Spider Monkey at Night

Spider Monkey at Night
1995, Heibonsha
Revised on March 17, 2005

Short Stories:

Horn (translated by OSAKABE Yoshio)

Pencil Sharpner - or, the Serendipity of WATANABE Noboru, Part I (translated by Christopher Allison)

Julio Iglesias (translated by Christopher Allison)

Time Machine - or, the Serendipity of WATANABE Noboru, Part II (translated by Christopher Allison)

Croquettes (translated by Christopher Allison)

Playing Cards (translated by OSAKABE Yoshio)

Newspaper (translated by OSAKABE Yoshio)

Donutization (translated by Christopher Allison)

Antithesis (tranlated by OSAKABE Yoshio)

Eels (translated by Christopher Allison)

TAKAYAMA Noriko-san and my Sexual Desire (translated by OSAKABE Yoshio)

Octopus (translated by Christopher Allison)

A Raid by the Old Man Mushikubo (translated by OSAKABE Yoshio)


Donuts, again (translated by OSAKABE Yoshio)

Spider-monkey at Night

Advertisement for Jazz Cafe in Kokubunji a long time ago (translated by Christopher Allison)

The World Where Horses Sell Tickets (translated by Christopher Allison)

Bangkok Surprise (translated by Christopher Allison)




A Radish Grater

Message Phone

Stockings (translated by Christopher Allison)


Good News

High Efficient Stilts


The India Salesman (translated by Christopher Allison)

Back of Ceiling

Mosho Mosho

A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall

Nicol, the Liar

Deep Red Mustard

About night whisle, or about Effect of Tale



Translated by OSAKABE Yoshio

There is a musical instrument such as the horn. And there are professional hornists. Although it is the natural way of the world, I’m confused like lost in a three-dimensional labyrinth when I start to consider such a thing seriously.

Why should it be a horn?

Why did he become the hornist? Why not me?

An act of a person becoming a hornist carries deeper mystery than an act becoming a novelist, I believe. It is the mystery you can understand everything in your life if you solve it. But the reason may be I am a novelist, not a hornist. If I am a hornist, an act of a person becoming a novelist looks much strange.

I imagine he happened to encounter with the horn one afternoon in a deep forest. During chitchatting, they liked each other and he became the professional hornist. Or the horn might tell him a story of the horn’s life, something like a hard time in its boyhood, its complicated family background, a complex of its feature or its sexual hang-up.

“I don’t know anything about a violin and flute,” The horn might have said such as “you see I was born as a horn. I haven’t gone abroad or skiing…” Since the afternoon, the horn and the hornist became an inseparable and perfect combination. After the same old, hard times like Flash Dance, the horn and the hornist, hand in hand, appear today on the public stage and are playing the first passage of Brahms’s piano concerto.

Sitting on my seat in the concert hall, I happen to think about such a thing. And also about a tuba in another deep forest, waiting for someone to walk by.


Pencil Sharpener
Or, the Serendipity of Noboru Watanabe, part I

by MURAKAMI Haruki

Translated by Christopher Allison

If there wasn't a guy named Noboru Watanabe, I would, no doubt, still be using a ratty old pencil sharpener. Thanks to Noboru Watanabe, a shiny new pencil sharpener has come into my possession. This kind of good fortune does not happen everyday.

When Noboru Watanabe came into my kitchen, he immediately spied my old pencil sharpener sitting on the table. That day, I had been working at the kitchen table for a change of pace. Thus, the pencil sharpener had been left between a bottle of soy sauce and the salt shaker.

Noboru Watanabe, while he was fixing the sink's drain--he being the plumber--now and then would steal a glance at the table top out of the corner of his eye. But at that time, since there was no way of knowing that he was a maniacal collector of pencil sharpeners, I couldn't figure out what in the world he was so interested in on the table top, at which he kept stealing such pointed glances. There were many and varied things scattered on the table.

"You know, sir, that's a really nice pencil sharpener you've got there," Noboru Watanabe said, after he had finished with the pipe repair.

"This?" Surprised, I picked it up off the table. It was the same ordinary hand-operated gadget I'd been using for more than 20 years, since my middle school days, and it was no different from any other. The metal part was badly rusted, and on top an 'Atom Seal' sticker had been stuck. In short, it was old and dirty.

"What you have there is a 1963 model Marx PSD. Very rare," Noboru Watanabe said. "The way the blade cuts is a little different from any other type. The shape of the shavings is subtly different."

"Wow," I said.

It was thus that I attained a brand new pencil sharpener of the latest model, and Noboru Watanabe came away with a 1963 model Marx PSD (with Atom Seal). Noboru Watanabe always carries new pencil sharpeners around in his bag, to exchange in barter under just such circumstances. Although it will doubtless recur, this kind of serendipity does not come too often in one lifetime.


Julio Iglesias
by Haruki Murakami
Translated by Christopher Allison

After the mosquito coils disappeared, there was not one single thing left to protect us from the attack of the sea turtle. I had tried to order more mosquito coils both by mail and by telephone, but the telephone line had been cut, and mail service had stopped about two weeks before. The more I thought about it, the more certain I was that there was nothing to prevent that crafty sea turtle from doing just what he pleased. Until now, he's been forced to drink ancient sea brine, thanks to the mosquito coils we had with us. Now, however, he was probably smiling contentedly to himself, down at the bottom of the deep blue sea, maybe chuckling a little, and taking a nap in preparation for nightfall.

"We've done for," she said to me. "When night comes, we'd both be devoured by the sea turtle."

"We must not give up hope," I said. "If we wrack our brains, we'd defeat this vile sea turtle."

"But the sea turtle stole every last one of our mosquito coils."

"We're got to try to think theoretically. If the sea turtle hates mosquito coils so much, there must be something else that he hates as well."

"For example?"

"Julio Iglesias," I said.

"Why Julio Iglesias?" she asked.

"I don't know. It just suddenly popped into my head. Like intuition or something."

Following my instincts, I put Julio Iglesias "Begin the Begine" on the Hi-Fi system's turntable and waited for sunset. When it got dark, the sea turtle would certainly launch his attack. Then, all would be decided: whether we would be eaten, or whether the sea turtle would weep.

Just before midnight, I heard the sound of squishy footsteps near the entranceway, and dropped the needle onto the record straightaway. When Julio Iglesias's sugar-water voice began to sing "Begin the Begine," the footsteps immediately stopped, and in their place could be heard a sea turtle anguished moaning.

We had beaten the sea turtle.

That night, Julio Iglesias sang "Begin the Begine" 126 times. While I hate Julio Iglesias too, it wasn't nearly as bad as the sea turtle.


Time Machine
Or, the Serendipity of Noboru Watanabe, part II
by MURAKAMI Haruki
Translated by Christopher Allison

There was a knock at the door.

I left the peel of the tangerine I was eating on top of the kotatsu and went to the genkan, only to find Noboru Watanabe (plumber and collector of pencil sharpeners) standing there. It was about 6:30, so Noboru Watanabe said "Good evening."

"Good evening," I replied, not really knowing why. "Uhh, I don't remember calling for any work..."

"Yes, I know. Today I would like to ask a favor of you. You have an old fashioned time machine in your house, and I thought that...well, that you might consider swapping it for a brand new one."

"Time machine?" I repeated to myself, a little surprised. But the surprise wouldn't go away. "Yes, there is," I said casually. "You want to see it?"

"Yes, if I might."

And so I accompanied Noboru Watanabe to my four-and-a-half mat room, with the tangerine peel still sitting on the electric kotatsu.

"Ah, the time machine," he said. I thought he had a sense of humor kind of like mine.

But Noboru Watanabe didn't laugh. Rolling back the kotatsu futon with a grave demeanor, he turned the knobs, checked the graduations, and tugged gently at the four legs, one by one.

"This is an amazing piece, sir," he said with a sigh. "Incredible. It's a 1971 model National 'Hoka-Hoka.' Of course you think so too, sir?"

"Yeah, sure," I replied agreeably. One of the legs was a little wobbly, but warmth is warmth.

Since Noboru Watanabe had offered to swap it for a brand new time machine, I told him "Go ahead." Norboru Watanabe went out to his Light Ace parked in front of the house and retrieved a brand new electric kotatsu (or 'time machine') from the trunk, brought it into my room, and exchanged it for the National "Hoka-Hoka" (or 'time machine'), which he held tightly in his arms as he bore it away.

