“Believe. Even if you’re the only one.”
There was a town isolated from the outside world, surrounded by a 4,000 meter tall cliff.
The town was full of chimneys.
Smoke rose from everywhere, clouding the sky above.
Smoke, smoke, from morning till night.
The people living in the chimney town were encaged in black smoke,
and did not know about the blue sky.
They did not know about the shining stars.
The town was in the midst of the Halloween festival.
Joined by the smoke for warding off evil spirits, the town was even smokier than usual.
A deliveryman dashing across the night sky choked on the smoke
and carelessly dropped a heart he was delivering.
With such terrible visibility, there was no way to know where it fell.
The deliveryman quickly gave up and ran off into the night.
Thump thump, thump thump, thumpity thump thump.
The heart was beating in one corner of the chimney town.
The heart fell on a pile of trash at the edge of town.
All types of rubbish stuck onto the thumping, beating heart, until finally a trashman was born.
His head was a shaggy old umbrella. Gas hissed out of his mouth.
He was a very filthy trashman. A very smelly trashman.
When he strained his ears, he could hear the sound of bells from the distance.
There seemed to be others.
The trashman left the trash pile.
When he arrived in town, it was full of monsters.
“Hey, you’re dressed quite oddly.”
He turned around, where there stood a pumpkin monster.
“Who are you?”
“I swallow the flames of hell and illuminate the Halloween night with shady light.
I am Jack-o’-lantern!”
All kinds of monsters started gathering around the trashman.
“Tee hee hee, I’m a witch, the ruler of night, and everybody’s fear.”
“A monster created by a devilish scientist ; I am Mr. Frankenstein.”
“I forgot how to die. I am Zombie.”
Everybody started to ask.
“And just what in the world are you?”
“I’m a trashman.”
All the monsters burst out laughing.
The trashman joined the monsters and went around houses shouting
“Trick or treat, trick or treat. Give us some treats or we’re gonna trick you!”
and collected treats from all the adults.
Then, they went around giving balloons to the smaller children.
The trashman’s balloons were very floaty, which delighted all the children.
“OK, next house. Let’s go, trashman.”
The monsters went around everywhere and their pockets full of treats.
The bell of the clock tower rang, and everyone started preparing to go home.
The trashman spoke to one of them.
“Halloween is fun. Let’s do it again tomorrow.”
“What are you talking about, trashman. Halloween is only today.”
And with that all, the monsters began taking off their masks.
Little boy Antonio came out of the pumpkin,
and little girl Rebecca came out of the witch.
They were only dressed like monsters.
“What’s the matter, take yours off, too, trashman.”
“Yeah, you don’t like that dirty costume either, do you?”
Rebecca tried to pull off trashman’s head.
Rebecca let out a huge scream.
“This guy’s not in a costume!”
The boys quickly moved away from the trashman.
“Go away, monster!”
“Get out of town, trashman! Drain down to the sea!”
The boys shouted dirty words one after the other.
Word of the trashman quickly spread across town.
“It’s a trashman.”
“There’s a monster in town.”
When the trashman tried to speak, all he got was
“Go away, trashman,” “You’re gonna get your smell on me.”
The trashman sat on a bench, and hissed out a stinky sigh.
That was when it happened.
“So you’re the trashman everyone is talking about. I heard that’s not a costume?”
When he turned around, he saw a boy covered in soot from head to toe.
The boy didn’t run away even when he found out what the trashman was.
“I’m Lubicchi, the chimney cleaner. And you are?”
“. . . Ummm”
“If you don’t have a name, you should give yourself one. Let’s see . . .
because you showed up on Halloween, your name is Halloween Poupelle.”
“Halloween Poupelle, what are you doing here?”
“Nobody will play with me.”
“Ha ha ha!” Lubicchi laughed as Poupelle said this.
“Obviously, Poupelle. You’re dirty, and quite smelly, too.”
“How dare you say! You’re all dirty and black, too, Lubicchi.”
“Well, I’m on my way home from work, so as you can see, I’m covered in soot.”
“Isn’t chimney cleaning a job for grownups?”
“I don’t have a dad, so I gotta work.
Besides, with a smell like that, no wonder they don’t like you. Why don’t you wash yourself in our yard.”
“What? That’s OK?”
“I need to wash up before I get in the house anyway. You should do the same.”
“Why don’t you avoid me, Lubicchi?”
“You smell kinda familiar. I wonder if my dirty pants are mixed in there.”
