A Fine Day for Kangarooing
by Haruki Murakami
Translated by Christopher Allison
I started to fall asleep while I was eating the soup. The spoon fell
from my hand and made a fairly loud clatter when it hit the rim of
the dish. Several people looked in my direction. In the seat next to
me, my girlfriend cleared her throat lightly. Trying to cover up, I
opened the palm of my right hand, examining it closely and then
turning it over to look at the back. After all, I didn’t want anyone
to know that I had dozed off in the middle of the soup.
After looking at my hand for fifteen seconds or so, I took a deep
breath and returned to my corn potage. The back of my head was empty
and numb. It felt like I’d been hit from behind with a small
baseball bat. A white, egg-shaped gas cloud hovered languidly about
a foot above my soup bowl, and whispered seductively to me ‘It’s ok,
don’t fight it.Sleep...’ It had been there for a while.
The outline of that white gas cloud was sometimes faint, sometimes
clear. As if to confirm any minute hangs that may have been taking
place, my eyelids were slowly but surely growing heavier. Naturally,
I shook my head a couple of times, closed my eyes tightly, and then
opened them wide, trying to dispel that gas cloud. But try as I
might, I couldn’t get rid of it. The whole time, the gas cloud
hovered above the table. So very tired.
In order to banish the apparition, I tried to spell “corn potage”
silently in my head as I brought the spoon to my lips.
It was too easy, and had no effect.
“Can you give me a word that really tough to spell?” I asked my
girlfriend. She’s a middle school English teacher.
“Mississippi,” she said in a low voice that no one else could hear.
M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I, I spelled in my head. 4 S’s, 4 I’s, 2 P’s.
“Shut up and eat,” she said.
“I’m so tired,” I said.
“I understand,” she said “but please try to stay awake for me.
I probably shouldn’t have accepted the wedding invitation. It was
strange enough having a guy sitting at the table with all the
bride’s friends, but she wasn’t even really a friend of mine. I
clearly should have declined. If I had, I could have been at home at
this very moment, sound asleep in bed.
“Yorkshire terrier,” my girlfriend said suddenly. It took a second
before I realized we were back on pelling.
“Y-O-R-K-S-H-I-R-E-T-E-R-R-I-E-R,” I said out loud this time. Once
upon a time I was pretty good at spelling tests.
“You got it. Now please try to stay awake for the last hour. After
that you can sleep all you want.”
After I finished the soup, I yawned three times in succession.
Dozens of waiters appeared all at once to take up the soup dishes,
and then brought out the salad and the bread. The bread felt like it
had traveled quite a long, hard road to get to me.
We were blessed with seemingly endless boring speeches. Life, the
weather, stuff like that. I started to fall asleep again. My
girlfriend kicked me in the shin with the toe of her pumps.
“I know it’s totally rude, but this is the tiredest I’ve ever been
in my entire life.”
“Why didn’t you sleep better last night?”
“I couldn’t. I kept thinking about all kinds of random stuff.”
“Well keep thinking. Anyway, don’t fall asleep. This is my friend’s
“She’s not my friend,” I said.
She returned her bread to her plate and glared at me silently. I
gave up and started to eat my oyster gratin. The oysters tasted as
if they were some sort of ancient life form. As I was eating the
oysters, I found myself instantly transformed into a magnificent
dragon, soaring high above primeval forests, gazing down coolly at
the barren landscape below.
On the ground, a docile-looking middle aged piano teacher was
recounting memories of the bride as an elementary school student.
She was the sort of child who, when she didn’t understand something,
would ask endless questions. Compared to other children, she wasn’t
particularly gifted in anything but this, but nobody put more heart
into their playing.
Hmmph, I thought.
“I guess you probably think that she’s a pretty boring girl,” my
girlfriend said. “But really, she’s an excellent person.”
Her spoon stopped in mid-air and she glowered at me. “It’s true. I
guess you don’t believe me.”
“I believe you,” I said. “But I’ll believe you more after I’ve woken
up from a long, deep sleep.”
