Haruki Marukami’s “Eater of Clothes”

A story by Devin Walsh

Arthur had planned a feast for Hannah’s homecoming and so had splurged at the grocery store. They’d begin with a spread of French cheeses, Spanish salami and gluten-free crackers. He would recommend a sprightly white: she would take a delicate sip of his and opt for the bloodiest red available, for this was the only variety of wine Hannah would drink, try as he did. Once the cheeses and meats were, say, half-gone, he’d bring out the pomegranate salad with the homemade dressing. Half the day, it seemed, he’d spent digging the seeds out of the fruit.

What had he listened to? Christ, what hadn’t he listened to—it had taken so long. A bit of Tom Waits, a little news, some nostalgic Nirvana as, outside, the familiar afternoon susurrus of Brooklyn built up into the familiar barking, honking crescendo. It was November, so he kept the windows closed, but nothing muted New York.

Hannah would go to great lengths to demonstrate her appreciation of the salad. Meanwhile, tickling their noses would be the powerful, other-smell-smiting scent of the pork roast, wafting in from the oven in their shared apartment. The roast would blow her away. The roast would annihilate her. Words would fail her. Her lovely hand would fly to her breast over her heart and she would close her eyes as her jaw worked in patient, not-quite-believing movements. And after this she wouldn’t remember why she’d left, and she wouldn’t ever want to leave again. (Though Arthur would be the first to agree that the leaving had been a good idea.)

Finally, he’d introduce the apple pie—homemade down to the crust—served with a healthy dollop of vanilla Soy Cream. They’d polish off this last quickly, then sprint off to bed. Oh I love you, I love you! Fuck me! FuckmeArthur! Fillmeup! He had it all planned.

But he didn’t have an appetite—hadn’t all day, even during the preparation: the glorious stink of chopped garlic mingled with the tang of fresh apples, fresh basil, shaved ginger…and the primary odor: oh exquisite, oh seventy-dollars-worth of pork roast, simmering to flavor in gas heat. And when Hannah knocked on the door—too burdened with luggage to get her own keys—and Arthur opened it, eager to greet her, his gladness and anticipation rushed out of him in an uncontrolled whoosh:

He didn’t know this woman. He’d never seen her before.

To be sure, he recognized her. She had the same full lips as Hannah, her lips had the same natural rose-hue as Hannah’s lips, she had precisely the same complicated gray-blue eyes as Hannah, the same long, elegant nose, the same short strawberry blonde do with the same curls and bounce, the same correct ears, the same leftward tilt to her smile that conveyed to Arthur, for reasons beyond his understanding, the same frank sexuality as Hannah’s smile, and she even smelled the same. Arthur was a creature of his olfactory bulb. He thought in smells. Smells were his everything. And Hannah’s was a special smell, and this woman had it exactly. But it wasn’t Hannah. He didn’t know her. His skin went cold, his heart skipped a tick, he took a step back.

“What’s the matter?”

“I don’t know who you are.”

“What are you talking about?”

“It’s like there was a wire connecting us and it’s snapped.”

“Excuse me?”

“I don’t know who you are.”

“Arthur.”

“What?”

“Are you drunk?”

“No.”

“High?”

“I don’t do drugs.” Hannah knew this, of course, so he might have inflected the statement in some way—with some smear of sarcasm or tinge of You know me, don’t be foolish. But this wasn’t Hannah, so she wouldn’t know.

“Let me in.”

“Who are you?”

“Your fucking girlfriend. Let me in.”

So he let her in, as he would someone with an aimed gun, saying: Let me in.

###

The apartment Arthur shared with Hannah was the lower floor of an old house in Flatbush. It had high ceilings, a colossal sealed fireplace, book windows, hardwood floors. They hadn’t entirely finished moving in yet, so boxes were stacked in the occasional corner, still duck-taped, most marked Books; (More) Books; (Yet More Effing) Books.

