Hitsuji o meguru bōken, Kodansha Ltd, Tokyo 1982
Translated by Alfred Birnbaum
Vintage, London 2000
Five years ago, my business partner was a happy drunk. Three years later, he had become a moody drunk. And by last summer, he was fumbling at the knob of the door to alcoholism. As with most habitual drinkers, he was a nice-enough, regular-if-not-exactly-sharp kind guy when sober. Everyone thought of him as a nice-enough, regular-if-not-exactly-sharp kind of guy. He thought so too. That’s why he drank. Because it seemed that with alcohol in his system, he could more fully embody this idea of being that kind of guy.
"The Boss gave me it a few years ago," said the chauffer out of nowhere.
"Gave you what?"
"God’s telephone number."
I let out a groan so loud it drowned out everything else. Either I was going crazy or they were all looney toons.
"He told just you, alone, in secret?"
"Yes. Just me in secret. He’s a fine gentleman. Would you care to get to know Him?"
"If possible," I said.
"Well, then, it’s Tokyo 9-4-5-…"
"Just a second," I said, pulling out my notebook and pen. "But do you really think it’s all right, telling me like this?"
"Sure, it’s all right. I don’t telling just anyone. And you seem like a good person."
"Well, thank you," I said. "But what should I talk to God about? I’m not Christian or anything."
"No problem there. All you have to do is to speak honestly about whatever concerns or troubles you. No matter how trivial you might think it is. God never gets bored and never laughs at you."
"Thanks. I’ll give him a call."
"That’s the spirit," said the chauffeur.
"And what on earth do you suppose the sheep’s purpose was?"
"I don’t know," the Sheep Professor spat out. "The sheep didn’t tell me anything. But the beast did have one major purpose. That much I know. A monumental plan to transform humanity and the human world."
"One sheep planned to do all that?"
The Sheep Professor nodded as he popped the last morsel of his roll into his mouth and brushed the crumbs from his hands. "Nothing so alarming. Consider Genghis Khan."
In this solitary state, the memory of the ocean swim meets I used to participate in when I was a kid came to me. On distance swims between two islands, I would sometimes stop mid-course to look around. To find myself equidistant between two points gave me the funniest feeling. To think that back on dry land people were going about business as usual was pretty peculiar too. Unsettling, that society could go on perfectly well without me.