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After a while, they saw a sign for a lookout point, and Edward decided to drive up the hill to view the sharp drop of the coast and the dormant Mt. Halla in the background. It was a steep, one-lane drive. A single car descended, and for a moment, he considered driving straight at it and forcing it to pull over. The wind blew strongly and steadily from the west and a few bare clouds moved quickly in its flow; he let the car pass. Min-ji would have pointed out how it was a perfect day for sailing. She would have found them a place to look for yachts.
Soo-young was thinking of the weather for reasons of her own. The sight of sailboats would bring up mixed feelings in her for years—she had watched the boats off Songjeong Beach, in Busan, as her mother talked about how they curved into the water and the jib swung and the sailors ducked under the sail—but she couldn’t know this now. It would take her father a long time to begin to talk about her mother, how her mother had asked him for a date after her last English lesson, and with one bold stroke after another he found himself married to her. It would take Soo-young a long time to associate the wind with her father’s smile, and longer still before she understood why, since by then they would never visit beaches. She was thinking of the weather because she wanted to ask what happened during a blue sky, if heaven was in the clouds. She tugged her father’s sleeve, not worrying about how he wasn’t watching the road, or where they were, or were going. She waited for him to look at her.
“What?” he asked. “What is it?”
His sharpness made her forget her question. She wanted to twirl her hair now, but she knew her father didn’t like that. She was afraid of having nothing to say, so she asked, “Why do dogs chase cats?” It was a question she used to ask her mother.
Her father sighed. “Dogs and cats used to be friends, but then the grandfather cat laughed at the grandfather dog when the dog was trying to help him. Don’t you remember the story your mother told you?”
A moment passed, and then he asked if she was thinking of her mother.
“Yes,” she said quietly, though she wasn’t sure. She didn’t know why it hurt to answer. She put her hand against the window and felt how cold it was.
Edward stopped the car, and they got out. In the sea to the left were two rocks facing each other, and behind, on land, was a large rock formation that legend said had been ripped off the top of Mt. Halla by an angry god. In the sea to the right was Mara Island, where the first settlers had burned the trees to create farmland. “Look at that,” he said, pointing. He tried to say it was okay to think about her mother, as Soo-young ran closer to the edge.
“You can’t choose what you think,” he said.
He was relieved when she seemed to forget the whole thing. He stood beside her, to make sure that she was safe. She pointed to the pay binoculars. He put in a coin and lifted her to the lenses. As he held her, he remembered the trip to Indonesia after the tsunami—all those men and women and children without homes. They had left Soo-young with her grandparents, that time, and asked for as much money as Min-ji’s father would give them. They joined a construction team and helped build houses. He remembered Min-ji’s ease around the broken-down, the sure way she made them see, in her soothing voice, that things were never that bad (maybe they didn’t understand this but they seemed to feel it). Now he wondered how she had done that.
“What can you see?” he asked Soo-young.
“Halla-san,” she said, looking through the binoculars. She laughed, her mouth thrown open. He stared at the dark hole in the mountain through which everything they were standing on had come from, like pulling the earth inside-out.
“What do you see, Appa?” she asked.
“I see your skinny legs,” he said, trying to joke.
When they got to the mysterious road, the sun was setting. A dozen cars lined the side or coasted slowly over the pavement. He opened the guidebook, at last, and studied his wife’s blue circle. The Mysterious Road was a strange phenomenon, the book said, where things rolled against gravity: uphill. He turned back to the cars.
“What are they doing?” his daughter asked.
“Watch and see.”
The car in front of them moved slowly backward, uphill indeed, toward his front bumper. They both seemed to be pointed downward. He let go of the brake and started drifting back too. Farther ahead, a few people gathered around a water bottle, others eyed the cars, and an old man poured soda on the ground; they watched the streak of liquid and the cars and the water bottle all defy the laws of physics.
“Do you see?” he asked his daughter.
She was already out the door. He pulled the emergency brake and followed.
Soo-young stood by the men rolling the water bottle.
“Beautiful girl,” one of them said to him.
He didn’t answer, as afraid to say, “She takes after her mother,” as he was for them to hear his waeguk accent.
“Can I try?” Soo-young asked.
From where he stood, he could see the road continue to dip down into a slight valley and then rise up into a hill. The men, and his daughter, stood just in front of him on the downhill part. Behind him, a car that was rolling uphill, against the decline, pulled off to the side, and a young couple got out and pointed a camera at them.
Soo-young lifted the bottle in her hands. “Now, Appa?” she asked.
She dropped the bottle and it rolled slowly back towards her father. “Ha-sah!” she said, raising her arms at this small victory, that she too could make this happen. He watched her limbs grow longer and her body age into a teenager, then an adult, then an old woman.
“Can we take a picture?” she asked, becoming herself again. She gave their camera to one of the men. Edward looked at her again, his brave, outgoing daughter, and wanted to cry. He lifted her up, up, onto his shoulders, and she slipped her hands over his eyes. He couldn’t tell when the camera flashed. He waited for her to say it was over, to take her hands away so he could see again.