"Thanks again," Noboru Watanabe said as he waved from the driver's seat. I waved back. And so, returning to my room, I finished eating my tangerine.


by Haruki Murakami
Ttranslated by Christopher Allison

I was working at home one day when a girl came calling. She was pretty, maybe 18 or 19, and wore a green wool sweater. Standing nervously at the door, she fumbled with the clasp of her purse.

"Umm, year-end bonus, sir," she said in a soft voice.

"Ah, so I need to sign for something, right?" I said.

"No, no. I'm your year-end bonus."

"I'm afraid I don't quite understand."

"Well, you see, to cut straight to the heart of the matter, you can do whatever you like with me. I'm a gift. I was told to come here by the manager at K Inc. in charge of courtesy gifts."

"I see," I groaned. K Inc. was a major publishing company, and I had done work for them many times. One day when I was getting drunk with this particular manager, he asked me what I wanted for my end-of-the-year bonus, and I replied "A young girl." Of course, I said it as a joke. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that such a truly first-rate publisher would actually do it.

"Unfortunately, I'm really busy today. See, I have a lot of work to finish for a deadline tomorrow, and anyway I'm not really in the mood for sex right now. And the bed's not made. If I had known you were coming today, I could have been prepared."

When I said this, she began to sob. "I'm useless. You can't even give me away. I can't do a single thing right. They wouldn't even give me a driver's license."

"There, there," I said.

But the girl looked like she was just going to keep bawling in my genkan. And, there being neighbors around, I had no choice but to invite her in and give her a cup of coffee.

"If you don't want to have sex, let me do something else for you. The boss said to provide you with two full hours of service. Do you like karaoke? I can sing. I'm really good at 'Elly, My Love' by Southern All Stars."

"I'd rather you not sing," I said, cutting her off quickly. If she did something like that, I'd never be able to get my work done.

"Then I'll make croquettes. I make excellent croquettes."

"Great," I said. I really like croquettes a lot.


Playing Cards
Translated by OSAKABE Yoshio

After the record of Julio Iglesias wore out, there was nothing left to protect us from the attack of the sea turtle. It had only been playing Begin the Begine of Julio Iglesias every night that we had managed to keep the sea turtle away.

"We are finished, are't we?" she said. "There is no mosquito coils and Julio's disc is worn out."

"There has to be some other way," I said.

"How about Willy Nelson or Richard Clayderman?"

"No, it's only Julio that works for the sea turtle," I knew it.

That day I went to the shore alone and peered into the sea from a far out rock. The sea turtle napped as usual crouching on the sea bed. It was conserving its power for the night attack. No matter how long I looked down at the sea turtle, no idea to drive it away occurred to me. I was too tired to play with my imagination.

We were finished this time, I thought. And ending our lives eaten by the sea turtle was miserable way to go. What would my mother think? Her only son, eaten by a sea turtle!

We were resigned ourselves to our fate and finished our last meal. While calmly drinking tea, the sea turtle came upon us. Its footsteps approached steadily and it slowly walked round our house.

"Now we're done for," she said holding my hands.

"We have to give up. It's a short but pleasant life," I said.

The door creaked open and the sea turtle peeped and found out that there was no mosquito coils, and no song of Julio Iglesias either. A deck of playing cards was grasped by its hands.

Playing cards?

And since then all we do, all three of us, is play the card game, 51 every night. It's not such a fun game but much better than being eaten alive. Besides, it's not as if we were listening to Julio Iglesias every night by choice.



by MURAKAMI Haruki
translated by OSAKABE Yoshio

The extreme behavior of the big monkeys on the Ginza line carried on for months before any of it got into the news. Friends of mine told me in details of their own experiences and I witnessed it by myself.

The big monkeys raged on in this way but nothing appeared in the newspapers and there was no sign of a police investigation. If the newspapers and police considered the curse of the big monkeys unworthy of attention, I would seriously urge them to reconsider. Though at this time the big monkeys activities are limited to the Ginza line, there is no guarantee that they won't spread to the Marunouchi or Hanzomon lines. It will be too late to take a step after that.

An event from the curse of the big monkey I witnessed was relatively harmless one. It happened on February 15, the day after Saint Valentine's day. I was taking the Ginza line from Omotesando to Toranomon. A well dressed office worker in his early forties sat next to me and was eagerly reading a morning edition of The Mainichi Newspaper. He was reading an article entitled ‘Depreciation of the dollar brings US economy inflation?’I glanced at a new book ad below it, “5 kg diet changes your life.” .

