I divide all readers into two classes; those who read to remember and those who read to forget.

William Lyon Phelps

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Tác giả: Haruki Murakami
Thể loại: Tiểu Thuyết
Biên tập: Truong Ngoc Tuan
Upload bìa: Minh Khoa
Language: English
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Chapter 10: Counting Sheep
e can, if we so choose, wander aimlessly over the continent of the arbitrary. Rootless as some winged seed blown about on a serendipitous spring breeze.
Nonetheless, we can in the same breath deny that there is any such thing as coincidence. What’s done is done, what’s yet to be is clearly yet to be, and so on. In other words, sandwiched as we are between the “everything” that is behind us and the “zero” beyond us, ours is an ephemeral existence in which there is neither coincidence nor possibility.
In actual practice, however, distinctions between the two interpretations amount to precious little. A state of affairs (as with most face-offs between interpretations) not unlike calling the same food by two different names.
So much for metaphors.
My placing a photo of sheep in the life insurance company’s P.R. bulletin can be seen from one perspective, (a) as coincidence, but from another perspective, (b) as no coincidence at all.
(a) I was looking for a suitable photo for the P.R. bulletin. By coincidence, I happened to have a photo of sheep in my drawer. I decided to use that photograph. An innocent photograph in an innocent world.
(b) The photo of the sheep in my desk drawer had been waiting for me all this time. If not for use in that bulletin, then for something else at some later date.
Come to think of it, these formulas apply across the board to everything I’ve experienced thus far in life. With a little practice, I’m sure I’d be able to conduct, (a) a life with my right hand and, (b) a life with my left. Not that it matters much. It’s like doughnut holes. Whether you take a doughnut hole as blank space or as an entity unto itself is a purely metaphysical question and does not affect the taste of the doughnut one bit.
Sitting on the sofa drinking whiskey, blown on softly by the air conditioner like a dandelion seed wafted along on a pleasant breeze, I stared at the electric wall clock. As long as I stared at the clock, at least the world remained in motion. Not a very consequential world, but in motion nonetheless. And as long as I knew the world was still in motion, I knew I existed. Not a very consequential existence, but an existence nonetheless. It struck me as wanting that someone should confirm his own existence only by the hands of an electric wall clock. There had to be a more cognitive means of confirmation. But try as I might, nothing less facile came to mind.
I gave up and had another sip of whiskey. A burning sensation passed through my throat, traveled down the wall of my esophagus and into the pit of my stomach. Outside the window, a bright blue summer sky and billowing white clouds. A beautiful if secondhand sky showing telltale signs of wear. I took another sip of whiskey to toast the brand-new sky it once was. Not bad Scotch. Not a bad sky either, once you got used to it. A jumbo jet traversed the sky from left to right like some gleaming beetle.
I had polished off my second whiskey when it came to me: what the hell was I doing here?
What the hell was I thinking about?
I got up from the sofa, picked up the copy of the photo from my partner’s desk, and returned to the sofa. For twenty seconds, I stared at it, sucking on the whiskey-tinged ice cubes, racking my brain to figure out what was going on in it.
The photo showed a flock of sheep on a grassy meadow. On one edge, the meadow adjoined a birch wood. Huge birch trees of the kind you find up in Hokkaido, not the puny stunted variety that flank the entrance to your neighborhood dentist’s office. These were birches that four bears could have sharpened their claws on simultaneously. Given the foliage, the season was probably spring. Snow lingered on the mountain peaks in the background, in the folds of the mountainside as well. April or May. When the ground is slushy with melting snow. The sky was blue (or rather what I took for blue from the monochrome photo-gray—it could have been salmon pink for all I knew), with light white clouds drawn across the mountaintops. All things considered, the flock of sheep could only be taken for a flock of sheep, the birch wood only for a birch wood, the white clouds only for white clouds. Simply that and nothing more.
I tossed the photograph on the table, smoked a cigarette, and yawned. Then picking the photo up again, I tried counting the sheep. The meadow was so vast, the sheep scattered in patches like picnickers, that it was hard to tell whether those white specks off in the distance were sheep or just white specks. And the closer I looked, the harder it was to tell whether the white specks were actually white specks or my eyes playing tricks with me, until finally I could be sure of nothing. I took a ballpoint pen in hand and marked everything I could be sure was a sheep. The count came to thirty-two. Thirty-two sheep. A perfectly straightforward photograph. Nothing unusual about the composition, nothing particular in the way of style.
Yet there was something there. Something funny. I suppose I sensed it the first time I saw the photo three months before, and I had been feeling it ever since.
I rolled over on the sofa and, holding the photo above my head, I went through the count once more.
I shut my eyes and shook my head. My mind was a blank. I tried counting sheep one last time, then drifted into a deep two-whiskey-afternoon sleep. The last thing I remember thinking about was my girlfriend’s ears.
A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel - Haruki Murakami A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel