Guest Post: Mountain Survival

Hello readers! This week I wanted to give you all a taste of something a little different: a work of educational fiction that my dad wrote. It’s a short story about a man who runs into some trouble on a cross-country skiing trip. The work is intended to be instructional — that is, you are asked to think about what the character in the story does and about whether or not it was a good idea. I hope you enjoy it! Next week I’ll pick back up where I left off on the Fureai Trail series.

 

Mountain Survival

By Monty Heise

The snow had started an hour ago and it was now approaching white out conditions. Joel stopped and leaned into his ski poles and wiped his nose with the back of his glove. His mustache was coated with ice, and he could no longer feel his fingers or his toes. He looked behind him and could see that his ski tracks were rapidly filling up with new snow. There was no point in going any farther up the couloir. All that awaited up there was a possible death, probably by avalanche if it kept snowing.

He was four hours out of Elk Horn Ski Lodge, if he turned back now he would have no hope of making it back before dark. He would be caught out in the open in temperatures below zero. His only hope was to find shelter out of the wind, spend the night and hope for better conditions in the morning.

The day had started in bright sunlight as he unloaded his gear from his Subaru at the lodge. He had run into another group of cross country skiers who were just coming out of the back country. He had spent too much time sitting in the lodge talking with them about their 4 days out on the trails. They had spent the previous night at the trail cabin which was his goal for this evening and had traversed the trail he would be using. He was gathering vital winter skiing information. Weather forecast predicted snow but he was not worried, he liked fresh snow it possessed greater grip and would be easier to ski on. His goal was a ski cabin on the ridge about 10 miles out. He would ski about 5 miles of that until it got to steep, then he would cache his skis and start the climb up to the ridge. Since it was an out and back trip, he would retrieve his skis on the return trip.  

Joel looked around him, he could not see any farther than about 25 feet in any direction, no place to shelter here. Had he seen any place behind him that might work? Since he had not really been looking for shelter, nothing came to mind. He dropped his pack and pulled out his map. He kneeled down into the snow and turned his back to the wind so he could open the map and find his location. He followed his route up from the ski lodge on the map. How many times had he crossed the creek on his way up? Twice or three times, he wished he had paid more attention. But the trail was well marked, he was not in any danger of getting lost. He checked his watch, 4 hours, going was rough and slow, so maybe one mile an hour. He looked at the map again. He measured out about 4 miles in his mind. That would put him at about here, he thought. He was around the 9,000 foot level and there was a glacial moraine about a half mile in front of him. He decided to try to make it there. It would block the wind and hopefully provide him a place to shelter. Since he was planning on staying in the cabin he had not brought a tent alone. He had brought his collapsible snow shovel to dig a snow cave in an emergency. It was starting to look like he would need it.

He grabbed an energy bar and some water out of his backpack. His water bottle was already slushy and starting to freeze. He took a drink and then slid it into his parka, nothing like ice cold bottle of water up against his side when he was already cold. He couldn’t drink ice so he would need liquid water so he did not get dehydrated, which was always a consideration at this altitude. He was not hungry but he knew he would need the energy before he got to the moraine, so he forced the energy bar down. He stood back up slipped his pack back on, and grabbed his ski poles and started on up the trail. In his mind he was wishing for the snow to stop and the sun to come out. It would do wonders for his morale. He was moving very quickly into a survival situation, his mind quickly switched over to survival mode.

He needed to keep his eyes open for a snow cornice along the creek that would provide a good opportunity for a snow cave. He would like to make it to the moraine, but he would not pass up a good place, for someplace that may or may not exist, further up the trail. He was already cold, getting warm was moving up his priority list.

That was when he heard it. The deep roar, far off, but still fearful. There was an avalanche coming down off the ridge up ahead of him. Every cross country skiers nightmare. He was still below the timber line and felt somewhat safe, but he was coming up on the edge and would no longer be protected by the trees.

Kick, Kick, Kick, as he tried to get a rhythm going, got to make some time, got to find some shelter before dark, he thought. Pushing on, was his only hope.   

