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  • The Paper Plane at the Empire State Building
  • Nagadō Eikichi (bio)
    Translated by Shinjō Tomoko and Frank Stewart

Pawing the ground, lowering its head, the black bull watches her with its small red eyes. Foam splashes from its nostrils as it drags at the ground with its left foreleg. Between its horns, a tuft of black ringlets glistens, the ears flick, stand erect, and point toward her. It keeps watching her, pawing the ground. Kana turns and runs. The bull leaps forward, goring her from behind. The thick horns hook into her back and toss her high above the beast’s head. She is being taken somewhere on those horns, until she is awakened by her own screams.

Kana shuddered. In the places below her shoulder blades where the horns had pierced her in the nightmare, she felt stabbing pain. The bull was gone with the dream, but the pain remained. It was dragging her back into the darkness of the dream. Maybe the pain was real, because she had been cramped in the airplane seat for too long, twisted uncomfortably between the seat and the cold window before finally landing. Whether the dream had intensified the pain or the pain had produced the nightmare, she couldn’t tell.

Kana rolled over in bed and closed her eyes. After a while, she sat up and turned on the lamp. She poured herself a glass of water, drank it, placed the empty glass back on the table, and buried her face in the pillow. The bull inside her head had chased away her drowsiness. So she got up and sat on a chair in the corner of the hotel room. Pulling her legs under her to fight the cold, she curled up in her thin robe. What an ominous dream while on a trip, she thought.

Once, long ago, Kana had helped slaughter a bull. It was soon after the Viet Nam War began. The staff in the meat section of her grocery claimed that the price of imported meat was too high, and the customers wanted cheaper, freshly killed meat. At last she had to give in, and they secretly slaughtered a bull in the warehouse. A farmer from the northern part of Okinawa walked one of his poor animals to Kana’s place overnight to avoid detection. When they arrived, the bull’s legs were white from the dust. Kana felt sorry for the bull. To think it had to walk all night only to be killed here at dawn.

The workers tied the bull’s dusty legs together, covered its head with a [End Page 254] hemp sack, and then the butcher who delivered meat to Kana’s store struck the animal in the middle of its forehead with an axe. It slumped to the floor without a sound. Kana and her employees couldn’t bear the horrible sight, and that was the first and the last bull to be killed in the warehouse. The dream reminded Kana of the pitiful black creature, though the incident at the warehouse had happened more than ten years before. Triggered by her fatigue, the faint memory of the slaughter must have returned in the form of the nightmare. The trip had worn her out. Kana was irritated that her tired mind had stirred up such an unwanted memory.

Instead of going back to bed, she dozed while curled up in the chair, awakening to the booming of a metal drum being tossed and rolled. The sound grew louder, and she glimpsed the white light of dawn through the curtains. She looked out to see a garbage truck working its way up the street. Steam rose from the grates in the pavement, and she could see a worker in a white helmet rolling a trash can about. Finally, Kana had a real sense that she was in New York City.

She closed the window and went into the bathroom, pulling off her new pajamas. She drew a hot bath and lay down in the water with her eyes closed. She had arrived at the hotel just past ten the night before. Owned by a Japanese, it was well lighted and comfortable. Her...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-943x
Print ISSN
1045-7909
Pages
pp. 254-278
Launched on MUSE
2011-06-29
Open Access
No
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