"Stone Telephone" Shun Nakagawa

by 半空文学賞

I couldn’t cry too much at my grandpa’s funeral. While there were tears falling from other peoples’ eyes, mine were only a little damp. Memories of my grandpa in the hospital when I last saw him crossed my mind during the service. In them, he stared at me with white, muddy eyes, and his hand, with faded light brown skin took a firm grasp of mine. But, the memories I had of him were really much too poor to turn into tears.

Two weeks after the service, on the way home from accompanying my grandma to the chiropractor’s office she regularly visited, I asked her who was sitting in the front passenger seat, “What kind of person was grandpa?” ”A patient man, a devoted farmer.” so she described my grandpa. Those characteristics of his were not beyond my imagination.

”Also, he loved trains.” she muttered.

Now, THIS was an unexpected twist. Then I remembered that the Kotoden Nagao line ran near the rice field that he owned. According to my grandma, he would watch every train pass during his break with a grin and tell which model it was.

After I took my grandma home, I drove to Fusazaki park in Mure. Parking my car in the parking lot right next to the station and walking a bit, I could see what I went there for. It was Kotoden Series 3000 Type 335, which was preserved for display purposes on the “Fusazaki Park Station” platform.

I already knew about this old style train car. Seeing it for the first time with my own eyes today, I felt that the train was an indelible part of Kagawa’s history cut out to look down upon the present day. Just before I reached the platform, I spotted a billboard that said “About type 355”.It said that the train had been in operation from the fifteenth year of the Taisho era (1926) to December of the eighteenth year of the Heisei era (2006), a total of eighty years.Apparently this train car lived longer than my grandpa.

The interior of this Kotoden car wasn’t so different from that of the one I routinely used. Leather straps to hang on to, overhead shelving, green seats, etc. Sitting down, I looked out the window. “Is that an oak tree?” I wondered. The leaves had turned calm red. On the fallen leaves spread out at the foot of the tree, two children around five years old were making merry, and heaving up the faded leaves.

I wondered how many times the old man had sat here. I wondered if the old man, like myself, may have been looking out the window, absentmindedly seeing the scenery going by with the flow. I kept visualizing images of my grandpa that cannot be verified any longer. If I could cut out a piece of the past, like this train, and bring it here now, I would love to see the moment when my grandpa opened his uncommunicative mouth with a smile and talked about things that he liked.

I wish I had talked with him much more.

I sent forth a sigh and went outside feeling unrewarded. Thereupon, something that I had not been aware of before suddenly came into my view. I walked towards the thing which was right before the platform. It was a stone telephone made up of two square stones placed in a line, with the center carved out in a circular fashion.

On the sign next to it, the following was written in hiragana:

“This is a phone where you can use the stone to talk. Please face the small, hollowed out hole and speak into it. Please talk as much as you like with people like, your Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, friends, your big brother, big sister, little brother, little sister.”

It was unbelievable. Here was a way to tie together the things I thought were no longer connectable. No, realistically, it's impossible to communicate like this. But even so, in this moment, I had the feeling that my heart would be saved a little for realizing this sort of thing existed.

The sign further read, “Please talk freely about things that made you happy, had fun with, food you found delicious or you want to eat, what you want to do when you grow up, or what you want to become.”

Suddenly, the children that were playing nearby in the fallen leaves passed by the stone telephone while running to their parents who beckoned for them from a short distance away. Thereupon a tear unconsciously welled up in the corner of my eye. Tears did not flow, but I blinked them away and took a breath.

Everything seemed to be unraveling and was connected. I felt a pleasant wind blow through my chest when I thought of such out-of-character things. Squatting in front of the stone telephone, I imagined having someone to speak to on the other side.

There were various things I wanted to say, but time and words were too uncertain to utter them all. First of all, it would be too conspicuous and boorish. I laughed just a little, and with a small voice, I said,

“I do my best.”

If the companion on the other side were truly there, my low voice would be completely inaudible. That was fine. This was my self-satisfaction. While feeling all of that, before I could stand up, there was an unexpected reply from the other side.

Crossing over the park was the seaside railway.

I heard the sound of the Kotoden railroad cars passing by. For 100 unchanging years, the tones of the clanks and bangs have been absorbed into the sea and sky.

The 3rd Nakazora Literary Award

"Kotoden Story Project"