He started encountering down trees across the trail which was a pain in the ass, some he could turn sideways and step over with his skis still on, but some required him to take his skis off to climb over them. All this was starting to take an emotional toll on him and burning much needed energy that he might need later on.

As he broke out of the trees into an open Alpine meadow just above the tree line he could see the moraine just above him.  The trail turned right and started to climb around the moraine.  Joel stopped, he was going to go left up along the edge of the moraine to look for shelter.  He took off his ski’s and stuck them in the snow in the form of an  “X” as a marker for him or any rescuers that might come looking for him, to show the point he had left the trail and on what side of the trail.  By morning there could be several feet of snow covering the ground and it would make it very difficult to locate the trail.  He looked at his classic Ashnes Skis, totally white with green trim.  He wished they had some color which would make them easier to see in the snow.  

The glacier that had built the moraine was long gone but the boulders that the ice had pushed up, had built a dam across the valley and now a lake existed behind it, that was still froze from the long winter. He could surely find some rocks large enough to crawl between and possible use his emergency tarp as a cover to make a wind proof shelter. It might not be comfortable but comfort was no longer his goal, dry and warm was all he could hope for at this point.

He found the perfect place, two boulders leaning against each together. He stopped, dropped his pack and crawled up under them into a little pocket that was stuffed with grasses and lichens, a secret stash some Marmot made during the previous summer to provide it with winter food. He was wondering why it had not come for it’s food over the winter? Maybe it had ended up as some Eagle’s meal. He spread the cache of grass out to form a bed, that would give him some insulation against the frozen ground, then he crawled back out to get his pack.  

He pulled out his orange tarp out of his pack, and fashioned a cover over the entrance. If he needed rescued the orange would stand out well in the snow. He tossed his pack inside his shelter and then crawled in under the tarp.  

Snug as a bug in a rug, he thought, as his father used to say.

Joel pulled out his sleeping bag, stripped off his outer clothes and crawled in the bag. First order of business, get those fingers and toes warmed up. He then pulled out his tiny backpacking stove and fired it up to heat some water for something warm to drink, warm stomach, warm body.

This was an overnight trip, but he had packed a three day supply of food, but he would go into emergency mold just in case. He could make his supply of food last 6 days, if he stayed in his sleeping bag and did not have to burn a lot of calories staying warm or moving around. Water would be the problem, he was only carrying two liters which might only last him a couple of days. To get more he would have to either melt snow or journey down to the creek to get more. Melting snow would mean, he would burn up his supply of gas early, or going for the creek would mean getting wet and he would burn lots of calories. A lose, lose situation, but he needed water to survive. Joel would conserve resources, until he got a look at the weather tomorrow.

He dug through his pack for everything that contained moisture or a battery, all would have to go in his sleeping bag with him tonight. Anything not in his bag would freeze. So energy bars, tuna packs, headlamp, mp3 player all in the sleeping bag. He checked his phone for service there was none on this side of the ridge, as the backcountry manager at the lodge told him, but the group he had talked to earlier, who had come out earlier today, said there was cell signal on the ridge. It was closer to the ridge than it was to the lodge. Only problem it was still 3 miles and 2,000 feet above him in a steep area subject to avalanches. Going down would be easier and safer. He had filed a backcountry ski trip plan with the backcountry dude at the lodge. If he did not come out tomorrow evening they would know he was in trouble and would start looking for him.

For now he was comfortable, dry and warming up. It was starting to get dark. It would be 14 hours before the sun came up again and he would be able to move again. Might as well listen to some music and read a book. He would prefer to stay up and sleep until dawn than fall asleep at 7 PM and wake up at 3 AM and have to wait hours for the sun to come up at subzero temperatures. He could hear the wind hollowing outside his little shelter. Blowing snow meant drifts to contend with in the morning.

