You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.

C.S. Lewis

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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 23: Limited But Tenacious Thinking
t six o’clock, she got dressed, brushed her hair, brushed her teeth, and sprayed on her eau de cologne. I sat on the sofa reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The story began: “My colleague Watson is limited in his thinking to rather narrow confines, but possesses the utmost tenacity.” Not a bad lead-in sentence.
“I’ll be late tonight, so don’t wait up for me,” she said.
“Work?”
“Afraid so. I actually should have had today off, but those are the breaks. They pushed it on me because I’m taking off from tomorrow.”
She went out, then after a moment or two the door opened.
“Say, what’re you going to do about the cat while we’re gone?” she asked.
“Oops, completely slipped my mind. But don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.”
I brought out milk and cheese snacks for the cat. His teeth were so weak, he had a hard time with the cheese.
There wasn’t a thing that looked particularly edible for me in the refrigerator, so I opened up a beer and watched television. Nothing newsworthy on the news either. On Sunday evenings like this, it’s always some zoo scene. I watched the rundown of giraffes and elephants and pandas, then switched off the set and picked up the telephone.
“It’s about my cat,” I told the man.
“Your cat?”
“Yes, I have a cat.”
“So?”
“So unless I can leave the cat with someone, I can’t go anywhere.”
“There are any number of kennels to be had thereabouts.”
“He’s old and frail. A month in a cage would do him in for sure.”
I could hear fingernails drumming on a tabletop. “So?”
“I’d like you to take care of him. You’ve got a huge garden, surely you could take care of one cat.”
“Out of the question. The Boss hates cats, and the garden is there to attract birds. One cat and there go all the birds.”
“The Boss is unconscious, and the cat has no strength to chase down birds.”
“Very well, then. I will send a driver for the cat tomorrow morning at ten o’clock.”
“I’ll provide the cat food and kitty litter. He only eats this one brand, so if you run out, please buy more of the same.”
“Perhaps you would be so kind as to tell these details to the driver. As I believe I told you before, I am a busy man.”
“I’d like to keep communications to one channel. It makes it clear where the responsibility lies.”
“Responsibility?”
“In other words, say the cat dies while I’m gone, you’d get nothing out of me, even if I did find the sheep.”
“Hmm,” said the man. “Fair enough. You are somewhat off base, but you do quite well for an amateur. I shall write this down, so please speak slowly.”
“Don’t feed him fatty meat. He throws it all up. His teeth are bad, so no hard foods. In the morning, he gets milk and canned cat food, in the evening a handful of dried fish or meat or cheese snacks. Also please change his litter box daily. He doesn’t like it dirty. He often gets diarrhea, but if it doesn’t go away after two days the vet will have some medicine to give him.”
Having gotten that far, I strained to hear the scrawl of a ballpoint pen on the other end of the line.
“He’s starting to get lice in his ears,” I continued, “so once a day you should give his ears a cleaning with a cotton swab and a little olive oil. He dislikes it and fights it, so be careful not to rupture the eardrum. Also, if you’re worried he might claw the furniture, trim his claws once a week. Regular nail clippers are fine. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t have fleas, but just in case it might be wise to give him a flea bath every so often. You can get flea shampoo at any pet shop. After his bath, you should dry him off with a towel and give him a good brushing, then last of all a once-over with a hair dryer. Otherwise he’ll catch cold.”
Scribble scribble scribble. “Anything else?”
“That’s about it.”
The man read back the items from his notepad. A memo well taken.
“Is that it?”
“Just fine.”
“Well then,” said the man. And the phone cut off.
It was already dark out. I slipped some change, my cigarettes, and a lighter into my pocket, put on my tennis shoes, and stepped outside. At my neighborhood dive, I drank a beer while listening to the latest Brothers Johnson record. I ate my chicken cutlet while listening to a Bill Withers record. I had some coffee while listening to Maynard Ferguson’s “Star Wars.” After all that, I felt as if I’d hardly eaten anything.
They cleared away my coffee cup and I put three ten-yen coins into the pink public phone and rang up my partner. His eldest son, who was still in grammar school, answered.
“Good day,” I said.
“It’s ‘good evening,’” he corrected. I looked at my watch. Of course, he was right.
After a bit, my partner came to the phone.
