Flat Inspection


Kaori Tsutaya (Translated by Amy Hirschman, Quirk Books, 2011, ISBN 9781594745256)

Bendy crept upon the moth. He moved his limbs one at a time, between clock ticks, splitting each step into tiny motions. He had to keep calm; if he yielded to the temptation to dash, the bell would jingle on his flea collar and scare the moth away. Three more inches and he could pounce.


The buzzer sheared the roof off the night.

The moth shot to the ceiling. Bendy screamed in protest.

“Bzzzzzzzzt bzz bzz bzzzzzzzzzt”

His mistress darted out of her bedchamber to the intercom.

“You only have to press the butt-“


“The door switch doesn’t work. I’ll come down.”

She wore her bells on the ends of blue dreadlocks. Bendy listened to them tinkle as she climbed down the staircase, paused at the door and the climbed back up again.

She returned with a big, clomping man who smelled like the outside: the Allergy Man. He had a big, pink baby face and a plump body. Dressed in a floral shirt, he looked like a cherub on vacation.

“The woman in number eleven hasn’t come home,” she said, “can we put Bendy in your car?”

“I don’t think he likes me,” said the Allergy Man.

“No, he likes you,” she said.

“He always claws my shins,” said the Allergy Man.

“See,” she said, “he likes you. Hold his cat box up while I squeeze him in.”

She picked Bendy up. He purred in satisfaction; nobody had picked up the Allergy Man. But wait – now she lowered him towards the cat box! Bendy grasped the top edge with his front feet. As she tried to swing him into the box, he grasped the bottom edge with his back feet. The Allergy Man shook the box. She tried to pry his paws away with her free hand, but each time she got hold of one Bendy twisted another loose and grabbed back hold of the box. At last, her discipline broke and she lunged for his limbs with both hands. Bendy squirmed loose and bolted for the bedchamber.

The Allergy Man dropped the box and clomped after him. Bendy hid under the bed.

“I can’t see him,” he called out.

He stepped up next to the bedstead. Bendy dashed forward and clawed his shins.

“Christ,” he said, flinching back.

He clomped out of the room.

Would they try to sweep him out with a broom?

Bendy’s mistress entered and set a plate by the door. On top sat half a wheel of camembert.

Did they think he’d fall for so barefaced a trap? Bendy stayed under the bed and watched his cheese.

The Allergy Man appeared at the door. He stooped down, picked up the plate and ate some of the cheese! When he set it back down, only two-thirds of it remained.

Now Bendy’s mistress came in and nibbled away another piece. Bendy whined in anguish.

The Allergy Man returned and took another bite. They meant to eat Bendy’s whole cheese!

Bendy dashed forward. He’d begun to devour the cheese when hands clenched him under the shoulders.

The Allergy Man carted Bendy back to the foyer. His mistress toted the cat box, but now she peered out through the windowpane at the parking lot below.

“I think I see Laura’s car,” she said, “She might see you on the stairs. I’ve still got the cardboard box the microwave came in. We’ll have to tape him in.”

She ran to the other room and came back with a packing box and tape.

“Will he just go to sleep once it gets dark inside?” said the Allergy Man.

“No,” she said.

The Allergy Man flung him into the box and held the flaps while she taped it closed. It went black inside the box. Down below, he could hear somebody unlocking the front door.

The box jolted upwards. It pivoted to the side and then lurched forwards, sending Bendy sliding across the bottom. Then he heard the Allergy Man’s shoes on the staircase.

Bendy clawed at the side of the box. Soon he could scratch right through to the Allergy Man’s chest.

“Ouch! Jesus,” cried the Allergy Man.

The box stopped.

“Oh, hello Laura,” he said.

Bendy leaped sideways, hurling his weight against the side of the box. The box pitched sidelong and started to topple over. Then with a lurch it swiveled back to the other side and started to topple in the opposite direction. Bendy skidded across the floor. The box dipped and at last heaved back to the horizontal.

“I almost dropped your microwave,” the Allergy Man called out for no reason.

Bendy slashed at the Allergy Man’s chest with both claws. The footsteps started to run. The box rolled a quarter turn forward, rotating the gash Bendy had made to the top. Bendy clawed at the new side. He sliced through the cardboard and then the tape. At last he struck the Allergy Man’s stomach. The box rolled through another quarter turn.

Now the footfalls fell on gravel. By the time Bendy clawed through the newest side, he heard them ringing against concrete.

Torn through in three places, the box began to crumple. A hole opened in the side as wide as Bendy’s head. He could escape!

He plunged his head and forelegs through the hole, but a hand came up and forced him back inside. Bendy whirled around. Slashing the hand with his hind claws, he ran for a new breach in the other side. Now the other hand came up to force him back, but the whole box had started to collapse, he would soon find a way free.

As the last of the tape gave way, the Allergy Man swung open the door to his car. He threw Bendy inside. He held Bendy at bay with his throat while he shut the door.

The Allergy Man sighed with relief. He dug a rag out of the glove box and dabbed at his wounds. Bendy raced around inside, but could find no escape. He scratched at the door, but no one opened it.

Bendy hid beneath the seats. Minutes later he emerged, purring, to huddle up against the Allergy Man. Together they sat in the dark.

As they waited, the Allergy Man started to splutter and sneeze. He began wheezing and his eyes turned red. His eyelids swelled up.

Bendy meowed for his mistress. He watched headlights passing on the road. Twice he thought he heard her bells among the sounds of traffic.

When she appeared at last, she had a plate in her hand. She had brought his cheese! He purred with affection as she carried him back to his house.

That night, he slept on the Allergy Man’s head.

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  1. I made up the part about the cheese and changed the landlord’s name to ‘Laura’. It originally started with the letter P.

  2. Avril, who owns this book, remarks: ” Also if you are going to make a finger puppet, you need to remove the gladwrap from inside the felted puppet before you iron it, or else you end up with a cat felt fur bookmark.”

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