Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Nighthawk’s Star [Miyazawa Kenji]

Nighthawk was truly an ugly bird. His face was covered in splotches as if he had been splattered with miso, and his beak was flat and split all the way back to his ears. His legs were so frail that he could not walk at all. He was such a sight that just seeing him made other birds uncomfortable.

Now Skylark was not a particularly attractive bird, either, but knowing that he looked better than Nighthawk, at least, upon seeing him in the evening he would make a sour face and turn away, silently closing his eyes. The smaller, more talkative birds would speak of him with contempt right in front of him, saying, “Look, it’s him again. Would you just look at that? He’s truly a disgrace to birds.” “Indeed. Look at how big his mouth is! Maybe he’s actually some kind of frog.”

And so on. Now if he had been a real hawk then just mentioning his name would cause these insignificant little birds to tremble and go pale and cower and hide among the leaves! But Nighthawk wasn’t a hawk, or even related to the hawks. He was actually the elder brother of the beautiful Kingfisher, and of that avian jewel, Hummingbird. Hummingbird sipped the nectar of flowers and Kingfisher ate fish, but Nighthawk caught and ate bugs. Nighthawk didn’t have sharp talons or a sharp beak, either, so not even the weakest bird was afraid of him.

So one might wonder why he was named so, and the reason is because his wings were inordinately strong, and so he resembled a hawk when he soared upon the wind. He also had a powerful cry that was not unlike that of a hawk. Hawk, of course, was very conscious of this, and hated it. Every time he saw Nighthawk he would tell him, “Change your name! Change your name!”

One evening, Hawk even came to Nighthawk’s home. “Hey! You there! You still haven’t changed your name! You should be ashamed. We’re completely different, you and I. I can fly through the blue sky all day long, and you only come out when the sun is clouded over, or at dark. Just look at this beak and these talons, and then look at your own!”

“Mr. Hawk, I can’t change my name! I didn’t take this name myself, God gave it to me.”

“No, I’m the one who got his name from God. In a sense, you’re just borrowing my name. And Night’s. Now give them back.”

“I can’t do that, Mr. Hawk!”

“Of course you can. I’ll give you a good name to take its place. How about Leonard? Yeah, Leonard. I like that. So to officially change your name you have to make it public, right? To do that you need to hang a sign that says ‘Leonard’ around your neck, and go around to everyone’s home, bowing and saying ‘From this day on, I am to be known as Leonard.’”

“I could never do that!”

“Sure you can! So do it! If you haven’t done it by the morning of the day after tomorrow, I’ll come and squeeze you to death in my claws. To death, I say! On the morning of the day after tomorrow I’m going to go to every house and ask if you’ve been by. If I find even one home that you haven’t visited, that will be the end of you!”

“But there’s no way I could do it! I would rather die! Please, just kill me now!”

“Oh, come now, think it over. Leonard is a pretty good name.” The hawk spread out his wings and flew back towards his nest.

The nighthawk stood there with his eyes closed in thought. Why do they hate me so? Because my face looks like it’s been splattered with miso, and because my beak is odd? Even so, I haven’t done anything wrong! I remember that day when I helped the Whiteeye chick back to its nest after it fell out. Its mother snatched it from me as if rescuing her baby from a thief. And then she just laughed so hard at me. And now I have to change my name to Leonard? Hang a sign about my neck? Oh, how terrible…

It was already getting dark. Nighthawk flew from his nest. The clouds glowed menacingly, and hung low in the sky. The nighthawk seemed to almost rub against them as he silently flew about.

Nighthawk suddenly opened his mouth wide, held his wings out straight, and cut across the sky like an arrow. He trapped countless small insects in his mouth. Almost as soon as he touched ground he lit off again. The clouds had turned gray, and the setting sun colored the faraway mountaintops with crimson fire. Nighthawk flew so forcefully that he seemed to slice the sky into two. A beetle flew into his mouth and squirmed about. The nighthawk swallowed it down, but for some reason doing so sent a chill down his back.

The clouds were now pitch black, and only the mountains to the East cast the frightening reflection of the red setting sun. Feeling an ache in his chest, Nighthawk again took off into the sky. Again a beetle flew into his mouth, and there it squirmed, scratching his throat. After great effort Nighthawk managed to swallow the beetle, but doing so caused his heart to leap, and he cried out in a loud voice. Crying, he flew around and around, making circles in the sky.

Oh, I kill so many beetles and insects every night. And now I’m to be killed by the hawk. So this is what it feels like. Oh, I can’t stand this. I’ll stop eating insects, and starve to death. No, Hawk will kill me before that happens. No, before that happens I’ll fly far, far away.

The red light from the sun spread like water, setting the clouds on fire. Nighthawk flew straight to the home of his brother, Kingfisher. When he got there Kingfisher had just awoken, and was looking at the burning mountains. Seeing Nighthawk land, he spoke: “Well hello, brother. To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“Nothing. I just came to say goodbye. I’m leaving for a place far, far away.”

“Brother! You can’t leave! With Hummingbird so far away now, I’ll be left all alone!”

“I’m sorry, it can’t be helped. Please, speak no further on this today. And please, try not to kill any more fish than is absolutely necessary. Good bye, now.”

“Brother, what’s wrong with you? Please, stay a little longer.”

“No, staying any longer won’t change things. Please give my regards to Hummingbird. Goodbye. I’m afraid we’ll never meet again. Goodbye.”

Nighthawk returned to his home in tears. The short summer night was already coming to an end. The fern leaves absorbed the mist as they waved blue and cold. Nighthawk gave a high twitter. He then thoroughly straightened up his nest, preened his feathers, and flew from his nest again.

The mist had cleared, and the sun had just risen in the East. Ignoring the dizzying brightness, Nighthawk flew like an arrow in that direction.

“Mr. Sun, Mr. Sun! Please bring me to you! I don’t care that I’ll burn and die. Even an ugly body like mine will shine as it burns! Please, take me!”

But no matter how far he flew, he didn’t get any closer to the sun. The sun seemed to get smaller and farther, even, and said “Nighthawk, isn’t it? Yes, yes, I know your pain. But you should try talking to the stars. You’re not a day bird, you know.”

Nighthawk tried to give a bow, but suddenly became dizzy and fell back down into the fields. He felt as if he were having a dream. He saw his body climbing up to between the red and yellow stars, he saw himself blown endlessly by the wind, he saw himself trapped in Hawk’s talons.

