A Fox Called Gon
Once upon a time there was a place called Nakayama and a lord called Nakayama-sama ruled the land. And up in the mountains not far away from the Nakayama castle lived a fox called Gon. This little fox was living all alone in a hole he had dug in the ferny forest. He was the kind of fox who liked to play tricks on people. Day after day he would sneak into nearby villages and get into some sort of mischief. He'd go to the fields and dig up mountain potatoes. He'd set fire to rape flowers laid out to dry. And he'd steal red peppers hanging in the back causing quite a commotion. -- One autumn day, it started raining and it didn't stop for three days. Gon Fox was forced to squat in his hole and wait out the rain before he could resume his mischief-making. When the rain finally stopped, Gon crawled out of his hole with a sigh of relief. It was a beautiful sunny day and the butcherbird were screeching high up in the blue sky. Gon decided to scout down along the stream near the village. The pampas grass was still glistening with raindrops. The stream, which usually just trickled down the rocks, was swollen from three days' rainfall. The pampas grass and bush clover by the stream were all bent under the yellow rapids.
As Gon walked down stream following the muddy bank, he spotted a man working on something in the river. Gon quickly hid behind some tall grass and peeked out. "Hey, it's that Hyojuu guy," Gon thought to himself. A man by the name of Hyojuu
was waist-deep in the water, shaking a fish net. He had his tattered dark kimono tucked up to his waist. A round bush clover leaf was stuck on the side of face like a huge mole. Hyojuu lifted up one end of the fish net, which was bulging with things. Gon could see some brushwood roots, grass leaves, rotten chips and other junk, but what caught his eye were some shiny wriggly white things. "A-ha. I spy the belly of a fat eel and large carp." Hyojuu dumped the eel and several carp into a creel. Then he dipped the net back into the water. And a little while later Hyojuu got out of the water, set the creel on the riverbank, and went upstream to look for something.
As soon as Hyojuu was out of sight, Gon crept out from behind the grass and hurried to the creel to look over the contents. "What a prize this is. Wouldn't it be fun to throw all these fish downstream, away from Hyojuu's net." Gon reached
into the creel and threw the fish back into the water. "And now it's time to throw the eel back in the river. Come here, you little devil." Gon tried to get hold of the fat eel but it was too slippery. Frustrated, Gon bit into its head, but the eel fought back and immediately wrapped itself around Gon's neck. At that moment, Gon heard Hyojuu's voice from afar: "You thief.
Stay right where you are." "Uh-oh. I'd better get out of here. But first I need to get this nasty eel off my neck." Gon tried to shake the eel off his neck but it wouldn't let go. Gon had no choice but to leap into the
tall grass and run for his life.
"Stop. You dirty thief. Wait. Stop. Wait." "I think I'm safe now. Whew, That was a close one." When he finally looked from his hole under the birch tree, Hyojuu was nowhere in sight. Relieved, Gon crushed the head of the eel in his mouth, yanked it off his neck and left it on the grass outside his hole.
About ten days later, Gon was passing by the back of farmer Yasuke's house and he spotted Yasuke's wife through the fig tree putting dark makeup on her teeth. And as he was passing by the back of blacksmith Shinbei's house, Gon saw Shinbei's wife
combing her hair. Then he walked by Hyoju's place........ a small run-down house with a red well in front of it. A lot of people had gathered there and the women were all dressed up in formal kimono. "Oh, my. It's a funeral. I wonder who died in Hyoju's family." Around noon, Gon went down to the village graveyard and hid behind six statues. It was a beautiful day and in the distance he could see the Nakayama castle roof shining under the sun. The amaryllis were in full bloom making the graveyard ground look like a scarlet carpet. Then came the sound of a bell from the village. The funeral procession was ready to start. Soon Gon saw people in white kimono marching in the procession into the graveyard, murmuring, thier feet trampling the amaryllis. Gon craned his neck to see what was going on. There was Hyojuu in a formal white kimono setting a wooden tablet on the grave. Hyojuu's face, which had always been full of life, seemed drawn.
"Hmm,Hyojuu's mother must have died." "Hyojuu's mom must have told him she wanted to eat some eel. That's why Hyojuu went and took his eel. So Hyoju couldn't give his dying mother her last wish. Oh my, I did a terrible thing." Gon went
to Hyojuu's house the next day and hid behind the toolshed. There was Hyojuu rinsing wheat at the red well. "Now that his mother is gone, Hyojuu is all alone in the world. Well, that makes two of us.
"Sardines for sale, everybody. Fresh from the ocean." Gon was just about to leave when his ears perked up. He heard a fishmonger's voice in the distance. Gon hurriedtoward the voice. The fishmonger was walking by the back door of Yasuke's
house. Yasuke's wife shouted back to him."Hey. I'll have some of those sadines." The man parked his cart on the roadside and took some fish into Yasuke's house. -- Gon knew exactly what to do. He grabbed some sardines and ran to Hyojuu's backdoor. Then he threw the fish into his house and hurried home. He turned around half way up the hill and saw the tiny Hyojuu still rinsing the wheat at the red well. Gon was proud of himself. He had wanted to make up for stealing the eel and this was the first good thing he had done.
The next day, Gon gathered a bunch of chestnuts in the forest and carried them to Hyojuu's house. Gon peeked in through the back door and found Hyojuu staring off into space in the middle of his lunch, with a rice bowl in his hand. There was a scratch on Hyojuu's cheek. Just then Hyojuu started muttering to himself. "Who in the heck threw those sardines in my house? That sardine monger was really mad at me. He thought I stole his damn fish." -- Gon's heart skipped a beat. "He must have gotten beat up." Gon left the chestnuts by the toolshed door. The following day and the day after that, Gon gathered more chestnuts and took them to Hyojuu's house. And the day after that he added to the delivery a few matsutake mushroomes.
It was a moonlit night and Gon decided to go for a stroll. He was walking below the Nakayama castle when he heard some people coming down the road. Gon hid himself on the side of the road and waited for the people to go by. It was Hyojuu and farmer called Kasuke. "you know something Kasuke?" "No, what?" "There's something
strange going on." "Like what?" "Well, ever since my mother died, someone has been bringing me chestnuts and matsutake mushrooms." "really? Who's that?" "I have no idea. He comes and leaves them at my door.." "You're kidding." "No kidding. If you don't believe me, come over tomrrow and see for yourself. I'll show you chestnuts." "Huh. Well, what do you know." Suddenly Kasuke looked back. Gon stopped dead in his tracks, but Kasuke didn't see him and hurried on. The two men finally arrived at farmer Kichibei's house and went in. Gon could see a light through the paper door and the shadow of a man's shaven head. "It's a sutra chanting ceremony." Gon thought to himself, squatting by the wall. Three more people arrived and went into the house. Then a voice began to chant a sutra. Gon dicided to wait until the rite was done.
The next day Gon carried more chestnuts to Hyojuu's house. Since Hyoju was out in the toolshed making rope, Gon decided to slip through the backdoor of his house. But just then Hyoju looked up and saw the little fox go into his house."That Gon Fox
is back again. First the eel, now what? I'll show him a thing or two."Hyojuu stood up, picked up his musket and loaded it with gunpowder. Hyojuu stalked toward the backdoor and just when Gon was coming out, he shot the little fox. Gon fell to the ground. Hyojuu rushed up to the fox and then took a look in the house. There on the dirt floor was a pile of chestnuts. "Wha-?" Hyojuu looked down at Gon in surprise. "So it was you, Gon. You are the one that brought me the chestnuts." Gon nodded his head weakly with his eyes closed. Hyojuu dropped his rifle and it fell with a clatter on the ground. Thin blue smoke was still rising from its barrel.