28 May, Atsuko Asano

文字数 3,862文字

The Grateful Turtle


May 28th, clear skies. Almost no wind.
  It was a truly beautiful day. The sky had cleared up, and the dry wind felt good on my skin. Maybe this is what people call a sunny break in rainy May. I lay on a grassy embankment by the river, gazing up at the sky. The sky, the wind, the smell of grass felt refreshing, but the human world was a mess.
  This morning, the front pages of the newspaper that my father had spread before him were plastered with articles about the Kyoto Animation arson suspect, the supplementary budget to combat the coronavirus, and the government opting not to shift the start of the school year to September. It was all a far cry from refreshing.
  A sigh slipped out. I’ve been sighing a lot lately. It’s pathetic, I know, but I can’t help myself. The sigh was out before I could catch it.
  I started playing baseball in the third grade. Since then, and still now at age eighteen, baseball has been my life. Sure, some people have told me, This generation belongs to soccer or Basketball is what’s trendy now. Baseball’s old news, but I loved baseball regardless of the times or trends. This past January, when we got the news that we’d be going to the national tournament at Kōshien in spring, no kidding—I thought I was going to die. I got so excited that I thought my heart would stop. To a high school baseball player, Kōshien is a special place. We would be able to step foot inside those grounds. It was the happiest I’d felt in all my life. My family, the school, the whole community was bursting with excitement, but I think the real celebration was happening in my heart. Then . . . it got canceled. The spring and summer tournaments both. The seniors on the team, including me, were deprived of the experience of ever competing at Kōshien. There was nothing we could do about it. We couldn’t exactly vent our anger and grief at the virus.
  But man, just when we had finally made it. I looked up at the endless blue sky and let out another sigh.
  I will repay your kindness. I heard a whisper in my ear—at least, I thought I did. I sat up. The grass rustled and shook. I strained my eyes to see. There in the grass appeared a turtle. It was just an ordinary pond turtle. The creature stretched out its neck and peered right at me. Huh? It can’t be. Suddenly, I remembered. Exactly a year ago, I’d been jogging on this very embankment, when I spotted a turtle wriggling in the grass. It had gotten its leg tangled up in some plastic string and wasn’t able to move. So, I untied the string and returned the turtle to the river. That was it. Wait—no. When I released the turtle into the river, it had turned around.
  I will repay you for your kindness. That was the voice that had echoed in my head. It had me stunned at the time, but I soon forgot about it. I had convinced myself that I’d misheard the babbling of the river. It was the only explanation that I could come up with.
  You want to play a game at Kōshien? I will grant your wish, I heard the voice in my head again. The turtle gave me a knowing grin. Then, it disappeared slowly into the grass.
  Play a game at Kōshien? No way, we couldn’t possibly. . . . I sat in the sunny breeze of May, in breathless anticipation.


Translated by Takami Nieda/Arranged by TranNet KK

Atsuko Asano
Born in Okayama Prefecture, 1954. Graduated from Aoyama Gakuin University and worked as an elementary-school teacher before making her literary debut in 1991 with

Hotaru-kan

monogatari

(Firefly inn story). Won the Noma Literary Prize for Children’s Literature for

Batterī

(Battery), the Japan Children’s Literature Association Award for

Batterī

II

(Battery II), the Shogakukan Award for Children's Literature for the Batterī series, and the Shimase Romantic Literature Prize for

Tamayura

(Fleeting moment ).

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