15 August, Kyōko Nakajima

文字数 4,048文字

Guardian Deity

I was brought up by my Gran, and heard a lot of the old tales from her.
  According to Gran, we were once called guardian deities.
  These days, though, we’re treated like anathema. I mean, seriously.
  We’ve been entering buildings a lot lately—apartment blocks, they call them. And then one day all hell broke loose.
  I was just making my way along the corridor, creeping along the edges staying out of the way, minding my own business. I wasn’t causing no bother to anyone. We don’t make any noise at all, we don’t.
  But then someone came out of an apartment, saw me, and screamed, Quick! Get a pole. A


! and then her husband yelled, Oh heck! I mean, really, who’s making the most noise here?
  This couple seems particularly dull-witted, I must say. They brought out one of those long, thin green garden poles, and then started poking me with it! Oh, no, it’s aggressive!
  Actually, I wasn’t anything of the sort. I was merely trying to get away. I have a morbid fear of sharp, pointed objects, I do. At my wits’ end, I leaped up and grabbed onto the green pole, desperately trying to wind myself around it. I’m 160 cm long, I am, so it was quite an effort to wind my whole body around that thin pole, only about 1 cm wide. And then, still clinging on for dear life, I was evicted from the building. They tossed me into the grass, they did. Did they really have to be that rough? I am a guardian deity, after all.
  You all might be surprised to know that I’ve been living around here for 25 years now.
  And there’s a reason that I’ve started going into apartment blocks.
  Since this coronavirus thing has started going around, all the restaurants and bars in the city center have closed due to something called social distancing. And that put all the rats living in those busy downtown areas in a bind, ’cos they ran out of food. And so they started moving into the residential areas instead.
  As I said, we’re guardian deities. The reason we’re called that is because we catch rats and keep their numbers down. If a house has just one rat snake living there, the rats won’t come anywhere near it, you know. So what do you guys prefer: living with the rats, or with me? It’s one or the other, you know.
  We’re not venomous, and we don’t bite, and we don’t spread disease. We are quite docile, and what’s more we get rid of the rats for you. Shouldn’t you be a bit nicer to us?
  Yet just today, when I peeped into an apartment out of curiosity, they called the police! I mean really, calling the police to deal with a snake?
  Now I’m hiding behind a bookcase. There are an awful lot of books in this room. The owner seems to be a writer or something. She doesn’t know much for a writer, this author, does she?
  After all, I’m a god. Shouldn’t I be given a bit more respect?

Translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori/Arranged by TranNet KK

Kyōko Nakajima
Born in Tokyo, 1964. Made her literary debut in 2003 with


. Won the Naoki Prize in 2010 for




, with the English edition translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori, the Izumi Kyōka Prize for Literature in 2014 for







, also translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori, the Hayao Kawai Prize for Stories, the Japan Historical Writing Club Awards for Best Work, and the Shibata Renzaburō Award in 2015 for


(One horn!), the Chūōkōron Literary Award and Japan Medical Novel Grand Prize the same year for



(The long goodbye). Her works include




(Ito’s love),



(Heisei big family),



(Walk unsteadily),






(Tarte Tatin ), among others. Her most recent work is




(Kidd’s destiny). Things Remembered and Things Forgotten, an English translation of a collection of short stories, is co-translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori and Ian MacDonald is slated for publication next year.




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