Toru had heard the word “elopement” for the first time when he was in elementary school.

“At any rate, they did something brave.” He overheard grown-ups talking about such a thing, and he thought it was a noble act, even though at the same time he felt anxious. “I’ll elope when I grow up,” Toru secretly thought to himself.

When Toru was in high school, he had a chance to meet a girl from the next classroom. Drawn to his openness, she came to talk to him during recess with her friends. Before long he had become infatuated with her. However, she did nothing more than talk about comics, speak ill of their teachers, and roar with laughter at her friends’ failures. Toru found himself gradually attracted to her. He thought this feeling might lead him to elopement.

“Will you elope with me?” he asked her one day.

She gaped and eventually rolled around on the ground, laughing. That was the last time she ever came to talk to him.

“Did I say something wrong?” he asked a classmate.

“Eloping? Are you kidding? Anyone would find it laughable. You’re terrible with jokes.” His classmate also mocked him.

Then Toru learned the meaning of elopement. Even so, he still felt that elopement would lead him into new territory.

When Toru graduated from college, he took a job with a trading company. Thanks to his inherent cheerfulness, his colleagues liked him. He married his wife, whom he had met through mutual friends, when he was thirty. He led quite an uneventful life. His son was born, and he was promoted to an intermediate managerial position a little later than his colleagues who joined the company at the same time. His only son eventually grew up and left home.

Toru, who would reach retirement age in a few years, thought of the word “elopement” in the middle of a walk one day. He found it funny that he once thought eloping was a chance to move on to the next stage of life, as it held a sense of uneasiness and a mysterious charm for him when he was a child. While he was thinking about such a thing during the walk, he noticed a puppy was following him. When he turned the corner, the puppy also turned. When he ran, it ran as well.

“Were you abandoned?” When Toru picked up the puppy, it wagged its tail and whined. He decided to take it home.

“No, we can’t have a dog. I don’t like dogs because I was bitten by a dog when I was a child. Please throw it away,” his wife shrieked.

“Only tonight.” Toru insisted and put it in a cardboard box under the eaves that night.

His wife left early the next morning for an overnight trip with her friends from her school days. Toru put the puppy inside the house, took a day off from work, and spent it with the puppy. He gave it a name, bathed it, had it vaccinated at a nearby veterinary clinic, and obtained a dog license from the city office. The rest of the day flew by quickly as he spent the time playing with the puppy.

When Toru’s wife returned from her trip, her husband wasn’t home. Instead, she found a note: “I’ll elope with Kal. Please don’t look for me. Toru.”

His wife was stunned by the word “elope,” written by her husband. She had never suspected him of any infidelity.

“Maybe he’s with a foreign woman he met in a hostess pub. But I think he’ll come home soon because he didn’t take his bankbooks with him.” Worried, her son stopped by and tried to comfort her.

“I told him he couldn’t keep the dog, so he must have gone to a woman who loves dogs. I should have let him keep it.” His wife repeatedly blamed herself.

His son, who thought Toru wouldn’t have quit his job, called him at work. As he talked in a roundabout way, Toru’s answer didn’t make much sense.

“What? Is Kal the name of your dog? It’s not a Filipino woman?” His son was so amazed, he was actually speechless.

His wife, after hearing the situation from their son, wrote a letter and had it delivered to Toru. It said, “Let’s care for Kal together. You’re too old to elope.”

“Elopement turned out to be the entrance into a new territory, after all,” Toru muttered and smiled after reading his wife’s letter.

A retired high school science teacher, Yoshiro Takayasu lives with his wife and fellow poet Mitsuko in Togane, Chiba. He is the author of several poetry collections, including Mukashi mukashi (1982) and Jigenkyo (1987). English translations by Toshiya Kameiof Yoshiro’s fiction and poetry have appeared in various journals, including The Broken Plate, The Dirty Goat, Gargoyle Magazine, Metamorphoses, Nebo, and Visions International.