Academic journal article TriQuarterly

When Treading on Soft Earth

Academic journal article TriQuarterly

When Treading on Soft Earth

Article excerpt

When treading on soft earth, or even if not, the naturally soft pads of feet seldom make any noise: those extremely soft fleshy objects make only a faint sound when they touch something, hard concrete or brick, or black-and-gray marble spread like a chessboard on the front wall and floor of the first floor of a building - was it the young man wearing blue overalls (there was a red line around the collar, and the company name was written in red letters on the chest, although I haven't read what it says) who came from a cleaning company every other week on Sunday afternoons to clean the floors and windows of the building, speaking broken Japanese (always listening to tapes of songs by Taiwanese or Chinese popular singers with the volume turned up as he chattered, and sometimes there was a melody I knew; I have gone for a walk in the evening and realized that I was humming that song, the one that says Even though I always knew the only person I wanted to meet was you, my heartstrings would not tie), was it he who showed me the cross-section of a small trilobite fossil emerging from the face of a stone against which it had been pressed, or maybe it was the newspaper-delivery boy - in which the shape of a trilobite appeared, and even though it was summertime it was chilly; when running on hard concrete or on marble, that sensation of stretching so far as if wanting to grasp onto things with the claws of the forelegs, so that the faint dry clicking sound was the noise made by the pointed tips of the small half-transparent hooked claws, hollowed and tinged with light purple in the middle, claws like however many folds of epidermal tissue piled on top of each other, as they touched the hard floor, now not stealthy steps on the ground like soft moist red earth littered with fallen pine needles, but walking slowly with an easy step - it flares moist rough orange nostrils slightly and makes small drops of water at the ends of shining white whiskers sparkle - the cat's coming is watched, and it pauses at the edge of the pond, its circumference lined with bricks reached by the morning sun, bricks lying width-wise around the circumference of the rectangular pond three-and-a-half tatami mats large in which float lotus leaves; on summer evenings, a rod-shaped bug-light like vaguely pale lukewarm water is switched on, and the edges of the light peach-colored petals layered over and over each other take on a blue cast tinged with green, while reddish-purple lines diverge finely like capillaries in the white part near the calyx; it was possible to replace the water in the pond, its mud settled at the bottom, through a pipe buried underneath the bricks, but mosquitoes appeared and it became clear that the bug light had no effect, so by way of a countermeasure to the clouds of mosquitoes the manager thought to put toad eggs from the pond of a nearby park's Japanese garden into a plastic bag and to bring them for release into the pond; one morning in May when the continual rain had just stopped, he brought the eggs lined up neatly like brown beans in a transparent gray-tinged string; back in his elementary-school days at the school in the center of the town they had been made to write a tadpole group observation journal for science class and he had been the group leader, so he had labored valiantly at finding tadpoles, he told the watching residents; the fat woman up in room 302 on the third floor said afterwards, He said he'd written a tadpole observation journal in a group and he'd been the group leader, so that manager, he must be a lot younger than I'd thought, and speaking of group leaders, the army, what's it called, it's called a regiment? things like that make me think of group leaders, and she had laughed while saying it; she sat down on the bricks around the pond in which float the round dark green leaves of small lotuses - the pale rod-shaped flame of the bug light made the twilit green leaves and black surface of the water shine - and put the soles of her feet on the damp bricks, and wind came blowing between the pines, the locust trees, the dark peach-colored oleander and the white cotton roses; the smell of paint on the steel frame of the just-painted gray fence around the yard facing the hill road mixed together with the stench of decaying mud from the bottom of the river that had remained on the roads, in gardens and below the floors of the houses along the river when the river flowing along the private railway line connecting the suburbs and the city center down the hill road and across the four-lane street was flooded by heavy rain, it was a smell like the fish- and blood-smelling secretions of goldfish scales from the water in the pond; she was wearing a summer dress with a print of small yellow flowers - buttercups, forsythia, yellow roses, saxifrage, mimosa, which was it? …

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