A Perfect Day for Kangaroos

by MURAKAMI Haruki

translated by Theodore W. Goossen

Inside the pen were four kangaroos: one male, two females, and finally a new-born baby.
In front of the kangaroos' pen were just the two of us. The zoo wasn't popular to begin with, and it was Monday morning to boot. The animals far outnumbered the visitors.
The object of our visit was, of course, the baby kangaroo. To my mind, it was the zoo's one and only attraction.
The baby kangaroo's birth had been announced in the 'local news' page of our daily paper. Since then, we had been waiting for just the right sort of morning to go see it. Yet that perfect morning never seemed to arrive. The first morning it was raining. The following morning it rained again. The morning after the ground was all muddy, and then there were two days of nasty wind. The next morning a rotten tooth was bothering her, and the morning after that I had to pay a visit to our local ward office.
A whole month passed in this fashion.
A month can do that, too, can't it, just fly past before you know it. And, for the life of me, I can't recall a single thing I did during that whole time. It feels like I did a whole lot, and it feels like I did nothing at all. Indeed, I had no idea a month had gone by until someone came on the last day to collect the newspaper money.
At any rate, the morning for viewing kangaroos finally arrived. We woke up at six, drew back the curtains, and ascertained at once that, beyond the shadow of a doubt, this was indeed perfect weather for kangaroos. We washed our faces, finished breakfast, did the laundry, pat on hats to ward off the sun, and headed out.
'Honey,' she said on the train, 'the baby kangaroo – do you think it', still alive?'
'Yes, I guess so. There's been nothing about its death in the papers. '
'Well, maybe it's sick and in hospital somewhere.'
'They'd still report it.'
'Maybe it's turned neurotic and gone into seclusion.'
'Who, the baby?'
'Don't be silly. The mother, of course. Maybe she's holed up with the baby in that dark room they have at the back.'
Girls sure can dream up all kinds of possibilities, I thought admiringly.
'I can't help feeling this is our last chance to see a baby kangaroo,' she continued.
'Why do you say that?'
'Well, have you ever seen a baby kangaroo up to now?'
'No, I guess not.'
'And can you be confident you'll get another chance?'
'I don't know.'
'That's exactly why I'm worried.'
'Look,' I said. 'Even if you're right, I've never seen a whale swim either, or a giraffe give birth. So why make such a big deal about a baby kangaroo?'
'Because it's a baby kangaroo,' she said. 'That's why.'
I gave up and went back to reading my newspaper. I have yet to argue with a girl and win.

The baby kangaroo was, of course, still alive. He (or she) was much bigger than the newspaper photo had shown, and was energetically hopping about on the ground. It was not really a baby but a miniature kangaroo. She was a bit disappointed.
'It doesn't look like a baby any more.'
'It could still be called a baby,' I consoled her.
'We should have come here sooner.'
I went to the concession stand and bought two chocolate ice-creams. When I returned, she was still pressed against the fence gazing intently at the kangaroos.
'It's not a baby any more,' she repeated.
'Really?' I replied, passing her the ice-cream.
'A baby would still be in its mother's pouch.'
I nodded and licked my ice-cream.
'And this one's not.'
At any rate, we looked around for the mother. The father was easy to pick out. He was the biggest and most serene of the hunch. He was perusing the green leaves in his feed box with the air of a composer whose creativity had long since dried ap. The other two were both females, identical in build, colour, and expression. Either could plausibly be the mother.
'Still,' I said, 'one is the mother and the other isn't.'
'So where does the one that isn't fit in?'
She said she didn't know.
Untouched by such concerns, the baby kangaroo hopped about, pausing here and there to dig meaningless holes in the ground with its front paws. It seemed to be a creature who didn't know what boredom was. It hopped around and around its father, stopped to nibble some grass, pawed at the earth, teased the two female kangaroos, sprawled out on tile ground, and then got up and started racing around again.
'Why do kangaroos hop so fast?' she asked.
'To escape from their enemies.
'Enemies? What enemies?'
'Human beings,' I said. 'Human beings kill them with boomerangs and eat their meat.'
'Why do the babies go in the pouch?'
'So that they can escape together. Babies can't run very fast.'
'So that means they're being protected, right?'
Yes,' I said. 'Every child is well looked after.'
'Up until what age?'
I kicked myself for not having checked my illustratad encyclopaedia of animal beforehand. I should have known this was bound to happen.
'Until one or two months, I guess.'
'Well, this one's a month old,' she said, pointing at the baby kangaroo, 'which mean, it should still ride in the pouch.'
'Uh-huh,' I said. 'I guess so.'
'Boy, don't you think it would be great to curl up in a pouch like that?'
'Yes, I suppose so.'
'I wonder about Doraemon's pocket,' she said, mentioning the cartoon cat whose pocket held an endless supply of marvellous inventions. 'Do you suppose it's a kind of return to the womb?'
'I don't know.'
'I bet it is.'
The sun was really up now. Children's excited voices came drifting across from a nearby swimming pool. Summer clouds, with their distinct shapes, floated through the sky.
'Feel like something to eat?' I asked her.
'A hot-dog,' she said. 'And a Coke.'
The hot-dog stand was shaped like a wagon, and the young student running it had brought his big radio-cassette player. So while I waited for my hot-dogs, I was treated to songs by Stevie Wonder and Billy Joel.
When I returned to the kangaroos' pen, she shouted and pointed to one of the female kangaroos.
'Look! The baby's in the pouch!'
Sure enough, the baby had slipped into its mother's pouch, which was now immensely swollen. All that was poking out were two pointed ears and the tip of a tail.
'Wouldn't it be awfully heavy?'
'Kangaroos are very strong.
'That's how they've survived up to now.
Although she was standing in the blazing sun, the mother showed no trace of sweat She looked as if she were taking a break in one of Aoyama Boulevard's fancy coffee-shops after finishing her midday shopping.
'So the baby is still being looked after, isn't it?'
'Do you suppose it's sleeping?'

We ate our hot-dogs, drank our Cokes, and bade farewell to the kangaroos' pen.
When we left, the father kangaroo was still searching in his feed box for his lost score. Fused together, the baby kangaroo and its mother were being borne along by the flow of time, while the mysterious female was hopping about as if running a test on her tail.
It promised to be the first real scorcher in a long while.
'Honey,' she said. 'Wouldn't a beer be nice?'
'Sure would,' I said.