Friday, November 12, 2004

"Ten Nights' Dreams" Soseki Natsume 10

[This is my translation of the tenth story in Soseki Natsume's "Ten Nights' Dreams." For a brief note on the book and the author, please refer to my biased introduction. Your comment is always welcome.]

The Tenth Night

Shotaro sprang back on the seventh night after he was abducted by a woman, and ever since had been sick in bed with sudden high fever, Ken came to let me know.

Shotaro is the most handsome man in the neighborhood and is good-natured and honest. Yet, he has only one indulgence. At twilights, he sits outside of a fruit shop, in his Panama hat, he gazes at the faces of women on the street. And is incessantly impressed. Other than that, there is not much peculiarity to mention about him.

When not many women pass by, he looks at the fruit instead of the street. There are various fruits. Peaches, apples, loquats, and bananas are neatly arranged in baskets, displayed in two rows, ready to be picked up for gifting. Shotaro always says "beautiful," looking at those fruits. He would pick a fruit stand if he were to start a business. Yet, he keeps bumming around with his Panama hat on.

Occasionally he does appraisals of citrons and the like, saying the color is excellent. But he has never paid a cent for a fruit. Of course he doesn't eat them for free, either. The only thing he does is to appraise the colors.

One evening, a lady appeared in front of the store, out of nowhere. She seemed to be of noble state, judging from her fine costume. The color of her kimono greatly pleased Shotaro. Beside, he was greatly impressed by her face as well. Thereupon, he took off his beloved Panama to her and greeted her courteously. The lady pointed at the largest of the baskets and said she would take that one. At that, Shotaro promptly picked up the basket and handed it to the lady. She weighed the basket in her hand a little, and observed, "oh, this is quite heavy!"

Being an affable guy, on top of being the one of leisure, Shotaro offered to carry the basket to her residence, and left the fruit shop with the lady. That was the last time he was seen.

It is too happy-go-lucky even for Shotaro. Something must have happened to him, his friends and relatives became upset. On the seventh night, he sprang back to his upset friends and relatives. They all clustered around him and interrogated his whereabout, and Shotaro said he had gone to the mountain on train.

That must have been a long train ride. According to him, he was in a field as soon as he got off the train. It was a vast field with exuberant green grass all over and as far as eye can see, and as he walked on the grass with the lady, he suddenly found himself on the tip of a cliff. There, the lady challenged him to jump off the cliff. Looking down, he could see the wall of the cliff, but not the bottom. Shotaro took off his Panama once more and declined over and over again. Then the woman asked, "if you dare not jump, you will be licked by pigs, will you be licked by pigs?" Shotaro detested pigs and a samurai-spirit-exalting popular singer. But he valued his life more, so he hesitated to jump off. At that a pig came oinking toward him. Not knowing what else to do, Shotaro hit its muzzle with a thin stick which he happened to have with him. The pig oinked once, toppled over, and went falling down the cliff. As Shotaro gave a sigh of relief, another pig came to nuzzle its tremendous nose against him. Reluctantly, he swung up his stick again. The pig went straight down the cliff after a single oink. Then another popped up. Then Shotaro realized that from afar, where the green field ended, tens of thousand of oinking pigs, more than one can count, were marching straight on to him standing on the cliff. He genuinely dreaded it. Yet he could not choose but to keep hitting the muzzles of approaching pigs with the stick, carefully, one by one. Strangely enough, the pigs went falling down to the bottom of the canyon, once the stick touched their nose. When he peeked down, he could see upside-down pigs went falling in a file, to the invisible bottom of the canyon. It frightened him to think that he himself drove down all those pigs into the canyon. But the pigs came up perpetually. As if black clouds had generated legs and plowed through green grass, they came oinking without an end.

With all his valor, he kept hitting the muzzles for seven days and six nights. Drained, however, with his hands as numb and weak as a jelly, he finally ended up being licked by a pig. He fell down on the cliff.

Having told Shotaro's story, Ken said that is why it is not a good idea to watch women too much. I thought it made sense. Ken said he wanted to inherit Shotaro's Panama hat.

I don't think he'll survive. The Panama will be Ken's.


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