Rotting Meat

Japanese Title: 腐肉 (Funiku)
Author: Kanai Mieko (金井 美恵子)
Taken From: 兎 (Usagi, 1979)

I’m absolutely certain that I went to her room. If I tried to do it again now, though, I’m not sure I could find it. I had known that this would be the case when I left the room. I knew that, if I left, I wouldn’t be able to come back a second time. I knew that, even if I tried to locate the room, I wouldn’t even be able to track down the real estate agent who had taken me there. And yet, when I saw that bloody hunk of rotting meat, all I could think about was getting out of that room and into fresh air as quickly as I could.

This is what she told me:

Men used to come to this room every evening, and sometimes they stayed until morning, and sometimes they left during the night; but, whenever they left, they would always leave something splendid and luxurious behind. Pretty lace underwear, or gemstones, or chocolate, or silk. Perfume, makeup, butter, coffee – I’ve had it all. Sometimes it was just something that a man had forgotten, like a gold watch or jeweled cufflinks or a cigarette lighter, but I still kept it as a memento. When I look at these forgotten things, I can remember each man clearly. What he liked, and how he loved me, and how I loved him: I can remember everything. Of course, the men came with more than just presents; most of them brought me money, but I was really much happier when they left presents. When they left money, they would just slip it onto my bedside table and leave. I didn’t want what went on between us to be so businesslike. I would take out the money after they left and use it to get by. I needed money to pay for food and other expenses, so it’s not as if I hated it.

No, perhaps I liked money better. There was a man who would sometimes bring a freshly butchered pig (this man was a butcher, and he always smelled like the blood of the animals he had killed, probably because he would throw back a cup of it before coming here – and then my body would always hurt the day after this bloody butcher came, and I wouldn’t be able to do anything for that day’s customer), which was troublesome because I couldn’t possibly eat the whole thing by myself. It would have been strange to carve the carcass and give the meat to the other men to take home. Having them eat it would have been a bother as well (because then I would have had to cook for them); and, even if I did prepare it for them, I wouldn’t have known the right time to start cooking. Besides, I think the connotations of “meat” are a little too close to what I do for a living. It would have been as if I were serving them slices of my own body.

Each pig that this uncouth, hairy butcher dragged in was a soft pink lump. It would be more fitting to call it an animal carcass rather than meat, as there are things in this world that are more properly termed meat, such as the body of a prostitute; but, in any case, no matter what you call it, the butcher would always bring the skinned carcass of a dead pig. I would wrap these carcasses in plastic and newspaper and put them under my bed. I didn’t know what else to do with them.

In the evening, after the butcher who brought the carcasses went home, I wouldn’t be able to receive customers as I usually did, so I would send away the men who came to me right in the doorway and then go back inside to rest in bed. Still, not many men have come to visit lately, and it’s not just the men whom I’ve had to turn away because of the butcher. When I compare the present to when I was much, much younger, I suppose it’s only natural that nothing is how it used to be. Long ago, when I was young and fresh, the men who visited me in my room used to have to make reservations a month in advance…

*****

At the time she was just fooling around, but she didn’t think it was pathetic to have to fool around with other people in order to stay alive, the way she does now. Lying on her bed, she passed her days reminiscing about the men who had shared her pillow. Of course, it’s not as if she was born a prostitute (although, now that I think about it, it doesn’t matter if she was), but I wonder what caused her to become one. According to what she told me, no, before that I probably need to explain how I came to meet her. I mean, I never got around to asking her why she was leading such a bizarre life in her room with a hunk of rotting meat. It’s just that I was looking for a room, or what I was really looking for was someplace to call home, of course; but, since I was unable to find a home for various reasons, I had to make do with a room. It was there that I intended to live my life; no, I intended to do nothing, nothing at all, just pass my days in obscurity. The truth is that I wanted to flee from writing, and that I was going to flee to the farthest extreme from writing, to a life where I could patiently wait for death to come calling in the form of a young girl a thousand times more beautiful than I. Under the auspices of a real estate agent with bad breath so terrible that you wouldn’t want to get within a meter of him, I signed a lease for a room that came with basic furnishings (the rent wasn’t so bad), and I was to start living there right away, that very day.

