The chime rang. I suddenly look at the clock. It is precisely 10PM. Gently opening the door and peeping out, there was an unfamiliar black cat.
「How about some soy sauce?」
There was a certainly heavy bottle of soy sauce being carried vigorously in the black cat’s hand. At that time, about three minutes ago, I was in the middle of preparing a late dinner when I had just noticed that the soy sauce had run out.
「How much is it?」
When I called on the black cat, it said it would exchange for one pack of dried bonito flakes. I handed one pack of dried bonito flakes and received the soy sauce. The black cat gave me a fleeting look.
「Thank you for your continued patronage!」
Then it went back carrying the important pack.
The next day, the chime rang again. I looked at the clock. It is precisely 10PM. When I opened the door, it was the same black cat as yesterday.
「How about some soap?」
The black cat said so energetically while grasping in his hand some soap wrapped in a refreshing looking wrapping paper. At that time, about three minutes ago, I was about to take a bath when I had just noticed that I had forgotten to buy soap.
This time, without saying anything I headed to the kitchen and fetched a pack of dried bonito flakes. Like yesterday, the black cat said,「Thank you for your continued patronage!」and handed me the soap in exchange.
The next day and the next day too; every night a black cat came to ring my room at precisely 10pm. And surely it would have what I want. Soy sauce and soap, batteries, postage stamp ―― although they were not that big of a deal, it can’t be helped that it was a mystery for me. Why I needed those, I guess the black cat knew. Though I questioned it everyday, as if it were natural, I would hand over the dried bonito flakes.
Such days continued for a while and before I knew it, the dried bonito flakes had come to be on hand at the entrance of my room.
One day. I was laying down in bed all day. Covered with a futon while staying still in the room, I knew that time ticked by. It has been a month since I’ve begun to live in this town. A huge ghost of loneliness that had been holding its breath until now felt like it had suddenly attacked. Feeling lonely without reason, I thought that I wanted someone to be near.
The chime rang. Lifting my head, the clock needle was pointing to 10PM. I am reluctant, but I sluggishly got up to open the door.
Then ―― the black cat was there as usual.
However, in what way was it different? Today, he did not have anything. I couldn’t feel his usual vigour and looking down, it would seem like a different cat — like a different person.
When I looked puzzled, the black cat was slightly embarrassed and said in a small voice.
「Uhm, a black cat・・・・・・do you not need it?」
Before I knew it, I held out a dried bonito flake to the black cat. Approaching slowly, softly with both hands, I gently lifted it up. A mysterious warmth.
「・・・・・・Thank you for your continued patronage.」
Within my arms, the black cat muttered a little.
I already, became a little less lonely.
- Thank you for your continued patronage. ⇒