He mummed up the hood on his sleeping bag to get the maximum amount of warming out of it. Leaving a 3 inch round breathing hole for his nose to stick out and allow moisture to vent out of the bag. He then clicked off his head lamp, turned off the music. Even with a lot of unknowns that would have to be resolved in the morning, he slept warm, secure, as the blizzard dropped eighteen inches of snow, just inches from the end of his toes.

He woke up an hour before the freezing dawn. He grabbed his head lamp and looked out and saw the snow fall. It looked like it had quit, but the wind was still blowing so it was hard to tell. He would just set it out to dawn. He fired up the stove and heated water for oatmeal and a cup of coffee. He was already into his second liter of water. Water would be the priority today. With this much new wet snow on top of old dry snow, avalanches would be a real danger going up, so if he decided to move at all, it would be back down to the lodge. He could just sit tight for another 24 hours to make sure the snow was over. He had plenty of food, he had a dry shelter, dry gear. Moving would risk himself and his gear getting wet.

 He would not be reported late getting in, until sundown this evening, they would not come looking for him until the following morning if he was considered the most in danger. Other groups might be in more danger and take priority. His decision was to play it safe, stay dry. He would use some gas to melt some snow and refill his one liter bottle. He would not burn any more fuel today. For lunch and dinner he would eat energy bars. Tomorrow he would use his stove for a warm high energy breakfast and then start back to the lodge.   

The next morning after a very long boring day and evening in his sleeping bag, he awoke, cooked his breakfast and packed up his gear. Joel worked down along the edge of the moraine in knee deep snow to where he had left his skis. It took him awhile to get the ice off the edges, but soon he was on his way down the trail. The deep snow slowed his process but it was all downhill. At the creek he filled both water bottles just in case he had another night out. Soon in the distance he heard a motor. He stopped and listened, maybe a snow cat coming in his direction. The snow covered road that he had come up two days before was only a mile below him.  

An hour later he saw two guys in snow shoes coming up the trail. They shook hands and Joel told them his story and they started back down to the snow cat.   


Review

  1. Joel did a lot of things right. Name 10 things he did correctly.
  2. Even though he did a lot of things correctly, name a couple of mistakes he made.

©copyright, Monty Heise, January 2018, all rights reserved

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Red Chimney

Red Chimney

A short story by Watanabe On, translated by Haiji.

A note on the translation

For me, the enjoyment that I get out of reading foreign literature is experiencing the culture vicariously through the author. Unfortunately, it’s popular in translation circles these days to try to remove the native culture and supplant it with the reader’s culture. Personally, I find that this kind of flattening of world culture defeats the purpose of reading foreign literature. Why would I want to read a story that was originally written in a different language if it’s just going to be presented to me as though it were originally written in my own? The following story (and more to come) is translated with this principle in mind.

A second point to note about this story is that it contains a lot of unusual punctuation. In order to retain the flavor or the original, I have retained this. Feel free to comment and let me know how you feel about this punctuation and whether or not you would prefer it rendered in a typical style.


………………
………………
(—— My red chimney. I wonder why smoke doesn’t rise from it. So much smoke comes out of Father and Mother chimney, but not mine……)

She first made that curious discovery in the autumn of her seventh year while she was put to bed near the second for window, suffering from tonsillitis.

In the blue sky of a clear autumn, the smokestacks on the roof of the neighboring Western-style houses were lined up, three in a row. The two on either side were black, the one right in the middle red. Also, that red one in the middle, being so small, was in some respects shaped like the leg of a child wearing red socks. To her, it looked entirely as though that little one was sitting between its mother and father. However, strange though it was, day after day she looked at hardly anything except those chimneys, but smoke never once rose from the red one……Since she was a child who was easily moved, she thought that small chimney to be terribly pitiful, and in the end she gazed at it tearfully.

(——My red chimney must be sick……) she thought.

However, though her illness was cured shortly, her red chimney, as always, gave off no smoke.

She had been frail from birth, so she had fallen ill many a time. And whenever that happened, she was put to bed near the second floor window. At those times, she looked at the three chimneys next door, suppressing her feelings. The little red one was never letting out smoke.

