The title work, with which the author made his literary debut, opens with the arresting first line, "Yesterday, I bagged a gun." The narrator who delivers the line is Toru Nishikawa, a 21-year-old college student living in Tokyo. The night before, during a heavy rain, he had come upon a man in a suit lying dead in the grass on the edge of a riverbed. When he found a gun fallen at the man's side, he picked it up and brought it home. The television news carries a report of the death several days later. Toru assumes the man committed suicide, but with the gun gone from the scene, the police are investigating it as a homicide. The gun has four bullets left in it. Captivated by its beauty, Toru at first merely polishes it with great care and places it in a leather pouch for safekeeping, but then he begins carrying the piece around with him in the pouch. As time goes by he becomes fixated on the idea that the gun wants to be fired, and he plans a trip into the mountains to fulfill its wish; but before he can get around to this, he happens on a black cat in a neighborhood park, near death from being slashed by someone with a blade, and impulsively fires two bullets into it. As he hurries home, he is spotted by a convenience-store clerk, and he soon receives a visit from the police . . .
Toru's mother had run away when he was six, after which his father put him in a children's home, and he was ultimately raised by foster parents. This upbringing has left him a loner who finds it difficult to open up to others, and he lives all by himself in an apartment. Except for occasional sex with a girl who has another boyfriend, his life as a student has been colorless and uneventful. Against this background, the author deftly delineates Toru's psychological progress from taking the gun into his possession to falling completely under its spell. Besides launching the author's career, this work is important for its links to such later Nakamura titles as The Thief (winner of the 2010 Kenzaburo Oe Prize), Aku to kamen no ruru (The Rules of Evil and the Mask), and Okoku (Kingdom).
The 2012 edition of the book also contains the short story Hi (Fire), in which a woman who set fire to her home at the age of eight, causing her parents to be burned to death, tells her life story to a psychiatrist.