by Yuu Mizuki
Waiting for the sun to go down, we took off down the evening road.
We, meaning my sister who just started school and is four years younger, myself, my father, and my mother, the four of us.
The scent of the brief shower from earlier lingered, rising from the ground still reminiscent of the scorching summer sun. The smell of rain reminded us of the rice paddies we were headed to, and my sister and I were rather excited.
I’m carrying a bamboo broom, and my sister a paper fan. These are for catching the fireflies.
A few years ago, when my father built our new house at the very edge of this city, there was only a textile factory and rice fields just across the national road from us. But these days, the rice fields are turning into new houses.
Right around when I started school, I would often see manure fertilizer sprayed across the rice fields, but recently, there would be a hose-like white bag stretched across the field with two people scattering white chemical fertilizer. I stopped catching freshwater snails in the waterway between the fields because they disappeared with the chemical. Of course, as I got older, I thought that kind of activity was quite childish anyways.
When I used to sit on the balcony facing our garden, I would see fireflies fly across the garden pond, but even that has ceased. Fireflies stopped coming even to the edge of the city.
But I knew that in the waterways at the foot of the hills where they drew water from the water gate in the mountains, there were many fireflies still.
We cross the national road, and walk along the rice fields without too many houses nearby, heading towards the foot of the hills. The light starts to get dimmer and dimmer, and by the time we got to the foot of the hills, it was almost completely dark and hard to distinguish the boundary between the road and the rice fields.
“Watch you don’t fall in.”
Father tells us.
When I look up above, the night sky is brilliant with stars. Looking hard, I saw the milky way by the swan constellation.
It would be great if we could see a shooting star, I thought, but that wish didn’t come true. It was a little too early for the Perseids meteor shower season.
We arrived at our destination, by the waterway at the foot of the hills.
Without even waiting, we were already surrounded by the light from the fireflies. Blinking blue and white lights, they surround us, leaving unpredictable trails of light all around.
I can hear the sound of water from the nearby waterway. And from there, endless light rises. Newly hatched fireflies are dancing galore.
I waved my grass broom and caught some in the bristles, and gently transferred them into a small cage. Several. My sister waved her fan and got some to fall, caught them, and put them in the cage.
We caught ten plus fireflies that way, and went back down the dark roads to our house.
That night, my sister and I slept with the cage by our pillows. We had placed susuki grass in the cage and had dipped the whole thing into the pond to moisten it.
When we looked at the fireflies from under the cover, they kept blinking without any sound. We never got bored and kept watching.
I sensed a unique smell that slightly stung my nose. This is what fireflies smell like, I thought.
Looking at the light, I thought I would never fall asleep, but of course that wasn’t the case and I fell asleep without realizing so.
In the morning, when I woke up, all I could see of the fireflies in the sunlight were little dark pieces like charcoal dispersed between the susuki leaves.
I can’t remember what I did with the cage afterwards.