Translated from Japanese by Eric Selland, Takashi Hiraide's 'The Guest Cat' is a delightful read. (『猫の客』平出隆小説作品) A short little book that could be finished over two cups of coffee. At some point, I almost thought the author was writing from his own experiences. It makes me want to get a copy of this in Japanese to read its original phrasing.
About a cat of course, and how the couple grew fond of it. The neighbors' cat that likes to wander over to this couple's house at seemingly random hours; it soon falls into a routine until one day it stopped coming and the neighbors told them it got hit by a car and died.
It talks mostly about the cat whom they named Chibi, how they've come to love her quirks. But at the same time, it talks about the couple's struggle to find a permanent home to rent, since they couldn't afford to buy. It talks about their current home, makes a strong but yet vague comment about the property situation of then-Japan, the social structure and family ties through the health of the couple's elderly landlords. It reveals how they gave up full-time jobs in cosmopolitan Tokyo and became freelance editors. Then at the end, there's a little twist about how the cat's death might not be caused from a car accident after all.
I suppose I was so disturbed by the reality of death I was somehow not seeing the essentials. As I approached the final phase of this book, I found myself going back over the events as they unfolded, and finally became aware of this point.
Eventually after three years, when the health of their elderly landlords declined and one died, leaving the other one to move into a smaller flat with nursing care, the current house was slated to be sold in the sluggish property market, the couple had to move to a smaller apartment.
I called the old woman at her new home in the suburbs to tell her we had moved just a ten-minute walk away from the old house and she seemed delighted.
"Could you drop by and check on things from time to time? I'd feel a lot more comfortable if you would."
So I took the key and went inside the abandoned garden. I stood there alone for a while. The old man and the old woman were gone. My wife and the cat also were no longer there, and I too was already gone.