Lubicchi washed every nook and cranny of Poupelle’s body.
All the grime came cleanly off, and the smell was much better, too.
“Thank you, Lubicchi.”
“Hmm . . . but your mouth is still stinky. Breathe out.”
Poupelle exhaled out.
“Ha ha ha, that’s so smelly. Poupelle, that’s gas. Brushing is not gonna help.”
The two played together till late that night.
“Hey, did you play with that trashman today?”
“It’s OK, Mom. Poupelle’s not a bad guy.”
“You got that curiosity from your dad.”
Lubicchi’s father was the only fisherman in town, but he was swallowed by the waves and died last winter.
The only thing they found was his fishing boat in tatters.
In this town, people believed that there were monsters in the ocean and it was forbidden to go out to sea ;
so the townsfolk said “He had it coming.”
“Say, Mom, what did you like about Dad?”
“He was shy and cute in a way, don’t you think? When he was happy, he’d rub under his nose, like this.”
Next day, Poupelle and Lubicchi went up a chimney.
“I’m scared, Lubicchi.”
“You’ll be fine, just hold on tightly. But it gets gusty, so be careful not to drop anything.”
“Have you dropped anything?”
“Yeah. A silver pendant with a picture of my dad.
That was the only picture of Dad I had. I looked, but couldn’t find it.”
Lubicchi pointed at the sewage canal.
“It fell into that sewage canal.”
“Say Poupelle, do you know what a ‘star’ is?”
“This town is covered in smoke, right? So we can’t see them, but above that smoke are shining stones called ‘stars.’
Not just one or two. A thousand, ten thousand, or even more.”
“That’s pretty dumb. You’re lying, right?”
“. . . My dad saw those ‘stars.’ When he was far out on the ocean. At one point the smoke overhead all went away,
and there were thousands of shining ‘stars’ floating in the air.
Nobody in town believed him, and Dad died being called liar.
But Dad said ‘There are stars above the smoke,’ and told me how I could see the stars.”
Lubicchi said as he looked up at the smoke.
“‘Believe. Even if you’re the only one.’”
Next day, when Poupelle came to the meeting place, his body was letting out the stench again.
And the next day, and the next day, too.
“Poupelle, your body gets smelly no matter how much we wash it.”
Lubicchi pinched his nose and muttered how smelly it was, but he washed Poupelle’s body every day.
Poupelle showed up looking very different.
“What’s wrong, Poupelle? What in the world happened?”
The trash on Poupelle’s left ear had fallen off.
“They say I’m littering the town.”
“Can you hear?”
“No, I can’t hear anything in my left ear. I guess when the trash on my left ear falls off, I lose hearing in my left ear.”
“Antonio and his gang did this, didn’t they? How terrible.”
“They can’t help it. I’m a monster.”
The next day, Lubicchi was surrounded by Antonio and his gang.
“Hey, Lubicchi. Dennis is sick with a cold.
He probably got germs from the trashman.”
“Poupelle washes his body. He doesn’t have germs!”
“What a big fat liar! That trashman was stinky yesterday, too.
Your family are all liars.”
Indeed, regardless of how much they washed, Poupelle’s body became smelly by the following morning.
Lubicchi had nothing to say back.
“Why do you play with that trashman, anyway. Read between the lines. You should be with us.”
As Lubicchi was plodding home, Poupelle showed up.
“Hey Lubicchi. Let’s go play.”
“. . . You’re smelly again. I got bullied at school today because of that.
Because of your body that’s stinky no matter how much we wash it!”
“I’m sorry, Lubicchi.”
“I can’t see you anymore. I’m not playing with you anymore.”
The two of them stopped seeing each other after that.
After he stopped playing with Lubicchi, Poupelle stopped washing his body, so he got even dirtier.
Flies swarmed around him, and he became filthier and filthier, smellier and smellier.
Poupelle’s reputation kept getting worse.
Nobody came near Poupelle anymore.
One quiet night.
There was a knock on Lubicchi’s window.
When Lubicchi looked toward the window, Poupelle was there, barely recognizable.
His body was black with grime, and he was missing an arm.
It must have been Antonio and the gang must have done it again.
Lubicchi quickly opened the window.
“What’s wrong, Poupelle? We’re not supposed to . . . ”
“. . . Let’s go.”
“What are you saying?”
“Let’s go, Lubicchi.”
“Wait a second. What in the world is wrong?”
“We gotta hurry. Let’s go before they take my life away.”
“Where’re we going?”
“We have to hurry. We gotta hurry.”
They got to a sandy beach where nobody visits.
“Let’s go, Lubicchi. Hop on.”
“What are you talking about? This ship is broken, it’s not going anywhere.”
Poupelle didn’t care, and pulled out a whole bunch of balloons from his pocket.
He huffed and puffed and blew up the balloons.
Huff puff, huff puff.
“Hey Poupelle, what’re you doing?”
Huff puff, huff puff.
“We gotta hurry. We need to hurry. Before they take my life away.”
Then, Poupelle tied the inflated balloons to the ship, one by one.
Hundreds of balloons were tied to the ship.
“Let’s go, Lubicchi.”
“Where . . . ?”
“Above the smoke.”
Poupelle said as he untied the rope anchoring the ship.
“Let’s go see the stars.”
The ship with the balloons lifted off the ground and slowly floated in mid-air.
“Are you sure this is OK??”
It was the first time Lubicchi saw the town from this height.
The night view of the town was beautiful.
“OK, hold your breath. We’re about to go in the smoke.”
Rumble rumble rumble.
They couldn’t see anything inside the smoke. It was pitch black.
Poupelle’s voice could be heard between the rumbling of the wind.
“Hold tight, Lubicchi.”
The wind kept getting stronger as they rose higher.
“Lubicchi, look up. We’re coming out of the smoke! Don’t close your eyes.”
Rumble rumble rumble.
“Dad wasn’t lying.”
The place was filled with countless points of light.
After staring at the light for a while, Poupelle said quietly.
“When you go back, all you need to do is take the balloons off the ship, but you can’t take them all off at once.
If you take them off at once, the ship is gonna fall, so one by one, one by one. . .”
“What’re you talking about, Poupelle? We’re going back together, right?”
“This is as far as I can go with you.
I’m really happy I got to see the ‘stars’ with you.”
“What do you mean? Let’s go back together.”
“You know, Lubicchi. I’ve been looking for that pendant you lost.
The trash in that sewage canal ends up at the waste treatment plant,
so I thought it would be there.”
“I’m a trashman, born in a trash pile, so I’m used to rummaging through trash.
I looked for it in the trash every day since then, but I just couldn’t find it . . .
I thought it would take only ten days or so to find it . . .”
“That is why your body was . . . Poupelle, I was so mean to you.”
“It doesn’t matter. When you first talked to me,
I decided I’d always be your friend, no matter what.”
Tears spilled out from Lubicchi’s eyes.
“And anyway, the pendant wasn’t at the waste treatment plant.
I was stupid.
I should’ve realized it when you said ‘You smell familiar.’”
Poupelle opened the rickety umbrella, which was his head.
“It was here all along.”
A silver pendant hung inside the umbrella.
“The pendant you’ve been looking for was right here. It’s my brain.
This is what smelled familiar.
When the trash on my left ear fell off, I couldn’t hear in my left ear anymore.
In the same way, if I lose this pendant, I’ll stop moving.
But this pendant is yours. The time I spent with you,
I was truly happy. Thank you Lubicchi, goodbye . . .”
With that, Poupelle raised his hand to pull off the pendant, but then . . .
Lubicchi grabbed Poupelle’s hand.
“What’re you doing, Lubicchi? This pendant is yours.
Even if I kept it, Antonio and the gang are gonna rip it off one day,
and then it will be really lost.
Then you’ll never be able to see your dad’s picture.”
“We can run away together.”
“Don’t be silly. If you’re seen with me,
they might hit you next.”
“I don’t care. We can share the pain. We have each other.”
“Let’s meet every day, Poupelle. Then, I can see Dad’s picture every day.
So let’s meet every day. Let’s play every day, like we used to.”
Tears poured out of trashman’s eyes.
Play with Lubicchi every day . . . it was a strange feeling, like something he’d been yearning for for a very long time.
“Poupelle, the stars are so beautiful. Thanks for bringing me.
I’m really happy I met you.”
Poupelle blushed and said,
“Stop it, Lubicchi. You’re embarrassing me.”
And then, he rubbed under his nose with his forefinger.
“. . . Poupelle. It took me a while to figure it out, too. Of course . . . of course!
Halloween is the day when the spirits of the dead come back.”
“What’re you talking about? Lubicchi.”
“Halloween Poupelle, I know who you are now.”
“You came to see me, Dad.”
Illustrator,Writer,Director AKIHIRO NISHINO
『PoupeIIe Of ChimneyTown』