I first noticed the strange stench after the real estate agent who had brought me to the room left and my nose was no longer assailed by his terrible bad breath. This is to say that his hideously bad breath, which was slimy like rotting meat, had temporarily distracted me from the strange smell in the room. As I searched for the source of the stench, which was making me nauseous, I opened the large built-in European style wardrobe, and there I saw a large double bed, on top of which a woman was lying. I was so surprised that my mouth dropped open. The real estate agent with the halitosis hadn’t mentioned anything along the lines of there being a bed and a woman in the wardrobe. Even if she were the room’s former occupant, I couldn’t help but feel that it was a horrible mistake for the woman in front of me to be here, since I was supposed to begin living there that day. I tried to explain this to her, but she paid me not the slightest bit of attention and said that the person who had guided me to her room must have been one of the men she employed to bring in customers. “But an employee of an established real estate agency brought me here, and also, what with one thing and another, I’ve paid him almost a hundred thousand yen. I must have been deceived by some sketchy agency’s dirty scam.”

“You shouldn’t have given money to that man,” she said. “It would have been much nicer if you had paid me directly.” I was so annoyed that I couldn’t say anything, but she paid me no heed and kept talking. As she continued to speak without pausing to take a breath, the putrid stench that had assaulted me since I had opened the wardrobe grew steadily worse, so I finally interrupted her to ask if perhaps she had noticed a strange odor. “If you smell something, it’s the odor of meat. It’s started to rot, you know.” Meat? Why haven’t you thrown it out, I asked, and she began her story of the men who had been her customers – and murder.

“Then this smell is coming from the pig meat the butcher gave you?”

“No,” she answered. “I ate the pig he gave me some time ago.”

“Then what’s the meat that’s rotting there?”

“It’s the meat of the butcher who killed the pigs. Look.”

Having said this, she peeled back the cover hiding the legs of the bed, and I peered into the dim space underneath. “You know, that man said he hated me to be so close to other men, that he wanted me to quit this business and start a family with him. Was I really supposed to do something so vulgar? I truly loved that man, so it was only natural that I would kill him.”

Even though I could see that there was a lump of bloody and discolored rotting meat under the bed, I couldn’t tell if it was a body, but I was convinced that it was indeed the meat of the butcher. The difference between meat and a body, as she had put it in the simplest of terms, is that meat can be eaten while a body cannot. Of course, she said, all meat starts off as a body. What changes a body into meat are the hands that handle it.

I flew from the room without listening to the rest of her story.

Still, I now search for her room. In that small furnished room, where the foul stench of rotting meat has turned the air into slimy puss, I will propose marriage to her, and I myself will become a slab of rotting meat that she will absorb into herself. This fantasy gives me a terribly warm and gentle feeling. What’s more, I have noticed that my own flesh is rotting from the inside, little by little. On my breath I can smell an odor so disgusting that it makes even me sick.

Soel and Larg

Author: CLAMP
Japanese Title: おはよう (Ohayō)
Taken From: ソエルとラーグ:モコナ=モドキの冒険
(Soeru to Lāgu: Mokona Modoki no bōken, 2004)

Chapter One: Good Morning

When we opened our eyes, everything was a little fuzzy.

A woman with black hair and a man with black hair were standing just beyond the shimmering in front of our eyes. The man was wearing glasses. What? How did we know those were glasses?

“You two are Mokona Modoki.”

Mokona Modoki.

Modoki? Copies?

“The two of us made you. You are copies of something named Mokona.”

Mokona. What’s that?

“It’s just like you. Maybe a little bigger.”

A little bit bigger. Mokona.

The man wearing glasses said, “Let’s give the both of you names.”
“Yes, let’s do that,” said the woman with long hair.

Names. What will our names be?

“The white one will be White Bean Bun. The black one will be Black Bean Bun. How does that sound?” the woman asked.
“What are you thinking, Yūko?”
“Do you have a problem with my knack for names, Clow?”
“Names have power. Let’s give these two powerful names.”

Power. What is power?

“White Bean Bun and Black Bean Bun have lots of power. They’re awesome names,” the woman said, a little displeased.
“That’s right. They’re awesomely delicious,” the man in glasses laughed.

“How about Soel and Larg?”
“Those names are ancient magical symbols. Not much different from the names I came up with,” the woman said, still a little displeased.
“But they’re good names,” she smiled.
“Well then, let’s name them properly.”

“You are Mokona Soel Modoki. You are Mokona Larg Modoki.”

The white one is Soel. The black one is Larg.

“It’s nice to meet you!”

It’s nice to meet you too.

……….

I have translated the first six chapters of this picture book here.

Narrow Road to the Deep North

Author: Matsuo Bashō (松尾 芭蕉)
Japanese Title: おくのほそ道 (Oku no hosomichi)

The moons and suns are passing guests through myriad eras, and even the years that come and go are travelers. Those who float their lives away aboard a boat and those who greet old age while gripping the mouth of a horse travel day in and day out, making the journey their home, and many men in bygone days died on the road. For any number of years I myself have been beckoned by the wind that scatters the clouds, and I think ceaselessly of wandering.

In the fall of last year I returned to my dilapidated hut outside of Edo after rambling along the coast, and I had barely enough time to sweep out the spiders’ old cobwebs before the year drew to an end. As I gazed at the rising mists in the new spring sky, my soul was possessed by a longing to pass through the Shirakawa barrier gate. With the god of travel beckoning to me, I could not put my hands to anything I took up and instead mended the rips in my pants, replaced the strap on my rain hat, and treated my legs with moxa. A burning desire to see the moon over Matsushima took hold of my heart, so I relinquished my house to another man and moved into the villa of my student Sampū. I attached this poem to the pillar of my old hermitage:

kusa no to mo
sumikawaru yo zo
hina no ie

Even this door of grass
Will witness a new family
Celebrating a festival of dolls

Bangkok Surprise

Author: Murakami Haruki (村上 春樹)
Japanese Title: バンコック・サプライズ (Bankokku sapuraizu)
Taken From: 夜のくもざる (Yoru no kumozaru, 1995)

“Hello, is this 5721-1251?” a woman’s voice asked me.

“Yes, this is 5721-1251.”

“I’m sorry for calling out of the blue. The truth is, I was calling 5721-1252.”

“Okay,” I said.

“I’ve been calling all day since this morning. I tried more than thirty times, but they didn’t pick up. Um, they’re probably on a trip, or something.”

“And?” I asked.

“And so I thought, well, I might as well try calling what I guess you could call their next door neighbor, 5721-1251.”

“Okay.”

She cleared her throat. “I just got in from Bangkok last night. This really awesome, amazing, incredible thing happened in Bangkok. It’s something you totally wouldn’t believe. It’s something just really, really incredible. I planned to stay there for a week, but I cut it short by three days and came back early. I wanted to talk about it, so I kept calling 1252. I won’t be able to sleep if I don’t talk about it with someone, but it’s not something I can just talk about with anybody. And so I thought maybe the person at 1251 would listen to me…”

“I see.”

“But, you know, I was really hoping a girl would answer the phone. It would be a lot easier to talk to a girl, you know?”

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“How old are you?”

“I turned 37 last month.”

“Uh, 37? I get the feeling that someone a little younger might be better. Sorry about that.”

“No, it’s fine.”

“Sorry,” she said. “I’m going to try calling 5721-1253. Bye.”

After all that fuss, I never did get to hear what happened in Bangkok.

The Monkey in the Night

Author: Murakami Haruki (村上 春樹)
Japanese Title: 夜のくもざる (Yoru no kumozaru)
Taken From: 夜のくもざる (Yoru no kumozaru, 1995)

I was sitting at my desk at 2:00 in the morning and writing. I pushed my window open and a spider monkey came in.

“Oh, hey, who are you?” I asked.

“Oh, hey, who are you,” the spider monkey said.

“Don’t copy me,” I said.

“Don’t copy me,” the monkey said.

Don’t copy me,” I copied him.

Don’t copy me,” he copied me in italics.

Man, this is really annoying, I thought. If I get caught up with this copycat-crazed night monkey, who knows when this will end. I’ll just have to trip him up somewhere. I had a job that I had to finish by morning, and I couldn’t very well keep doing this all night.

“Heppoku rakurashi manga totemuya, kurini kamasu tokimi wakoru, pacopaco,” I said quickly.

“Heppoku rakurashi manga totemuya, kurini kamasu tokimi wakoru, pacopaco,” the spider monkey said.

Since I had said something completely random, I couldn’t actually tell if the monkey had copied me correctly or not. Well, that was pointless.

“Leave me alone,” I said.

Leave me alone,” the monkey said.

“You got it wrong, I didn’t say it in italics that time.”

“You got it wrong, I didn’t say it in ītalics that time.”

“I didn’t put a macron over the i.”

“I didn’t put a macron over the eye.”

I sighed. No matter what I said, the spider monkey wouldn’t understand. I decided to not say anything and just keep doing my work. Still, when I pressed a key on my word processor, the monkey silently pressed the copy key. Click. Still, when I pressed a key on my word processor, the monkey silently pressed the copy key. Click. Leave me alone. Leave me alone.

Zombie

Author: Murakami Haruki (村上 春樹)
Japanese Title: ゾンビ (Zonbi)
Taken From: TV ピープル (Terebi piipuru, 1993)

A boy and a girl were walking down a road next to a graveyard at midnight. It was even foggy. They didn’t particularly want to be walking in such a place in the middle of the night, but they had to pass by that way due to various circumstances. They held each other’s hands tightly and walked as quickly as they could.

“It’s almost like that Michael Jackson music video,” the girl said.

“Yeah, the gravestones are moving,” the boy said.

Just then, they heard a groan, giiiiii, that sounded like something heavy moving somewhere. The two stopped walking and, without thinking, turned to look at each other.

The boy laughed. “It’s okay. There’s no reason to get nervous. Some tree branches were scraping against each other. It was the wind or something.”

But the wind wasn’t blowing. The girl gulped and looked around. She had a bad feeling about this, a premonition that something terrible was about to happen.

It was a zombie.

But they couldn’t see any such thing. There wasn’t any indication that the dead had risen, so the two started walking again. The girl sensed the boy’s face growing strangely rigid.

“Why do you walk like such a slut?” he asked abruptly.

“Me?” the girl asked, surprised. “Do I really walk like a slut?”

“It’s terrible,” the boy said.

“Really?”

“You’re bowlegged.”

The girl bit her lip. She probably was a little bowlegged. The bottoms of her shoes tended to wear down a little more on the outside, but it wasn’t bad enough for anyone to come right out and make a point of mentioning it to her.

But she didn’t say anything. She loved the boy, and the boy loved her. They were planning on getting married next month, and she didn’t want to get into a stupid fight. I’m probably a little bowlegged, she thought. What’s the problem with that?

“This is the first time I’ve dated a bowlegged woman.”

“Really?” the girl said with a stiff smile on her face. Was he drunk? No, he can’t have had anything to drink tonight, she thought.

“And then there are the three moles inside your ear,” the boy said.

“Oh really?” the girl said. “Which ear?”

“The right one. Right inside your right ear, there are three moles. They’re really ugly.”

“Do you hate moles?”

“I hate ugly moles. What planet would you have to come from to like something like that?”

The girl bit her lip.

“And then there’s your body odor,” the boy continued. “It’s been bothering me for a while. If I had met you for the first time in summer, there’s no way we would have started dating.”

The girl sighed and withdrew her hand from the boy’s.

“Hey, hold on a second. Do you have to say it to me like that? That’s really terrible. Is that what you’ve been thinking all this time?”

“The collar of your blouse is dirty. The one you’re wearing tonight, right now. Why are you so filthy? Can’t you do even one thing right?”

The girl was silent. She was so angry that her mouth wouldn’t work.

“You know, I have a whole ton of things I could say to you. Your gross legs, your stench, your dirty collar, the moles in your ear, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Oh that’s right, why are you wearing earrings that look so bad on you? You look just like a prostitute. No, even a prostitute would have more class than you. If you’re going to wear something like that, why don’t you just put a ring through your nose? It would go perfectly with your double chin. And that’s right, your double chin made me remember – your mother is a real pig. She’s a real oinking pig. That’s what you’re going to look like after twenty years. You’re a fatso, just like your mom. What a porker! You really eat shit up. Your dad is terrible too. He can barely write kanji, did you know that? He recently wrote a letter to my parents, right, and everyone laughed at it. They were saying it was like he was almost illiterate. Did that asshole even graduate from elementary school? Your house sucks. It’s a cultural slum. It would do us all a favor if someone would douse it with gasoline and set it on fire. All the pig fat would sizzle while it burned, you bet.”

“Hey, if you hate me that much, why are you marrying me?”

The boy took no notice of her. “You’re a pig,” he said. “And then your thing. It’s really terrible down there. I just give up and do you, but it’s like a cheap rubber band that’s already been stretched out too much. If I had something like that, I would die. If I were a girl, and something like that was stuck on me, I would die of shame. It wouldn’t even matter how I died. I would just die as quickly as I could. I would be too embarrassed to live.”

The girl stood there in a daze. “How could you….”

Suddenly, the boy clutched his head. His face contorted painfully, and he sunk to the ground. He scratched at his temples with his fingernails. “It hurts!” he said. “My head is tearing apart. I can’t stand it. It’s too much!”

“Are you okay?” the girl spoke up.

“I’m not okay! I can’t take it! My skin is burning up into pieces!”

The girl touched the boy’s face with her hand. It was feverish, as if it actually were burning. The girl gently tried to stroke it, but the skin slipped off in a film. As it peeled away, slimy red flesh appeared. She gasped and jumped back.

The boy stood up and cackled, tearing off his skin with his own hands. His eyeballs plopped out of his head and dangled down. His nose shrank away to nothing more than two black holes. His lips disappeared, and his teeth stuck out, grinning at her.

“The reason I stuck with you so long was to eat your fatty piggy meat. Why else would I date someone like you? But you were just too stupid to get it. Are you an idiot? Are you an idiot? Are you an idiot? Heh heh heh heh heh heh heh…!”

And then the lump of exposed flesh came chasing after her. She broke into a run, but she couldn’t escape from the shambling mass of meat behind her. At the edge of the graveyard a slimy hand clutched her collar. She screamed and screamed.

…..

The boy held the girl’s body.

Her throat was dry. The boy looked at her, grinning.

“What’s the matter? Did you have a bad dream?”

The girl sat up and looked around her. She had been sleeping with the boy on a bed in a hotel by a lake. She shook her head.

“Did I yell?”

“A whole lot,” he said, laughing. “Your scream was really loud. I bet everyone in the hotel heard it. It hope no one thinks I murdered you.”

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“It’s okay, don’t worry about it,” the boy said. “You had a bad dream?”

“You can’t even imagine what a bad dream it was.”

“Would you tell me about it?”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” she said.

“It would be better if you talked about it. If you tell someone, then all the bad vibrations will just float away.”

“That’s all right. I don’t want to talk about it now.”

The two were silent for a moment. She hugged the boy’s naked chest. She could hear frogs croaking in the distance. The boy’s heartbeat thudded solidly.

“Hey,” the girl said, remembering. “Can I ask you something?”

“What?”

“Are there any moles in my ears?”

“Moles?” the boy asked. “Are you talking about the three ugly ones in your right ear?”

She shut her eyes. It wasn’t over…

Normally

Author: CLAMP
Japanese Title: ふつう (Futsū)
Taken From: わたしのすきなひと (Watashi no suki na hito, 1995)

I wonder if the person who is reading this is married? Or maybe you’re unmarried?

No one in CLAMP is married yet, but like all girls of a certain age (and we’ll always be girls of a certain age), we yearn to be brides.

This manga was written when three of our friends got married one after the other. These three women are different ages, and the men who became their husbands have different jobs and come from different parts of the country, so each of our three friends belongs to a different type of couple. When we saw all of our three friends together, though, they all said the same thing about marriage, and this made a really strong impression on us.

“What made me want to get married? It was because I thought, ‘I get the feeling that we’ll be able to live normally.’”

There is nothing particularly out of the ordinary about the three newlyweds, but we found their words to be quite interesting. Since we’re all single, marriage is an uncharted territory.

We’re not married (and we’ve never been married), so we don’t understand the worries of a wife, nor can we imagine the burdens of a husband. To us, as a unmarried people, marriage is something rather special. We thought that marriage was something that you couldn’t do if you didn’t have a great deal of passion and determination, so we were really surprised when we heard the three newlyweds say, “we’ll be able to live normally.” But, at the same time, we realized something.

Without a doubt, marriage is a special thing. Becoming a married couple with someone who has been a separate person up until that point is a mysterious event that’s hard to imagine (well, maybe). However, what awaits the couple from the moment after this event is their everyday life, which hasn’t changed much at all. It’s the same as before they were married: morning still comes, they still wake up, they still eat breakfast, they still have to go to work.

We realized that it is precisely because of this that the three newlyweds chose partners with whom they’d be able “to live normally.” This manga is an expression of this realization.

That being said, the day when we experience this for ourselves still seems far away…