Living with the Stars

Original by Fusako Ohki, translation by Toshiya Kamei

Keeping stars as pets. That was the latest craze sweeping Japan. I had no desire to follow this trend myself, but my classmates often told me how cute their pet stars were. They showed me some pictures on their phones, and they had a point. The stars were adorable. I wished I too had a pet star waiting for me to come home. But owning a pet involves responsibility and commitment. Every time somebody brought up the topic, I always gave a vague, noncommittal answer: “If I had a chance, I’d love to.”

One day such opportunity knocked at my door. A friend of mine recently acquired two stars. However, they didn’t get along well together, fighting and bickering every single day. She asked me if I wanted one.

“Hmmm, lemme think,” I said, feigning indifference. I folded my arms across my chest and frowned. But my heart danced with joy.

I rushed to a pet store and purchased a cage, a toy, a food dish, and a water bottle. I read up on the latest pet care tips in the Living with the Stars magazine. I was so geared up to welcome my own star.
At first, my star was afraid of me. It cooped up inside a little box in the cage. Occasionally, it ventured out of the box. When it saw me, it scurried back inside. Every time it appeared outside the box, it twinkled.

“Don’t be afraid,” I repeated. “I won’t hurt you.” I smiled. “I just want us to be friends. That’s all.” My star ate only when I wasn’t around.

Gradually, however, my star got used to me and ate in front of me. After a while, it trusted me enough to eat from my hand.

I fed my star pebble-like pellets. They came tinged with a yellowish-white color. My star chewed the pellets noisily, as if they were candy.

“These must be good, huh?” I said. I picked up a few pebbles and popped them into my mouth. They had no taste. It reminded me of the time I’d tasted plastic beads as a young girl. The pebbles were too hard to chew. I rolled them around my mouth for a while, and spat them out into a piece of Kleenex. The star gazed at me, puzzled. Then it burst into chuckles. It rolled around the cage, unable to contain its laughter. It ate a few pellets and spat them onto the floor. Then it gazed at me with a hopeful look. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t help laughing. The star was so adorable. It roamed around inside the cage while flickering.

“Don’t spit them out! You have to eat!” I said, laughing.

Fusako Ohki is a Japanese writer from Tokyo. She obtained her master’s degree in Japanese literature from Hosei University. Her debut collection of short fiction is forthcoming in 2021.

Toshiya Kamei holds an MFA in Literary Translation from the University of Arkansas. His translations of short fiction and poetry have appeared in various venues. His book-length translations include Claudia Apablaza’s My Father Thinks I’m a Fakir and Selfa Chew’s Silent Herons.

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