The train approached the Akasakamitsuke station, the lights went off, as usual, and then came on again next instant. When I looked at the Mainichi Newspaper once more, there was an obvious mishap. It was turned upside-down.

‘?noitalfni ymonoce SU sgnirb rallod eht fo noitaicerpeD’

“efil ruoy segnahc teid gk 5”

‘Oh dear! The big monkey did it again,’ the office worker said to me. ‘What is the government waiting for?’

‘Yes, indeed,’ I replied.

It would be difficult for us, if it lasts forever like this.


Haruki Murakami
Translated by Christopher Allison

At the time when my girlfriend with whom I had been going out for three years, and to whom I was engaged, donutized, and our relationship subsequently fell apart--I mean, who among us can really get along with a donutized girlfriend?--I started drinking in bars nearly every night, and had grown thin and drawn like Humphrey Bogart in "The Treasure of Sierra Madre."

"Look, Big Brother: dump her, if only for my sake. If you go on like this, you can't help but fall apart," my sister advised. "I know what you're feeling, but donutized people never return to normal. You have no choice but to break up with her."

She was absolutely right. Just as she said, once a person is donutized, they stay donutized forever. I called the freak on the phone and said goodbye. "I hate breaking up, but in the end, I guess it's just fate. I'll never forget you...bleah, bleah, bleah"

"You still don't get it?" the donutized girlfriend said. "The center of our human existence is nothing.There is nothing, like a zero. Why don't you take a long, hard look at this void? Why do you insist on looking only at the things immediately around you?"

Why? That was the question I wanted to ask her. Why do donutized people only think in suchnarrow-minded, parochial ways?

But anyway, that's how I broke up with my girlfriend. That was two years ago. Then, last spring, my little sister, for no apparent reason, donutized as well. After graduating from Jouchi University, and beginning to work for Japan Airlines, she was in the lobby of a Sapporo hotel one day on a business trip, when she suddenly donutized. My mother stayed at home day after day and cried her life away.I call my sister on the phone once in a while, just to see how she's doing.

"You still don't get it?" my donutized little sister says. "The center of our human existence is..."


by MURAKAMI Haruki

translated by OSAKABE Yoshio

A picture card at last arrived from my uncle. We did not hear from him since he had gone to Borneo last September to catch Antithesis. Although it had an ordinary design with that usual house on stilts and coconut trees, the letter itself from the uncle, famous for poor letter writer, is quite amazing.

“Unfortunately, Antithesis, we can call it a big one, disappeared recently even in this place,” he wrote. Its letters are shaky since he wrote it on the boat.

“Natives said they have not seen Antithesis of 8 meter class for years. I caught one last month with five meters twenty-five long. Obviously a middle class, but according to them it’s even the miracle. Quite my grief. Regarding the decrease of Antithesis, someone says it’s caused by less volcanic ash and another says it’s due to the geothermal change. But no one knows definite reasons. If thing go on like this, I’ll go back to Japan by June.”

An old picture of my uncle, posing in front of the twelve and a half meter Antithesis carried by natives, was hung in my room. My uncle found the super-big fish in 1966 and it was officially recorded as the biggest Antithesis caught in 1960’s. At that time, he was in the prime time as the Antithesis hunter and I felt firmly his strong drive from the picture. It was the happy time like the Age of Discovery for Antithesis hunters.

To encounter real shiny Antithesis in French restaurants became as hard as to catch a falling meteorite by a tennis racket. Of course sometimes it’s on the menu even today. But it’s taken for granted they are from India, dry and almost tasteless, small Antithesis, furthermore they are frozen. If my uncle finds such a menu, he will tear it to pieces immediately. Because he kept saying, “Big Antithesis, or nothing”.


Haruki Murakami
Translated by Christopher Allison

It was 3:30 in the morning when I got a phone call from May Kasahara, that abruptly rousted me from a deep sleep. In the midst of the soft warm mud of the velveteen sleep in which I was submerged, eels and rubber boots crowded around me, the overall effect being that I was greedily devouring the fruit of this luxuriant happiness. It was thus that the phone call came.

Ring ring.

First, the fruit vanished; then the eels and the rubber boots; and finally the mud as well, so that at last only I was left. Just me: 37 years old, drunk, and not particularly likeable. What right does anyone in the world have to deprive me of my eels and rubber boots?

