor. “But your blood type is O negative, which means you are a universal donor. And with your natural immunity to Covid-19, we think we can create a cure.”

“Awesome,” I said

“Naturally you’ll get a cut of the profits from this,” she said. “I’m thinking fifty percent. Oh hell, let’s do eighty percent.”

“I think the cure should be free,” I said.

“Now that you mention it, you’re absolutely right,” she said. “There’s no room for Big Pharma greediness at a time like this. We’ll make sure people know about how much money you gave up for the good of the common man.”

“Helping people has always been its own reward,” I said. “You could say it’s almost selfish.”

I had to beg them not to name a hospital after me.


New York, 2023

A wild time in my life. I’d just sold the film rights to my fifteenth novel, Calamari on Rice (about a Japanese sushi-chef who’s half human and half octopus). There was an intense bidding war between Quentin Tarantino, Spike Lee, Jim Jarmusch, Christopher Nolan, and Greta Gerwig, but I finally settled on Werner Herzog (who said he’d do it if we could include a scene where we drag a submarine over Lombard Street in San Francisco).

We had the release party at Barack and Michelle Obama’s beautiful home in DC (I wrote Barack’s memoir Affordable Care, or How I Learned to Obamacare). There I mingled with the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie, the cast of Big Bang Theory, etc. Bob Dylan played us a song he co-wrote with Elliot Smith. Noam Chomsky came to do an impromptu TED talk. It was a wild time.

I began to notice a beautiful olive-skinned woman staring at me from across the room. As I was filling a plate with croutons and shark fin soup this mystery woman came up to introduce herself.

“My name is Princess Sofia Syhamoni,” she said. “Duchess of Bostoniaa.”

“I’ve never heard of that place,” I said.

“We are a small nation in Oceania, mainly based on an agrarian socialist economy with ties to early Soviet Collectivism,” she said.

“Oh,” I said.

“And you’re that famous author,” she said. “My children and I loved your book Lola the Bilingual Latchkey Kid Who Explores After School.”

“I wanted to help kids learn Spanish,” I said.

“And you’re so much taller in person,” she said. “I thought you were 5”6′, but you’re more like 5”7′.”

“Thanks for noticing,” I say. “It must be cool being royalty.”

“You would think,” she said. “Except my father, the King, hasn’t found a suitable heir to marry me and continue the royal line. You see, every male in our country is sterile from thousands of years of inbreeding. And per royal tradition if I don’t get married by twenty-two I’ll be publicly flayed and our nation will collapse. But then I saw your author photo. I was so enamored. You sitting there on the beach smoking a cigarette in your Smashing Pumpkins t-shirt. So stoic. I knew right then that you are the future King of Bostoniaa. Won’t you come back to the royal palace with me and ask my father for his blessings?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “That’s kind of a fourth, fifth date kind of thing.”

“You would have executive power over an entire country,” she said. “Plus we encourage polyamory on a don’t ask-don’t tell policy.”

“Oh wow,” I said. “Well I’ve never been to Europe before.”

“We’re actually landlocked between Eritrea, Laos, and Uzbekistan,” she said.

“I don’t know where any of those places are, but sure,” I said. “I’m not promising anything.”

“I’ll call the Royal Kia,” she said. “You have no idea how happy I am right now.”

So we drove to the airport and boarded the Royal Jet to Bostoniaa. When we landed at the Royal Runway we were greeted by a parade of peasants who followed us to the Royal Palace. Upon arriving we were met by King Syhamoni who was excited to see me and had prepared a Royal Feast. I was fed all the champagne, filet mignon, fois gras, and MDMA and cocaine I could handle. What happened next shall not leave the palace doors (my parents might read this someday). All I can say is that it was depravity of Dionysian proportions. An ecstasy of gold to last me a lifetime. After three weeks I was in the thralls of love. So I agreed to marry Princess Sofia and then spent a month in the Royal Rehab Clinic.

Now it’s our wedding day in the Vatican City. I’m standing in front of a mirror with my best man Dennis Rodman (we go back). Somewhere the Princess is being outfitted in a dress made out of blood diamonds. My family are arriving in their new Bentleys I’ve bought for each for them. The Dali Llama is getting restless in his seat. I’ve personally flown out all my old friends, former lovers, classmates, and coworkers so they can see how much I’ve accomplished at a relatively young age. I figure some of them will be jealous. Good. A little humility will put them in their place.

The truth is: I don’t care about the glamor or the glitz. I just want my story told. A story about a man who cared only about spreading warmth and happiness to the entire world. And after our honeymoon I’ll be able to do this thanks to a joint venture between Disney, Netflix, Amazon, HBO, and Hulu, who plan on releasing a series based on my life. It’ll be called My Inspiring Journey. It’ll star the late Chadwick Boseman, who will be A.I. generated.

And after that I’ll be stuck in meetings with Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Jack Dorsey, and Mark Zuckerberg to discuss my plan about using algorithms to cure erectile eczema. I’m a busy man. But I never get tired of it. It’s not work when you love what you do.

Photo of old red and white boat up on grass near water
Photo by Pamela Hallam on Unsplash.

Sean Nishi

Sean-Taro Nishi is a Japanese-American writer from Los Angeles, Calif. His work has appeared in Sierra Nevada Review, Bridge Eight Press, Always Crashing, Streetlight, STORGY, TIMBER, Always Crashing, and countless other publications. He lives in Brooklyn with his cat Waffles.

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