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Ebook "A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel"
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Tác giả: Haruki Murakami
Thể loại: Tiểu Thuyết
Biên tập: Truong Ngoc Tuan
Upload bìa: Minh Khoa
Language: English
Số chương: 44
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Chapter 37: Things The Mirror Shows, Things The Mirror Doesn’T
he morning of the tenth day, I decided to forget everything. I had already lost what I was supposed to lose.
In the middle of my morning run, it began to snow again. This time an opaque snow, a sticky, wet sleet edging toward ice flakes. Unlike the first loose snow, this one was nasty. It stuck to the body. I cut short my run, returned to the house, and drew a bath. While the bath was coming to temperature, I plunked myself down in front of the heater, but still I couldn’t get warm. A damp chill had seeped into me. I couldn’t bend my fingers and my ears burned and felt brittle, as if they would drop off any second. All over, my skin felt like cheap pulp paper.
A thirty-minute soak in the tub and hot tea with brandy finally brought my body back to normal, although for the next two hours I suffered from intermittent chills. So this was winter on the mountain.
The snow kept falling straight through until evening, covering the entire pasture in white. The snow let up just as night cloaked the world in darkness, and once again a profound hush drifted in like mist. A hush I could do nothing to deny. I put the record player on automatic repeat and listened to White Christmas twenty-six times.
The snow did not stick for long. As the Sheep Man had predicted, the ground would not freeze for a while yet. The following day, my eleventh, was bright and clear. The prodigal sun bided its time, leaving the pasture a patchwork of snow, which gleamed in the sunlight. The snow that had collected on the roof’s gables came sliding down in would-be icebergs that broke up on the ground with an unnerving thud. Melting snow dripped outside the windows. Everything sparkled. Each droplet clinging to each tip of every oak leaf shone.
I dug my hands into my pockets and stood by the window, gazing out. There things unfolded entirely apart from me. Unrelated to my existence—unrelated to anybody’s existence—everything was flowing. The snow fell, the snow melted.
I decided to do some housecleaning, accompanied by the sounds of snow dripping and tumbling. Holed up as I was on account of the snow, my body needed to do something; besides, wasn’t I a guest in someone else’s house? I have never been one to object to cleaning and cooking.
Still, cleaning a large house proved a lot harder work than I had imagined. Jogging ten miles was easy in comparison. I dusted every nook and cranny, then went around with the large vacuum cleaner to suck up the dust. I damp-mopped the wood floors, then got down on my hands and knees to wax them. It left me half out of breath, but thanks to having quit smoking, the other half of my breath managed to hold its own. None of that terrible rasping and catching in my throat.
I went into the kitchen for a glass of cold grape juice and finished straightening up what remained in one bout of cleaning before noon. I threw open the shutters, and the newly waxed floors glittered. There was a wonderful, nostalgic melding of the rich earthy scent of the country and the smell of the wax.
I washed out the rags I’d used to wax the floors, then put a pot of water on to boil. For the spaghetti, into which I mixed cod roe, plenty of butter, white wine, and soy sauce. A great lunch, complete with a woodpecker calling from the nearby woods.
I made short work of the spaghetti, washed up the dishes, then returned to the chores. I scrubbed the bathtub and washbasin, cleaned the toilet, polished the furniture. Thanks to the Rat, nothing was very dirty to begin with; a spray of furniture polish was about all that was needed. Next I pulled out a long hose and rinsed down the windows and shutters. With that, the whole house freshened up. After I washed the windows, my cleaning was done. I spent the remaining two hours before evening listening to records.
As I headed up to the Rat’s room to borrow another book, I noticed the full-length mirror at the foot of the stairs. I’d overlooked it, and it was filthy. I wiped it down with a cloth, but no amount of wiping or glass cleaner would do the trick. I couldn’t understand why the Rat would let this one mirror stay so dirty. I hauled over a bucket of warm water and worked on the mirror with a nylon scrub, cutting through the hardened grease. There was enough grime on the mirror to turn the bucket water black.
The crafted wooden frame told me it was an antique, probably worth a pretty sum, so I was careful not to work too enthusiastically.
The mirror reflected my image from head to toe, without warping, almost pristinely. I stood there and looked at myself. Nothing new. I was me, with my usual nothing-special expression. My image was unnecessarily sharp, however. I wasn’t seeing my mirror-flat mirror-image. It wasn’t myself I was seeing; on the contrary, it was as if I were the reflection of the mirror and this flat-me-of-an-image were seeing the real me. I brought my right hand up in front of my face and wiped my mouth. The me through the looking glass went through the same motions. But maybe it was only me copying what the me in the mirror had done. I couldn’t be certain I’d wiped my mouth out of my own free will.
I filed the word “free will” away in my head and pinched my ear with my left hand. The me in the mirror did exactly the same. Apparently he had filed the word “free will” away in his head the same as I had.
I gave up and left the mirror. He also left the mirror.
On the twelfth day, snow fell for the third time. It was snowing before I woke up. An awfully silent snow, this one neither hard nor sticky wet. Pirouetting down slowly from the sky, melting before it amounted to anything. The kind of tranquil snow that makes you close your eyes, gently.
I pulled the old guitar out of the trunk room and, after tuning it with great difficulty, tried my hand at some old tunes. I practiced along with Benny Goodman’s “Air Mail Special,” and soon it was noontime. I made a sandwich of thick slices of ham on my homemade, already rock-hard bread, and opened a can of beer. After thirty minutes more of guitar practice, who should show up but the Sheep Man.
“IfIbotheryouI’llleave,” said the Sheep Man through the open front door.
“No, not at all. I was getting kind of bored anyway,” I said, setting the guitar on the floor.
The Sheep Man whacked the mud off his boots the same as before, then came in. His body seemed to have filled out his thick sheep costume. He sat on the sofa opposite me, hand on the armrest and snuggled into position.
“It’s not going to stick yet?” I asked.
“Notyet,” answered the Sheep Man. “There’ssnowthatsticksand snowthatdoesn’t.Thisisnonsticksnow.”
“Hmm.”
“Thestickingsnowcomesnextweek.”
“Care for a beer?”
“Thanks.ButI’dreallyratherhaveabrandy.”
I went to the kitchen, got him his brandy and me a beer, and carried it all back into the living room together with a cheese sandwich.
“Youwereplayingguitar,” said the Sheep Man with interest. “Welikemusictoo.Can’tplayanyinstrumentthough.”
“Neither can I. Haven’t played in close to ten years.”
“That’sokayawplaysomethingforme.”
I didn’t want to dampen the Sheep Man’s spirits, so I played through the melody of “Air Mail Special,” tacked on one chorus and an ad lib, then lost count of the bars and threw in the towel.
“You’regood,” said the Sheep Man in all seriousness. “Proba blyloadsoffuntoplayaninstrumenteh?”
“If you’re good. But if you want to get good, you have to train your ears. And when you’ve trained your ears, you get depressed at your own playing.”
“Nahc’monreally?” said the Sheep Man.
The Sheep Man took dainty little sips from his brandy snifter, while I drank my beer from the can.
“Iwasn’tabletopassonyourmessage,” said the Sheep Man.
I nodded.
“That’sallIcametosay.”
I glanced over at the calendar on the wall. Only three more days until the time limit, the date marked in red. But what did that mean anymore?
“Things have changed,” I spoke up. “I’m very, very angry. Never in my entire life have I been angry like this.”
The Sheep Man sat there, snifter in hand, and said nothing.
I picked up the guitar by the neck and smashed it back against the bricks of the fireplace. With the crash came a loud, cacophonous twang of strings. The Sheep Man flew out of the sofa, his ears trembling.
“I’ve got a right to be angry,” I said, addressing this fact rather to my own attention. Well, I did have the right to be angry.
“IfeelbadthatIcouldn’tcomeacrossforyou.
Butyoumustunderstand. Wereallydolikeyou.”
The two of us stood there. We looked at the snow. The snow was fluffy, like stuffing spilling out of a torn cloud.
I went into the kitchen for another beer. Each time I walked past the stairs, there was the mirror. The other me had apparently gone for another beer too. We looked each other in the face and sighed. Living in two separate worlds, we still thought about the same things. Just like Groucho and Harpo in Duck Soup.
Behind me the living room was reflected in the mirror. Or else it was his living room behind him. The living room behind me and the living room behind him were the same living room. Same sofa, same carpet, same clock and painting and bookcase, every last thing the same. Not particularly uncomfortable as living rooms go, if not in the finest taste. Yet something was different. Or maybe it was simply that I felt that something was different.
I grabbed another blue Löwenbrau and on the way back to the living room, can in hand, I looked once more at the living room in the mirror, then looked over at the living room. The Sheep Man was on the sofa, lazily gazing out at the snow.
I checked the Sheep Man in the mirror. But there wasn’t any Sheep Man in the mirror! There was nobody in the living room at all, only an empty sofa. In the mirror world, I was alone. Terror shot through my spine.
“Youlookpale,” said the Sheep Man.
I plopped down on the sofa and, saying nothing, pulled the ring off the beer can and took a sip.
“Probablycaughtcold.Winterinthesepartscangettoyou
ifyou’re notusedtoit.Air’sdamptoo.Youshouldgettobedearlytoday.”
“Nope,” I said. “Today I’m not going to sleep. I’m going to wait up for my friend here.”
“Youknowhe’scomingtoday?”
“I know,” I said. “He’ll be here tonight at ten o’clock.”
The Sheep Man looked up at me. The eyes peering through his mask had literally no expression.
“Tonight I’ll pack, tomorrow I’ll be gone. If you see him, tell him that. I don’t think it’ll be necessary, though.”
The Sheep Man nodded comprehendingly. “Surewillbelonely whenyougo.Can’tbehelpedthoughIguess.
BythewaycanIhavethat cheesesandwich?”
“Sure.”
The Sheep Man wrapped the sandwich in a paper napkin, slipped it into his pocket, then put on his gloves.
“Hopewemeetagain,” said the Sheep Man as he was leaving.
“We will,” I said.
The Sheep Man left across the pasture to the east. Eventually, the veil of snow took him in. Afterward all was silent.
I poured an inch of brandy into the Sheep Man’s snifter and downed it in one swallow. My throat burned, and gradually my stomach burned, but after thirty seconds my body stopped trembling. Only the ticking of the grandfather clock pounding inside my head.
Probably I did need to get some sleep.
I fetched a blanket from upstairs and slept on the sofa. I felt totally exhausted, like a child who’d been wandering around in the woods for three days. I closed my eyes and the next instant I was asleep.
I had a terrifying dream. A dream too terrifying to recall.
A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel - Haruki Murakami A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel