[The Guest Cat is a short novel about moments and seasons.  It can easily be read in 2-3 sittings. Its pervasive mood is quiet observation of the finer things in life: a painting, a house’s architecture, a rainstorm, the first snowfall of winter, the wind in the trees, or someone else’s cat who becomes an intrinsic part of your family by adopting you.  The author is a poet, therefore his descriptions are often poetic.  The writing is subtle, simple, and even.  There are no big ups or downs.  The Guest Cat is a nice break from our objective oriented daily routines.  jbm 3/15/2017]

Takashi Hiraide – The Guest Cat

“I had a dog once when I was a child.  I felt my relationship with the dog was simple and frank.  The tension felt through the leash between the one who obeys and the one who leads was refreshing.”

“The cat’s manner of rejection was like cold, white light.”

“It looked as if no matter how much time passed the cat was not going to let us hear its voice.  This seemed to be the message the cat was giving us.”

“Having played to her heart’s content, Chibi would come inside and rest for a while.  When she began to sleep on the sofa – like a talisman curled gently in the shape of a comma and dug up from a prehistoric archaeological site – a deep sense of happiness arrived, as if the house itself had dreamed this scene.”

“In winter she came inside.  Little by little, through the crack in the partially opened window, her tendency to visit subtly developed; her appearances were repeated until, as if a silken opening in a  fabric had been continuously moistened and stretched, Chibi had entered our lives.  But at the same time – call it fate if you will – something else was closing in and pressing itself against that tendency.”

“The shadow of burnt rust passing by was the elongated belly of one of the thieving cats which would come and go from the property.”

“For no particular reason, my wife looked up and let out a muffled gasp of surprise.  The full moon shone through the glass eaves above us with their slits like a bamboo screen, so that its image was drawn out, flowing there like a milky white river.”

“It’s best to go empty-handed, this was the advice of friends, all of them writers with whom I had worked over the years.”

“His poems were now rarely seen in the magazines.  The noble-minded do not thrust others aside in order to make their way in the world.  But then they themselves are ultimately thrust aside by the advancing tide.”

“Like a camera obscura, which transmitted only that which was needed, the house with its breezy interior had a soothing effect on the soul.”

“The urgent work kept the atmosphere in the house tense till nearly dawn, but just when I had reached the point of exhaustion and was beginning to feel desperate, invariably, a small dim white shadow leapt onto the open veranda and, resting its front feet on the window frame, peered in through the large window on the east side of the room which the desks faced.  I opened the window and welcomed in the guest, accompanied by the winter sunrise, and the mood inside the house was restored.”

“Chibi was our first New Year’s visitor. They call the visitors who go around to all the houses on New Year’s Day to wish everyone a happy new year “pilgrims.”  Curiously enough, though she didn’t offer a prayer, when this pilgrim came in through the window she did  seem to be familiar with at least one formal greeting – where the hands (or in this case the paws) are placed together on the floor to kneel before one’s host.”

“Then she told me about a philosopher who said that observation is at its core an expression of love which doesn’t get caught up in sentiment.”

“I took a peek at my wife’s notebook around that time, and this is what she wrote – “It was small and white, with eyes wide open, like a bird striking a lighthouse.”

“Settling into the old man’s comfortable sofa for the long afternoon, I would watch the butterflies and bees buzz around the veranda.  Eventually they would steal into the darkness of the parlor, then, drifting from room to room, would sometimes end up staying a long while.”

“See, I told you.  She’s our girl”…or so my wife said, though she knew she wasn’t really ours.  Which is why it seemed all the more as if she were a gift from afar – an honored guest bestowing her presence upon us.”

“My wife gazed back.  Then she thought of how they would soon have to part, and all the conflicted feelings came rushing in.  “After all, she isn’t really ours…But maybe I wish she really were”…Chibi stared intently with her deep green eyes at the clear liquid flowing from my wife’s eyes and rolling down her cheeks – these human things called tears.”

“Below the zelkova tree time had stopped.  At the foot of a little pine tree in its shadow, the most important of gems lay sleeping.  Perhaps a window with a distant view of that place would allow us to yield to the natural process of forgetting.”

“Spring soon reached its zenith and gave way to early summer.  The various flowers almost seemed to be working in concert: the blooms of one variety would give way to the next as their colors changed from season to season, each time redecorating the garden.”

“But I felt as if that same skimmer had been brought back to life along with the bright light of summer.  Then – between the effacement of death and this birth that was in a sense a kind of rebirth – I found vividly recalled to me those who had left and would never return.”

“There was no doubt that Big Sister looked like Chibi.  But no matter how hard you looked – on earth or in heaven – there was no cat as otherworldly and mysterious as Chibi.”

 

Copyright 2001 by Takashi Hiraide
Translation copyright 2014 by Eric Selland

[Photo:  Ane Bamle Tjellaug]

 

 

 

 

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