Ring ring.

"Hello," May Kasahara said. "Are you there?"

"Uh, yeah...hello," I responded.

"Hey, it's May Kasahara. Sorry for calling so late. But there are ants coming in again. They built a nest in one of the side pillars in the kitchen. We chased I'm out of the bathroom, but they just moved their nest. I'd not kidding: they moved the whole thing. Right down to the speckled white babies. I can't stand it! So, like, bring over that spray again, OK? I know it's late and everything, but I totally hate ants. So can you come?"

In the darkness, I shook my head violently. Who in the world was this May Kasahara? Who was this May Kasahara, who had robbed me of my eels?

I tried asking her these questions.

"Oh, I'm so sorry. I must have made a mistake," said May Kasahara, sounding genuinely apologetic. "This ant problem has really got me flustered, ever since they moved their nest. Sorry."

Heaving a sigh, I crawled back in my futon, closed my eyes, and tried to find those friendly eels in the thick mud of sleep.


TAKAYAMA Noriko-san and my sexual desire


Translated by OSAKABE Yoshio

Up to now in my life, I have walked with many women side by side but not with such a quick woman walker as TAKAYAMA Noriko-san, twenty-five years old. She strides the streets with a very cheerful way, swinging her arms back and forth refreshingly, as if to say, “I’m just oiled”. From a little far way, she seems like a spider-fly wearing transparent wings. She is so swift and smooth, looks very happy like a light after the heavy rain.

When I walked with her for the first time (we walked from the front of Sendagaya elementary school to Aoyama Icchome), I was so astonished with her speed and thought my company annoyed her and she hoped to part from me as soon as possible with such an unusual speed. Or I thought she planned at least to reduce my sexual desire with a furious speed (however, as I had no sexual desire to her, I wonder it worked or not.)

It took some months to realize her quick space has no special meaning but she only likes to walk as if flying. Early winter I saw her at the front of the Yotsuya station, walking alone in crowds, also then she moved from someplace to someplace on this ground named “Tokyo” with that awful speed, we might call it an unreasonable speed. She was walking gripping a strap of her handbag with her right hand, flapping skirts of her trench coat in the wind and straightening her spine.

When I took several steps to her and wanted something, she was far forward and I was left alone in front of the Yotsuya station in an awkward manner like Rossano Brazzi in the last scene of “Summertime”. But I was pleased to know TAKAYAMA Noriko-san did not misunderstand my sexual desire.


by Haruki Murakami

Translated by Christopher Allison

Noboru Watanabe sent me a postcard with a picture of an octopus on it. Beneath the octopus, a short note had been written in a cramped hand.

"It has come to my attention that you rendered my daughter invaluable service while riding the subway the other day, for which I want to extend my heartiest thanks. Let's go out to eat octopus sometime soon."

I was very surprised when I read this. I had only just gotten back from a trip, and for one reason or another, had not had cause to ride the subway for nearly two months, nor did I remember rendering his daughter any aid. For that matter, I didn't even know he had a daughter. I guess he had me confused with someone else.
But eating octopus together didn't sound so bad.

I wrote Noboru Watanabe a letter. On the postcard, there was a picture of a thrush, beneath which I wrote:

"Thank you for your postcard of the other day. I like octopus a lot. Let's go out to eat together. Please contact me at the end of the month."

A full month passed without any response from Noboru Watanabe. He probably let it pass as a matter of courtesy, I thought. And although I had the strangest desire to eat octopus that month, I held off, under the assumption that I was going to eat octopus with Noboru Watanabe.

Just about the time I was forgetting about Noboru Watanabe and octopai altogether, I received another postcard from him. This time there was a picture of a manbo on it. Beneath this, there was a note.

"That octopus the other day was delicious. It had been a long time indeed since I had eaten such delicious octopus as that. But concerning the opinions you expressed at that time, I must take some issue. As the parent of a daughter of about that age, I cannot tolerate your sexual values. Let's get together and discuss the matter leisurely over nabe sometime."

Oh, well, I sighed. Noboru Watanabe has me mixed up with someone else yet again.


A Raid by the Old Man Mushikubo
Translated by OSAKABE Yoshio

“I am the Old Man Mushikubo.” the Old Man Mushikubo said and cleared hi throat.

“Yes, I know you.” I replied. Any inhabitants around here know him.

“Sorry for no notice but today I’d like to speak with you about virginity of young girls.”

“Wait …, wait a minute. I am now preparing my supper. Maybe another day for the story …” I tried to push back him in a hurry but he caught a whiff of it and pushed half of his body quickly into the door.

“It doesn’t take a long time. If you like, you can cook there. We can speak here during your cooking.”

Really, can’t be helped, thinking in mind, I cut garlic and eggplant with a kitchen knife, Shuko-Shoko-Shuko. He was really careful to enter properly from the kitchen door. Although the Old Man Mushikubo is quite in his dotage usually, his brain works extremely quickly in a thing of this sort.

“What are you cooking?” The Old Man Mushikubo asked me interestingly.

“Well, spaghetti with eggplant and garlic, and kidney beans salad.”

“Are they your supper?”

“Yes.” I replied. What I eat in supper is no concern of a stranger. I will eat kidney beans if I like to the eat kidney beans; I will eat a pumpkin if I like to eat the pumpkin. In the same way with the virginity of young girls, the Old Man Mushikubo has no right to meddle. I had half a mind to put into words, but if the Old Man Mushikubo hates me, I am not sure what he would broadcast around in my neighborhoods; therefore I patiently shut my mouth. Anyhow after the Old Man Mushikubo finishes what he wants to say, he will go back.

Until I ate the spaghetti and the salad, and finished to wash dishes, the Old Man Mushikubo continued to speak endlessly without a break about an importance of the virginity at the door. His voice was so loud that I had a buzzing in my ears even after he came back. Really it was a terrible disaster. But unintentionally I thought… well, virgins have been scarcely found lately.


Donuts, again

by MURAKAMI Haruki
translated by OSAKABE Yoshio

I got a phone call from Sophia University Donuts Study Club. Indeed, today’s students invent a lot of new things. They asked me to join symposium to discuss about donuts. Yes, I said. I have my own opinion about donuts and all my knowledge, views and appreciations are vastly superior to average students.

The autumn meeting of the Sophia University Donuts Study Club was held in the banquet room of the Hotel New Otani. A live band played music and there was an attraction of a donut-aligning game. After a snack was served for dinner, the symposium began in the next room. Besides me, a famous cultural anthropologist and a cooking critic were present.

I argued, “If donuts have the power in contemporary literature, they act as an essential piece in a certain personal focusing power, which identifies with a subconscious field ......” They paid me 50,000 yen.

I shoved the money into my pocket, moved to the hotel bar and drank vodka tonic with a girl, French-Lit major, whom I acquainted with at the donut-aligning game.

“Your novels are like donuts, both good and bad. I don't think that Flaubert ever thought much about donuts.”

She’s right. I agree that Flaubert never thought much about donuts. But it’s the 20th century and the 21st century is just around the corner. Discussing Flaubert at this time is simply embarrassing.

“Flaubert, c'est moi.” I said trying to imitate Flaubert.

“You are a funny man,” she giggled. I flatter myself that I’m pretty good at entertaining French-Lit major girls.


Advertisement for a Jazz Coffee Shop That Was in Kokubunji a Long Time Ago
by Haruki Murakami
Translated by Christopher Allison

While it may alienate some people right from the start, this isn't the kind of shop where everyone, male or female, young or old, is cheerfully welcomed. We have something of a problem, especially during the summer. The air-conditioner doesn't work very well. It's not that it doesn't work at all: the area right around the vent is quite cool. But if you move away a little bit, this cool air won't reach you. There is, possibly, some kind of structural defect with the machine. We keep wondering if we should exchange it for a new one. But there are other more difficult circumstances as well.

In this shop, we play music. If, perchance, you are not a jazz fan, the volume of the music may be quite unpleasant. If, on the other hand, you are an ardent jazz fan, you may find the same volume to be less-than-satisfying. To whichever group you belong, please don't blame the manager. This is a perfect example of "You can't please all the people all the time." We don't have many John Coltraine records. In compensation, we have lots of Stan Getz. There are no Keith Jarret records, but we have all the Chord Williams albums. Please don't hassle the manager for this. It's been this way since the beginning. We have live music once a week. Young musicians play their hearts out for next to nothing. The piano is just a cheap upright, and it's badly out of tune. The quality of the music varies, but it's always energetic, and the volume is always loud, so it may not be the most suitable background music for talking to your sweetheart.

