During the last episode of Cowboy Bebop, Spike tells a short story about a cat. This is the whole version of that story. I came across it completely by accident, my unoffical Japanese tutor appointing it to me as translation homework. A sort of Japanese fable-slash-children's story (lordy the stories we tell kids!), it was written in 1977 by Sano Yoko. Like all fables, there's a moral buried in here. See if you can find it.

 

The Cat Who Lived a Million Times

Once, there was a cat who lived for a million years.
He died a million times. He lived a million times.
He was truly a splendid tabby-cat.
A million people loved him,
   and a million people cried when he died.
But never once did the cat cry.

Once, the cat belonged to a King.
The cat really hated the King.
The King was good at war, so the King always went to war.
He always put the cat into a splendid cage and took him along.
One day, a stray arrow hit the cat and he died.
Right in the middle of battle, the King held the cat
   and cried.
The King quit the war and went home to his castle.
He buried the cat in the castle's garden.

Once, the cat belonged to a seaman.
The cat really hated the sea.
The seaman took the cat across all the world's seas, and all the world's bays.
One day, the cat fell out of the boat.
The cat could not swim.
The seaman quickly caught the cat in a net and pulled him back onto the boat.
But the cat was soaked through. He got sick and died.
The seaman hugged the cat, who now looked like a wet rag,
   and cried loudly.
He buried the cat beneath a tree in the park of a faraway bayside town.

Once, the cat was a circus magician's cat.
The cat really hated the circus.
Every day, the magician would put the cat into a little box,
   and then saw the box right in half.
He would pull the balled-up cat out of the box,
   and the crowd would clap and cheer.
One day, the magician made a mistake, and really did saw the cat right in half.
The magician held the two pieces of the cat, one dangling from each hand,
   and cried loudly.
No one clapped or cheered.
He buried the cat beneath the circus's biggest tent.

Once, the cat was a thief's cat.
The cat really, really hated thievery.
The thief would always take the cat into towns at night,
   quietly sneaking like a cat down the dark alleys.
The thief would only break into houses that had dogs.
While the dog barked at the cat, he would go break into the safe.
One day, the cat was bitten by a dog, and died.
The thief hugged the cat and a stolen diamond, walking down the alleys
   and crying loudly.
He went home and buried the cat in his small yard.

Once, the cat was a lonely old widow's cat.
The cat really, really hated the lonely old widow.
Every day, the widow would hold the cat in her lap
   and stare out a little first-floor window.
The cat would sit in the widow's lap all day, and nap.
In due time, the cat grew old, and died.
The decrepit old widow held the decrepit old cat,
   and cried all day.
She buried the cat underneath the a tree in her garden.

Once, the cat was a little girl's cat.
The cat really, really hated children.
The girl would make the cat ride piggy-back,
   or sleep holding him too tight.
When the girl cried, she would wipe her tears off on the cat's back.
One day, the girl made the cat ride piggy-back
   by tying a string around his neck. The cat died.
The girl hugged the wobbly-necked cat,
   and cried all day.
She buried the cat underneath a tree in her garden.

The cat didn't really mind dying.

Once, the cat was nobody's cat.
He was a wild cat.
For the first time the cat was his own cat.
The cat really, really liked himself.
For you know, he was a truly splendid tabby cat,
So of course he made a truly splendid wild cat.

Every girl cat wanted to be the cat's wife.
Some brought him big fish as presents.
Some brought him the best mice as presents.
Some brought him presents from unusual journeys.
Some said he was greater than the greatest of tigers.
The cat said: "I've died a million times. After so long a time, this is amusing!"
The cat liked himself better than anyone else.

There was only one cat who never looked his way.
She was a beautiful white cat.
The cat would go up to her and say: "I've died a million times!"
"Oh." is all the white cat would say.
The cat was a little angry, for you know he liked himself better than anyone else.
The next day and the next, the cat would go up to the white cat and say:
"You'll probably only live once, you know."
"Oh." is all the white cat would say.

One day, the cat stood in front of the white cat
and turned three summersaults in a row.
He said: "Once, I was a circus cat, you know."
"Oh." is all the white cat would say.
"You know, I've died a…" the cat started to say, then:
"Do you mind if I stay with you?" he asked the white cat.
"No," she said.
From then on, the cat was always with the white cat.

The white cat had many, many cute little kittens.
The cat no longer said "You know, I've …"
The cat came to like the white cat and all her little kittens
   more than he liked himself.

In due time, all the little kittens grew up,
   and went their separate ways.
"They all became splendid wild cats, didn't they."
   the cat said with satisfaction.
"Yes." the white cat said, purring softly.
The white cat grown a little old.
The cat purred even more softly.
He wanted to live together always with the white cat.

One day, the white cat laid beside the cat, and quietly stopped moving.
The cat cried for the first time ever,
   all day and all night.
All day and all night, he cried a million million tears.
Day and night, day and night the cat cried,
   until one day, when the sun was high and bright, he stopped.
Lying beside the white cat, he quietly stopped moving.

The cat was never, ever born again.

 

The end.