15 April, Alice Arisugawa

文字数 3,621文字

Engine Stalled

I learned from my editor how to make an online video call, and we set up a video conference, he in Tokyo and me in Osaka. However, it became clear that I hadn’t managed to get my thoughts together yet for the plot of my next novel. By way of encouragement—or was it admonishment?—my friendly editor fired out a final we’re counting on you, Mr. Arisugawa, and disappeared from my screen.
  I panicked. And in the midst of this panic, I remembered that today was the birthday of my friend, Hideo Himura. I used my new technological expertise to offer him my congratulations.
  I’m the one who should be congratulating you on finally joining the 21st century with all its modern conveniences, Alice, he replied.
  We’d met fourteen years ago, when we were both twenty. And, as ever, he still finds a way to mock me. Himura has been living in the same lodging house in the Kitashirakawa district of Kyoto ever since his student days. Nowadays he’s an associate professor of sociology at his alma mater, and his research involves visiting crime scenes to help police with their investigations.
  You could at least pretend to be joking. I detected a fleeting shadow cross my friend’s expression. Having trouble with the new remote teaching, are you?
  Yeah. Right as we started online lectures, the whole system crashed. But that’s not what I’m worried about—it’s my landlady. She’s in her seventies. While we’re in this state of emergency, I absolutely can’t catch the coronavirus.
  Himura was the only tenant she had left. It was impossible for him not to feel responsible for her.
  So even if you get a message from the police saying they’ve got a profoundly mysterious, unsolvable case, you can’t go to the crime scene? You’re stuck at home playing remote detective?
  I’ll be ready. Anytime.
  My criminologist friend smiled calmly, in apparent anticipation of such a case coming his way. Still, I imagined how much he’d be itching to get out of his cramped apartment.
  As soon as the call ended, I let out a deep sigh.
  Because of the current order for everyone to stay home, all my engagements, both public and private, had been cancelled. I’d been provided with the perfect environment to concentrate on my novel, and it was frustrating that I couldn’t think of a single thing to write. The street outside, normally jammed with traffic, was now all of a sudden car-free. Had I wanted, I could have had a whole open stretch of expressway to myself, but here I was stalled, without ever having turned on my engine.
  As Himura waited for the next report of a crime to reach him, was he too sitting there, gripping the steering wheel, glaring fiercely at the open space before him? The desire to run, or to drive—impatient, bordering on frantic?
  That was my April 15, 2020.

(*Note: Hideo Himura is actually not a friend of the author Arisugawa’s, but one of his detective story characters, who in turn is a friend of a character called Arisu Arisugawa [the same name as the author].)

Translated by Louise Heal Kawai/Arranged by TranNet KK

Alice Arisugawa
Born in Osaka, 1959. Graduated from Doshisha University’s Faculty of Law. Made his literary debut in 1989 with



(Moonlight game). Won the 56th Mystery Writers of Japan Award in 2003 for Marē tetsudō no nazo (The mystery of the Malay railroad), the 8th Honkaku Mystery Award in 2008 for




(The castle of the queendom), and the 3rd Yoshikawa Eiji Bunko Award in 2018 for



(Hideo Himura) series. First president of the Honkaku Mystery Writers Club of Japan.




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