(——My poor chimney!……)

Tears pouring down onto her white-laced pillow, she took pity on the red chimney and on her own prospects. Even to hear childish heart, she knew that with a body as weak as hers, she probably wouldn’t be able to grow big like her mom or dad.

She turned sixteen. Her pale, thin cheeks faintly tinged with red as they were, she was altogether a maiden like a beautiful, fragile flower. Presently she had risen from her bed and was leaning against the windowsill. She had been recuperating from a cold, but she was already mostly better.

Summer was near, and the sky, only just turned to dusk, appeared to be dyed in broad stripes of lilac and rose. Around the next-door residence, low trees with nary a gap between them grew thick with young leaves, and above them the rooftop and the three chimneys were just barely visible. The smokestacks had already gotten old and stained with soot. However, in this spring season, the ones from which smoke rose day and night were, as always, just the two on either side.
Even at that age, she still hadn’t stopped thinking that little chimney right in the middle was pitiable.

(My red chimney. Why don’t you give off smoke? …… Such a lot of smoke is rising from Mother and Father chimney……My pitiful red chimney!)

But, it was no longer a red chimney. It had changed to an unsightly yellow-brown.
At that moment, a singing voice suddenly became audible, carrying over from the within the neighboring residence.

………….

Myō ni kiyora no, aa, waga ko yo        Strangely beautiful, oh my child!
Tsukuzuku mireba, sozoro, aware      When I look deeply, somehow pitiful
Kashira ya nudete, hana no mi no      Stroking your hair, the flower of your nose

…………

It seemed to be the voice of a young man. Up until now she had never once chanced to hear that kind of singing voice from the neighboring residence, so she leaned out from the window frame and strained her ears. The pale blue ribbons tied to the ends of her jet-black braids dangling beautifully on either side of her neck fluttered quietly in the evening breeze.

Itsudemo, kaku wa kiyorare to     Forever, be beautiful like this
Itsudemo, kaku wa myō ni are     Forever, be strange like this

…………
The singing voice gradually grew closer, and before long, the back door, which was situated right in front of her window, opened and out came a single tall boy whom she didn’t recognize at all. Upon catching sight of her unexpected face, his own face reddened. Thereupon, he rushed out in the direction of the main street. From that behavior, it appeared altogether as though he had taken terrible offense or something.

But, on the evening of the next day, she exchanged words with him. At about the same time as yesterday, he came out from the red back door, this time whistling that same melody. And upon spotting the girl, who as usual was gazing at the red chimney, he again reddened just a bit, but called out exceedingly nervously.

――Hello, Miss. Your illness is better today?”

――Yes……”

She thought it strange. How would the boy know of her condition?

――Miss, are you always in that room there?”

――Yes……”

She thought it strange that he who was looking up at her seemed to not really see her.

――Pardon, but what is it that you’re looking at?”

――Your house’s red chimney.”

――My house’s red chimney, you say?”

The boy made a strange face and looked up at the roof of the residence that he had come out of. However, the chimney wasn’t visible from where he was.

――But, not even a little smoke ever comes out of it. Why doesn’t the red chimney give off smoke?……”

――Huh, why might that be……”

The boy gave a vague laugh and then his eyes fixed upon her two blue ribbons swaying in the evening breeze like big flower petals hanging from the ends of her braids. It was as though he were looking at real flowers.

And then, in only a moment, the girl and the boy came to know each other not at all unlike acquaintances of more than ten years passed. He invited her to take a walk with him on a day when the weather as good, saying that exercise was needed for the sake of her health. Her parents didn’t even mind. Rather, they were pleased that he had come to be so affectionate for their only daughter, who was so sickly that she had hardly ever had a satisfactory companion. (What a relief! Though, she is still only a girl—). Her father spoke thus to her mother. The sick girl was certainly entirely girlish in mind and body like one two or three years her junior. She walked here and there, hand in hand with the boy.

If you were to speak of taking a walk, then certainly you would go to the hill that was growing thickly with moonview grass, all the way on the edge of town. “Moonview Hill” the people of the town call it. After all, it’s a good hill for viewing the moon in the fall. From that hill one can view the azure sea of the port, the yellow flags of the harbor, and also the girl’s house and the boy’s residence, all in one sweep as though you could take it all in your hand

The boy appeared to pride himself in his singing more than anything else, and when he stood atop the steep cliffs of the hill, he sang constantly. She stared intently in the direction of the town as she meekly listened to the song. Then, when his song changed to a sad melody, suddenly her large eyes brimmed with tears. When he noticed this, he stopped his song and asked,

――What is it? Do you want to go home?”

――No……But, why is it that your house’s red chimney doesn’t give off any smoke?”

――Why are you only talking about that? ……Miss, you’re strange one, aren’t you?”

――That red one, that or some such things, they remind me of myself. Pitiful things……Yes, they look like that, don’t they? The big ones on both sides are like the mother and father……”

The youth gazed distantly upon the roof of his own residence, perplexed.

Winter came and snow continued to fall nearly every day. This time, the girl suffered from pneumonia. This time, they thought, she probably couldn’t be saved. Day and night the boy from next door never parted from her bedside. Her parents gradually began to think him a strange person.

The girl, delirious with fever, gasped for breath through her parched lips and muttered incoherently.

——My red chimney! ……My red chimney! ……It must be sick…..my poor red chimney!”
The youth looked out the window. The night had deepened and the snow fell incessantly. In the corner of the pure-white roof on the opposite side, there were the three dark shadows of the chimneys. The two on either side were sending up pale red flames. However, the pitiful one right in the middle was covered in snow, small and cold……
But, fortunately she did not die. She already passed the peak of her illness and her fever had quickly receded. She quietly and comfortably continued to rest. Both her parents and the youth could truly relax.

After some days, when her eyes opened widely, she saw just the boy sitting there alone.

――Oh! Your eyes are open.” For some reason, he spoke as though he were at a loss for words.

――Father, and mother? Where? Oh, you’re here alone?”
――Yes.”
――I…I’m alright?”

She glanced quickly out the window as she spoke.

As she did, she laughed suddenly. It was a weak laugh owing to her illness, but that kind of joyfully relieved laughter would have been rare even in times of health. And then, while barely restraining that laughter that seemed altogether as though it would never stop, she pointed out the window and spoke.

――Look! Look! Over there!……My little red chimney’s giving off smoke!……My, I wonder what on Earth happened!……”

The youth looked at the three chimneys. Indeed, smoke was energetically blowing out of the little red brick chimney right in the middle, the same as those on either side.

――What the…So it is……Who knew? ……” He said. This time they both laughed as one. But the girl thought she might have seen tears welling up in his eyes.

After that her red chimney continued to give off smoke every day. Grey-blue smoke and black smoke flowed out vigorously among the snow. At night, it raised a charming sound in the wind, the tips of rose-colored flames peeping out. The girl stared out at this absently form the second floor window. She stared out every day, even on days when she wasn’t sick. However, in her heart, she was not happy – on the contrary, presently she had slipped in a pale sadness.

(――I wonder why my red chimney is breathing out smoke? …….) she thought, as though this were unfair. The reason was that the youth living in the Western-style house with the red chimney letting out that smoke suddenly stopped coming to visit since her sickness had healed……

Summer came around once again. Her little red chimney gave off smoke day and night. She went up to the second floor every day and gazed at the neighboring residence. When she leaned against the sill and stretched her neck out the window, she could even see the rust-red back door. To the tips of her braided hair, this year just like the last, blue ribbons were tied in the shape of delicate flower petals. However, neither the sound of the song she was waiting came to her ear, nor did the tall boy appear……

She went to Moonview Hill alone. The sea of the harbor shined azure, and on the wharf new yellow flags were flying.

(I wonder why my red chimney is giving off smoke so vigorously……It shouldn’t be! …… It shouldn’t be! ……)

Thinking it pitiful that she had been betrayed by that little red chimney, she cried.

