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Story 7

Kaoru Sakasaki

Kaoru Sakasaki lives with his family in Yokohama, south of  Tokyo. He writes late at night after putting his children to bed. In  2020, he won the Judges’ Special Prize in the first Kaguya SF Contest.

Toshiya Kamei translates short fiction and poetry. His  translations have appeared or are forthcoming in Abyss  & Apex,  Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores, F&SF,  Helios Quarterly  Magazine, and Samovar.  His translations have also appeared in 4 Star Stories and Short Short Story Issue 3.


The old dilemma of the vegetarian versus the carnivore. Sometimes it’s better not to examine life choices too closely....


Baby Eleon

By Kaoru Sakasaki

Translated by Toshiya Kamei


We got off at the seaside station, and most visitors headed toward the aquarium. It was a Sunday. Even so, the zoo was relatively empty -- so much so that a flock of bored pigeons pecked at a bag of spilled popcorn on the ground.

The baby eleon had been born a couple of months ago. But it was kept out of public view while it grew steadily in an incubator. The zoo’s social media account updated its followers on the baby’s progress at irregular intervals, publishing photos and videos. My son became glued to the phone screen.

“How much has it grown?” His voice trembled with excitement. “When can we go see it, Dad?€”

A fully grown eleon was much taller than an adult human. They had round bodies and thick legs. An eleon resembled an akabeko -- a red cow -- except for its coloring. An adult eleon was hairless. A baby shed its ample fur as it grew.

“Dad, can I touch it?€”

“I don’t know, son,” I answered. My son frowned. Of course, the eleons were gentle, docile creatures that never attacked human adults, let alone kids. Plant-eating and slow-moving. All day long they chewed leaves with molars resembling ancient threshing machines. Still, I had no idea if children were allowed to touch them like in a petting zoo. The zoo’s homepage showed no information about that.

The map indicated the eleon cage was located at the back of the zoo, next to the vulture cage and the candle-mouse cage. From time to time, my son halted to watch elephants and giraffes while he steadily headed toward the eleons using the shortest route.

When we reached the eleon cage, the parents were napping peacefully. The baby was out of sight. My son pouted. He had no choice but to watch the parent eleons. He apparently got bored, yelled at the vultures, and played a staring contest with the candle mice. He watched their faces melt behind the glass.

When feeding time came at noon, a zookeeper appeared, followed by the baby eleon. My son’s eyes shone brightly, animated by a smile. His gaze followed every movement of the eleon. The zookeeper tossed the hay in a wheelbarrow into a small box. The baby eleon slowly approached the box, stuck its muzzle in the hay, and chewed it without sniffing much. It had already shed much of its fur, and its balding patches revealed a dark-spotted hide. My son watched the baby eleon while clinging to the fence. It was a serene scene. I automatically fumbled for a cigarette, but there was no smoking area nearby. Besides, my lighter was out of gas.

When the baby eleon finished eating, it walked away and faded into the bushes. It never paid attention to the parents, who rarely stirred from their slumber.

“It was awesome, Dad!” My son beamed with a smile.

I nodded and smiled back, without understanding what he meant. At any rate, I was glad when he was happy. He never complained about not being able to pet the baby eleon.

On the way back, we went to a family restaurant in front of the station for an early dinner. I ordered a kid’s meal for my son and soba noodles in a bamboo steamer for myself. He dug into a hamburger steak soaked in a sea of ketchup.

“Dad? What’s this made of?”€ He pointed his fork at the half-eaten chunk of meat.

I was at a loss for words. A picture of the eleon he had drawn with crayons before the meal lay next to his elbow. It resembled a huge ball rather than an animal. My son had filled in its body with a black crayon. I didn’t have the heart to tell him the truth.

“It’s made of beef,” I at last said.

“An ox?”€ he asked. “Is it in the zoo?”€

“No.” I shook my head.

“Is that so?”€ My son nodded and went back to his steak. ”An ox,”€ he  mumbled. “I want to see it,”€ he added, his mouth full of food.

“You belong to a new generation, son,”€ I mumbled and slurped my soba.


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