Saturday, 23 July 2016

Sheltering from Rain under the Slide

雨やどりはすべり台の下で (amayadori ha suberidai no shita de, Sheltering from Rain under the Slide, 1984) is a children's book by OKADA Jun (岡田淳).

A sudden rain storm makes a group of primary school children break off their baseball game and shelter under the large slide in the park in front of the block of flats where they all live. One of them suggests that the rain had been magically caused by Mr Amamori, who had been walking by at that moment and opened his umbrella a moment before the unexpected rain arrived. Amamori is an apparently unemployed middle aged man, who avoids contact with other people in the building. Another child reacts to the other's suspicion that Amamori was a wizard.

"You said, back then, I guess he really is a wizard, didn't you? 'Really is' means there was something before this?"

"What? Well, ......" Ichirou, playing with the rubber ball, glanced at Kyouko. "Just, somehow or other," he dodged the question.

Teruo didn't ask any more, but went on, "The truth is, when I heard you say 'wizard', it was a surprise. What I mean is, there was a time when I wondered whether he wasn't a wizard."

Everyone looked at Teruo in shock. Two or three had their mouths hanging open. Teruo went on, "The rain doesn't look like letting up yet, so perhaps you'll listen to my story."

One after the other the children tell stories of their experiences, all with a larger or smaller magical element, and all featuring Mr Amamori, as the apparent worker of the magic. The children are all of different ages (from 6 to 12) and the different stories reflect their different characters. Some of the stories are poetic fairy tales, others are closer to fantasies reflecting the wishes of the narrators. Readers can read the stories as stories, and also as reflections of the different storytellers. It is never stated as such, but there are hints that allow us to interpret the stories, if we want, not as a narrative of real events, but as a collaborative story telling competition. At the end, the final story puts a different perspective on the figure of Amamori, who is moving out that day.

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