This week, we continue the story of ‘A Horse’s Legs’, picking up where we left off last week. Henry chose to translate a fun short story from Japanese to English. The story can be found here, but for those who need a translation…

A Horse’s Legs

Ryunosuke Akutagawa


Light shone gently through the office curtains, which fluttered slightly in the breeze, though nothing could be seen through the window. Behind a large desk in the centre of the room, there sat two Chinese men wearing traditional robes of a brilliant white, with a pair of ledgers set in front of them. One of the men looked to be twenty or so; the other yellowing slightly with age, and with a long white moustache. The younger of the two, who was writing at speed in the ledger, spoke without looking up.

“Nǐ shì Henry Barrett xiānshēng ba?” Hanzaburo was caught off guard. However, he replied as calmly as he could, and in his best Mandarin: “I am Mr. Hanzaburo Oshino of the Mitsubishi Corporation of Japan.”

“What? You’re Japanese?” the young Chinese man cried in surprise, finally looking up. His older colleague also stopped writing in his ledger and stared dumbfounded at Hanzaburo. “What ought we to do? We got the wrong person.”

“This is bad. This is very bad. This has not happened since the first Revolution.” The older man said, a furious look upon his face, his trembling hand making his pen shake viciously. “We must rectify this as soon as is possible.”

“You were, erm… Mr. Oshino, wasn’t it? Please wait one moment.” The twenty-something opened another thick ledger, and began to read at great speed. However, he soon closed the ledger as his older colleague, looking even more surprised than before, began to speak. “It’s no use, I’m afraid. Mr. Hanzaburo Oshino died three days ago.”

“Three days ago?” “And moreover, his legs have rotted. Both legs completely decomposed from the thighs down.” Again, Hanzaburo was caught off guard. From what these two men were saying: first, he was dead; second, three days had passed since he died; third, his legs had rotted. Surely, such absurd things were not happening. Really, his legs were just… He quickly tried to take a step, and gave an involuntary yell. This was to be expected, as the legs of his white trousers were fluttering in the breeze from the window! When he saw this spectacle, he could hardly believe his eyes. But when he tried to grab his legs, it was as though everything from the thighs down were thin air.

Hanzaburo collapsed backwards onto his rear. His legs – or, more accurately, his trousers – fluttered helplessly to the floor like a pair of deflated balloons. “It’s fine, it’s fine,” said the older of the two Chinese men, “We’ll sort this out somehow.” He turned to his young subordinate, his anger apparently not yet abated: “This is your responsibility, wouldn’t you agree? Yours! I want a written incident report as soon as possible. Now then, where do you suppose Mr. Henry Barrett is at present?”

“I’ve just looked it up, and it seems he seems to have left for Hankou in a hurry.” “Then send a telegram to Hankou asking for Barrett’s legs!”

“Sorry, Sir, we can’t do that. By the time the legs arrive from Hankou, Mr. Oshino will be rotten up to the torso.”

“This is bad. This is very bad,” the older man sighed. Somehow, even his moustache seemed to be drooping languidly. “This is your responsibility. I want a written incident report as soon as possible. Is there no other possibility?”

“I’m afraid so, what with the delay. Although, we do have a horse.” “From where?” “A horse market just outside the Desheng gate – It’s only just died.”

“Well then, those legs will do. Horse legs are better than nothing. Bring them here!”
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