Fall began, and finally a letter came from the youth.

“The one I love is ―― it’s…I love you. But, they say I cannot. Your mother and father told me so, and my mother and father also.
“Tomorrow I will enter a British school, so I will be parted from the house here, and also from your second-floor window.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever see you again in my life.
“I pray to god that you will stay well. Good bye.
“After this…from now on our red chimney might never again give off smoke, but it’s no use to worry. Such a little chimney has a connection with you, doesn’t it? Yes, starting today forget all about such of trivial things. Surely you must forget about it.”

While she was reading those words written on thick white paper with four folds, she felt a large hole gradually open in her heart, and from within tears completely different from usual welled up and overflowed.

Not long after, in accordance with his words, the red chimney once more ceased giving off smoke. She had no idea why.

However, she was satisfied.

(――My pitiful red chimney doesn’t give off smoke. But, in any case, that’s the truth. …… Pitiful chimney! …… And pitiful, pitiful me!) Her eyes dim with tears, she gazed at the roof of the Western-style house without the youth.

Ten years drifted by.

Her parents had already died. She married, and lived in a house different from the one next to the Western house. It was on the edge of town, near Moonview Hill. Consequently, she never thought of the pitiful red chimney anymore. However, she was not at all happy. Her husband was a good mechanic of suitable skill, and not at all a bad person, but when he drank liquor, he severely tormented his fragile wife. Even worse than that, it seemed like every day recently she was assailed by a persistent fever such as to make one think her end was not far off. At that time, the days when her husband didn’t come home became more frequent. Eventually, a whole week passed without him coming home even once. After that, her circumstances became desperate.

From the time she was a child she had always slept stretched out on the floor by the second floor window. However, what she could see from the window there was not the three chimneys on the roof of the Western-style house, but the blue ocean and the cliffs of Moonview Hill. On Moonview Hill, the moonview grass was at peak bloom. When dusk drew near, she would lean on the windowsill, stretch out her neck and gaze in the direction of the hill full of pale yellow flowers. Braided hair tied with blue ribbons no longer hung on either side of her face. Her hair, which had become sparse and patchy due to her long sickness, fluttered sadly in the evening breeze.

(――pitiful, pitiful me! ……)

Tears not at all different from those she shed at sixteen welled up and she cried like a child. Her proclivity to emotion had not weakened with her years…… However, the time came when even her tears, which seemed to be altogether like an endless spring, would dry up.

One day, an old woman came to the girl’s door to tell her that her only daughter, who had been working as a geisha in the city, had vanished from the port there along with the girl’s husband.

(――She’s a wicked girl, my daughter. Such a thing must wound your spirit……” the old woman apologized, wiping her bleary eyes.

The girl – the woman now – upon hearing those words spoken, got the feeling that she had seen that old woman somewhere. And then, she suddenly remembered that she was kitchen hand at that Western-style house with the three chimneys from so long ago.

……The three chimneys! Her chest suddenly began to ache.

――Yes, grandmother. The chimney right in the middle of the three on the roof of the house where you worked…it never gave off smoke……Do you remember?”

――The chimney, you say?” Understandably, the old woman seemed unable to interpret the girl’s offbeat question.

――Yes, right……But, look, around ten years ago there was about a year when it did give off smoke. Do you know about it?……”

――Oh, good heavens, but Miss you do remember well don’t you……” the old woman said, gradually recalling. “Right right, that did happen… Now let’s see, that was just around the time when our young master came…… One day the young master unexpectedly said that he’d make smoke rise from that red chimney. He set up a ladder in a dangerous place and turned himself pitch black with soot as he cleared out the pipe under the red chimney. It was by sheer force that he got smoke coming up from it…..Whatever got into him? Miss, that red chimney was broke from the start――since the smoke pipe didn’t go through, it was really nothing more than a decoration……Why on earth would he purposefully do such a foolish thing?…..”

At that, even the sadness vanished from her heart.