Something cold plopped on his face. He opened his eyes. The dew from the pampas grass had dripped on him. It was already night, and the sky was blue-black and filled with blinking stars. Nighthawk flew back up into the sky. The mountains were again red with the setting sun. Nighthawk flew about in that faint glow and among the cold light of the stars. Then he flew off again. He headed west, straight towards the beautiful constellation of Orion, shouting “Oh, star! Blue-white star of the West! Please take me to you! I don’t care that I will be burned to death!” But Orion just continued singing his heroic song, and didn’t pay Nighthawk the least bit of attention.

The Nighthawk almost began to cry, and spiraled back to the ground. He finally landed and took off again, circling once. Then he flew straight towards Canis Major in the south, shouting, “Oh, Star! Blue star of the South! Please take me to you! I don’t care that I will be burned to death!”

The Great Dog blinked blue and purple and yellow and said, “Silence with such foolishness. Who do you think you are? You’re just a bird. It would take you millions, billions, trillions of years to fly this far with those wings of yours!” and with that, he turned away.

Disappointed again, Nighthawk spiraled back to the Earth. He then flew back up and circled twice. This time he flew north towards Ursa Major, shouting “Blue star of the North! Please take me to you!”

The Great Bear answered, “Don’t waste your time with such silliness. You should go cool your head. Jumping into an iceberg-filled ocean might help, or if there is no ocean near you, try diving into a cup filled with ice water.”

Disappointed again, Nighthawk spiraled back to the Earth, and then flew back up and circled four times. He then flew east again, towards the eagle Aquila on the far bank of the just-risen the Milky Way, shouting, “White star of the East! Please take me to you! I don’t care that I will be burned to death!”

The Eagle proudly stated, “No, no, that will never happen. You need a certain level of birth to become a star. That and a lot of money.”

Nighthawk lost all hope, and closing his wings began to fall to the ground. When his weak legs were just a yard from the ground he suddenly twisted back up into the heavens like a whirlwind. Upon reaching the high heavens he spun around like an eagle attacking a bear and stood his feathers on end. He let out a high, high screech. His voice was like a hawk’s. The other birds asleep in the fields and the forest all woke up and, shaking, looked curiously up into the starry sky.

Nighthawk continued on higher and higher, straight up into the sky. The sun on the mountains looked like the glowing end of a cigarette. Nighthawk climbed and climbed. The cold froze his breath upon his breast. The air became thinner, causing him to beat his wings faster and faster.

Nonetheless, the stars grew no larger. His chest pumped like a bellows. The cold and frost pierced him like a sword. His wings grew numb. He opened tear-filled eyes and once again looked up at the heavens. And yes, that was the end of him. He no longer knew if he was falling or climbing, upside down or right side up, or if he was still looking up. But peace filled his heart, and though his bloody beak was slightly bent to one side, there was a slight smile on it.

After a time Nighthawk opened his eyes wide. He saw that his body had become a beautiful light, blue like a phosphorous flame, burning silently. Just next to him was Cassiopeia. From just behind him shined the blue-white light of the Milky Way.

And Nighthawk’s Star burned on. It burned on and forever on. It continues to burn, even now.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Spider’s Thread [Akutagawa Ryunosuke]


One day, the Buddha was strolling alone along the edge of a lotus pond in Paradise. The blooming lotus flowers in the pond were each pure white like jewels, and the place was filled with the indescribably wondrous fragrance continually emitted from each flower’s golden center. It was just morning in Paradise.

After a time, the Buddha paused at the edge of the pond and from between the lotus leaves that covered it saw a glimpse of the state of things below. Now this celestial pond just happened to lie directly over Hell, and peering through that crystal-clear water was like looking through a magnifying glass at the River of Death and the Mountain of Needles and such.

The Buddha saw there, in the depths of Hell, a single man writhing along with the other sinners. This man was named Kandata, and he had been a notorious thief who had performed murder and arson and other acts of evil. In his past, however, he had performed just one good deed: one day, when walking through the deep forest, he saw a spider crawling along the road. At first he raised his foot to crush it, but suddenly he changed his mind and stopped, saying, “No, small though it may be, a spider, too, has life. It would be a pity to meaninglessly end it,” and so did not kill it.

Looking down upon the captives in Hell the Buddha recalled this kind act that Kandata had performed, and thought to use his good deed as a way to save him from his fate. Looking aside, there on a jade-colored lotus leaf he saw a single spider, spinning out a web of silver thread. The Buddha carefully took the spider’s thread into his hand, and lowered it straight down between the jewel-like white lotuses into the depths of Hell.


Kandata was floating and sinking along with the other sinners in the Lake of Blood at the bottom of Hell. It was pitch black no matter which way he looked, and the occasional glimpse of light that he would see in the darkness would turn out to be just the glint of the terrible Mountain of Needles. How lonely he must have felt! All about him was the silence of the grave, the only occasional sound being a faint sigh from one of the damned. Those who were so evil as to be sent to this place were tired by its various torments, and left without even the strength to cry out. Even the great thief Kandata could only squirm like a dying frog as he choked in the Lake of Blood.

But one day, raising up his head and glancing at the sky above the lake, in the empty darkness Kandata saw a silver spider’s thread being lowered from the ceiling so far, far away. The thread seemed almost afraid to be seen, emitting a frail, constant light as it came down to just above Kandata’s head. Seeing this, Kandata couldn’t help but clap his hands in joy. If he were to cling to this thread and climb up it, he may be able to climb out of Hell! Perhaps he could even climb all the way to Paradise! Then he would never be chased up the Mountain of Needles, nor drowned in the Lake of Blood again.

Thinking so, he firmly grasped the spider’s thread with both hands and began to climb the thread, higher and higher. Having once been a great thief, he was used to tasks such as this. But the distance between Hell and Paradise is tens of thousands of miles, and so it would seem that no amount of effort would make this an easy journey. After climbing for some time Kandata tired, and couldn’t climb a bit higher. Having no other recourse, he hung there from the thread, resting, and while doing so looked down below.

He saw that he had made a good deal of progress. The Lake of Blood that he had been trapped in was now hidden in the dark below, and he had even climbed higher than the dimly glowing Mountain of Needles. If he could keep up this pace, perhaps he could escape from Hell after all. Kandata grasped the thread with both hands, and laughingly spoke in a voice that he hadn’t used in the many years since he had come here, “I’ve done it! I’ve done it!”

Looking down, however, what did he see but an endless queue of sinners, intently following him up the thread like a line of ants! Seeing this, surprise and fear kept Kandata hanging there for a time with mouth open and eyes blinking like a fool. How could this slender spider’s web, which should break even under just his weight, support the weight of all these other people? If the thread were to snap, all of his effort would be wasted and he would fall back into Hell with the others! That just would not do. But even as he thought these thoughts, hundreds more, thousands more of the damned came crawling up from the Lake of Blood, forming a line and scurrying up the thread. If he didn’t do something fast, surely the thread would snap in the middle and he would fall back down.

Kandata shouted out, “Hey! You sinners! This thread is mine! Who said you could climb up it? Get off! Get off!”

Though the thread had been fine until just then, with these words it snapped with a twang right where Kandata held it. Poor Kandata fell headfirst through the air, spinning like a top, right down through the darkness. The severed end of the silver thread hung there, suspended from heaven, shining with its pale light in that moonless, starless sky.


The Buddha stood in Paradise at the edge of the lotus pond, silently watching these events. After Kandata sank like a stone to the bottom of the Lake of Blood, he continued his stroll with a sad face. He must have been surprised that even after such severe punishment Kandata’s lack of compassion would lead him right back into Hell.

Yet the lotus blossoms in the lotus ponds of Paradise care nothing about such matters. Their jewel-like white flowers waved about the feet of the Buddha, and each flower’s golden center continuously filled the place with their indescribably wondrous fragrance. It was almost noon in Paradise.

(16 April 1918)

Sunday, May 07, 2006

An Inner Landscape [Kajii Motojiro]


Takashi gazes from his window at the sleeping street. No windows are lit, and the silence of late night forms a halo about the street lights. The occasional harsh sound could be beetles colliding.

It is a maze-like town, and even during the day few people pass by. Fish entrails and the corpses of rats lie for days without moving. The houses on either side have a dilapidated air, and show the scars of weathering. The colorings are faded, the rough plaster walls crumbling, and one feels that the people within must live spiritless lives like old rags. The window in Takashi's room opens out to that street, positioning him as if sitting at the head of a table.

At times the sound of a clock's pendulum can be heard seeping in through gaps in the door. A wind blows blackly through a faraway tree, and then a nearby oleander tree begins to shudder in the deep night. Takashi just gazes. The dimly white peaks of houses fade away and then reappear in his field of vision, and he feels unfocused thoughts passing through his mind again. Crickets are chirping. From where he thinks he can hear them wafts a faint odor of moldering vegetation.

"Your room always smells like French escargot," a friend once said while visiting. "No matter where you live you immediately give the place an aura of gloom".

A spread out futon pushes through the room's clutter: A water heater meant for use on picnics, always choked with spent tea leaves. Here and there various books, separated from their cases. Scraps of paper. During the day Takashi sleeps in the midst of all this like some nocturnal bird. He awakes to the faraway sound of a school bell. At night, when people are settling down to sleep, he comes to the window to gaze outside.

His thoughts gradually become clearer, like a silhouette emerging from a thick fog. The scenery that disperses and condenses before his eyes begins to seem at times completely familiar, and then at other times completely unknown. Then a certain point is reached, and Takashi can no longer distinguish between his thoughts and the late-night town. His melancholy and the oleander in the darkness are one. An unseen electric lamp traces out an earthen wall, merging its shadow with the darkness, and there his resignation too takes solid form.

Takashi thinks that his inner landscape lies just there.


Takashi stays awake at his window all night because he can't sleep, even at such an hour. Thoughts too dark to allow sleep torment him. He has caught a terrible illness from a woman.

Long ago, he had a dream something like this--

His leg is swelling. Not only that, but it bears two rows of something like bite marks. As the swelling gradually becomes worse the marks grow deeper and their edges expand.

Some of the marks look like the navel on a navel orange, with mounds of foul-looking meat peeking out from within. Some are long, deep slits, like the path of a bookworm through an old book. Strangely, his leg turns green as it swells before his eyes, yet there is no pain. The sores are scarlet, like flowers on a cactus. His mother is there.

"Well, now look what's happened to me," he says in an accusing tone.
"It's not my fault!"
"Well you're the one who made these marks with your fingernails!"

He believes that his mother has dug her nails into him. But as he says so, a thought comes to him. Could it be...? But there is no way she could know about that, he reassures himself, and in his dream he implores her, "Mother! Help me!"

His mother's resolve softens, and after a time she at last says, "All right, I'll fix you up."

At some point the two rows of sores have moved, and now stretch from his chest to his stomach. As he watches, wondering what she will do, his mother pulls at the skin of his chest (which at some point has started sagging like a shriveled teat) and begins stuffing one sore into its opposite, just as if sliding a button into a buttonhole. In the dream Takashi looks on silently with a dissatisfied expression. One pair at a time, a sore is tucked into the one opposing it.

"This is Dr. ___'s method," his mother says.

He looks as if he is wearing a frock coat with many buttons, though the smallest movement seems likely to make them come loose. Takashi is careful to keep his secret concealed from his mother while he continues to stab out at her. This had an effect on him, even though it was all within a dream.

* * *

Takashi was surprised that consorting with prostitutes could so darkly encroach upon his life, to the point of appearing in his dreams. In the course of his normal life he would have relations with girls, and sometimes a girl would do some unkind thing. At such times Takashi would imagine that girl a cruel whore, and then be taken by an unbearable self-loathing. Each time that happened Takashi realized how filthy he had become inside, and knew the extent of the deformation caused by this wedge driven into his life.

And then another wedge was driven into him-the suspicion of disease. Part of his old nightmare had come true.

He found himself noticing doctors' signboards on the street, or unintentionally reading advertisements in newspapers, though he had never before paid attention to such things. He would see some beautiful thing, and feel happy because of it. But then he would feel a sudden discontent, and following that emotion to its source would invariably lead to the sickness. At those times Takashi could not help but feel as if some dark thing lay in wait for him everywhere he went.

Sometimes he would take out that diseased part of him and examine it. It beseeched him with an expression like some sorrowful animal.


Takashi often remembers that unfortunate night.

He sat alone in a room facing the traffic, where he could hear drunken johns and the voices of the women who called to them. The sounds of lively shamisen guitars and taiko drums from the neighborhood beat against his solitary heart.

Oh, this place! Takashi thought, straining to hear the sounds of shuffling sandals and, weaving among that, the clacking of wooden clogs. It seemed as if all the sounds, the call of the ice cream seller, the singing voices, all of them, were being made for some purpose.

The sound of the serving girl's clogs, too, hadn't affected him so when they were just out front on Shijo Avenue.

Takashi felt a self like the one that had walked down Shijo Avenue a few minutes ago–a self that could freely think upon things–there in the room with him.

Finally, I'm here, he thought.

The serving girl entered, and the room filled with the smell of wax from the charcoal sticks in the brazier she brought. Takashi found his tongue tied, and when she left he told himself that no one could be expected to change moods so abruptly.

The woman was a long time in coming. Takashi grew anxious, and on a whim decided to climb up to the fire lookout of this house that he had come to know so well.

Climbing up a rotting ladder, he passed a room with its paper window screen open. Inside, a futon was laid out and someone glared out at him. Takashi pretended not to notice and continued up, thinking about how this place lent self-assurance.

Climbing up to the lookout, he saw that this part of town was covered in dark roof tiles. Here and there amid the tiles electrically lit parlors were visible through bamboo screens. A tall building containing a restaurant stuck out from a surprising location. That must be Shijo Avenue, Takashi thought. Beyond the rooftops he could see the red gate of Yasaka Shrine and the forest, dimly revealed by reflected light from electric lamps. The evening haze blurred the far-away details of the Maruyama and Higashiyama districts. The Milky Way flowed from somewhere in that direction.

Takashi felt himself being set free. From now on I'll always come up here, he thought. A night heron flew by, calling. A soot-black cat walked along the roof. Takashi saw a pot of spent autumn flowers at his feet.

The woman said that she was from Hakata, and her Kyoto dialect had a strange accent. She had a neat appearance, and Takashi told her so. This loosened the woman's mouth, and she told him that even though she had just come to town she had sold some thousands of flowers the previous month, putting her fourth from the top in this brothel district. Starting with whoever topped the list, the girls’ names would be posted in the coordinating office, and some number of top girls would receive prize money. She said that she looked so neat and tidy because her mistress, who she called Mother, took good care of so valuable a girl.

"So I'm working as hard as I can," she said. "Just recently I caught a cold, and so I'm quite tired, and so Mother told me I should rest, but I keep working."
"Are you taking any medicine?"
"They gave me some, but each dose costs five sen , and it never helps, no matter how much I take."

While listening to the girl, Takashi recalled a woman that a man named S___ had spoken of.
She was an ugly woman, S___ said, and you would be embarrassed to ask for her by name no matter how drunk you were. And the filth of the nightwear she wore, you wouldn't believe it, he said.

The first time S___ was paired with her it was by mere chance. He ended up having quite the bizarre experience, however, and after that whenever he got raging drunk he would give in to his baser self and call for that woman. He said that when he drank something happened to stir him up, and then no other woman could satisfy him.

When Takashi heard the story he thought that it was one thing if the woman had perversions of her own, but the fact that the battle for survival in the red light district forced that ugly woman to do such peculiar things was depressing.

S___ told him that the woman was as silent as a mute. Not that you would want to talk to her, he added. At the time Takashi had wondered how many customers, likely mute themselves, the woman had.

In his mind, Takashi compared the ugly woman with this one as he listened to her prattle.
"You sure are a quiet one," she said.

Her skin was hot. Each time his touch reached some new place he found her heat increased.

"I have another to go to," the woman said, beginning her preparations to leave. "You're leaving too, right?"

Lying down, Takashi saw the woman facing him, putting on her kimono. Watching her, he thought, Here it comes… There! That's it…, ‘that’ being a feeling something like this: He's always thinking about women, and he comes to a place like this to buy one. She comes into the room. Up to this point she's fine. The woman takes off her kimono, and still she's fine. But then as things progress he becomes unsure of what it is that he is always imagining as being a woman. So, these are the arms of a woman, he tells himself. But they are just a woman's arms, and nothing more. But then, as she prepares to leave, she once again takes the form of a woman.

"I wonder if the trains are still running?"
"I have no idea."

Actually, Takashi hoped that the trains had stopped. Then the mistress downstairs might say something like "If you don't want to leave, I don't mind if you sleep here until morning." Takashi thought it more likely that she would say, "If you aren't going to call someone up, you need to leave."

"You aren't leaving with me?" The woman had finished dressing, but was still hanging back. Well..., he thought, starting to take off his sweaty robe.

The woman left, and he immediately told the serving girl to bring him a beer.

The cry of a sparrow sounded in the gutter. In his half-awake mind, Takashi pictured the fresh exterior being lit up in the morning fog. Lifting his head, he could see the sleeping face of a woman, lit by the dim light of electric lamps in the morning air.

He awoke again to the sound of a flower seller's voice at the front door. What a fresh voice, he thought. He could almost see the color of the morning sun spilling over the flowers and the sakaki leaves that she carried.

After a time the doors of homes flew open, and the voices of children heading for school came from the street. The woman was still deep asleep.

"Go home. Take a bath," the woman said through a yawn, holding on her palm the woven hairpiece she wore on top of her bun. "I'm going now," she said, leaving. Takashi just went back to sleep.


Takashi goes from the foot of the Marutacho Bridge down to the dry riverbed. The houses facing the riverbed create afternoon shadows.

There is a pile of the stones used to fortify the riverbank, and they have a strong, peculiar odor under the autumn sun. Over towards the Aragami Bridge centrifugal drying machines are strewn about the fields. Somewhere in that direction a metal measuring tape flashes in the sun. Below the Aragami Bridge the river flows in fine ripples like a reed screen. Shallow water glitters as it burbles by a sandbar choked with summer grasses. A wagtail flies off.

The sun stabs down onto his back, but in the shade the cold of autumn curls about him. Takashi sits there. People go by, cars go by, he thinks. And then, I'm in pain in the city.

Foot and vehicle traffic passes by on the road running along the opposite bank. Along it is the public market, a shed filled with barrels of tar, and people working in an empty lot, perhaps building a house.

Occasionally a wind blows from upriver. With a rustling it pushes a crumpled page of a newspaper past where he sits. Stopped by a small stone, for a time it holds out against the wind. But then with a sudden flip it is carried off again.

Two children and a dog walk upriver. The dog comes back, gives the newspaper a sniff, and returns to following the children.

