A letter came from the husband who had despised her and abandoned her. Two years late, and from a faraway place.

(Don’t let the child bounce that rubber ball. That sound reaches me even here. That sound strikes my heart.)

She took the ball away from her nine-year-old daughter. Another letter came from her husband. The address was different from the one before.

(Don’t let the child wear shoes to school. That sound reaches me even here. That sound crushes my heart underfoot.)

Instead of shoes, she dressed her daughter in soft felt sandals. The little girl cried, and didn’t go to school at all. Another letter came from her husband. It was only a month after the second one, but in those words he seemed suddenly aged.

(Don’t let the child eat out of the earthenware bowls. That sound reaches me even here. That sound shatters my heart.)

She fed her daughter from her own chopsticks, as though the girl were a child of three. Then she thought back to happier days when her daughter truly was a child of three and her husband was at her side.

Impulsively, the little girl went and took her own bowl from the china cabinet. The mother snatched it away and hurled it violently against the stones in the garden. Sound of her husband’s heart shattering. All at once she twisted her face and flung her own bowl after it. This sound, is not her husband’s heart shattering? She heaved the dining room table into the garden. And this sound? She threw her whole body against the walls and beat them with her fists. Flinging herself like a spear through the sliding door, she tumbled out into the garden beyond. And this?

“Mama, mama, mama!”

Her daughter followed after her, crying, but she slapped the girl sharply on her cheek. Oh, hear this sound!

Like an echo of that sound, another letter came from her husband. From a new address, even further away than the ones before.

(Don’t make a single sound, either of you. Stop the clocks in the house. Don’t open or close the doors. Don’t even breathe.)

“Either of you, either of you, either of you!”

Tears fell in large drops as she whispered that—and then all was silent. Not a sound, not the faintest noise, not ever again. The mother and her daughter were dead, after all.

And curiously, her husband was dead alongside them.

Kawabata.jpg

If you enjoyed this you should check out these other great classic stories!

Short Story Classics: The Story Of An Hour, By Kate Chopin

Short Story Classics: Harrison Bergeron, By Kurt Vonnegut

Short Story Classics: Hills Like White Elephants, By Ernest Hemingway

 

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