(――Nothing more than a decoration!…..It was broken from the start!……If I were that red chimney, I’d wish I hadn’t ever been born!…)

When the old woman had left and she was alone, she took out her old jewelry box and removed that letter written on thick paper, folded four times, which had been stored carefully for such a long time. She began to read it aloud…………

“The one I love is ―― it’s…I love you. But, they say I must not. Your mother and father told me so, and my mother and father also………………

――He was eight years older than me, so at the time he wrote this, he was twenty-five……My, what a sweet boy he was. To think he did something like write this kind of letter at twenty-five! I couldn’t have been a day over eighteen……and on top of that, doing some such thing like getting covered all over in soot while setting up a ladder to put a pipe through to a chimney without a smoke hole……what an odd man……right right, my pneumonia was on the verge of getting better, and when I laughed having seen the smoke coming out of that chimney for the first time, he cried……but, they ruined it! ……But……supposing that old woman had lived under that little red chimney for just a long time, then that little red chimney might have been acting like it wasn’t a decoration from the beginning, as though it might have gone on smoking day after day……”

And then she began to tear up the letter, into how many pieces she didn’t know.

I Lied When I Said I Was a Nobleman

I Lied When I Said I Was a Nobleman

A short story by Watanabe On, translated by Haiji.

A note on the translation

Though the sources language of this text is Japanese, the characters occasionally utter words in English. To preserve the distinction between these English words and the original Japanese, I have taken the convention of italicizing them.


Among the women of the foreign quarter

That night I went out to Yokohama to enjoy myself for the first time, guided by Alexander, who lived in the room next door to me.

If you were to ask about that kind of place, Alexander was by far more knowledgeable than even I, a Japanese person.

Alexander, if we take his word for it, says he was the dancing master attached to the former Russian imperial family and that after the revolution he crossed over to Japan from Shanghai. As it turned out though, he couldn’t make a living by dancing, so nowadays he plays the cello in some back-alley Western restaurant in Ginza, a Caucasian of a kind barely higher than those cloth-sellers you often see on crowded streets.

Even so, as one might expect of one born in the Caucasus, he is quite a handsome man with his hair and eyes both jet black such that, in spite of his poverty, he seems to be especially popular among the women of the foreign quarter.

By the way, other than Russian, Alexander, is able to speak crude Japanese and equally crude English.

It was 9 o’clock when we descended from Sakuragichō Station, so we first turned in the direction of the wharf and went to the Chinatown in Yamashitachō.

After that, we drank beer at International Bar, which everyone knows about. For some reason this shop made its name on Ebisu Beer, but a long while back I had gotten to drink a terribly delicious pilsner at Hamburg Bar, which was also in the neighborhood.

Back then – it was around the time I was thinking of going to Germany – there happened to be a strange German man in that bar who claimed to be a crewman on the Battleship Emden. Claiming that the most important qualification for entering the University of Heidelberg was being able to drink four dozen beers, he goaded me into drinking two dozen of the pilsners.

“That Emden guy works for the shop. I mean, he was shilling for them, eh?”

Alexander said, rejecting the Hamburg.

A group of four or five waitresses – each of whom looked to be of a different nationality – had gathered around our table.

“On top of that, there isn’t even a single beautiful woman there. It’s boring.”

As Alexander was speaking, he prodded the chin of the blond-haired girl, the one with the most beautiful slender eyes.

“Marsha! You’re in love with a man who writes Japanese novels. Marsha, speak!”

Even I had already heard the rumors of that girl. She showed me a handkerchief that she says she received from Mr. XX.

After that, she joined with Alexander and they danced. An old couple near the stove, apparently a family, joined in with the harp and violin.

I couldn’t be satisfied with Ebisu beer, so I stood at the bar and drank vodka.

The proprietress, who in her youth had apparently been quite a beautiful woman, struck up a conversation with me as she poured a drink.

Sure. If you die then I’ll die too

As we had planned, after spending one hour we left the International.

The blue streetlamps were miserably frozen in the pitch-black riverside road, and the wind blew around carrying the intense smell of the sea.

Leaving Motochō, we approached the Bungalow and waited for 10 o’clock. Alexander said he wanted to dance here until closing time, but I, unable to dance, did nothing but sample the whiskey absentmindedly and waited while surveying the spectacle of the lively hall.

A drunken dancer who was really too old came near me and begged for a port wine and, in the end, she, thinking my inability to dance pitiable, offered to teach me. Grasping both my hands, she pulled me up.

But, she promptly tumbled down upon the waxed floor. Again and again she fell.

In the end I had to lay the troublesome old dancer down on a cushion.

At 12 o’clock we were driven out of the Bungalow, so we headed on foot towards Ōmarudani down the sleepy Motochō Street.

“Ōmarudani is about half as cheap as Honmoku, but it’s no good. Japanese people aren’t welcome,” said Alexander as he walked, linking arms with me.

As we ascended a grassy, pitch-black hill road, a line of some number of houses stood on the left side, the words “such-and-such hotel” visible in the lamplight.

Among those, we chose the New Number Nine, which appeared to be the grandest, and went there, but the entryway and windows were completely dark, so we reluctantly went to the Tokyo Hotel located behind it.

“What country?” The small side-window opened, accompanying the voice.

The woman’s face, back-lit to black in the window-light, peered not at Andrew, the one standing at the opening, but rather at me, though who stood behind him.

Chinese,” Alexander said, laughing.

“We’re full!” and with that, the window shut.

“Peh!” Alexander spat on the pavement.

“Even if we go to the Tivoli, they’ll be sleeping. Let’s go to Honmoku!”

Alright, I answered.

After that, we discussed whether we should choose Jūniten or Shokō while we road a taxi toward Honmoku.

In the end, since the Kio Hotel is so bourgeois, we ended up taking the latter. The car sprinted along the late-night seashore.

We turned into a narrow alley, and when we passed the front of a hotel lighting a nightingale lantern in a plum tree, Alexander made the car stop. We entered a hotel called Étoile. In the bright, charming lobby, ten or more women, gorgeous as June peonies, stood in a line.

To Alexander this was already familiar: he explained that I could to choose whichever woman most attracted my attention.

The girls surrounded Alexander, shouting “Sasha! Sasha!” Alexander’s girl, sporting a beautiful bobbed haircut and severe eyebrows,  looked as though she couldn’t be more than 17 or 18.

“Sasha, let’s tango!” she said, twining around his body.

My own selection was pressed on by the mistress of the establishment. I ended up pointing out, all the way on the far end of the crowd of girls, a slender pale-faced one who was looking the other way.

She captivated me from the start. It was because she wasn’t smiling at me like the other girls, and what’s more, I could feel an awfully timid, pitiful charm in those big, sorrowful eyes and sharp shoulders.

However, the mistress, the other girls, even Alexander found this not a little unexpected. Nonetheless, I had her sit on my lap and I caressed that colorless face.

The pair of us paid twenty-five yen. The transaction completed, we entered our respective rooms. My girl folded my clothes and put them away in the dresser. “Are you an important person?” she asked, stroking my hair with a bony finger. Her voice hoarse, she made a sound like a long sigh.

“Ah, a nobleman. I’m a baron,” I lied.

“Oh? Wonderful.” Her voice rumbled like the wind.

“Are you sick? Are you having chest trouble?”

“I’m sorry. I…I might die.”

“Ok, fine. If you die then I’ll die too!”

“My, aren’t you a glib talker.”

I embraced her small head against my chest.

“Please stop. I…I have an even worse disease than that,” She said. Turning her lips away, she coughed.

“Ok ok,” I said, and against my will I held her cheeks in my arms. – That kind of disease linked millions upon millions of men and women across long centuries. – To say it another way, the love between men and women is of the same quality. – These words of Alexander’s came to my mind as I…


The above story is a previously untranslated work by Watanabe On, a Japanese author who was active in the first half of the 20th century. This story was originally published in 1929 in the literary magazine “Storytelling” (講談雑誌). The original text can be found on Aozora Bunko.