Arthur was enjoying an idle winter on the last of his grad school loans. Hannah worked for an NGO in the city that paid attention to human starvation. She’d interned for them as a poli-sci student and they, like most every other organization or individual who spent enough time with Hannah, had fallen swiftly in love with her. They were even talking about helping her get a masters in public affairs. Arthur encouraged this. He had a dream of the two as a many-degreed couple, urbane. They’d walk into an airplane and be the envy of anyone reading a New Yorker: he with his height and his long black wool overcoat and his expensive valise and smart glasses and his woman; she with her elegant attire and cosmopolitan bearing and smart hair and man. They’d gallivant around the world attending and delivering lectures, drinking Pimms Cups at the most exclusive post-conference soirees, trading worldly anecdotes with other fresh couples who may or may not be swingers.

Arthur Schoenemann had just received his master’s degree in literature, with an emphasis in contemporary American poetry. He’d first encountered Hannah Bailey in the University library. She was stooped over an immense tome at one of the big public tables, and he found himself unable to concentrate on the Mary Oliver volume he’d been scouring for evidence of talent. He contrived to leave when she did, contrived to hold the door open for her on their way out into the brisk, busy Manhattan spring, contrived to get on the same train as her going he knew not where, contrived to take her out to dinner that very night—because love needs help.

The book she’d been reading was about starvation.

Starvation, huh? Yes. How fascinating. It’s terrible, really. You’re in government administration, or something? I’m in whatever it takes to feed people. You’re wonderful to talk to—really, you’re a great person…is there a Mr. Great Person out there somewhere?

Three months later they’d said To hell with it, thrown caution to the wind and taken the Flatbush house. This had at least a little to do with practicality (they’d both been getting reamed by Manhattan rentals), a little to do with something romantic about brownstones (the brownstones! look at them!), and a little to do with their both being fairly impulsive people. Arthur, for his part, had been living for entirely too long a penurious, hermetic, scholarly existence in an “apartment” whose opposing walls he could nearly touch when he unfurled his full wingspan. To say nothing of the nightclub he shared the floor with: John Fogerty’s beery howl, four A.M., the bass, the bass, the bass… More than this, though, he was a lonely person. There’d been women (bookish types, mostly, fellow grad students, precise of speech, suspicious of passion) but what Arthur really craved was a student. This was Hannah.

Hannah wanted to be taught the finer things of life. She wanted to learn wine and good cooking and poets. She wanted never to be taken unawares by a conversational turn at a cocktail party. She believed fervently in learning. She liked slightly older men, men with brown eyes, men who knew how to dress, men who liked to be left alone. Arthur fit the bill.

###

The food was all spread out on the table. Arthur didn’t touch it. Hannah nibbled on some cheese, plucked the occasional pomegranate seed and eyed the steaming roast.

“Tell me what happened.”

“When?”

“On your trip.”

“I didn’t make it to Emily’s. We missed connections, somehow.”

“What do you mean, you didn’t make it?”

“I mean I was getting close, but you know, I didn’t know where her house was, so I called on my way in to get directions and she didn’t pick up.”

“What did you do?”

“I stopped at an IHOP.”

“An IHOP?”

“Yeah.”

“Did you eat there?”

“I had a grilled cheese sandwich. Leave me alone. I was hungry.”

“Then what did you do?”

“I called her a couple more times. But no answering machine, no voicemail, nothing. Then I called you to see if you could get in touch with her by email or something. Maybe track down an address.”

“You called me?”

“Yeah.”

“When?”

“The day I left. Day before yesterday.”

“I didn’t get a call.”

“Well, I called.”

“What do you mean you didn’t make it to Emily’s? Where have you been all this time?”

“I stayed at a Comfort Inn.”

“What?”

“I stayed at a Comfort Inn, Arthur. Jesus. Every day I called and nobody ever picked up a fucking phone. What do you want? What do you mean you don’t know who I am?”

“What did you do at this Comfort Inn?”

“Don’t say it like that.”

“What did I say it like?”

“Like I’m making it up. Like Comfort Inns don’t exist.”

“What did you do there?”

“I read a book. I went out and bought beer. I drove around Tarrytown.”

“You bought beer.”

“Good beer, thank you very much.”

“What did you do in Tarrytown?”

“I went to a bar. I went to a bookstore. I fucked around, Arthur. Why don’t you stop playing games with me?”

“I’m not playing games.”

“You’re playing games.”

“I’m really not.”

“Why don’t you call me by my name? You haven’t called me by my name once.”

“I don’t know what it is.”

“Shut-up.”

“Han-nah.”

“I don’t like this.”

“Han. Nah.”

“Stop it.”

“What kind of beer did you buy?”

Hannah sighed and, without excusing herself, got up to use the restroom.

###

Hannah’s bowels had always given Arthur much amusement. They seemed to be attuned to everything: the breeze, a whiff of peppers. You are a sieve, he’d been known to joke. Just looking at a hunk of cheese was enough to send her fleeing to the closest toilet—and forget beans. There was something to it, Arthur believed—some rich vein waiting to be mined by a psychiatrist or nutritional expert or gastrointestinal doctor. She didn’t vomit—he’d never seen or heard her vomit—but she didn’t need to, because she absolutely couldn’t retain anything long enough for it to come back up. Consume, eliminate. Consume, eliminate. So this getting up suddenly and using the restroom was very Hannah-like behavior. He had to admit, all things considered, she was behaving very much like Hannah.

So what was it? What had happened at the Comfort Inn? What wasn’t she telling him?

He eyed the pork roast without interest. The pork roast as an abstraction of pig, hot and getting cold. The second law of thermodynamics as it equates to Boston butt, to shoulder. You, Sir or Ma’am, were warm, and then you died and were cold, and now I’ve made you warm again, and again you become cold. I shall integrate you into my feces, and you will then for a short time be, again, warm, and then you will be cold. And then you will be cold. And then you will be cold.

Could she have called him? Could it be he was out of minutes? He’d had his phone on and by his side the whole time she was gone, waiting for her to check in: Arthur, I’m sorry this is happening but I think it’s for the best. We were really trying each other’s nerves, weren’t we? We’ve been moving really fast and we needed this and now I miss you something fierce. Oh, I miss you too, baby. Terribly. Can’t wait for you to come home. Say hi to Emily for me…

Emily.

Emily was the thing. There was something with Emily.

The toilet flushed.

###

“Do you know what this house needs?” he’d asked the first time they’d been by the Flatbush place.

“Furniture? Occupants? Us?”

“What this house needs is a kitty.”

“Ooh, yes. A cat.”

“No, Hannah: a kitty. We’ll toss him once he gets to be a cat.”

“And then get another kitty?”

“…Perhaps.”

###

It was bearing up on Christmas, and Arthur that year was fulfilling an old dream he’d had of buying presents for people in a special way. Because they didn’t have a lot of money between them after rent it made all the more sense. Arthur’s dream was to buy specific presents for specific people with money earned by doing specific odd jobs. For instance: there was his mother. His mother he’d bought a bread-making machine with money he’d made busking in SoHo. He’d spray-painted himself silver, put on a tattered long-tailed tux borrowed from the University’s theatre department, and stood perfectly still for four hours, top hat upturned in hand. He’d done this for three days. “You’ll never earn the bread you need studying these books you study!” his mom had always told him. “You’ll never earn the dough with your nose in such books!” She was a kindly old woman, fat, and, ever since her husband, Mr. Schoenemann, had passed, laughing at everything. He was sure she’d enjoy the gift.

For his friend Pan he’d purchased a first-edition The Waste Land by writing resumes and statements of purpose for graduating undergraduates. He’d advertised his services on Craigslist. Pan operated a rare books store, and his outlook on New York’s matriculating generation of students was alarmingly negative. “They are destroying America, these kids,” Pan said. “All money, nothing that lasts. No poetry. No blood—just drive.”

He hadn’t decided what to do for Hannah yet. He was going to figure it all out and do it during her vacation. Something rash. Something exciting. He wanted to spend a lot of money on her, so he’d have to do something really crazy because he’d only have a couple days. The amount of love he’d invest in her present would have an inverse relationship to the number of days he’d spend earning the money for it: if he could do it in a day, that would be the most loving present of all, because he’d have to do the craziest thing to earn the cash. Each additional day would dilute the love. And it was truly all about the love. He truly did love her.

What happened was, just like she said in his imagined phone call, they’d been moving too fast. He’d lashed out at her. She’d lashed out at him. Theirs was a shared space, now, a shared life, and that kind of thing was volatile. So when Emily called he’d seen it as a boon. An old friend of mine just called. Emily. She lives in Tarrytown. She’s having a baby, for crying out loud. I want to go stay with her a few days. What do you think?

I think sure. I think yes.

###

“So what happened to Emily?”

“Please, just stop this.”

“I mean it.”

“I don’t know what happened to Emily. Probably there’s something in my email or my Facebook.”

“You’re friends with her on Facebook?”

She was exasperated. “Yes, Arthur.”

“I thought you hadn’t seen or heard from her in a really long time before she called the other day?”

“I hadn’t.”

“So when did you become friends with her on Facebook?”

“Years ago. She was just—you know how you have Facebook friends you forget about?”

He nodded cautiously.

“It was like that.”

“And you never heard from her?”

“Jesus Christ.”

“What book did you read at the Comfort Inn?”

“Do we have something to drink?”

Hannah went to investigate the wares. “I was reading…what is it…you recommended it to me.”

“Jack Gilbert?”

“No. It wasn’t poetry. Is it just this Chardonnay?”

“There’s red. Was it Invisible Man?”

“Arthur, for crying out loud, I read Invisible Man in high school. Are you testing me?”

“What book was it?”

“Where’s the red?”

“Where do you think?”

He watched her find the red—a decent Spanish cabernet—in the kitchen cabinet. She paused a moment before extracting it.

Americana.”

“Don DeLillo.”

“Right.” She sat back down with a glass. “Aren’t you tired of this?”

“What’s the book about?”

“I didn’t finish it.”

“But you said you went to a bookstore.”

“So I did.”

“Did you buy something there?”

“Yes.”

“What did you buy?”

“The new Murakami.”

“Murakami is a hack.”

“I am well aware of your ridiculous feelings on this subject.”

“They aren’t feelings.”

“What are they, then? No. Never mind. Belay that order. I don’t care.”

“When did you join the Navy?”

“Shut-up.”

“Why did you go buy the Murakami when you weren’t finished with the DeLillo?”

“I didn’t like the DeLillo.”

“What’s it about?”

“It’s about a gorgeous stuck-up rich white American dickhead who wants to make movies.”

“What kind of movies?”

“Stupid, fucked-up, nonsense movies.”

“It’s a brilliant book.”

“It’s self-indulgent crap.”

“How’s the Murakami?”

“Magnificent.”

“What was the name of the bookstore where you bought it?”

“Jesus Christ, Arthur. I don’t remember. It was a fucking bookstore.”

“And you never heard from Emily?”

“Stop it. Stop it. Stop it.”

###

This Murakami thing was pretty old with them.

As soon as Hannah found out that Arthur was a student of contemporary writers, she’d been on about Murakami. “Oh my God, I love—LOVE—the Wind-up Bird Chronicle. And The Elephant Vanishes? Are you kidding me? I love Murakami. I want his babies. Not like to have them with him. I want to steal the ones he’s got. Do you like him?”

“Listen to me, Hannah. Listen close.”

“O.K.”

“Are you listening?”

“All ears.”

“Haruki Murakami is a hack.”

“Excuse me?”

“He’s a hack in any language.”

“Why?”

“His stories don’t end. They fizzle. His epiphanies are so buried they aren’t there. His plot is always the same, and it was never once interesting.”

“You know what, Arthur?”

“What.”

“That’s not true.”

“Sorry.”

“It isn’t.”

“It is.”

“I’m not sure if I can go on seeing you.”

“Yes.”

“I can see it’s going to be quite a challenge to get you to see the light.”

“Right. Me too.”

“But I think I’m up to it.”

“Likewise.”

And that night they’d slept together for the first time.

So the shadow of Murakami had been cast over their relationship from more or less the very start. The diminutive, somewhat Americo-centric Japanese chap with meek written all over his face, who’d owned a combination coffeeshop/jazz bar in Tokyo, who’d realized, while attending a game—as the legend went—that he could write a novel the moment that a baseballer (a Yakult Swallow or Hiroshima Carp, American, by the name of Dave Hilton) swatted a double, who ran marathons, ultramarathons, and considered himself a triathlete, who’d further desecrated the much-desecrated and easily desecratable name of Raymond Carver with a book titled What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, this small man who captivated—it seemed to Arthur—bookish American girls all over, for some inexplicable reason, as if there was a code and he knew it, this man comprised the only real obstacle between him and everlasting happiness with Hannah Bailey. And the secret, Arthur’s secret, was that he’d hardly read him. A few short stories, here and there. He even liked one or two of them. Why did he hate him?

He hated him because there was nothing excellent about the prose. It was all fine. Just fine. And there was nothing new there. Where Murakami went someone had already gone—someone usually South American, who wrote in the fire of political instability and with the urgency of economic collapse.

And he hated him because Arthur needed to hate some writers. He needed to for his studies, because the hate lent immediacy to his criticism and augmented every difficult, wrenched-from-his-mind opinion he realized he had with something that felt like agency. It made him feel like he mattered and that what he had to say needed saying. What useful purpose did a life serve that never objected to anything? And he needed to for his own writing, because he wasn’t just a critic. He aspired to write beautiful, complicated fictions and compact yet labyrinthine, puzzling yet delicious poems, and he believed that hating active, successful writers was a necessary arrow in his quiver: he needed someone to defeat.

###

“What about you?”

“What about me?”

“What did you do over the weekend?”

“I waited. I went to the store. I went by Pan’s. I read. I cooked.”

“Is that all?”

“Did you see anyone while you were in Tarrytown?”

“What do you mean?”

“What’s confusing about the question?”

“I saw lots of people. Yes. No: I didn’t know anyone there. I didn’t see anyone.”

“Did you cheat on me at the Comfort Inn?”

“Yeah, Arthur. I was gangbanged.”

“I’m serious.”

“Why would you ask that?”

“Because it’s like the wire snapped.”

“Fuck you.”

“I don’t know what being cuckolded feels like. Maybe it feels like this.”

“I’m over this.”

“You aren’t being very cooperative.”

“I’m not being—? Shut up. Do you think I’m happy about it? Do you know how lonely and pointless I felt up there?”

“No.”

“Well, imagine it.”

“And you never got in touch with Emily?”

“What did you do while I was gone?”

“I told you already.”

“You didn’t tell me everything.”

“Yes I did.”

“No. You didn’t.”

“Why would you say that? What more should I say? I slept? I masturbated? I took a couple dumps?”

“You bought me a present.”

“No I didn’t.”

“You didn’t?”

“Yeah, Hannah, I didn’t. I think I’d remember that.”

“Then what’s that in the cabinet?”

“What are you talking about?”

“There’s something gift-wrapped in the cabinet. It’s got my name on it.”

“Uh, no there isn’t.”

“Uh, yeah there is.”

Arthur stood quickly and went to the kitchen. He opened the cabinet. Right next to the empty space where the bottle of red had been there leaned against the cabinet wall a slim, wrapped gift. It was the same shiny green paper he’d used for Pan and for his mom. A fat red bow sat on the intersection of matching red ribbon. A tag, cut out of the same paper, in the shape of a heart, was taped to the front. He opened it:

To Hannah, Arthur

He started to remember.

###

He’d gone to Pan’s.

Pan’s was a fatigued old bookstore in Williamsburg. It had been a bookstore before Pan bought it, it would be a bookstore until it caught fire. When they put something new there from the ashes, the ghosts of the place would cry bookstore.

It was tiny and crammed with books, crammed themselves on old shelves, themselves crammed against other old shelves, all mismatched, each towering up to improbably high ceilings, each accessible by ladder. Every time Arthur dropped by—and he dropped by often—he needed to sneeze. The smell of decaying page was potent, of cardboard stiffened in years, of leather older than his grandparent’s grandparents. One could only barely maneuver, two was a major inconvenience, three a disaster. Next door was a Laundromat and Arthur could smell that, as well. The commingling of old book and fresh laundry was a fragrance he’d never tire of.

Pan could be found perched behind the old desk. There was no cash register: all transactions were done by hand and Arthur didn’t know where his friend kept the till. The wood of the counter was splintering from age, so Pan smoothed it ritually with sandpaper. There were two tall windows on the storefront but the light was somehow beaten back by the accumulated dark of the books. Pan worked by a green lamp. When Arthur had first walked in to visit his old college friend, he’d said:

“Now this is a place that needs a cat.”

“I have two already,” Pan had said.

Then he’d seen them: an old Siamese, thinned and brittle in her advanced years, and a broad Russian blue hair, huddled at the vertex of Enlightenment and Metaphysical poets. They were clearly in love with each other.

He’d gone to Pan’s over the weekend, while Hannah was away.

Pan was prematurely gray, had a lazy eye, spoke English with a Polish accent. “What’s up, Schoenemann?”

“What’s up, Pan.”

Except that he hadn’t said What’s up, Pan. He’d said something else.

“What’s up, Schoenemann?”

“I’m looking for…”

What had he said? What was he looking for?

Was it about books? It was usually books. Books or school or what was happening in books. Books or what-shall-become-of-us-in-this-book-ignorant-world. Or Hannah.

“I’m looking for a present for Hannah.”

“A present for your Hannah, let’s see…” Pan had said, actually scratching his chin. The quiet of millions and millions of carefully arranged words upon them. The indefinable musk of books. The occasional furry scurry of cats. “She is still—? Oh my God, Schoenemann. Why didn’t I think of it right away? Why didn’t I call you?”

“What?”

“She is still nuts for Murakami?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh my God, Schoenemann. Look what I got last week, from a flea market of all places.”

And he—Pan—was rummaging in a shelf, hidden in his counter. He came out with something.

Arthur put his hand on the wrapped gift.

Pan came out with a signed, framed photograph of Haruki Marukami.

“Look at this, my friend,” he’d said.

It was a black and white picture in a plain black frame, nothing special. “A flea-market, remember. The lady had no clue what she had. Very sad story. Her daughter had just died and this she found in her room. The whole booth, Schoenemann, was her daughter’s things. Complete tragedy. But this is Brooklyn Flea, you know? And her daughter had managed to get this picture and get it signed. And her name was—oh my God, why did I not think of this right away and call you?”

He felt the contours of the package and the memory surged back to him.

The sad woman’s daughter’s name was Hannah. For crying out loud, as his girlfriend would say. Her name was Hannah and she’d had this picture and she’d gotten Murakami to sign it. And what did it say?

“Look at this, Schoenemann. Oh hell. Oh my God.”

Congratulations, Hannah! Thanks for reading! in heavy black Sharpie, meticulous little letters, followed by the freer flourish of his autograph.

“You have to sell it to me, Pan.”

Pan smiled, didn’t he?

“I do, don’t I? It is your Christmas present to Hannah all over, is it not?”

“You must.”

“But it isn’t money we’re talking about, is it, Schoenemann?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean I am looking at The Waste Land here.”

“You opened it already?”

“I do not accept the divinity of Jesus Christ.”

“Oh.”

“I opened it already and I read the card. I know how you got it. This is what you’re doing this holiday season: working appropriate, strange jobs to get the money for the funny gift, right?”

He’d consented.

“So it is not money you should give me for this. Not just straight money from your wallet. Not some plastic.”

“You don’t take plastic.” He remembered saying that.

“From you, for this, I don’t take anything of the kind. Legal tender? Forget it. Not for this.”

“I have to have it, Pan.”

“Obviously, yes, you do. But you must do something else for it besides pay me money.”

And he remembered wholeheartedly agreeing. Of course it would be something else. He loved Hannah. He wanted her to come home. He loved her and he wanted to do something wild for her. What do you want? he must have asked. What will it be? Say it and it’s done.

Then Pan had talked a while. He’d said something. He’d gone on.

What was it?

What did he say?

###

Arthur brought the gift over, sat down, and put it on the table between them. His girlfriend looked at it and then at him. She appeared tired. Her full lips were perfectly slack, bent by no humor and tensed by no anger. He looked at her and wanted her to smile, to see the funny slant of her smile erotically tilting to the left. To see the something in her eyes that said It’s O.K.

The problem was that—in a way, to him—she was dead.

“I figured it out.”

“Good.”

He told her about going to Pan’s, about the Murakami picture, the autograph, the poor dead girl and her poor fat mom. Then he told her about the legend of the lost manuscript.

It was rumored that between Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World and Norwegian Wood, Murakami wrote and lost another novel, called Eater of Clothes. There were various explanations for the loss of the manuscript: a woman in gray had knocked on his door and said a few words, trying to sell him something, and when he returned to his office the book was gone; his wife set it on fire; he left it in a cab… There were various explanations for why the knowledge of the missing book wasn’t widespread: Murakami believed lost things better left unmentioned; Murakami didn’t want to whine; Murakami was a proper Buddhist and did not lament absent material; Murakami wove the choicest cuts from the text into later books, etc. But the narrative thrust of the book was universally agreed upon by those select few who’d ever heard of it—a group that included Pan.

It was about an elderly man who, one day, after listening to a song he remembered from his college years, went home and ate all of his clothes. The meat of the book transpired during the eating of these clothes. He’d consume a three-piece suit, for instance, and each article of the suit would catalyze in him a series of loosely connected memories. The man’s life was thus given in full as he ate, raw, his entire wardrobe.

“This is interesting, Arthur—don’t get me wrong—but what’s it got to do with anything?”

So he told her what his odd-job was—the odd-job Pan had made requisite for his earning the picture. And then she rushed into their bedroom, into, he assumed, their closet. He heard the drawers of their dresser pulled open. He heard her gasp.

The next thing he heard was Hannah on the phone to what must have been medical specialists. He wondered if they’d be able to receive her calls, or if she was dead to them, too.

But his vision was getting blurry now.

So he tried to focus on the pork roast.

And he thought: you will be cold again you will be cold again you will be cold you will be you will be again you be you will be cold you will again be you will again be cold

photoDevin Walsh has an MFA in Playwriting from Adelphi University. His short stories have appeared in Superstition Review, Swamp, SwitchBack, Armageddon Buffet, VerbSap, and Flasheville. His story “Challenger” garnered Honorable Mention in Glimmertrain’s Best New Writer contest. His plays have been performed in San Francisco and New York. His poems have been published by Pindledyboz and Edifice Wrecked. He is the founder of Metabolism, the literary journal of the University of North Carolina, Asheville, where he lives with his wife and two cats.

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1 comment for “Haruki Marukami’s “Eater of Clothes”

  1. Bea
    October 18, 2011 at 6:14 am

    How I came across this story in the first place, I have no idea. Which caused problems when I wanted to read it again. In the end I jammed every word I could remember from it into a search engine and then trawled through pages and pages of stories actually BY Murakami. Practically a miracle. Thanks.

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