20 June, Takeshi Shiota

文字数 6,633文字


Desolation, silence, and fatigue—the three horsemen of boredom, I mused with a weary yawn.
  Ever since the moving truck had pulled away the previous weekend, it seemed that nearly all my waking hours outside of work had been whiled away tying the tedious loose ends necessary to establish a new life. If I wasn’t unpacking boxes, I was visiting the local police station to file a change of address and update my driver’s license. The list of things to do was overwhelming and endless.
  Brushing away the self-pitying tears that had begun to well up in the corner of my eye, I surveyed the exhibition floor from my perch at the gallery’s reception desk.
  The walls were crammed with nearly 40 surrealist paintings and drawings, the majority of which were ensconced in heavy frames. As a small art gallery tucked away in a department store, we tend to deal in our fair share of these obligatory group shows, peddling the work of a handful of young and undiscovered artists. The exhibition began on Wednesday. By last night—in other words, three days into the show—we had still only sold one painting.
  The entire department store was shuttered for a while during the coronavirus. Although the building had now finally begun to see improved foot traffic more than three weeks after reopening, our gallery was so quiet, we might as well have stayed on lockdown.
  A tall man strolled silently past my desk. There wasn’t so much as the sound of footsteps to snap me out of my daydream. By the time I called out to offer the usual cursory welcome to the gallery, he had already retreated to the other end of the gallery floor, where he soon paused in a far corner, peering intently at one particular piece.
  The hyper-realistic pencil drawing depicted a woman seated at a table with her arms crossed, and her gaze fixed ever so slightly to the left in a quietly commanding countenance. She was pretty, with a petite nose and mouth, and a shapely, chiseled chin. The drawing captured an impressive degree of minute detail, such as the way her left eye was halfway hidden behind her long, glossy bangs, and how her loose-fitting shirt puckered as it draped over her shoulders.
  Contained on a piece of F4-sized foolscap paper, the drawing was thus one of the more accessibly priced items on display, slightly smaller than the other conventional B4-sized works. I sensed that if I played my cards right, the exhibition’s first Saturday might soon deliver a much-needed sale.
  Yet, it’s always hard to know when to make the opening move. One must tread particularly cautiously with gallerygoers who seem captivated by a given work. I calculated that this lanky young man must now be probing every last pencil stroke to better understand the drawing’s secrets, in the hopes of finding passage into the deeper world contained within. I resolved to simply observe surreptitiously from my desk, and wait for the man to form his own first interpretation of the artwork, uninterrupted.
  He seemed to strain in front of the drawing, the long arms protruding from his black polo shirt clenched in tight fists, and the veins on the backs of his hands bulging with exertion. I felt slightly wary of the way he fixated on the drawing with furrowed brow, his eyes restlessly scouring the page.
  The man slipped a smartphone out of the back pocket of his jeans, and began tapping the screen. No sooner had he held the phone up to his ear to make a call, than the conversation ended. After returning the phone to his pocket, he once again stared at the drawing protected behind a thin piece of glass.






By this point, it was abundantly clear that his visit was motivated by this drawing alone. Sensing that I was being watched, I glanced over to the door in time to see an elderly woman with a bob cut enter the gallery. Our eyes met for a millisecond as she lowered her head in passing. Before I could muster a word, the outline of her white blouse had already receded into the distance. She strode up to the young man, as if assuming her rightful position by his side, in front of the drawing.
  Based on their ages, I assumed that the duo could very well be mother and child. The woman nodded repeatedly, and extracted a handkerchief from her small clutch bag, which she used to dab at her eyes. The man tried to comfort her. But by patting her back, he only hastened the waterworks. Her tightly pursed lips parted, and she failed to choke back an anguished sob.
  Of course, I didn’t know anything about these mysterious visitors, nor did I have any way of knowing their relationship to that particular drawing. But as someone who is prone to daydreaming, I was reminded of what I saw inside the police station, when updating my driver’s license earlier in the week.
  While my paperwork was being processed, I idly surveyed the array of flyers tacked to the bulletin boards next to the waiting bench. Each board was cluttered with posters bearing the photos of people who had gone missing. One high school girl never made it home from the evening class at cram school. Another woman in her sixties vanished on vacation without a trace. I had stepped into a shadowy twilight zone, unthinkable from the placidity of my own banal existence. Standing in front of the bulletin boards, I realized how often we take things for granted.
  People vanish suddenly, without warning.
  An old woman, slumped on the ground in tears, nestled against an attentive young man on bended knee. A peaceful morning punctured by a reminder of the imminent fragility of our complacent routines.
  I glanced at the hyper-realistic drawing of the beautiful young woman, and reached for the drawer handle behind my desk to look up the artist’s contact information.

Translated by Daniel González/Arranged by TranNet KK

Takeshi Shiota
Born in Hyōgo Prefecture, 1979. After graduating from Kwansei Gakuin University, worked at The Kobe Shimbun before resigning in 2012. Won the 5th Shōsetsu Gendai New Face Award for Best Novel in 2010 and the Shōgi Pen Club Award in 2011 for




(Alpha on the board). The work was adapted into a TV drama by NHK in 2019. He later received the 7th Futaro Yamada Award, took 1st place in the Shūkan Bunshun’s 10 Best Mysteries, and 3rd place in the 14th Japan Booksellers’ Award for




(Voice of sin) which was published in 2016. The book is slated for a film adaptation to be released in Fall 2020. He is also the winner of the 40th Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for New Writers in 2019 for



(Distorted ripple).




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  • 明朝
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