A zelkova tree thick with leaves stands on his side of the river. Takashi is taken by the tips of its branches, waving high in the wind. After gazing at it for a time some part of his soul moves into the treetop, and he feels himself swaying with the small leaves and bending with the green branches among the high air currents.

Ah, this feeling... Takashi thinks. To just look, that's something, too. I can move part, perhaps all of my soul into a thing.

Takashi thinks on such things. The lure of the window he sits at every night, how it quells his depression and troubles. The marvel of becoming some thing that he gazes at from a distance. He feels that in the high branches of the zelkova tree as well.

I'm in pain in the city.

To the north, red torii dot the Kamo Forest. Above that the faraway mountains blend together. Hieizan Mountain forms a backdrop for columns of smoke from the chimneys of spinning mills. Red brick buildings, a post office. Bicycles pass over the Aragami Bridge, among parasols and horse-drawn carriages. The shade reaches the riverbed, and a peddler sounds his trumpet.


Takashi sometimes aimlessly walks the streets of the city until late at night.
There are no people on Shijo Avenue, except for the rare passing drunk. The night fog has settled down onto the asphalt. Stores on both sides of the street have trash bins pushed out to the pavement, and their doors are locked tight. Here and there are puddles of vomit and overturned bins. Takashi recalls times when he would get so drunk, but now he walks on in silence.

He turns and enters the Shinkyogoku mall, where it is oddly busy for the time. The sound of a woman's clogs comes from between shuttered doors as she carries a metal basin to the bath. A shop clerk brings out a pair of roller skates. A man carries a delivery order of udon noodles. Youths play tug-of-war with a pole in the middle of traffic. It is almost as if the existence of these people is buried in the bustle of daytime, but is able to express itself at this hour.

Leaving the mall, the town returns to a true late night. The sound of his clogs, which he never notices during the daytime, is sharp in his ears. The silence of the area makes him feel as if he is walking through it with some strange intent.

Takashi hangs a small Korean bell at his waist as he walks through these late nights. It is a gift from a friend, purchased for him at the Korea Pavilion in the Okazaki Park exhibition grounds. It has blue and red cloisonné work over a silver base, and a beautiful mellow sound. When among other people it can't be heard, but it begins to ring on late night roads as if an embodiment of his heart.

The town he walks through opens up to him, as does the view from his window. These are roads that he has never walked down before, but at the same time they produce a feeling of familiarity in him. These are no longer just the same roads that he has walked down some few times before. Takashi would lose track of how long he had been walking, and would feel that he has become an eternal passer-by.

At such times, the ring of the Korean bell causes Takashi's heart to tremble. At times, Takashi feels as if his shell of a body is left behind on the street and only the sound of the bell passes through the town. At other times it feels as if a clear mountain stream flows out from near his waist and into his body. It flows about within him, and cleanses his sickness-fouled blood.
I'm gradually getting better.

The ringing of his small hope purely vibrates the late-night air.


The view from his window is the same every night. To Takashi all nights are the same. But one night Takashi sees a point of blue-white light in a tree in the darkness. It must be some kind of insect, he thinks. Takashi sees the light again the following night, and the night after that.

When he leaves the window and lays down on his bed, he feels a dim point of light glowing in the darkness of his room as well.

"You creature that is ailing me! In due course I will disappear into the darkness, but I think that you are able to stay awake without sleeping. Like that insect outside, burning its blue light."

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Acorns and the Wildcat [Miyazawa Kenji]

One Saturday evening, Ichiro received a curious postcard. It said:
September 19th
Mr. Kaneta Ichiro,
I hop you are doing fyne. Tomoroww, we have trublesom trial, so come pleese. No wepons pleese.
From, the wildcat
The handwriting was terrible, and the ink so thick that it stuck to his fingers. But Ichiro was very happy. He carefully put the postcard in his school bag, and jumped and leapt about his house. Even after he went to bed he thought of nothing but the wildcat’s meowish face and what the troublesome trial would be like, and couldn’t fall asleep until very late.

When he did wake up, it was fully morning. Going outside, the mountains around him stood up as if they had been made just then, and lined up under a perfectly blue sky. Ichiro hurried to finish his breakfast, and then, alone, climbed the river valley road upstream.

A clear wind whooshed and the chestnut tree scattered a rain of nuts. Ichiro looked up at the chestnut tree and asked, “Chestnut tree! Hullo, chestnut tree! Did the wildcat pass by?”

The chestnut tree quieted down some, and answered, “The wildcat? Early this morning he rushed by in a wagon, headed east.”

“East? That would be the direction I’m headed in. How strange. Well, I’ll just try going on a little further. Thank you, chestnut tree!” The chestnut tree remained silent, and dropped another rain of nuts.

Ichiro traveled a little further and came to the Fluting Falls. The Fluting Falls was a white stone cliff with a small hole in its middle. Water rushed out of the hole with a sound like a flute, and formed a roaring waterfall in the valley below. Ichiro faced the falls and shouted, “Hullo, hullo! Fluting Falls! Did the wildcat pass by?”

The falls whistled an answer: “The wildcat? Just now he rushed by in a wagon, headed west.”

“West? That’s the direction my home is. How strange. Well, I’ll just try going on a little further. Thank you, Fluting Falls!” The falls resumed blowing its flute.

Ichiro traveled a little further and came across the beech tree. Underneath it were numerous white mushrooms forming a strange band, playing don-don-da-DON, don-don-da-DON. Ichiro crouched down and asked, “Hullo, mushrooms! Did the wildcat pass by?”

The mushrooms answered, “The wildcat? Early this morning he rushed by in a wagon, headed south.”

Ichiro cocked his head. “South? That would be towards those mountains. How strange. Well, I’ll just try going on a little further. Thank you, mushrooms!” But the mushrooms were already busy reforming their strange band: Don-don-da-DON, don-don-da-DON.

Ichiro went a little further and came across a squirrel, leaping about the branches of a walnut tree. Ichiro held up a hand to stop it, and asked, “Hullo, squirrel! Did the wildcat pass by?”

The squirrel put its hand to its brow, and peering down at Ichiro answered, “The wildcat? Early this morning when it was still dark he rushed by in a wagon, headed south.”

“That’s the second person who’s said that he went south. How strange. Well, I’ll just try going on a little further. Thank you, squirrel!” But the squirrel was already gone. The only thing Ichiro could see was the topmost walnut tree branch waving, and a flash from a leaf in the beech tree next to it.

Ichiro went a little further, and the river valley road thinned and disappeared. A new small road appeared on the south side of the river, leading into the forest of pitch black nutmeg trees. Ichiro began to climb the new road. The nutmeg branches were blackly interlaced, and not a sliver of blue sky was visible. The road turned steeply uphill. Ichiro continued climbing, his face bright red and dripping beads of sweat. A sudden brightness hurt his eyes, and he found himself in a beautiful golden meadow of grasses that whispered in the wind. He was surrounded by the forest of magnificent olive-colored nutmeg trees.

In the middle of the meadow was a short, oddly-shaped man. He was crouched down and holding a leather whip, and staring silently at Ichiro. Ichiro approached him slowly, and stopped near him, surprised. The man had only one good eye, the other one solid white and twitching. He wore an odd overcoat or jacket. His legs were horribly bent like a goat’s, and his feet malformed like a paddle used for scooping rice. Though the man scared Ichiro a little, Ichiro stayed as calm as possible and asked, “Do you know the wildcat?”

The man looked sideways at Ichiro, and twisting his mouth into a grin answered, “Sir Wildcat will be back shortly. You must be Ichiro.”

Ichiro was frightened, and backed up a step. “That’s right, I’m Ichiro. How do you know my name?”

The odd man grinned. “So you got the postcard?”

“I did. That’s why I’m here.”

“The writing was very bad,” said the man, looking down with a sad expression.

Ichiro felt sorry for him and said, “I thought the writing was quite good.”

The man looked pleased and began breathing heavily. His face turned red all the way to his ears, and he opened the neck of his kimono to let the air in.

“Was the handwriting good, too?” he asked.

Ichiro couldn’t help but laugh, and answered, “It was very good! I’ll bet even a fifth-grader couldn’t write so well!”

The man suddenly made a sour face. “Fifth grade? You mean fifth grade in elementary school?”

His voice sounded so weak and pitiable that Ichiro hurried to say, “No, I meant the fifth grade in college.”

The man was again pleased, and smiled so largely that his mouth seemed to cover his entire face. “I’m the one that wrote that postcard!”

Ichiro stifled a laugh, and asked “Just who are you?”

The man suddenly became serious. “I drive the wagon for Sir Wildcat,” he said.

The wind whooshed, and waves spread through the grass, and the driver bowed deeply. Thinking this odd, Ichiro turned around and saw the wildcat standing there, wearing yellow silk robes and with perfectly round green eyes. Ichiro noticed that the wildcat did indeed have pointed ears. The wildcat made a quick bow. Ichiro returned the wildcat’s greeting. “Hello, there. Thank you for the postcard.”

The wildcat pulled a whisker taut, and stuck out his belly. “Greetings, and welcome,” he said. “I’ve brought you here for your advice. There’s been quite the troublesome argument for three days now, and I’m stuck as judge of the trial. Please, take a seat and relax. The acorns should be here any minute. This trial comes back to bother me every year. “ The wildcat pulled a box of cigarettes from his robe and stuck one in his mouth. “Would you like one?” he asked, offering the box to Ichiro.

Surprised, Ichiro answered, “No thank you.”

The wildcat laughed, and said, “Right, I suppose you’re a bit young, still.” He scratched a match alight, and scrunched his face as he blew out blue smoke. The wildcat’s driver stood straight at attention, but it was obvious from the tears in his eyes how much he was fighting his desire for one of the cigarettes.

Just then, Ichiro heard a sound like crunching salt. Surprised, he crouched down and saw round golden things scattered about and shining in the grass. Looking closely, he saw that they were acorns in red trousers, at least three hundred of them. They were all shouting something: Waah, waah, waah, waah.

“Ah, there they are. They swarm in like a bunch of ants. Hey, hurry up and ring the bell,” the wildcat shouted at the wagon driver, throwing away his cigarette. “The sunlight is good over here today, so cut down this grass.” The wagon driver hurried, taking a large sickle from his belt and cutting down the grass in front of the wildcat. The acorns came bounding from among the grass in all directions, glinting in the sun.

The wagon driver rang a bell, ding-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling. The ringing and dinging echoed through the nutmeg forest, and the golden acorns quieted a little. At some point the wildcat had changed into long, black robes, and had seated himself in a stately manner across from the acorns. Ichiro thought that the acorns looked like people come to pay homage to the Great Buddha of Nara. The driver cracked his whip two or three times: hyuuu-bang! hyuuu-bang! The acorns were beautiful, shining under the clear, blue sky.

“This trial has been going on for three days now,” said the wildcat, a little nervous but still speaking in a pompous voice. “Why don’t you all just give up and get along?”

The acorns all shouted out: “No! No! Not until you agree that the acorns with pointed heads are the best! And that I have the most pointed head!”

“No, that’s not right! The round acorns are the best! And I’m the roundest acorn there is!”

“The biggest ones are the best! And I’m the biggest one, so I’m the best!”

“What are you talking about? I’m much bigger than you! Even the judge agreed with that yesterday!”

“That’s not it at all. It’s height that matters! Taller is better!”

“Whoever’s best at wrestling is best! Let’s all wrestle to see who’s best.”

All of them were buzzing, the mass of them like a bee hive that had been poked with a stick. All was chaos, and no one could be heard. The wildcat shouted, “Be quiet! Where do you think you are? Silence, silence!” The driver cracked his whip hyuuu-bang! again, and the acorns finally quieted down. The wildcat twirled a whisker tight, and said, “This trial has been going on for three days now. Why don’t you all just give up and get along?”

The acorns all shouted out: “No! No! Not until you agree that the acorns with pointed heads are the best!”

“That’s not right! Round ones are the best!”

“No, big ones are!”

And on and on and on, until no one could be understood. The wildcat shouted, “Silence! Quiet! Where do you think you are? Shut up! Shut up!” The driver cracked his whip hyuuu-bang!, and the wildcat twirled a whisker tight. “This is already the third day of this trial. Why don’t you all just give up and get along?”

“No! No! Ones with pointed heads…” and on and on and on.

The wildcat shouted: “Silence! Quiet! Where do you think you are? Shut up! Shut up!”

The driver cracked his whip hyuuu-bang!, and the acorns fell silent. The wildcat spoke softly to Ichiro. “Do you see? What should we do?”

Ichiro laughed and answered, “You should tell them something I heard in a sermon: That the most foolish of them, the poorest of them, the most wicked of them is the best.”

The wildcat nodded with understanding, and smugly opened the collar of his robes, showing the yellow silk underneath. He pronounced his judgment. “Very well, then. Silence, now, I’m pronouncing judgment. The worst of you, the most foolish, the poorest, the most inept, the most weak-minded of you is the best.”

The acorns fell silent. Totally silent, and still.

The wildcat took off his black robes and, wiping the sweat from his brow, took Ichiro’s hand. The driver was overjoyed as well, and cracked his whip five or six times, hyuuu-bang! hyuuu-hyuuu-bang!

“Thank you very much,” the wildcat said. “You’ve brought this terrible trial to an end after just a minute and a half. Please, from now on I hope that you will become an honorary judge in my court. Please come again if I send you another postcard. I will reward you each time you come.”
“Certainly. But you don’t need to reward me.”

“No, you must accept your reward. My reputation depends on it. I’ll address the postcards to Kaneta Ichiro, and have them sent from ‘The Court’. Is that acceptable?”

“Sure, that’s fine,” said Ichiro. The wildcat stood there for a time curling his whiskers and blinking his eyes, and finally seemed to come to a decision, saying, “And how about if in the future, when I have need of you, on the postcard I will write that on the following day you must report to the court?”

Ichiro laughed. “Hmmm, that sounds a bit odd. Maybe you shouldn’t write that.”

The wildcat seemed to take offense at this, and stood there looking down, twisting his whisker with a disappointed look on his face. Finally he recovered himself, and said, “Well, I’ll just keep the wording the same as before, then. Now, as to your reward for today. Which would you rather have? A box of golden acorns, or the head of a salted salmon?”

“I would rather have the golden acorns, please.”

The wildcat seemed relieved that Ichiro hadn’t chosen the salmon head, and called to the driver, “Bring a cup of acorns! If we don’t have enough gold ones, mix in some gold plated ones! Hurry!”

The driver scooped up the acorns, and shouted “There is exactly one box full!”

The wildcat’s robes flapped in the breeze. The wildcat stretched fully up, closed his eyes, and said through a half-yawn, “Prepare the wagon!” Oddly-shaped gray horses pulled out a wagon made from a huge white mushroom. “Let me give you a ride home,” he said. They boarded the wagon as the driver loaded the box of acorns.


The wagon left the meadow. The trees and brush wavered like smoke. Ichiro looked at the gold acorns, and the wildcat stared vacantly off into the distance. As the wagon advanced the acorns lost their luster, and when it stopped they had become just plain brown acorns. The wildcat’s yellow robes and the driver and the mushroom wagon all disappeared, and Ichiro was standing in front of his home holding his box of acorns.

The wildcat never again sent him a postcard. From time to time Ichiro wondered if he should have told the wildcat that he could command him to report to court.

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Restaurant of Many Orders [Miyazawa Kenji]

Once there were two young gentlemen deep in the mountains, among the dry leaves. They were dressed just like British soldiers and carried shiny guns. With them were two dogs that looked like polar bears. One of them said something like this:

“What’s wrong with these mountains? We haven’t seen a single bird nor beast! I wish something would show up so that I could shoot it. Bang! Baang!
“Wouldn’t it be nice to put a couple of bullets into the yellow belly of a deer about now! To watch it spin about a couple of times before it fell down dead!”

They were deep in the mountains. So deep, in fact, that even their hunter guide had gotten lost and wandered off. So deep, in fact, that even those dogs that looked like polar bears both got dizzy, and howled, and foamed at the mouth, and dropped dead.

“Well there goes 2,400 yen!” said one of the men, peeling back his dog’s eyelid.
“Well mine was 2,800 yen!” said the other man, his head lowered in regret.

The first gentleman went pale, and he carefully watched the other gentleman’s expression as he said, “I think we should head back.”
“I think we should head back, too. The weather has gotten cold, and I’ve gotten hungry.”
“Well then let’s call it quits. On the way back, we can stop by that inn we stayed at yesterday and buy some game birds.”
“They had rabbit, too, didn’t they? It’ll be just as if we hunted them ourselves. Well, let’s get going, then.”

But wouldn’t you know, they had no idea which direction would get them back. The wind howled, the grass rustled, the leaves whispered, the trees creaked.

“I’m so hungry! I’ve had a pain in my side since a while back.”
“Me, too. I hope we don’t have to walk much further.”
“I hope so, too. Oh, what shall we do? I really want something to eat!”
“I really want something to eat, too!”

The two gentlemen carried on like that as they walked through the rustling grass.
Glancing behind, one of them saw an impressive Western-style house. At its entrance was a sign:


“This is perfect! There’s a place to eat right here! Let’s go in!”
“Well now, I wonder what a restaurant is doing in a place like this? But I guess they serve food here...”
“Of course they do! That’s what the sign says!”
“Well then, let’s go in. I’m so hungry I could faint.”

The two of them stood at the entranceway. It was quite impressive, made of white porcelain bricks. There was also a glass door with gold writing that said:

All are welcome. Please come in for a free meal.

The two hunters were overjoyed, and said:
“Well do you see that? What a wonderful place the world is. We had a bad time earlier today, but now look how lucky we are! Not only did we find a restaurant, but one with free food!”
“That’s right! The sign says that they’ll make us a free meal!”

They pushed open the door and went inside, entering a hallway. On the other side of the glass door was written:

We especially welcome our fat and young customers.

The two were thrilled to be especially welcomed.

“Hey! We’re doubly welcome!”
“That’s right! We’re both fat and young!”

Marching down the hallway, they next came to a door painted blue.

“What an odd house. I wonder why it has so many doors?”
“This is the Russian style. All houses in cold places or in the mountains are built like this.”

As they began to open the door, they noticed something written in yellow above them:

This is a restaurant with many orders. Please be patient.

“They’re that busy, all the way up here in the mountains?”
“Well, sure. Even down in Tokyo, none of the big restaurants are on the main streets!”

As they were talking they opened the door. On the other side was written:

We really have many orders. Please be patient with each one.

One of the gentlemen grimaced, “Well now, what do you think that means?”
“Well, I’m sure it means that they have a lot of orders, and each one takes a lot of time to prepare, so please be patient.”
“I’m sure that’s it. I hope we get to the dining room soon.”
“Yes, I’d like a seat at a table.”

But wouldn’t you know, instead they came upon another door. Next to it was a mirror, and below that a brush with a long handle. On the door, written in red, was:

Please fix your hair, and remove the mud from your boots.

“Well that’s reasonable. Before we came in I didn’t think this would be such a nice place, being up here in the mountains.”
“They’re quite strict about manners. They must get many important guests.”

So the two of them straightened up their hair, and brushed the mud from their boots.

Then, an amazing thing. Just as they replaced the brush to its shelf, it faded away and a wind whooshed into the room. The two were startled, and huddling close to each other threw open the door and hurried through to the next room. Both of them thought that if they didn’t soon raise their spirits with something hot to eat, then something terrible would happen.

They again found something strange written on the other side of the door:

Please leave your guns and ammunition here.

Just next to the message was a black table.

“Well, of course. We don’t need guns to eat.”
“They must really have some important guests here.”

The two removed their guns and their ammunition belts and placed them on the table.

Next there was a black door.

Please remove your hats and overcoats and shoes.

“What do you think?”
“I guess we have to. There sure must be important guests in here.”

The two hung their hats and overcoats on a peg and removed their shoes, and flapped through the door. On the other side, it said:

Please leave here any tie pins, cuff links, eyeglasses, wallets, or other metal objects. Especially sharp ones.

Next to the door was an impressive safe, painted black and with its door open. There was even a key.

“Hmmm, I’ll bet they somehow use electricity to cook here. That would make metal objects dangerous. That’s why they say that pointed things in particular should be left here.”
“Yes, that’s surely it. So I guess we’ll have to come back here to pay the bill.”
“Yes, I’m sure we will.”
“Yes, that sounds right.”

The two removed their glasses and their cuff links, put them in the safe, and locked it securely.
A little further down they came to another door, this one with a glass jar in front of it. On the door was written:

Please use the cream in the jar on your face, hands, and feet.

“Now why would we need to use this cream?”
“Well, it’s so cold outside, right? If we go from that cold to a warm room, our skin could crack and split. The cream is to prevent that. There must really be some important people in there. We may end up dining with royalty!”

The two put the cream on their faces and on their hands, and then took off their socks and put the cream on their feet. When they were done there was a little cream left. They each pretended to apply it to their face, but actually ate it. They then hurriedly opened the door, on the other side of which was written:

Are you sure you applied the cream everywhere? Even your ears?

Below that was another small jar.

“Well indeed, I did forget to put it on my ears. I came close to making them crack and split. The owners here certainly are prepared for everything.”
“Yes, they’ve taken care of every detail. But I just want to get something to eat. I wonder how long these hallways will last?”

They soon came to the next door, which said:

The meal is almost prepared. Less than fifteen minutes now. Please splash the cologne in this bottle on your heads.

In front of the door was a shining golden perfume bottle. They splashed its contents onto their heads. Oddly, it smelled strongly of vinegar.

“This cologne smells a lot like vinegar. Isn’t that strange?”
“It must be some mistake. Perhaps whoever put it here had a cold, and put the wrong liquid in the bottle.”

They opened the door and went inside. On the other side of the door was written:

We’re sorry that you had to follow so many orders. Rest assured that this is the last one. Please rub plenty of this salt onto your bodies.

Of course right there was a magnificent blue porcelain saltbox. This time the two gulped, and turned their cream-covered faces towards each other.

“Something is wrong here.”
“I think that something is wrong here, too.”
“The ‘many orders’... They were orders for us!”
One said, “I’m starting to think that at this restaurant, they don’t make meals for the people that come, they make the people that come into meals. Th... th... th... that would mean that w... w... w... we...” His teeth started chattering and his body started shivering and he couldn’t speak any further.
The other said, “You mean... w... we... waaah!” He started shaking and he couldn’t speak any further.
“R... run!” said one of the gentlemen, pushing on the door behind them. But don’t you know, the door wouldn’t budge.

Further in was another door. It had two large keyholes, and a silver knife and fork carved into it. Written on it was:

Thank you for coming this far. You both look perfect. Now, please come in...

They could see two blue eyes peering in through the keyholes.

“Oooh!” Shivering, shivering.
“Nooo!” Shivering, shivering.

The two of them started to cry. From beyond the door, they could hear a whispered conversation:
“See? They’ve figured it out. They won’t rub the salt into their bodies.”
“Well of course not. Look at everything the boss wrote! ‘Rest assured that this is the last one’... I mean, really now.”
“Ah, who cares? He won’t even leave us a bone to gnaw on.”
“Well that’s true. But even so, if they don’t come through here, we’re the ones who have to do something about it.”
“Let’s try calling them. Excuse me! Dear customers, could you please come this way? The plates are all washed, and the cabbage is salted and prepared. All we have left to do is arrange you and the cabbage on a white plate. Please come quickly!”
“Come on, now, come on! Or perhaps you don’t like salads? If you prefer, we could start a fire and have fried food instead. Regardless, please come quickly!”

The two were so distressed that their faces crumpled up like discarded paper, and seeing each other’s distorted faces made them shiver all the more and start crying out loud. They heard a laughing voice shout from inside.

“Come on in, come on in! If you cry like that you’ll wash the cream off of your faces! Come on in! Yes sir, they’re all ready. We’ll bring them in right away. Come on in, gentlemen!”
“Please come in! Our boss has his napkin around his neck, and is holding his knife and is licking his chops, waiting for you.”

The two cried and cried and cried and cried and cried.

Then, suddenly, from behind them,“Bow! Wow! Grrrr!” It was the two dogs like polar bears, breaking down the door and leaping into the room. The eyes immediately disappeared from the keyholes, and the dogs growled, running in circles about the room. Then, with a final bark, they pounced on the next door. The door crashed open, and the dogs jumped through as if sucked in.
Beyond the door was a pitch black darkness, and they heard a howling and screeching and a shuffling. Then the room faded away like smoke, and the two were left shivering in the cold in the middle of the tall grass.

Looking about they saw their coats and shoes and purses and tiepins hanging on branches and scattered about among the roots. The wind howled, the grass rustled, the leaves whispered, the trees creaked.

The dogs came back, howling. From behind, they heard, “Sirs! Sirs!” It was their guide in a straw hat, rustling his way towards them through the grass. The two were quite relieved. They ate some rice cakes that their guide had brought them, and returned to Tokyo, stopping only to buy some game birds.

But when they got back even taking a hot bath didn’t repair their faces, crumpled up like discarded paper.

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