Japanese Short Story Translation: “Five Minutes Won’t Cut It” by Kisaragi Shinichi [Chapter 2]

This is the second chapter of “Five Minutes Won’t Cut It” (大泥棒に5分は長い), a short story by Kisaragi Shinichi 1(如月新一). I have permission from the author to translate this work, and I plan to release the complete story in six chapters.

Thanks to Locksleyu from Self Taught Japanese, both for inspiration to start this project and for help with verifying the translation and editing.

Chapter 2: My Eyes Have Been Failing Me

In elementary school, being the kid that wins races is a big deal. Things were simple back then. However, when you get to middle and high school, running fast is no big deal—it won’t make you popular. No one pays attention unless you have outstanding looks or you’re involved in some kind of activity.

I’m still in my early twenties, so Abiko, in his mid-forties, says, “I don’t want to hear you say, ‘When I was young…’ ” and Aoi says, “If you were so fast, you should’ve just joined the track team.”

I’ve always thought of running as a means to an end, not an end in itself, so I never considered joining the track team. If I had joined, maybe I would have picked it up quickly and become a star athlete.

But no, I don’t want to ask for too much. If I had joined a few clubs and tried some sports and things, I would have taken some initiative to develop a healthy mind and body, and maybe I wouldn’t have been the punk who became partners in crime with Abiko, the self-proclaimed professional burglar.

It could have been because I didn’t join any clubs or take my school work seriously that I couldn’t get a job offer after graduating from a bottom-tier college. The only thing I’ve been able get my act together for was begging until I convinced strong-willed Aoi to be my girlfriend.

“I found a house,” Abiko said, with a smirk on his face. We were at an izakaya in front of the train station last night.


“Hell yeah!”

Abiko is a middle aged man, with an average build, average height, and a serious but apologetic face. He has a few days’ stubble and a general sense of uncleanliness, but it’s hard to hate that easygoing smile. I feel much more relaxed around him than I would around some elite businessman sporting a designer suit.

Abiko is primarily a professional burglar, but he drives a truck for some extra cash. He checks out the security and the residents’ lifestyles while he spends the day delivering packages to different residential areas.

Once, he showed me his notebook, cover marked “Top Secret”. I was thinking that the moment someone reads that bold declaration of secrecy on the cover, it’s all over, but I kept it to myself because I didn’t want to be a killjoy when Abiko seemed so happy to show it off.

“There’s a park next to some condos, and if you go through some brush at the edge of the park—wow—you’re in the grounds of the complex. You can sneak in without even going through the lobby, and there’s no cameras. It’s practically saying, ‘Come on in.’ ”

“I don’t think the condos are saying anything like that, but shall we?”

That’s how Abiko and I ended up breaking into this condo tonight. It was hard to believe at first, but just as Abiko said, there was a fence about two meters high at the back of the park. Once you cross that, you were in the grounds.

Lately, the number of homes with monitored alarm systems, double locks, and security cameras has been increasing. Every time I pass by one of those homes, it’s a bit frustrating that we can’t sneak in there, as much money as they must have. What Abiko found this time may be one small thing for mankind, but it’s one giant discovery for us.

We went up the fire escape to a unit on the seventh floor. Apparently, the person on the seventh floor corner unit goes out every night, and doesn’t come home until around three in the morning.

“A man living alone who doesn’t come home until three in the morning. I have no idea what he’s doing, but surely something underhanded is going on with a guy leading that kind of lifestyle. That could only mean one thing—he’s got some cash.”

Abiko bragged that he staked it out for a week, and I took his word for it. He has been involved in criminal activity since he was young, and now he’s entered the realm of professional burglary.

The first time we met and he recruited me, I asked, “Does a professional burglar really need a partner?”

“Once you’ve been at it alone for so long, you start wanting to train someone to take over. Also, it’s lonely not having someone else to share the glory.”

He looked sincere. How touching. I remember a college friend way back complaining, “You can’t choose your boss at a company.” With this guy as my boss, at least I wouldn’t have to walk on eggshells, so I joined him.

That said, sometimes I feel bummed that we don’t really have the level of success where you can share the glory. How long will it take for this partnership to pay off?

“Here. Right here.”

Abiko pointed at a nameplate reading “Anekawa” on the seventh floor corner unit.

My job is to pick the lock. Abiko trained me, and it seems I’m a natural—I’ve become able to sense the moment a lock opens using my fingertips, ears, and mind.

My tools jingled as I pulled them from my jacket pocket. I knelt down and slowly threaded in one of my tools as I peered into the keyhole.

“My eyes have been failing me lately, so I’m glad you’re helping me out, Toru.”

I picked the lock in under five minutes while listening to my boss’s encouraging words. If a lock uses a magnetic mechanism, then I’m in trouble, but Anekawa’s was a basic one. I could almost hear, “Good job, Toru,” with the ka-ching of the lock opening.

“It’s open.”

As I looked up, Abiko crumpled his face into a smile. Like a cheap teddy bear, his awkward smile only conveyed friendliness.

We went in without removing our shoes and started rummaging around. A hall leading to the living room was just off the foyer. There was a door on either side of the hall.

“It’s payday.”

Abiko hesitantly crept forward, rubbing his hands together like a housefly cleaning its front legs.

Next Chapter

  1. In this blog, I always write Japanese names with the family name first. Shinichi is pronounced Shin`ichi.