Tabakozuki (The Heavy Smoker)

The Heavy Smoker

煙草好き [Tabako Zuki]

First published 1905. Origin unknown.

It is evening and Hatsusaburô Inoue is dining with his wife when a maid informs him that Mr. Itô is ill and wants him to help draw up a will. Inoue arrives at Itô’s house and assists with notarising the will. As Inoue leaves, a doctor is also leaving. The two strike up conversation while Inoue lights his pipe. The doctor tells Inoue there is no hope for Itô because he has pest. Inoue becomes worried he might have caught the disease because he had to get very close to Itô to hear him when he dictated the will. The doctor explains that the symptoms of pest are cysts under the arms and a high fever. Inoue fears the worst and, forgetting that his pipe is still lit, thrusts it into his vest pocket and buttons up his coat. He then rides home on his horse. On the way, it begins to snow. Despite the cold, his right armpit begins to feel hot. He probes the spot through his coat and feels a large cyst. He begins to sweat. Finally he reaches home. His wife starts to undress him and reveals the pipe and burned clothing. She concludes that rather than him having pest, he is the pest!

Note: This synopsis is a summary of a translation published in English as A Tobacco Lover in The East, Vol. XXXII No. 4, Nov/Dec. 1996, The East Publications Inc., Tokyo. pp. 47-49. (The translator’s name is not given.)