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brittany gosss

New Fiction


by Brittany Lynn Goss

      Growing up, Kasumi's favorite bedtime story was the one about Mr. Ong and his double. She begged her mother to tell it to her nearly every night. Sitting on the floor next to Kasumi's futon, with her legs tucked neatly beneath her and her hands folded in her lap, her mother would begin: “Mr. Ong was a very rich and greedy man. He was so selfish he would rather let his old mother die than buy rice for her to eat. He even cuffed the ears of monks who came to his door begging for alms.” This was Kasumi's cue to make a noise of disgust. “Word of Mr. Ong's horrible deeds spread throughout the countryside, until a powerful chief priest heard about his wickedness and decided to teach him a lesson. He enchanted a scarecrow to look and act exactly like the real Mr. Ong. Then he sent him to the house where the true man lived. The family tried to determine which was the original, but even in court the magic double proved that he was indeed the genuine Mr. Ong.” Kasumi always enjoyed this part of the story most. Her mother grew animated, scratching her head and making faces as she pretended to be Mr. Ong's daughter-in-law, his son, his wife, and the judge. When she played Mr. Ong she puffed her chest out self-righteously; with the next breath she was the pretender, impish and beguiling.
      “In the end,” she continued, “the imposter went home to Mr. Ong's wife, and Mr. Ong wandered off into the mountains. Years passed. Mrs. Ong gave birth three times. After the last child was born, her true husband, who had been away from home for so long, came upon the chief priest who had played the trick. Humble by now, he confessed all of his sins. `Go home,' the priest told him, `and you will see a miracle'. When Mr. Ong opened the door to his house, the fraud disappeared. In his place was a pumpkin and a bundle of cornstalks and all three of his children were transformed to scarecrows.”
      When the story was over, she would kiss Kasumi's forehead and smooth the sheet with her palms before she blew out the lamp. Sometimes Kasumi lay awake for a while after that, thinking about Mr. Ong. She liked this story best because she also had two selves. At home, she was Hwan Sang-Hui, the Korean girl, and everywhere else she was Japanese: Hiroko Kasumi. She wore yukata, pinned her hair behind her head, and read books in columns of kanji characters. She was native to Sakai. She spoke perfect Japanese. Only at home did she converse with her parents in Korean and hear her other name - Sang-Hui: a whisper, a little song. It was like having a magic disguise.

      It was at her friend Inoue Aiko's house that she most feared she would reveal herself. She sat up straight on their low cushioned chairs and ate from a delicately painted bowl, hoping not even a grain of rice would fall from her chopsticks. Aiko's mother had filled the polished table with these blue and white trays: platters of tuna for each of them, vegetables, steamed rice, bowls of miso soup, soy sauce for dipping. Both adults had a glass of warm sake. She apologized for the simple fare. “We all make sacrifices for the war,” she said, but Kasumi couldn't see what was missing. She was amazed by the elegance of the room: the woven beige mats, the paper-thin doors that folded in on themselves, the carefully placed bonsai trees. All in a space designed for the sole purpose of eating. They even had landscape paintings bound up in scrolls. Aiko's brother had unrolled them for her: mountains, trees, and water drawn with such light brush strokes they seemed made out of air.
      She concentrated on chewing slowly. Next to her, Aiko picked up her bowl and ate with enthusiasm, mixing her rice and vegetables together and shoving chunks of food in her mouth. She didn't seem to be listening to her parents' conversation.
      “My company is manufacturing more guns for the Imperial Army,” her father said. “Our troops need them on Okinawa. The Emperor says we must all devote ourselves to the holy cause.”
      Her mother nodded silently. “Hai,” she said. “We must.”
      Kasumi watched them like an owl. She'd never heard her parents speak of the war with such devotion. At home they talked of Korea, money, and politics, but they always referred to the Japanese army with loathing in their voices. They didn't speak of holy causes. They discussed firebombing in nearby Osaka and their own struggle for survival. If the enemy bombed Sakai that evening, Kasumi thought, the Inoue family would receive it stoically, dying with the knowledge of their imperial duty.
      When the meal was over, she and Aiko went upstairs to play with Aiko's dolls. Although Aiko complained that her family had stopped buying toys, to Kasumi's mind there were multitudes. Baby dolls and women in kimonos, soldier men and teenage girls with fashionable outfits. They spent their days lined neatly on windowsills and shelves, their faces pointed outward with bland, symmetrical smiles. When Kasumi and Aiko played with them, the soldiers weren't military men but civilian fiancés for the teenage girls; the marriages were ideal and led to perfect families. It was never hard for Kasumi to immerse herself in this world of impossible happiness. She was often shocked when she left the house and found herself alone on the dusky streets of Sakai.
      That night she came into the bedroom first and lifted a soldier from the windowsill.
      “Let's play armies,” she said, cocking the doll's elbow so his gun pointed outward. Aiko wrinkled her nose.
      “Let's play wedding.”
      Kasumi pretended she hadn't heard her friend. “You can be Japan and I'll be China.” She started lining the dolls in opposing rows. Each wore a matching blue uniform and hat.
       “Why are you doing that? I want to play wedding.” Aiko took a soldier from the line and placed him next to a woman holding an ornate paper fan. Kasumi scowled.
      “Ok, fine—but it has to be a Korean wedding,” she blurted. Aiko squinted her eyes as if she were talking nonsense. Kasumi bit her lip. She wanted to swallow the words.
      “Why? Is that more fun?”
      “Maybe,” she formed the sentence slowly, thinking. The mention of Koreans didn't seem to bother Aiko. She decided to explore the subject further, selecting a doll with a scarlet kimono and azure-tinted obi. “Her dress has to be red and blue,” she explained. She placed a soldier nearby. “First they stand on either side of a table and bow to each other, then they drink…” She looked around the room for a doll sized table.
      “How do you know?”
      Kasumi took a deep breath and studied her friend. Aiko's face was plainly curious, a little puzzled, but certainly not hostile. She bit her tongue. “My parents are Korean.” The words sounded forced, a gust of cluttered consonants. “I am too,” she added after a brief silence.
       “Oh,” was all Aiko said. Kasumi watched her for a sign of unease but there was none. Aiko reached behind her and took a table from her dollhouse. “Ok. You can be the girl this time.”
      Kasumi left Aiko's when the sky had softened to a deep blue. After she emerged from the doorway and walked through the Inoue family's gate, she felt a little jolt at the sight of her bicycle. It was where she had left it, rusted and dirty, looking out of place on the sidewalk of such a quiet, well-to-do street. She took a last look at Aiko's house before mounting the ripped seat and pedaling away.
      Once she had turned a few corners, the peaceful streets gave way to poorly lit avenues. She watched the buildings warily as she rode, passing the boarded windows of lifeless restaurants. In the last few years, businesses in this area had dwindled. By now the shops were nearly all vacant, if not obliterated by the bombing. Faded signs hung uselessly above permanently locked doors. She passed the bar that her father frequented, a small, shabby place that served Korean food and makkŏli. Everybody talked about Min-Ki's drinking problem, how he'd been kicked out of nearly all the bars for his drunken brawls. According to her cousins, this was the one he visited now. She peered through the dirty windowpanes, but she could only see the silhouettes of men and waitresses. At this time, she thought, her mother would be sweeping the floor. She was probably humming an old folksong she learned from her father, one of the tunes she had tried unsuccessfully to teach Kasumi, who had no interest in singing.
      She attempted, in her imagination, to make the scene as clean and full of warmth as Aiko's house, but at the edge of the industrial district she could already smell the smoke and humid steam pouring from the factories. She turned the corner and pedaled toward a small neighborhood of tin roofs. The Korean area was a jumble of makeshift shacks built mostly by single working men. Kasumi and her parents owned two rooms next to her aunt's family. The apartments were adjoined by a thin wooden wall, through which she could hear her younger cousins, Jang-Ho and In-Ho, whispering late at night. They played games of `what if' with each other—What if you had a billion yen? What if you could fly? What if you were a dragon? They told made up stories to answer these questions and tried to top each other with each fantastic tale.
      Aiko had never been to visit Kasumi's house, though it occurred to Kasumi now that she must know about the ghettos of Sakai. Her cheeks reddened. She looked at the peeling paint, the mismatched metals on corrugated roofs, the flapping tarps where there should be windows. The few stars she could see were blurred behind a dark cloud of smoke. Hunching her shoulders, she entered her house with the dejected plod of a sentenced prisoner.

      The next morning at school she abandoned her cousins on the sidewalk. They were whispering to each other in Korean, a risky activity anywhere outside of the ghetto. She saw Aiko and called out Ohayō gozaimus—good morning! Aiko didn't answer. Kasumi thought she hadn't heard over the crowd of students, but when she walked into the classroom Aiko looked away. Kasumi sat down next to her and smiled. Aiko lowered her eyes and stared at her hands in her lap.
      Her stomach in a knot, Kasumi tried to focus on her work all morning. She furrowed her eyebrows and wrote slowly, using the kanji characters they were learning. First her name, at the top of the paper, then the date: April 10, 1945. She imagined the thick black lines as crickets, poised to jump off the page and hop out the window, leaving a trail of black splashes in their wake. She glanced at Aiko. She wanted to share this impression, if she could find a way to explain it, but Aiko's lips were pressed together and her eyes were narrowed in concentration. She copied the sensee's characters with slim, white fingers that seemed barely to grip her brush.
      Kasumi studied her. Aiko's braided hair hung almost to her waist. She was sitting on her knees, leaning forward. The uniform—the white shirt and blue skirt and the little blue jacket—was immaculate, clean and crisply pressed, and her legs, in white ribbed tights, were crossed primly at the ankles behind her. She did not look up. Kasumi turned back to her paper. She began to copy the characters with unsteady hands, making clumsy, jerking lines that bore little resemblance to Hayashi-sensee's bold strokes. She stole another look at Aiko's work: flawlessly formed characters lined the page in straight columns like soldiers. Kasumi jabbed her brush into the ink, crushing the delicate hairs at the bottom of the jar, and pulled it out roughly. The container fell on its side. Ink pooled onto her work and drowned it in a blackness that seeped over the edges of the paper onto the wooden floor.
      She jumped off of her mat with a startled cry. Even Aiko turned to look. Hayashi-sensee stopped teaching and glared at her. She stood fuming, regarding her speckled hands as if somebody else had purposely thrown the uncovered bottle on her mat. There was a silence. Then, from the back of the classroom, a boy's high pitched voice taunted, “Messy Korean!” People gasped; the classroom filled with snickers.
      “She's a Chōsenjin!”
      “Well, what do you expect from one of them?”
      Kasumi felt her ears burning. She stared at the gaggle of open mouths, leering smiles, eyes bright with contempt. A glimpse of Aiko showed her staring at the floor with her shoulders tense, nervously fiddling with the end of her braid. At the front of the classroom, Hayashi-sensee stood still with his arms folded. His face held no expression. She gave him a pleading look.
      “Clumsy girl,” he said. “Clean it up.”
      She trudged down the aisle between the mats and people hissed at her as she went:
      “Hey, stupid.”
      “Can't keep yourself neat?”
      She brought water from the washrooms and scrubbed fiercely at the floor. Then Hayashi-sensee made her sit down. He continued the lesson as though nothing had happened.

      An hour later, Kasumi was the first through the door. The air outside was warm and thick with the scent of rain. She sat underneath the dogwood tree where girls congregated to play otedama, picked up a small stone and hurled it across the yard. It fell just short of the chain link fence. She had her hand pulled back to throw another when Aiko walked by with Chiyo, a fat girl who sat in the front row and had laughed heartily at Kasumi's embarrassment that morning. Aiko always said she was no fun, a stuck up priss. Kasumi narrowed her eyes and stared hard at her friend, willing her to look her way.
      Other girls gathered in the sunny corner where Aiko stood. None of them carried bean bags; they had no intention of playing otedama today. Instead they laughed and talked in a circle, with Aiko at the center. She threw back her head and laughed. Kasumi's stomach flipped. Tears burned at the corners of her eyes. Impulsively, she jumped up and grabbed a slender tree branch. She gritted her teeth, pulled and twisted, until it broke. The heavy white flowers sagged. She studied the new green inside of the branch where she had ripped it without knowing precisely why. Aiko happened to glance at her in that moment, for the first time all day. Then Kasumi was running, air streamed past her face; she felt herself pushing through the circle of girls, shoving, until she reached Aiko and jumped on top of her, pinning her to the ground.
      “Why did you tell people?” she demanded. Aiko didn't answer. She screamed and squirmed as Kasumi hit her with the dogwood branch, beating it on her shoulder and face. Aiko spat at her. Kasumi ignored the pain of her opponent's fists on her back and continued to strike her furiously until the bark left spotty black bruises on her cream-colored skin. “Why?” Kasumi shrieked. But Tarō, who was playground monitor that day, had been watching the group of girls.
      “Get off of her, crazy!” he yelled. He ran over, separated a flailing Kasumi from Aiko, and tore the branch out of her hand. It left a cut in her palm, a trail of fine red beads that sliced through her life line. Some of the girls helped Aiko to stand. She glared at Kasumi, panting. Her braid was disheveled and a stick poked out of her hair; a leaf was attached to her shirt. Crushed dogwood flowers littered the ground between them. Kasumi wrestled unsuccessfully with Tarō, who stood behind her and held her arms. She watched Chiyo dust the earth off of Aiko's back. “Why?” she demanded a third time.
      Aiko spoke, quietly and with a disdainful tone she reserved only for people she abhorred. Kasumi had never been the object of her condescension. Her eyes widened at Aiko's words. “Because you're Korean. You told me so.” Her voice lost some of its composure and grew huskier. She spoke louder, lifted her accusing eyes to Kasumi's face. “My mother says the Chōsenjin are barbarians. You're only burdens to us, you migrant workers. I thought she was wrong, but now I can see that you are.”
      Kasumi stared at the circle of hardened faces. She heard Tarō say something derisive in his nasal voice and then she let him pull her across the yard, drained of anger, feeling all of their eyes on her back.

      At dinner that night she was silent and sullen. Meals in their house were invariable: barley, sides of vegetables or spicy kimchi, soybean soup. It all smelled so much more pungent than the food Aiko's mother cooked. She made a face and stirred her rice around with the metal spoon of her sujeo, wishing she had the Inoue family's smooth wooden chopsticks. Neither of her parents noticed her listlessness. They were talking earnestly, discussing a letter her mother had received from her parents in Korea. Kasumi had never met them, although she dreamed she did sometimes. Her mother had told her about her grandfather's deep honeyed voice and her grandmother's graceful dancing. In the stories her grandparents sounded so young that Kasumi forgot they must be very old by now.
      “We are in good health, but our neighbors, the family of Ha Jong-Pil, have been struck by disease. So many have been sick in these past months. There was a flood in Kaji that destroyed much farmland. You are very lucky to be in Japan with your husband, Ch'ae-Sun.” Kasumi's father read the last words of the letter aloud while her mother sat on a cushion and listened, staring at her food.
      “We are lucky,” she said quietly when he had finished.
      Her father threw the letter down next to his mat with disgust. “If it's luck to work ourselves to death for half the pay while Korea suffers!” He stabbed a radish with his silver chopstick.
      “Perhaps not for long,” her mother said. Her tone was humble. “I heard Isshinkai is petitioning for more rights.”
      Her father would not be pacified. “Isshinkai,” he snorted. “Those ass-kissing fools will get nowhere.”
      Her mother bent her head and was silent.
      “What's Isshinkai?” Kasumi spoke up. The word sounded familiar.
      Her mother glanced at her father for permission and then spoke to Kasumi. “Isshinkai is a group of Koreans who want to help Japan win the war,” she said carefully. “They build airplanes and give money to the Japanese and they want more rights in return.”
      Kasumi nodded, disappointed that the answer wasn't more interesting. “Your father and I aren't members,” her mother added. “Most Koreans aren't.”
      “Because they're hypocrites,” her father interjected. “No respectable Korean is in that group.” His intensity made the small room crackle. Kasumi and her mother stared into their bowls of rice. Kasumi mulled over this new information. She wondered which Koreans were the respectable ones. Were the Isshinkai spies of some sort? She pictured her neighbors, old Cho and the tiny Yang twins, peering through her window late at night and reporting back to the Japanese.

      When her father had left for the bar, Kasumi's mother unrolled the futons and laid them on the floor. She settled herself next to Kasumi, smelling of freshly washed fabric.
       “Sang-Hui,” she said, “Have you ever heard the story of how we came to Japan?”
      Kasumi sat up in bed. “No,” she said. “How?”
      Her mother told her about the year she was seventeen, when a man named Min-Ki came back home to Korea in search of a wife. “My parents agreed to the marriage,” she said. “They were proud that he found work in Japan; they thought I would wear only silk and eat pure white rice until my cheeks puffed out like this”—she made a face and crossed her eyes. Kasumi giggled. “And so I left my whole family in Milyang to come to Sakai with your father. We rode on a ship across the ocean. I'd never seen so much water all at once. It was dark and moving like a live thing, like a thousand snakes, and the boat rolled and leapt so that I was terrified”—she moved her hand in an undulating pattern. “When we came here, everything was new. I found work; we had this house to share with your aunt. I didn't speak any Japanese and so I didn't like to leave the neighborhood. We had to change our names. I was very sad about all of this. I wanted to go home. But then you came, little one, and I had a friend.” She paused. Kasumi listened to her breathing.
      “Ŏmma,” she said. “What's so different about being Korean? I look the same as any Japanese.”
      Her mother paused. “You are Japanese,” she said. “You're both Korean and Japanese, and so you have two homes: Sakai, and the land of your ancestors. Our ancestors are watching and protecting us all the time, reminding us of who we are.”
      Kasumi frowned. She opened her mouth to explain what had happened that day, but then her mother kissed her forehead. “We're better off here, Sang-Hui,” she said. “At home now there must be more Japanese than Koreans and the people are very poor. Here your father and I have jobs. There isn't so much flooding or disease. You really are a very lucky girl.”
      She said goodnight and turned to brush her own hair in the dark. Kasumi had lost the words she was going to say. She was afraid of being reprimanded for her carelessness in telling Aiko, and besides, what could be done now? Like Mr. Ong, she thought, she had been beaten by her other self. It would take an act of magic to restore her former life. She lay awake, staring at the outline of the altar, where bowls of rice and water sat next to sticks of incense, offerings to ancestors she could not name. Eventually she drifted into a fitful sleep. She had strange fleeting dreams of singing dragons and tigers smoking pipes: the stuff of her mother's stories. Lovers met secretly, fairies bestowed wishes. Somewhere in her visions were her ancestors, lucent figures, hovering above snow capped peaks. In one dream she walked up the mountain to a beautiful garden and had her palm read by a tiny old ghost woman with pale pinched cheeks. Ne, the woman murmered as she ran her index finger along the lines, Ne, very good, very good.
      She sat under the dogwood tree between classes and threw stones, ignoring the constant taunting of Tarō and his friends. Chōsenjin, they called. Your father is a wild drunk, your mother is a thief. Her face burned with shame and frustration. A week ago she had stood in the center of a crowd with Aiko and imitated Hayashi-sensee's stiff, stern movements. The ripple of quiet laughter had made her beam. Now she hoped a rock would accidentally hit the girls by the fence. Occasionally she aimed close and they glared at her, but she knew she couldn't start another fight. She had no friends besides her cousins. Soon In-Ho and Jang-Ho had been found out as well. Kids pinched their noses as they walked by. Iyá! They sneered. You smell like garlic! She began to hate the odor of the spices in her lunches—leftover kimbap that had a far sharper smell than sushi, or paste made of soybeans from the factory where her mother worked. Never was there meat with rice or noodles. She sat in the classroom and ate slowly, her eyes lowered to the floor.

      The insistent, familiar wail of the air raid siren halted Hayashi-sensee's patriotic lectures in their midst. Students jumped to attention, drew the curtains, and filed out obediently to the tiny concrete shelter where they waited, rigid with trepidation, stifled by darkness and muggy summer air. The weapons pounced on Sakai like screeching voles; they left gaping holes, eye sockets, peering from buildings. The entire downtown section burned to the ground in a firebombing. At the south end, Kasumi's mother listened to the radio in the kitchen, hoping to glean what she could with the little Japanese she knew. She was worried for their safety and desperate, at the same time, for Japan to lose. Sometimes she asked Kasumi to translate the newscaster's remarks through the haze of static. He reported bombings in Nagoya, Tokyo, and Fukuoka. The names of places became familiar to her, though she could not imagine them as cities crowded with buildings, busy with traffic, full of people who huddled together and held their breath while foreign planes darkened the sky.

      Kasumi woke once, aroused from a deep blank slumber, and smelled the alcohol permeating the room. Her father was cursing aloud, damning the Japanese, the draft, the emperor, the corrupt and racist police. Her mother steadied him with both hands and said his name urgently, as if she could retrieve him from his private darkness. Then Kasumi heard the sound of fists on flesh. She shut her eyes tight and tried to recall her mother's bedtime stories. That night her mother had told her about the creation of the dogwood tree. She whispered the tale aloud: the dog was so loyal to his master that he died saving him from a fire; as a reward he was transformed into the beautiful tree. Her father was yelling in the kitchen; her mother, she knew without looking, was shielding her face, cowing before his blows. Kasumi thought harder. She pictured Hwang Jini, the fair dancing girl who charmed so many men, and poor General Sillip, in love with a ghost. She thought of the man who found his way to the fairy world, the clever wife who tricked the governor into losing his bet, the woman who died and became the lovely Baegje flower. Slowly she fell asleep again, dreaming of a world where all things were possible.

      In August the announcer described the bomb that hit Hiroshima first, then Nagasaki. She and her mother listened to the radio announcement in the kitchen. Kasumi translated the words into Korean: how in both incidents there was a blinding flash, an eruption, a shower of chemical dust, how thousands of dying citizens staggered to the hospitals with melting skin and broken bones, how the cities burned furiously, how a black implausible cloud rose from the destruction in the hush of an unnatural rain.

      A few days later, her mother gasped when Emperor Hirohito made his announcement: Japan would surrender unconditionally to the Allies. It meant, she explained disbelievingly, that Korea was free. They were no longer part of Japan; some could even go home. She was doubtful in her joy, fearing some rash of bad fortune would mar her happiness, and so she made an offering to the ancestors for good measure.

      The older men who had been there since before the war, men her father had worked with, went first: Do Man-Su, Kim Chang-Uk, Ryu Kwang-Ho, many others. Couples could be seen through their windows in the evening, discussing their options by candlelight. Suddenly the Baes and the Shims disappeared; the Chois followed. Yang Du-Ha from next door left with his wife and the twins and Kasumi soon found that she and her cousins were the only children in the neighborhood. She didn't understand why their family couldn't leave. Standing at the doorway watching her mother say a final goodbye to her friend Chon Hye-Su, Kasumi noticed a sadness at the corners of her lips. She had never seen her mother look so helpless before.

      The eighth moon rose at the beginning of September. Kasumi could see its faint white outline through her window in the morning. She sat up, bleary eyed, and saw her mother kneeling, quietly making offerings to the ancestors. She had laid a new chima jeogori on Kasumi's futon.
       “I made it for today,” she said when she had finished. “For Ch'usŏk.” Kasumi touched the rainbow banded saektong sleeves gingerly.
      “But I can't wear this to school,” she said, her voice tightening. Class had been even worse since Japan surrendered. Aiko's silence had grown more hostile; she had kicked Kasumi only the day before and pretended it was an accident. All of her classmates were brittle and confused. They lashed out at each other as much as they harassed her, and Hayashi-sensee ignored it. He had stopped teaching them arithmetic and writing. Now he lectured with disquieting gravity on preparing themselves to meet their conquerors. His words made Kasumi feel small. She hunched her shoulders and hugged her knees when he spoke, literally shrinking herself. Often, lately, she skipped school altogether.
      To her surprise, her mother laughed. “It isn't for school, little one. It's for the party tonight. And today you can stay home with me.”
      Kasumi relaxed. She stood up to roll her futon and caught the steaming scent of barley from the kitchen. Her mother looked young today, she thought; she was sprightly and fresh in a white chima jeogori. Her long hair flowed in a braid down her back. Together they made half-moon cakes with beans and barley. “We'll pretend it's rice,” her mother said apologetically. She explained how, if they were in Milyang, they would be celebrating the first harvest on their land. Working through the warm morning, Kasumi felt calmer than she had in months. She began to hum along with some of her mother's tunes as she chopped the cabbage.

      That evening all of their remaining neighbors gathered in the small house for cakes and ale. The men sang bawdy tunes and played yut with dice. Outside, Lim Jung-Yeol and his brothers formed a small band with the changgo drum, the flute, and a zither. Kasumi's aunt taught her to dance to the lively music. She felt clumsy at first but soon she was outside whirling with the others, letting the beat carry her around the circle. Moonbeams caught embroidered patterns on the women's hanbok and highlighted their cheeks. She saw her father, in his loose fitting jacket and trousers, grab her mother by the waist. He spun her to the middle of the gathering and they danced together, hopping back and forth in their curl-toed shoes. For a long time Kasumi would remember this scene, a radiant blur of laughter, music, and colored lamplight.

      Somebody must have put her to bed, because she awoke on her futon much later that night. Her parents were talking beside her.
      “Is it really so much better here?” her mother was saying. “Why can't we go?”
      “It's impossible.” Her father's words were slurred. He sounded irritated.
      “But why?”
      “What would we do there? Everyone is sick. There is no good farmland. There's no money.”
      “There's no money here.”
      “We don't have a choice.” He spoke the words like a threat. Kasumi heard only silence after that.
      When their breathing steadied she left the room and went outside. The moon was high in the sky, cutting a perfect white circle out of the darkness. In its gleaming orb, she could see the maiden her mother told her about. The girl was smiling, happy to be home after her time growing up on earth. Kasumi shivered. She was still wearing the light fabric chima jeogori. Seeing all of the houses sleeping around her, she craned her neck so her face was prone to the sky. She began to sing a song of her mother's, a forlorn tune that wove eerie notes in a pulsing, rising time:

Arirang, arirang, arariyo
Arirang gogaero neomeoganda.
Nareul beorigo gasineun nimeun
Simnido motgaseo balbyeongnanda.
Arirang, arirang, arariyo

Arirang, arirang, arariyo

I am crossing over Arirang Pass.
My lover has abandoned me here
He will not walk even ten li before his feet hurt.
Arirang, arirang, arariyo

      Her voice grew louder, she sang wildly, feeling herself spin under the vast, motionless sky. She was magic; she was powerful; she could see herself growing, rising above the world. She crooned with the passion of a thousand lovers and their grief, as if she could bewitch the night, as if the voices of her ancestors were pouring from some deep vein within her, casting a potent, haunting spell.

Cheongcheonghaneuren byeoldo manko
Urine gaseumen kkumdo manta
Jeogi jeo sani Baekdusaniraji
Dongji seotdaredo kkonman panda.

Just as there are many stars in the sky,
There are also many sorrows in my heart.
There, over that mountain, is Baekdu Mountain,
Where, even to the last days of winter, flowers bloom.

Brittany Goss has writing published or forthcoming in Joyland Magazine, Bellingham Review, and Grasslimb Journal, among other places. She earned her MFA in fiction from Colorado State University and currently lives in Brooklyn, where she is finishing a collection of short stories. She can be found on Twitter and on her blog, Write or Bust.

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