While the manager isn't exactly reticent, he's not very talkative either. Or perhaps he's just not very good at talking. When he's not busy, he sits at the counter and reads books. To tell the truth, four years from now he'll quite unexpectedly write a novel and receive a literary prize for new writers, but no one knows this yet. This is not even known to the manager himself. He probably thinks he'll end his days as the manager of a Kokubunji jazz cafe, quietly listening to his favorite music everyday. It is not known anywhere in the world. But anyway, now it's 2:30 in the afternoon, and "Billy Taylor at London House" is playing. It's not a very good performance, but the manager kind of likes it. In any event, please don't blame him for it.


The World Where Horses Sell Tickets
Haruki Murakami
Translated by Christopher Allison

I tried asking my father "Dad, where do people go when they die?" I had been quite uneasy about this for a while. After thinking for a little while, my father said "When people die, they go to the world where horses sell tickets. They buy tickets from the horses there, and ride on trains, and eat bentos. There are chikuwa and kobumaki and strips of cabbage in the bentos." I thought about this for a little while. But I couldn't understand why people had to eat chikuwa and kobumaki after they died. Last year, when Gramma died, we had sushi delivered. So why can dead people only eat chikuwa and kobumaki? I had a feeling that this wasn't very fair. When I said this, my father said "When people die, they want to eat chikuwa and kobumaki and cabbage. It't just that way."

"So then what happens? After they eat the bentos?" I tired asking. "When the train reaches it's destination, all the people get off. Then they buy another ticket from another horse, and ride another train," my father said.

"And then they eat another bento with chikuwa and kobumaki and cabbage, right?" I shouted, unable to restrain myself. I can't stand even the sight of chikuwa or kobumaki or cabbage. I turned to my father and stuck out my tongue. "That's terrible! I don't eat any of that stuff," I said.

When I did this, my father glared at me. But it wasn't my father anymore, but a horse instead. This father-horse had a ticket in his hand. "Neigh, neigh, aren't we selfish! When you buy this ticket from me and ride the train, you'll have to eat chikuwa and kobumaki and strips of cabbage for ever and ever and ever. Neigh, neigh!"

I was so scared that I cried and cried. After a moment had passed, my father changed back from a horse to my father again. "Hey, don't cry. Why don't the two of us go to MacDonald's and get hamburgers," Father said in a gentle voice." So I finally stopped crying.


Bangkok Surprise

by Haruki Murakami
Translated by Christopher Allison

"Hello. Is this 5721-1251?" a woman's voice asked.

"Yes, that's right. 5721-1251."

"Please excuse the disturbance. You see, I've been calling 5721-1252."

"Oh," I said.

"I've called it like 30 times since this morning. But no one ever answers. Sooo, I figured they probably went on a trip or something."

"And?" I asked.

"And, well, I thought maybe, since it seemed like you might be a neighbor or something, I'd try 5721-1252 instead."


The woman cleared her throat a little bit. "I just came back from Bangkok last night. The most amazing thing happened to me in Bangkok. It was totally unbelievable. Absolutely incredible. I was planning to stay there for a week, but I came home three days early because of it. I really want to talk about what happened, so I've been calling 5721-1252 ever since. I haven't been able to sleep, keeping it bottled up like this, and now I just want to tell somebody. So I thought maybe the person at 1251 would listen to me."

"Oh, I see."

"But I thought I really couldn't tell a woman. Women spread these kinds of things around too easily, I think."

"Uh huh," I said.

"How old are you?"

"I turned 37 last month."

"37, huh? I have a feeling it would be better if it was somebody a little younger. I'm sorry for saying so."

"Oh, it's OK."

"I'm sorry," she said again. "But I'll try 5721-1253. Bye."

Thus, in the end, I never did find out what happened in Bangkok.


by Haruki Murakami
Translation by Christopher Allison

Imagine this, if you will:

There's a small room. It's on the third or fourth floor of a building, and from the window other buildings can be seen. There is no one in the room. A man enters the room alone. He is in his late twenties, and his face is pale. While he is not unhandsome, his face is very narrow. He is thin, and his height is, what, about 5' 9"?

You follow me so far?

