One’s first love is always perfect until one meets one’s second love.

Elizabeth Aston

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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 44: Epilogue
t’s all over,” said the Sheep Professor, “all over.”
“Over and done.”
“I suppose I should thank you.”
“Now that I’ve lost practically everything.”
“No, you haven’t,” the Sheep Professor shook his head. “You’ve got your life.”
“As you say,” I said.
The Sheep Professor threw himself facedown on his desk, sobbing, as I left the room. I had robbed him of his obsession, woeful though it had been, and whether I was right to have done it, I was never more unsure.
“She departed for somewhere,” said the proprietor of the Dolphin Hotel. “She made no mention of any destination. She seemed kind of sick.”
“Never mind,” I said.
I picked up the bags and checked into the same room as before. With the same view of the same unfathomable company. The woman with the big breasts was nowhere to be seen. Two young male employees worked at their desks, smoking. One was reading lists of figures, one was drawing a broken-line graph with a ruler on a huge sheet of paper. Maybe it was because the big-breasted woman wasn’t there, but the office seemed like a wholly different place. Only the fact that I couldn’t figure out what kind of company it was remained the same. At six o’clock, all employees exited, and the building grew dark.
I turned on the television and watched the news. There was no report of any explosion on any mountain. But wait, did that explosion happen yesterday? What on earth had I done for one whole day? Where had I been? My brain throbbed.
Well, one day had passed in any case.
In just this way, one day at a time, I learned to distance myself from “memory.” Until that day in the uncertain future when a distant voice calls from out of the lacquer blackness.
I switched off the television and toppled over onto the bed with my shoes still on. All alone, I stared up at the stain-blotched ceiling. Reminders of persons long dead and forgotten.
The room changed colors to the pulse of neon lights. My watch ticked away by my ear. I undid the band and tossed it onto the floor. Traffic sounds came in soft chorus, layer upon layer. I tried to sleep, but without success. Who can sleep with such inexpressibleness?
I donned a sweater and headed out to town, stepping into the first discotheque I happened upon. I had three whiskeys-on-the-rocks while taking in the non-stop soul music. That helped give me a sense of the normal. And getting back to normal was everything. Everybody was counting on me to be normal.
Returning to the Dolphin Hotel, I found the three-fingered proprietor sitting on the chaise longue, watching the late night news.
“I’ll be leaving tomorrow morning at nine,” I said.
“Back to Tokyo, is it?”
“No,” I said. “I have one place to stop off before that. Wake me at eight, please.”
“Okay,” he said.
“Thanks for everything.”
“Don’t mention it.” Then the proprietor let out a sigh. “Father refuses to eat. At this rate, he’ll die.”
“He took a great blow.”
“I know,” said the proprietor sadly. “Not that my father ever tells me anything.”
“Give it time.”
The following day I took a plane to Tokyo-Haneda, then flew off again. The sea was shining when I arrived at my destination.
J was peeling potatoes the same as ever. A young female part-timer was filling flower vases and wiping off the tables. Hokkaido had lost its autumn, but autumn still held on here. Through the windows of J’s Bar, the hills were in beautiful color.
I sat at the counter and had a beer before the bar opened. Cracking peanuts with one hand.
“It’s hard to come by peanuts that crack so nice and crisp,” said J.
“Oh?” I said, nibbling away.
“So tell me, no vacation still?”
“I quit.”
“It’s a long story.”
J finished peeling the potatoes, then dumped them into a large colander to rinse. “What will you do from here on?”
“Don’t know. I’ve got some severance money coming, plus my half of the sale of the business. Not much really. And then there’s this.”
I pulled the check out of my pocket and passed it over to J, amount unseen. J looked at it and shook his head.
“This is unbelievable money, unbelievable.”
“You said it.”
“But it’s a long story, right?”
I laughed. “Let me leave it with you. Put it in the shop safe.”
“Where would I have a safe here?”
“How about the cash register?”
“I’ll put it in my safe-deposit box at the bank,” said J worriedly. “But what do you plan to do with it?”
“Say, J, it took a lot of money to move to this new location, didn’t it?”
“That it did.”
“Real big ones.”
“Will that check pay off those loans?”
“With change to spare. But …”
“How about it? What say you take on the Rat and me as copartners? No worry about dividends or interest. A partnership in name is fine.”
“But I couldn’t do that.”
“Sure you could. All you got to do in return is take in the Rat and me whenever one of us gets into a fix.”
“That’s no different than what I’ve done all along.”
Beer glass in hand, I looked J in the face. “I know. But that’s how I want it.”
J laughed and shoved the check into his pocket. “I still remember the very first time you got drunk. How many years ago was that now?”
J talked about old times the next half hour, something he rarely did. Customers began to filter in, and I got up to leave.
“But you only just got here,” said J.
“The well-mannered child doesn’t overstay,” said I.
“Did you see the Rat?”
I took a deep breath, both hands on the counter. “I saw him all right.”
“That a long story too?”
“A longer story than you’ve ever heard in your whole life.”
“Can’t you give me the highlights?”
“Highlights wouldn’t mean anything.”
“Was he well?”
“Fine. He wished he could see you.”
“Do you suppose I’ll get to see him sometime?”
“You’ll get to see him. He’s a co-partner, after all. That’s money the Rat and I earned.”
“Well then, I’m glad.”
I stepped down from the barstool and took a whiff of the old place.
“Oh, and as I’m a co-partner, how about a pinball machine and jukebox?”
“I’ll have them here by your next visit,” said J.
I walked along the river to its mouth. I sat down on the last fifty yards of beach, and I cried. I never cried so much in my life.
I brushed the sand from my trousers and got up, as if I had somewhere to go.
The day had all but ended. I could hear the sound of waves as I started to walk.
A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel - Haruki Murakami A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel