“Bullseye!” (novlette) by Yasutaka Tsutsui
English Publication History: Bullseye! (2017, Kurodahan)
Original: Japanese, 2015
Translated by Andrew Driver, 2017
Synopsis: “Eccentric” isn’t a word that Shoichi Azumi would use to describe himself. Even in his wizened state, he claims that all of his actions are logical, such as stealing a wad of cash from his family, stealing a gun for a police officer, and knocking a professor unconscious. Objectively, however, he doesn’t seem to recognize his family nor does he even remember where he’s going, but two things is certain: He knows what he’s doing and he’s not afraid to get his way.
Pre-analysis: Prior to my paternal grandparents’ passing, they lived their lives in juxtaposition: while my grandfather was always in good health, his mind had started to fade long ago; in contrast, my grandmother always had a sharp mind, yet her body was weakening year my year. Regardless of this, the family always thought that he’d pass first. In retrospect, both descents into failure—one of the mind, the other of the body—were equally difficult to watch over the years. In the end, the hazards of radiation therapy took my grandmother, the passing of whom my grandfather could never remember and always came as a shock when retold the news. His memory may had faded, but his emotions were still in tact.
Analysis: With the zest that life gives the youth and through the productive days of adulthood, there come both a cost and a gift to the life of experience and expenditure:the cost of memory and the gift of intuition. While the former floods the mind day by day, the tenuous waters never hold behind the mental dam; rather, they seep through its cracks, dribbling away numbers, faces, names, and entire episodes of the former life. In contrast, however, intuition is a gift is like the moisture in the air—directly intangible yet ever-present.
When Shoichi Azumi experiences his world in his purely subjective fashion—such as the clock talking to him or the money beckoning to be stolen—he follows his intuition: if the clock tells me to break the mug, I’ll break the mug; the the money beckons to be stolen, I will steal it. Again, from the objective point to view, his actions are without cause, a seemingly geriatric mental invalid who is bent on destruction. Some would say he’s hostile, crazy, dangerous, offensive, or deranged, but in the old man’s mind, he’s just connecting the dots as they come, which is sort of a Buddhist philosophy of living in the moment. Shoichi Azumi sees and reacts, following only intuition since the cost of memory has taken its toll as the gift of intuition keep on giving.
Review: The elderly are occasionally doted upon for being forgetful or eccentric. Some stories have keenly reflected these idiosyncrasies, including John Updike’s The Poorhouse Fair (1958), Iain Banks’s The Quarry (2013), and The 100-year-old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (2013). It’s not often that these idiosyncrasies have a notable effect on a greater population other than family or residents, but “Bullseye!” expands the effect of Shoichi Azumi’s lengthy foray into intuition onto the city. Objectively guilty yet subjectively innocent, the charades that follow and the conclusion leave an open-ended answer to the results of this toleration of the idiosyncratic elderly.