He is carrying a black vinyl handbag. He sets it down with a thud on a table in the middle of the room. It seems as if there is something very heavy in the bag. Opening the bag's clasp, he begins to extract the contents. First, he pulls out some black stockings. These aren't pantyhose, but the old-fashioned kind that come separately, two to a pair. He pulls out about a dozen stockings all together. He seems, however, not to be interested in the stockings, and throws them on the floor without so much as looking at them. He pulls out a black high-heel shoe as well, but this he also throws on the floor. Next, he finds a large portable stereo. After looking it over briefly, the man sets this on the floor, seemingly uninterested. The man is becoming more and more agitated, judging by his expression. He pulls out five or six packs of cigarettes. They are 'Hi-Lite'. He breaks the seal on one of the packs and, pulling out a cigarette, commences smoking. After taking two or three drags, he shakes his head and stomps it out with his foot.

Just then, a telephone suddenly rings. Ring ring. Ring ring. Ring ring. With great hesitation, he picks up the receiver. "Hello," he says in a low voice. The person on the other end says something. "No, no. It's not right," the man answers. "It's totally wrong. I don't have a cat and I don't smoke. I haven't eaten cheese crackers for at least ten years.... That's right. I have no connection to the Fukuchiyama Line.... None at all. Do you understand?" and he slams down the phone.

He retrieves a half-empty box of cheese crackers from the bag. Then another stocking. This time, he stretches the stocking tightly and holds it up to the light to examine it closely. Then, reaching into his pants pocket, he retrieves all the change therein and dumps it, jingling, into an empty vase nearby. He stuffs the stretched stocking into the vase as well. At exactly that moment, there is the sound of a knock at the door. Knock knock knock. The man hides the vase in a corner of the room and slowly opens the door. Outside the door, a very short, balding man, wearing a necktie with red butterflies is standing. And jabbing him with a rolled-up newspaper, he speaks in a gruff voice.

So, here is a question.

"What in the world did the bald man say?"

You have fifteen seconds to answer. Tick tock tick tock...


The India Salesman
by Haruki Murakami
Ttranslated by Christopher Allison

Usually about once every other month, the India salesman comes around to our house. My mother will say "I bet it's about time for the India salesman to come," and sure enough, almost as if he heard her, the figure of the India salesman will appear in our genkan. So I always say "you should try to forget about the India salesman, Mom. Whenever you think about him, he ends up coming," and then my mother replies "Hmm, I wonder if I didn't think about him whether he's still come," but then she forgets to forget and "I bet it's about time for the..." slips carelessly out of her mouth. Without fail, the India salesman will show up again in our genkan. The India salesman is a big middle-aged guy with a sunburned voice. He's always carrying some heavy packages on his shoulders. While he's just about the same age as my father, he looks a lot healthier. He has big, beetle-like eyes that bulge out of his head. "This, it's all on account of India," he says to me boastfully. "If you make sure to get your India, kid, you'll turn into a big, strong guy, just like me. You'll have a full, level-headed life."

While I don't really get all of the stuff he says to me, I always get the feeling that he's scolding me, and it makes me nervous. Sometimes the India salesman yells at my mother, too. I think that's amazing. Even my father can't really yell at my mother.

"Ma'am, I'm worried. You haven't been using India very much lately, have you? You have almost as much as you did the last time I was here," the Indian salesman says, heaving a sigh while inspecting our pantry. "Like I always say, if you don't use it consistently, a little at a time, so that it can be absorbed into the body, it won't have any effect. Look at your kid. Lately, it seems like his eyes don't sparkle quite as bright. He's sluggish, and doesn't have any verve. This will not do. If you look in his eyes, you'll see what I mean. If you look in his eyes, the change is obvious. You're giving him too little India. He's not getting enough. Don't you think your child is beautiful? He's beautiful, isn't he? But he has to get more India."

"I guess you're right, sir" my mother says, becoming confused, as if she was making an excuse. "But the other day the Bali salesman was here, and he's from the neighborhood, so I felt like I had to help him out. I know that India is great and everything, but..."

"The Bali guy!" the India salesman said derisively, raising his voice. "The Bali guy, ma'am, is all bluster, all hot air. If you want the real thing, you're got to make it India. Anything else just doesn't compare."

As a result of this, my mother ended up buying a little more India. When I saw this, I thought that the India salesman was really amazing.