“The Big Drawer” (short story) by Riku Onda
English Publication History: Speculative Japan 2 (Kurodahan Press, 2011)
Original: Japanese (大きな引き出し, 2000)
Translated by Nora Stevens Heath, 2011
Synopsis: Mitsunori has the incredible ability to memorize everything he ever reads, including sheet music—but everyone in his family can do that—; however, he is forbidden to reveal their family secret to anyone. As his parents prepare to sift through their stored information while in a self-induced coma, the boy experiences his first boom, or a sudden realization of reality. As he kneels next to a dying man, he witnesses the man’s lifetime of tribulations. Come the man’s funeral, Mitsunori aims to put things right. 16 pages
Pre-analysis: The traditional view of intelligence is based on book knowledge, that a good student who earns high marks is generally regarded as an intelligent person. I like to think they “play school” well. I’ve known some school-smart people in my life; people who could easily pass a prepared test with some studying… yet they would easily fall victim to the most blatant scam on the street. Street-smart and school-smart aren’t the only kinds of intelligence though. We would need to look at knowledge and wisdom to understand more about humans and information—knowledge is static and quantifiable; wisdom is fluid and dynamic.
Analysis: Mitsunori’s parents are terribly proud of their ability to remember and recall. The boy knows that he has also has the ability, but hasn’t reach the age of maturity where it begins to affect him. His parents demand that they move around a lot so as to evade suspicion due to their supernatural gift. Mitsunori is a good student, but he’s also a good boy. When he experiences the death of the man, he does more than store the knowledge—he uses the man’s knowledge to mend the man’s history of family misunderstandings. Where his parents were proud of their knowledge, Mitsunori can now be proud of his wisdom.