20 July, Seiji Midorikawa

文字数 3,110文字

Amid the buzz of cicadas, I washed the tombstone clean with a special sponge and soap; then I placed the incense and flowers on the grave and pressed my hands together.
  I stood and got the camera ready on my smartphone. I had taken quite a few photos from all different angles, when—
  What are you doing?
  Suddenly I heard someone behind me. I was startled.
  I’d been warned before that I looked suspicious when I took the photos I had to take for reporting purposes.
  I turned and saw a boy, no more than 9, looking up at me strangely.
  Relieved, I said, I’m working. To seem as non-suspicious as possible, I gave him a smile. I clean and visit graves for people who can’t visit for themselves.
  Officially known as the Memorial Proxy Service, my business was meant for people who were too far from a certain grave to visit, or who were unable to visit it themselves due to circumstances.
  Why can’t they come? the boy asked, naively.
  All kinds of circumstances.
  Yeah. Like, work is busy so they can’t take a day off, or they have an injury or illness and can’t go out.
  These days, those who visit graves are getting older themselves, and our clients are often people whose physical strength is declining.
  And this year, we’ve had double the requests due to people’s tendency to stay home due to the pandemic.
  But that didn’t seem like a convincing answer to the boy.
  But they’ll feel bad that they can’t come.
  I knelt down.
  Just because they can’t come personally doesn’t mean they’ve forgotten.
  Recently, as I walk through graveyards, I see a lot of graves that have been left unattended for a long time.
  Just asking a proxy service might be better by comparison.
  But. . . .
  The boy looked down with tears in his eyes, until he heard voices near the entrance to the cemetery.
  They came!
  Is that your family?
  The boy nodded, beaming. Yeah. I’ve gotta go.
  Sure. See you.
  I waved. Yeah, see you.
  The boy turned his back and began to run, almost sliding.
  A middle-aged couple and their daughter, a few years older than the boy, stood in front of a brand new tombstone, their hands pressed together in prayer.
  When the boy ran up to the family, he disappeared, as if into the tombstone.
  The girl looked up, like she’d sensed something.
  I watched the scene for a while, but finally I wiped the sweat from my brow and began to put away my work tools.

Translated by Morgan Giles/Arranged by TranNet KK

Seiji Midorikawa
Born in Osaka. Made his literary debut with







(Let’s go to the library on a sunny day), for which he won honorary mention at the 1st Japan Children’s Literature Association Award for Novel by a Newcomer. His main works include the Hon no kaidan (Scary stories in books) series, published by Poplar Publishing, and the Mōjū gakuen! Animaru panikku (Beast academy! Animal panic) series, published by Shueisha, among others.




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