“To tell the truth, she’s a little boring. But being boring isn’t
such an awful crime, is it?”
I shook my head. “It’s not a crime.”
“Isn’t it way better than looking at the world askew like you?”
“I don’t look at the world askew,” I protested. “Here I am,
press-ganged into going to the wedding of a girl I hardly know just
to fill out the number of guests. Only because she’s your friend. I
don’t even like weddings. In fact, I totally dislike them. Hundreds
of people eating miserable oysters in unison.”
My girlfriend returned her spoon to the top of her plate without
hearing a word that I said, and wiped her mouth with the white
napkin in her lap. Somebody started singing a song, and a number of
camera flashes went off.
“I’m just really tired,” I muttered. I felt like I’d been left
behind in an unfamiliar town without a suitcase. A plate with a
steak on it was set down in front of me, and of course that white
gas cloud still floated languidly above it. “Just look at these nice
white sheets,” the white gas cloud carried on. “Crisp clean sheets
that have just returned from the cleaners. Don’t you see? You should
crawl into those sheets. They’ll be a little cool at first, but
they’ll warm up. And they smell like sunshine.”
My girlfriend touched the back of my hand with her tiny hand, and I
got faint whiff of her perfume. Her fine, straight hair brushed my
cheek. My eyes popped open.
“It’s almost over, so just hold out a little while longer. Please,”
she whispered in my ear. The shape of her chest stood out
conspicuously and filled out her white silk one-piece.
I took my fork and knife in hand and slowly cut the meat as if I was
drawing a line with a T-square. The table was growing boisterous,
everyone chatting amiably at everyone else, and the sound of fork
hitting plate was lost in the din. It felt like I was riding the
subway at rush hour.
“To tell the truth, I always get really tired when I go to
weddings,” I confessed. “It’s the same thing every time.”
“I’m not lying. It’s the absolute truth. I have no idea why, but
I’ve never been to a single wedding where I didn’t wind up dozing
She took a sip of her wine with a confounded expression on her face,
and ate several fries.
“I wonder if it’s some kind of complex.”
“I’ve never really thought about it.”
“It’s definitely a complex.”
“Speaking of which, I always have this dream where I’m breaking
window glass with a polar bear,” I joked. “But it’s actually the
penguins fault. The penguin forces me and the polar bear to eat
soramame. And they are incredibly large, green soramame.
“Shut up,” she hissed. I shut up.
“But I really do get tired every time I go to a wedding. One time I
knocked over a bottle of beer, and another time I dropped my knife
and fork on the floor three times.”
“That’s annoying,” she said, separating the meat from the fat with
her steak knife. “Maybe you actually want to get married.”
“So I doze off at other people’s weddings?”
“Revenge because of some deep latent urge to get married?”
“Then why is it that people doze off on the train? Some latent urge
to be a coal miner?”
My girlfriend didn’t respond to this. Giving up on my steak halfway
through, I pulled a cigarette out of my shirt pocket and lit it.
“In a word,” she said.
“You want to be a child forever.”
We ate our blackberry sherbet silently, and then drank our
“Just a little,” I replied.
“Do you want my coffee?”
I drank two cups of coffee, smoked two cigarettes, and yawned for
the 36th time. After I finished yawning and raised my head, the
white gas cloud that had hovered over the table had vanished.
Same as always.
The gas cloud disappeared just as the cake boxes were being
distributed to the tables. My apparition had blown off to some other
“Do you want to go swimming?” I asked my girlfriend.
“It’s only mid-afternoon.”
“Sure, but what will we do about swimming suits?
“We can buy them at the hotel shop.”
Taking up our cake boxes, we walked down the corridor to the hotel
shop. It being Sunday afternoon, the lobby was crawling with wedding
guests and family members.
“By the way, does ‘Mississippi’ really have four S’s?”
“I have no idea,” my girlfriend replied. I could smell the lovely
perfume on her neck.
(Originally published in Japanese in A Fine Day for Kangarooing,