In this installment of Page 69,
we put Kelly Luce’s Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail to the test.
OK, Kelly, set up page 69 for us.
Page 69 falls right in the middle of a story called "Pioneers." It's about a married couple living in Japan--the wife, Yumiko, is Japanese, the husband, Lou, is Canadian. They're struggling with infertility and Yumi's previous abortion, as well as the installation of an unwanted western-style toilet (and accompanying work crew) in their apartment. Right before we get to this page, Yumiko and Lou spend a crappy day at the beach, and hope the work crew will be cleared out by the time they return home. Yumiko recalls Lou's least favorite thing about Japan: the bosozoku, or "noise gangs" and a time he climbed onto the roof and threw eggs at the bikers.
What Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail is about:
will introduce you to many things—among them, an oracular toaster, a woman who grows a tail, and an extraordinary sex-change operation. Set in Japan, these stories tip into the fantastical, plumb the power of memory, and measure the human capacity to love.
Do you think this page gives our readers an accurate sense of what the collection is about? Does it align itself the collection’s theme?
This page does hit on some of the book's themes. The absurd situations one finds oneself in when living in a foreign country--Lou would probably not be throwing eggs at teenagers or sleeping on the roof back in Canada--and the fragile web that is marital communication. The fact that Lou and Yumiko were raised in different cultures, and talk to each other in his native language, not hers, adds layers to the relationship that were fun to peel back. Communication and connection--or lack thereof--comes up a lot in these stories. Many of the characters have a deep sense of longing: longing to know the future, even if it means listening to a psychic toaster ("Ms. Yamada's Toaster"), longing for a lost sibling so strong it's literally transformative ("Rooey") and the dual longing to be unique, yet part of something that--who knows?--might lead one to grow a tail.
Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail
After some confusion and yelling, the roar of engines faded. Smiling in the dark, she thought: a Japanese man would never have done that.
“He took out the toilet!” he called.
“Yeah,” Yumiko said slowly, “he mentioned putting a new one in.”
“You knew about this?”
She shrugged. “Only since the morning. It will take a little longer, but won’t it be nice to have a normal, you know . . . king’s chair?”
“Throne. It would be nicer to not have my house torn apart.”
“Miura-san thinks he was doing something nice for you.”
“I don’t need a special potty because I’m a gaijin.”
“It will be nice for me too, recently most places don’t use—”
“And he’ll expect me to be so grateful,” Lou went on, and bowed deeply, throwing his arms out to his sides.
“Yes, I’m so indebted to you, I can’t use my kitchen, my apartment’s flooded, and everything reeks.”
“We could go to my parents’ home. They really— what?” He was staring at the metal ladder that led to the roof, looking suddenly enlightened. He said, “No. We’re definitely staying here.”
“You have an idea.”
“We’ll move onto the roof.” He rubbed his hands together.
Kelly Luce's story collection, Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail (A Strange Object) won the 2013 Foreword Review’s Editors Choice Prize in Fiction. Her work has appeared in the Salon, O Magazine, Crazyhorse, American Short Fiction, Electric Literature, and other publications. She’s the editorial assistant for the O. Henry Prize anthology and editor-in-chief of Bat City Review. She hails from Illinois and currently lives in Austin, TX.