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Kiji Kutani

Zoo

“I want to see a giraffe,”
murmured my little brother’s girlfriend
after switching off the audio.
My brother, naked from the waist up,
put his forehead against the small windowpane
and stared down at the front of the neighboring house,
swarming with police cars and TV cameras.
“I dunno, but it looks to me like
they just carried out something big
covered in a blue sheet,”
he said, raising one corner of his mouth
(so the girlfriend couldn’t see)
and grinning over at me.
I still hadn’t so much as
splashed water on my face
and my breath came ragged and unsteady
as if I’d just filleted a big fish.
“Listen, I feel like seeing a giraffe,”
whispered my little brother’s girlfriend again,
this time addressing me.
Her fingertips playing with a brown stain
at the neck of her blouse
(her face turned away from my brother),
she gave a tiny sneeze.
“I’ll look for a zoo on the map.”
I took the morning paper under my arm,
handed it to my brother’s girlfriend,
and then slowly descended the stairs
stopping at the bathroom door
to smoke a cigarette.
Before looking for a zoo,
I smoked a cigarette.
Careful not to let slip
the words, “Once she’s had breakfast
she’ll forget all about giraffes,”
I stared up at the ceiling covered with water drops.

ZOO

Kiji Kutani

Kiji Kutani

(Japan, 1984)

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ZOO

Zoo

“I want to see a giraffe,”
murmured my little brother’s girlfriend
after switching off the audio.
My brother, naked from the waist up,
put his forehead against the small windowpane
and stared down at the front of the neighboring house,
swarming with police cars and TV cameras.
“I dunno, but it looks to me like
they just carried out something big
covered in a blue sheet,”
he said, raising one corner of his mouth
(so the girlfriend couldn’t see)
and grinning over at me.
I still hadn’t so much as
splashed water on my face
and my breath came ragged and unsteady
as if I’d just filleted a big fish.
“Listen, I feel like seeing a giraffe,”
whispered my little brother’s girlfriend again,
this time addressing me.
Her fingertips playing with a brown stain
at the neck of her blouse
(her face turned away from my brother),
she gave a tiny sneeze.
“I’ll look for a zoo on the map.”
I took the morning paper under my arm,
handed it to my brother’s girlfriend,
and then slowly descended the stairs
stopping at the bathroom door
to smoke a cigarette.
Before looking for a zoo,
I smoked a cigarette.
Careful not to let slip
the words, “Once she’s had breakfast
she’ll forget all about giraffes,”
I stared up at the ceiling covered with water drops.
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