By Mizuno Senko
Translated from Japanese by Marissa Skeels

“You. Does anything bother you about the way your husband is?” Yoshino whipped around to face me.

“Me?” I was mortified. I’d not said a word, but I’d been paying close attention to what everyone was saying and hadn’t dreamed I’d be called upon.

The topic of conversation had drifted here and there, flowing from whom it was that our bride-of-the-moment Kirishima loved, to the accoutrements with which men adorn themselves. It’s no secret that people whom men find handsome, and which men are striking in women’s eyes, differs vastly.
I snapped my head up when the conversation lulled, at which point Yoshino thrust the focus upon me with her sudden, “You…”

Thrown, my gaze fell the ground.

“Ah, right, right! That’s right, it’s come to me again just now, right this second!” Yoshino kept on loudly, out of step with the general pace of the room.

When I lifted my head again, her eyes were still fixed on me, but the topic she’d raised was probably harmless. Her animated features filled me with blessed ease.

Her question, phrased as if to draw me into conversation, had been merely her way of beginning a story. The flash of my face when I’d jerked my chin up had drawn her attention to me out of the blue, giving her a chance to frame her topic. I wilted with relief back into my role as a member of her silent audience.

“I adore my husband, and I love him.”

A twittering of giggles broke out.

“Well, there’s no need to laugh, because I’m not trying to boast. Our marriage doesn’t really bear mentioning. But here I am, mentioning it… What I mean is he doesn’t ask enough of me to complain about. He wants me to cook for him, and sure, he has a temper sometimes… He can fly into some nasty rages, but although he hits me, he apologizes for it soon afterwards when he thinks he was in the wrong. And he shapes up pretty much the same as any man with a large build does, but I don’t think he looks particularly shabby.

“And yet something about him leaves me dissatisfied. It’s not his nature, nor his face, nor figure… No, actually, it does seem to have to do with his countenance, but that’s not quite it either. How should I put it? He lacks a certain grandeur—No, no, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that, because I do think he’s grand enough. But for some unknown reason, I can’t help but feel the sense he should be or do something much greater.

“I’ve been fully satisfied to be claimed by him ever since we first started seeing each other, but I’ve always had this irritation deep down that something somewhere in him just cannot satisfy me. What on earth could it be, do you think?

“You see, it’s not just my husband whom I have these clawing doubts about. No, each and every man in the world, all the men I’ve ever met so far, all have this element which dissatisfies me. I’ve never in my life met any man other than the kind you can sum up in one glance. Not for a day, nor even half a day. It’s quite likely I’ll feel this way forever, although I tell myself that can’t possibly be the case. Despite that, the more I think that I’m sure I’ve come across a flawless person in the past, even if only once, I have to believe that the perfect man must exist.

“Did I perhaps daydream meeting him? Did I fall prey to some outrageous fantasy? If so, when and where did I dream him up? How did I fall so deep into delusion? No, I can promise you that the faces of fictional men in tales and books don’t have the kind of dignity I seek. You know what it is?”

Yoshino paused, like she was trying to draw out her tale before the punchline landed.

“It’s hit me just now, right at this very moment, what I could never until now remember. What’s hit me, you ask? It really is an absurd thing.

“I mean, listen! What it is…is a dog. It’s the dignity of a dog!

“Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? But that’s what it is that every man is missing. A long time ago, when I was in a park in Toyama one time…or maybe not. Wherever it was, it was definitely a grassy area. I was walking through a big, grassy area.

“A huge stretch of its grass, half of it, was dried out, and there were a few small hills and dips that rose and fell to the boundary of the park where an enormous sun burned, glowing as it set, red as blood. I paused to bask in its dying rays, taking a moment to stare peacefully at the sharp peaks of trees against the sky. People were wandering around aimlessly as the sun fell. Everything looked so wonderfully insubstantial!

“That was the moment I suddenly saw him. Him, a gigantic dog, with a boy of about twenty with all the markings of a houseboy. If I were to describe the chain the boy held, well, it was this thick! And his whole body was pitch black, like a bear’s, and he had a little patch of white that ran from his chest to his belly.

“Well, how can I put into words the air of majesty that dog had!

“Three or four small dogs brought by other people gathered in a little knot nearby and barked at him timidly. He stood stock-still, legs together, staring offhandedly but as apparently intimidating as if he were glaring. That was how composed this incredible dog was. His bearing could only ever be formidable that he exercised total control, thus was overwhelming in such a way that I thought at the time it that such majesty could never be seen in any human. I was madly envious of whomever owned such a dog. I couldn’t stand my envy even toward the houseboy who was with him. For a while I just stood there, staring at him.

“That’s what I’ve been missing, isn’t it? I’ve been searching this whole time for a person who can show me that dog’s dignity once more, haven’t I? Forever, right up until now, for such a long, long time. I must be mad. Even I think so.

“Ah, I’ve finally worked it out, and it’s ludicrous, just total, utter nonsense!”





『私は良人を崇拜してゐてよ、また愛してもゐるわ。(聲笑起る)まあ、笑ちつやいけないわ、おのろけのつもりぢやないんだから。仰しやるまでもありませんて? まあ、なんとでも仰しやい……でね、私は良人に對してこれつていふもの足りなさも持つてゐないけど、そりあ御馳走を喰べたがつたり、時々疳癪を起して――あれでて隨分疳癪もちよ、私を擲つたりするけれど、でも自分が惡いと思つた時にはあとですぐ謝るわ。でね、柄もあのとほり大きいし、さういつちやなんだけれど、風采だつてさう見すぼらしいことはないと思つてゐるのよ。
私は夢でもみてるんでせうか? とんでもない空想にたぶらかされてるんでせうか? ねえ、さうしたら私はいつどこで、そんな夢を見たんでせう? どうしてそんな空想に耽るやうになつたんでせう? いゝえ、それは物語や小説でみた男の顏でも威嚴でもないことはたしかだわ。
それがね、(と、よしのさんは種あかしをするまでの時間をなるべく長くしようとするやうに言葉を切つて)つい今のこと、たつた今のこと、ふつと思ひがけなくそれが思ひつけてよ。なんだと思ひなすつて? それはほんとに馬鹿馬鹿しいことなのよ。
まあ聞いて頂戴! それは犬なんですよ。犬の威嚴だつたのよ!
折も折、ふと出逢つたのは、それはそれは大きな犬なんです。二十ばかりの書生らしい男に連れられて、その鎖つていつたら、こんな太さ! 全身が熊のやうにまつ黒で、さうして胸から腹の方にかけて少し白いところがあるの。

About the Author:

Mizuno Senko (1888-1919) was a novelist from Fukushima, Japan, who worked in Tokyo as a reporter for a national newspaper before retiring at 28 due to pleurisy. She was part of the feminist literary group The Bluestocking Society, notorious non-conformists whose journal Seitosha was revolutionary (and banned within five years) for its radical promotion of socialism, feminism, and gay rights in Japan in the 1910s.

About the Translator:

Marissa Skeels is a Melbourne-based editor and translator who has lived in Fukushima, Kyoto, and Tokyo for several years. Her translations appear in Overland, The Brooklyn Rail, BlazeVOX, and elsewhere.