Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.

Anne Frank, Diary of a Young Girl, 1952

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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 39: Dwellers In Darkness
ine by me,” said I.
“I came an hour earlier than the appointed time,” said the Rat apologetically.
“That’s okay. As you can see, I wasn’t doing anything.”
The Rat laughed quietly. He was behind me. Almost as if we were back-to-back.
“Seems like the old days,” said the Rat.
“I guess we can never get down to a good honest talk unless we’ve got time on our hands,” I said.
“It sure seems that way.” The Rat smiled.
Even in absolute lacquer-black darkness, seated back-to-back, I could tell he was smiling. You can tell a lot just by the tiniest change in the air. We used to be friends. So long ago, though I could hardly remember when.
“Didn’t someone once say, ‘A friend to kill time is a friend sublime’?”
“That was you who said that, no?”
“Sixth sense, sharp as ever. Right you are.”
I sighed. “But this time around, with all this happening, my sixth sense has been way off. So far off it’s embarrassing. And despite the number of hints you all have been giving me.”
“Can’t be helped. You did better than most.”
We fell silent. The Rat seemed to be looking at his hand.
“I really made you go through a lot, didn’t I?” said the Rat. “I was a real pain. But it was the only way. There wasn’t another soul I could depend on. Like I wrote in those letters.”
“That’s what I want to ask you about. Because I can’t accept everything just like that.”
“Of course not,” said the Rat, “not without my setting the record straight. But before that, let’s have a beer.”
The Rat stopped me before I could stand up.
“I’ll get it,” said the Rat. “This is my house, after all.”
I heard the Rat walk his regular path to the kitchen in total darkness and take an armful of beer out of the refrigerator, me opening and closing my eyes the whole while. The darkness of the room was only a bit different in hue from the darkness of my eyes shut.
The Rat returned with his beer, which he set on the table. I felt around for a can, removed the pull ring, and drank half.
“It hardly seems like beer if you can’t see it,” I said.
“You have to forgive me, but it has to be dark.”
We said nothing while we drank.
“Well then,” said the Rat, clearing his throat. I set my empty back on the table and kept still, wrapped in my blanket. I waited for him to start talking, but no words followed. All I could hear was the Rat shaking his can to check how much was left. Old habit of his.
“Well then,” said the Rat a second time. Then downing the last of his beer in one chug, he set the can back on the table with a dry clank. “First of all, let’s begin with why I came here. Is that all right?”
I didn’t answer. The Rat continued to speak.
“My father bought this place when I was five. Just why he went out of his way to buy property up here I don’t know. Probably he got a good deal through some American military route. As you can see, the place is terribly inconvenient to get to and, aside from summer, the road is useless once the snow sets in. The Occupation Forces had planned on improving the road and using the place for a radar station or something, but the time and expense involved apparently changed their mind. And with the town being so poor, they can’t afford to do anything about the road. It wouldn’t help them to upgrade the road either. Which all makes this property a losing proposition, long since forgotten.”
“How about the Sheep Professor? Wouldn’t he be thinking to come back home here?”
“The Sheep Professor is living in his memories. He’s got nowhere to go home to.”
“Maybe not.”
“Have some more beer,” said the Rat.
“Fine for now,” I said. With the heater off, I was nearly frozen through. The Rat opened another can and drank by himself.
“My father took a liking to this property, carried out some road improvements on his own, fixed up the house. He put a lot of money into it, I believe. Thanks to which, if you had a car, you could lead a fairly good life here, at least during the summer. Heat, flush toilet, shower, telephone, emergency electrical generator. How on earth the Sheep Professor lived here before that, I don’t know.”
The Rat made a noise that was neither belch nor sigh.
“Until I was fifteen, we came here every summer. My folks, my sister and me, and the maid who did the chores. When I think of it, those were probably the best years of my life. We leased the pasture to the town—still do, in fact—so when summer rolled around, the place was full of the town’s sheep. Sheep up to your ears. That’s why my memories of summer are always tied up with sheep.
“After that, the family almost never came up here. We got another vacation house closer to home for one thing, and my sister got married for another. I wasn’t counting myself in the family much anymore, my father’s company was going through hard times, and well, all sorts of things were going on. Whatever, the property was abandoned. The last time I came up here was eleven years ago. And that time I came alone. By myself for a month.”
The Rat lingered for a second, as if he were remembering.
“Were you lonely?” I asked.
“Me, lonely? You got to be kidding. If it was possible, I would have stayed on up here. But no way that could have happened. It’s my father’s house, after all. You wouldn’t have caught me doing my old man the service.”
“But what about now?”
“The same goes,” said the Rat. “I got to say that this was the last place I wanted to come back to. Yet when I came across the photograph of this place in the Dolphin Hotel, I wanted to see it one more time. For sentimental reasons. Even you get that way at times, don’t you?”
“Yeah,” I said. There was my shoreline that got filled in.
“That’s when I heard the Sheep Professor’s story. About the dream sheep with a star on its back. You know about that, I take it?”
“Indeed I do.”
“So to put it simply,” said the Rat, “I heard that story and hurried up here wanting to spend the whole winter. I couldn’t shake the urge. Father or not, it didn’t matter to me anymore. I pulled together my kit and came up. Like I was being drawn up here.”
“That’s when you ran into the sheep?”
“That’s right,” said the Rat.
“What happened after that is difficult to talk about,” said the Rat.
The Rat took his second empty can and squeezed a dent into it.
“Maybe you could ask me questions? You already know pretty much what there is to know, right?”
“Okay, but if it makes no difference to you, let’s not start at the beginning.”
“Fire away.”
“You’re already dead, aren’t you?”
I don’t know how long it took the Rat to reply. Could have been a few seconds, could have been … It was a long silence. My mouth was all dry inside.
“That’s right,” said the Rat finally. “I’m dead.”
A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel - Haruki Murakami A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel