Thursday, November 04, 2004

"Ten Nights' Dreams" Soseki Natsume-8

The Eighth Night

As I stepped over the threshold of a barber shop, three or four sitting together in white kimono said hello in unison.
Glanced from the middle, it was a square room. Windows opened to two directions and on the remaining two walls hung mirrors. The mirrors counted up to six.
I came in front of one and sat down. Then my buttock sank into the chair with a funny sound. It was a surprisingly comfortable chair to sit on. The mirror reflected my face grandly. Behind my face I had a view of the window. Sideways there was the lattice around the cashier's desk in sight. Nobody was inside the lattice. The mirror gave me a commanding view of the people passing along the street, waist up.
Shotaro passed with a woman. He had bought a panama hat without my knowledge and had it on. He even sneakily got a woman. I didn't understand. They both appeared to be boasting. They disappeared before I could have a better look at the woman's face.
A street tofu vendor walked past, blowing a horn. With his horn pressed against his lips, his cheeks were bloated as if they had been stung by a bee. Because he walked past all bloated, I couldn't help worrying about him. It felt as if he was being stung by bees all his life.
A Geisha appeared. She hadn't put makeup on. Loose hairdo made her head look flabby. Her face looked sleepy as well. Her complexion is pitifully pale. She bowed and said something, but the one to whom it was directed would not appear in the mirror.
Then a large man in white kimono came up behind me and started to look at my head with scissors and a comb in his hands. I twisted my thin beard and asked him if I would make it. The white man lightly tapped my head with the hand-held comb without giving any answer.
"Well, forget about my head. What do you think, am I going to make it?" I asked the white man. He still didn't answer, and began to click the scissors.
I gazed into the mirror, determined not to miss a single shadow reflected on it, but I became horrified by the black hair flying toward me every time the scissors clicked and closed my eyes before long.
At this the white man said, "did you see the goldfish vendor outside, sir?"
I told him I hadn't. Oblivious, the white man diligently continued to click his scissors. Then somebody yelled "watch out." Startled, I opened my eyes and saw a bicycle wheel under the sleeve of the white man. Then there came shafts of a rickshaw. In a split second the white man forced my head sideways with his hands. The bicycle and the rickshaw disappeared from my eye sight. The clicks of scissors continued.
After a while the white man came around to my side and began to clip around the ear. For the hair stopped flying into my face, I opened my eyes with ease. Calls of a millet cake vendor were heard right outside. Hitting the mortar intentionally with a small mallet, he was pounding the millet cake with nice rhythm. I hadn't seen a millet cake vendor since I was a child. I wanted to have a peek. But the vendor would never appear in the mirror. I could only hear the pounding.
I strained my eyes as best I could to look into a corner of the mirror. Then I realized that there was a woman sitting inside the lattice. It was a dark, large woman with thick eyebrows and hair done in the shape of a flipped gingko leaf, dressed in a simple kimono with its collar covered with a piece of black satin. With one knee drawn up, she was counting what looked like ten yen bills. She intently counted the bills, her eyelashes cast down, her thin lips tightly shut. Her counting speed was impressive. Yet the bills never seemed to come to an end. On her lap were at most a hundred, but the hundred never seemed to be counted off.
Aghast, I stared at the face of the woman and the bills. Then the white man said into my ear, in a loud voice, "I'll wash them off." I took this advantage and looked back at the lattice around the cashier's desk as I stood up from the chair. But there was nothing visible inside the lattice, no woman, no bills.
Having paid for the cut, I came back out. To the left of the entrance, there were about five oval-shaped buckets arranged, and in them swam all kinds of goldfish, red, spotted, skinny, plump. A goldfish vendor was behind them. The vendor had his gaze fixed upon the fish arranged in front of him, and was motionless with his chin resting in his hands. He barely paid attention to the lively activity of the street. I stood for a while to watch the goldfish vendor. While I watched him, he didn't move an inch.


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