21 june, Makate Asai

文字数 4,178文字

In the Garden at Midsummer


She was picking Nanking cherries, a basket in her arms, beneath the thick leafy boughs of the tree in our garden. All of a sudden she turned, slipped the mask down under her chin, and popped one of the deep red translucent fruits into her mouth.
  Do you want one, too?
  No. I shook my head from the enclosed veranda bordering the garden.
  Oh. Replacing the mask, she ducked beneath the tree again and busily continued to pick the cherries and put them in the basket.
  Nanking cherries appear very similar to ordinary cherries, I said.
  They’re related to true cherries. But the flowers look like plum blossoms, so the name is written as ‘mountain cherry plum.’
  You know everything, I said with a dry laugh.
  She was a novelist. All of a sudden, just over ten years ago, she had begun writing novels, and although they didn’t sell that well, she gradually seemed to build up a small stream of commissions.
  Eventually her nights and days became reversed and, forgetting her promises to me, she began sporadically neglecting the housework. I’d always come home from work and look through the door to find her reading or writing something, or bent over at the desk. Until one day she said to me out of the blue, I want to be on my own. There wasn’t even a chance to argue about it. Do what you want, I told her.
  We didn’t share in the good times and bad by then anyway, so I was already alone. She was always off in another dimension engaged in conversation with people I didn’t know, never present in the moment.
  It’s a big harvest. You won’t get through them all by yourself, I’ll stew them up for you.
  She was slightly red around the eyes. Maybe she still had a fever, or maybe it was the scarlet of the Nanking cherries in her basket reflecting off her face.
  Don’t worry about that, go and lie down.
  This won’t take long. It’s no trouble, she said, removing her garden clogs and stepping barefoot up onto the veranda. The woman never listens once she’s spoken. Not on trivial matters, nor important ones either.
  She’d found an affordable place to live and was moving out today, taking a mountain of books with her.
  But then three days ago she’d come down with this fever, and ticked the boxes for other tell-tale symptoms. The help-line she’d called told her she must report for an examination. Depending on the outcome of that and test results, she could be hospitalized straight away.
  Will you really be all right on your own tomorrow? I asked again.
  Of course I will. But it’s possible I’ve given it to you. If so, I’m sorry. It was the same answer as before.
  Don’t apologize. It’s not like you.
  And why was she wearing an apron today, anyway? That wasn’t like her. She looked so domesticated it was almost funny.
  Even if you are positive, it doesn’t mean you’ll die, I said to cheer her up, but she just shifted the basket in her arms and shrugged.
  I’ll send you a letter if I survive.
  A LINE message is fine.
  No, I’ll write a letter. I like the smell of ink in this season. She looked up at the June sky. That reminds me, it’s the summer solstice today, she said, crinkling up her eyes with nostalgia.


Translated by Alison Watts/Arranged by TranNet KK

Makate Asai
Born in Osaka, 1959. Graduated from Konan Women’s University’s Faculty of Letters. Made her literary debut in 2008 with Mi sae hana sae (Whether fruit or flower), for which she won honorary mention at the Shōsetsu Gendai New Face Award for Best Novel. Won the Naoki Prize in 2014 for

Renka

(Love song), the Oda Sakunosuke Prize the same year for

Oranda

saikaku

(Saikaku the Dutch), the Osaka Book One Project Award in 2015 for

Sukatan

(Idiot), the Nakayama Gishū Literary Prize in 2016 for

Kurara

(Dizzy), the Seiichi Funahashi Literature Award in 2017 for

Fukubukuro

(Grab bag), the Chūōkōron Literary Award) in 2018 for

Unjō

unge

(Above and below the clouds), and the Shiba Ryōtarō Prize the same year for

Akudama

den

(Life of a rogue). Her recent works include

Rakka

rōzeki

(Abuse),

Guddo

bai

(Goodbye), and

Rondo

, among others.

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