“The Dabba Dabba Tree” (short story) by Yasutaka Tsutsui
English Publication History:
Salmonella Men on Planet Porno (Alma Books, 2006)
Salmonella Men on Planet Porno (Pantheon Books, 2008)
Original: Japanese, 1973
Translated by Andrew Driver, 2006
Synopsis: A husband and wife find themselves frustrated by an awkward inactive sex life until one their father’s gifts them with the Dabba Dabba Tree. Set near the bed, when asleep, each live a vivid dream where they experience sexual freedom; they imbibe in their lust knowing it’s only a dream. The dream state is a dangerous haven for others as they are mere figments, but soon their neighbor claims his own tree and covets the man’s wife.
Analysis: No one has ever said that consistency is the spice of life, nor have they said that familiarity breeds excitement. Likewise, the husband and wife in “The Dabba Dabba Tree” have found themselves stuck in the rut of marital gridlock. Their passions have drained and the husk of a salaryman and a housewife remain, both of whom the light of inquisitiveness hasn’t shined for a while.
Bound by expectations and consequences, many of our everyday choices reflect a rational, complacent mind meandering through familiar routine. As humans are so-called creatures of habit, this cycle is difficult to break but the breaks are exactly what is needed so that we don’t become stagnant and complacent. The odd conical tree featured in the story is given to the couple by one of their fathers, a member of their history who wants a grandchild and understands the schism of marital stagnation. The gift: a deviation from the norm.
As the tree at their bedside is a deviation from the sleep time norm, so too are their dreams a deviation from their realities. Both husband and wife imbibe in their nighttime reveries of passions, only to wake and realize they’re being intimate, yet they both wish to return to their dreams—an indication that their ethereal fantasies trump their shared reality.