“How’d it go?” he asked.
“Is it all right to talk now? I’m not catching you in the middle of eating?”
“We’re in the middle of eating, but it’s okay. Wasn’t much of a meal, and anyway your story’s got to be more interesting.”
I related snatches of the conversation with the man in the black suit. Then I talked about the huge limo and the dying Boss. I didn’t touch on the sheep. He wouldn’t have believed it, and already this was too long and involved. Which naturally made everything more confusing than ever.
“I can’t begin to follow you,” said my partner.
“This is all confidential, you understand. If it gets out, it could mean a lot of trouble for you. I mean, with your family and all….” I trailed off, picturing his high-class four-bedroom condominium, his wife with high blood pressure, his two cheeky sons. “I mean, that’s how it is.”
“I see.”
“In any case, I have to be going on a trip from tomorrow. A long trip, I expect. One month, two months, three months, I really don’t know. Maybe I’ll never come back to Tokyo.”
“Er … umm.”
“So I want you to take over things at the company. I’m pulling out. I don’t want to cause you any trouble. My work is pretty much done, and for all its being a co-venture, you hold down the important part. I’m only half playing there.”
“But I need you there to take care of all the details.”
“Consolidate your battle line, and go back to how it used to be. Cancel all advertising and editing work. Turn it back into a translation office. Like you were saying the other day yourself. Keep one secretary and get rid of the rest of the part-timers. You don’t need them anymore. Nobody’s going to complain if you give them two months’ severance. As for the office, you can move to a smaller place. The income will go down, sure, but so will the outlay. And minus my take, yours’ll increase, so in actual terms you won’t be hurting. You won’t have to worry about exploiting anyone so much, and taxes will be less of a problem. It’d be ideal for you.”
“No go,” he said, after some silence. “It won’t work, I know it won’t work.”
“It’ll be fine, I tell you. I’ve been through it all with you, so I know, no problem.”
“It went well because we went into it together,” he said. “Nothing I’ve tried to do by myself has ever come off.”
“Now listen. I’m not talking about expanding business. I’m telling you to consolidate. The pre-industrial-revolution translation business we used to do. You and one secretary, plus five or six freelancers you can farm out work to. There’s no reason why you can’t do fine.”
There was a click as the last ten-yen coin dropped into the machine. I fed the phone another three coins.
“I’m not you,” he said. “You can make it on your own. Not me. Things don’t go anywhere unless I have someone to complain to or bounce ideas off of.”
I put my hand over the receiver and sighed. The same old royal runaround. Black goat eats white goat’s letter unread, white goat eats black goat’s letter …
“Hello, hello?” said my partner.
“I’m listening,” I said.
On the other end of the line, I could hear his two kids fighting over which television channel to watch. “Think of your kids,” I said. Not exactly fair, but I didn’t have another card to play. “You can’t afford to be sniveling. If you call it quits, it’s all over for everybody. If you wanted to strike out against the world, you don’t go having children. Straighten up, square away the business, stop drinking.”
He fell silent for a long time. The waitress brought me an ashtray. I gestured with my hand for another beer.
“You’ve got me pinned,” he came back. “I’ll do my best. I have no confidence it’ll go, but …”
I filled my glass with beer and took a sip. “It’ll go fine. Think of six years ago. No money or connections, but everything came through, didn’t it?” I said.
“Like I said, you have no idea how secure I felt because we started the thing together,” said my partner.
“I’ll be calling in again.”
“Umm.”
“Thanks for everything. All this time, it’s been great,” I said.
“Once you’re finished with what you’ve got to do and come back to Tokyo, let’s do some business together again.”
“Sure thing.”
I hung up.
Both he and I knew the probability of my returning to the job. Work together six years and that much you understand.
I took my beer back to the table.
With the job out of the picture, I felt a surge of relief. Slowly but surely I was making things simpler. I’d lost my hometown, lost my teens, lost my wife, in another three months I’d lose my twenties. What’d be left of me when I got to be sixty, I couldn’t imagine. There’s no thinking about these things. There’s no telling even what’s going to happen a month from now.
I headed home and crawled into bed with my Sherlock Holmes. Lights out at eleven and I was fast asleep. I didn’t wake once before morning.
A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel - Haruki Murakami A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel