What does punish mean?

23 October 2007

The girl working the counter at the chip shop stands with half closed eyes and looks bored out of her mind, constantly flips flops the chewing gum in her mouth from side to side, each move done with a strange sidewards autopilot flick of the lower jaw – a manoeuvre that makes her look like some kind of lizard.


On the train, months before, some kid on the train plays up and makes mischief to the great annoyance of the lone parent on duty, who streams constant and impotent verbal warnings while the kids’ feet are all over the seats, his yells are all over the carriage, his fingers are all down in his brothers mouth.

You’ll be in trouble if you carry on like that, you’ll catch it. You’ll get in trouble, I’m telling you. She pauses, making no emphasis at all. You’ll get it. You’ll get punished. I’m warning you. I’ll punish you.

The punish word kicks the kid from physical antics to some expanded verbal phillosophical mode. What is punish? He says Mam, mam, I don’t know what punish is. She ignores him but he somehow knows that the audience of passengers are on tenterhooks. Mam, he says again. What is punish? What is punish? What does punish mean? She’s no wannabe lawyer though, no amateur philosopher, and just won’t be drawn into these kind of word-game conjectures or definition rows; her answer is just a long look out the window.


Will be in New York soon, but have already missed this show of pictures by Kohei Yoshiyuki, which is a shame.