Edward Choi watched through the window as his daughter dug up the hotel yard. She was obviously not thinking about her dead mother. The sun was rising on the other side of the island, and with the glow from the lamp behind him, he could refocus his eyes on his reflection in the glass. On the express ferry from Busan, he had spent several minutes staring at his drooping muscles. He felt sure he had looked better as few as three weeks ago, before Min-ji mysteriously suffered a stroke at thirty-five years old (American age) and died. He could not believe she had done that to him. Now he was left with Soo-young and this trip to Jeju-do, the Hawaii of Korea, which was supposed to be for his six-year wedding anniversary.

Soo-young was burying the bones from last night’s hotel barbecue. She had hidden them from her father in a plastic bag behind the suitcase her mother had given her. She liked to squeeze herself into the pretty pink bag whenever she thought she could get away with it, but lately the opportunities were too frequent to be appealing. That morning, she had woken up early and put her gardening plan into action. She had dug, carefully, a hole deep enough to submerge the bones but not so deep that a puppy couldn’t climb out. Tomorrow, according to her best friend’s experience, dogs would grow from the planted bones, and she might be able to convince her father to adopt one.

When she was finished, she returned to the room and sat down on the floor. Edward continued looking out the window. He was thinking of the time he and Min-ji were caught in a storm off the coast of Australia, on their honeymoon; the next day, walking around some pristine island, he couldn’t get rid of his ship legs, and she had helped him down to the beach where the water once again surrounded him, and they had snorkeled among millions of colored fish that seemed to treat them like two floating stones, and then had drifted, with the riptide, against the waves and back out to where their sailboat was anchored, finally climbing back aboard and going down to their cabin to make love for the fifth time as husband and wife.

Appa,” Soo-young said, and he realized he had let her out of his sight—they spoke Korean because Min-ji and he had yet to get around to teaching her English. She would soon be able to outspeak her father, if they didn’t switch languages, if they didn’t move back to America.

“Yes?” he said.

Soo-young didn’t say anything. Edward watched as she trembled.

“Are you hungry?” he asked.

“What are we going to do today, Appa?”

He said it was a surprise. He hadn’t looked at the guidebook. Inside, Min-ji had circled attractions she had planned for them to see, and looking at the blue rings after her death seemed too recklessly sad. He decided they could drive around and his daughter could point out things to see or do along the road. She looked just like her mother as she stared back at him, tiny appendages and a triangular face that dipped, like the keel of a boat, into her chin.

Once in the car, Soo-young quickly grew bored of fiddling with the radio, adjusting the air flow, locking the doors, opening and closing the windows—waiting for her father to reprimand her, which he didn’t do. Finally she asked where the guidebook was and he gave it to her. It was in English. He told her he had bought it the last time the three of them had returned to Connecticut to visit his parents, just after she was born. She waited for him to continue but he didn’t. He didn’t look at her. She was getting used to this new silence, not the same as her father’s normal reticence. She flipped through the guidebook. Only a few words were in Korean. She studied the marks her mother had made. “My-ste-ri-ous road,” she sounded out in Konglish.

To Edward, Soo-young had seemed to become more and more his daughter as she had aged, as he caught her tapping the table or biting her nails the way he did. He remembered the tiny, red baby she had been, almost like a toy when asleep. Even in the hospital, he had admired the way his wife had held her: not afraid the baby would break, belonging to Min-ji but not belonging to her. He hadn’t known a thing about children. He continued to teach English at the university and bring home money they didn’t really need. Min-ji gave up sailing to take care of their daughter. She was the one who held Soo-young’s hand as they crossed the street, who chose her outfits. At night, Min-ji read her the stories Korean children learned. Edward would crouch outside the door, listening to his wife. Soo-young’s favorite was about a heavenly maiden and a woodcutter. Once upon a time, the story went, a woodcutter saved a young deer, and in return, the deer told him a secret: the heavenly maidens bathed at the foot of Diamond Mountain. If the woodcutter stole one of their outfits, he could make that maiden his wife—she couldn’t leave without her clothes. The woodcutter went to the lake and was married to the youngest maiden. After their third child was born, he trusted his wife with her clothes, but as soon as she put them on, she ascended, one child in each arm and the third held between her legs. The woodcutter searched for the deer again and was told to go back to the lake—into which the maidens now dropped a bucket for their water—and hold the rope when they pulled it up. The woodcutter did this and was allowed to stay. After a long time, though, he feared that his mother would die without seeing him again. His wife lent him a dragonhorse on which he could fly to earth, but he was not to touch ground or he could never return. He found his mother alive and happy to see him. She offered him a bowl of porridge, but he took it carelessly, and it burned him. He dropped it on the dragonhorse, which reared up and left him. He was transformed into the rooster, who climbs up to the highest point to crow at the heavens.

Appa,” his daughter was saying. Daddy.

Min-ji had spoiled the kid after all, he thought. After all those fights about raising a normal, well-adjusted child, she had bought the girl everything her money could buy, changing how they lived. “What?” he asked, in English. “Wae?”

Goonyang,” she said. Nothing. He laid his head against the headrest.

Soo-young, too, had done her share of remembering since her mother’s death. The images she saw felt close and fast, like cyclists going by, as if she could easily reach out and grab them but knew she shouldn’t. When she remembered how her family used to travel, for instance, she sensed her mother’s smile, and the shape and feel of her mother’s back, on which she was carried when she was younger, and the way a strange new place with her parents always made her feel safe even though they worried about her more than usual. When she remembered the story of the heavenly maiden, she remembered the family had been together and the father had come to them there and should not have left.

But she couldn’t express any of this. What she identified was a desire for a puppy: a white jindo with pointed ears and a black nose and eyes. She imagined picking it up and holding it in her cupped hands as if in a pocket. She looked out at the mountains with a real sense that it was somewhere in the distance, this one thing that she could actually explain to her father she wanted.

She wasn’t thinking about how her mother had been born into Korean money, and how her father had tried to prove his American love to his in-laws. She didn’t know these stories, in part. She didn’t know her father had invested his life in her mother’s life, overseas. She didn’t know what a piece of her mother, in her, could do to her father, kill him and then bring him back, only to be killed again.

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.

He nodded.

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.

As they drove home, he remembered the last time he had believed his wife loved him more than she loved their daughter. They were in Thailand, soon after Soo-young was born. He and Min-ji sat outside on the porch of their bungalow, looking out at the ocean. The water was blue under the moon the way it always was in Thailand, and the wind was starting to change directions, blowing back out across the water. He wanted to order a “happy” pizza, and let the high from the marijuana take them out onto the sand, but the baby was inside in her crib, asleep.

Min-ji moved next to him on the wooden swing. He could smell the damp, live, biological smell of the beach and what washed onto it. She put her hand between his thighs. “We can do this,” she said, “even without a pizza.”

“We can do this?” he asked.

“We can always do this,” she said, knowing how sensitive he was when he thought she didn’t want him. They played the game they had made up the last time they were in Thailand. “My jealousy,” he said, taking off his pants. “My fear that you will leave me,” she said, unhooking her bra.

When they had both stripped clean, she said, “Okay. I want it. Order the pizza,” and led him to the hammock from which they could look into their baby’s window. “Quietly,” she said. He loved what the drugs did to her. “This is the last time,” she said, and it was.

On the way back from the mysterious road, Soo-young fell asleep in her father’s arms, sitting on his lap as he drove, holding him as he carried her to bed. She dreamed of his red face, the red palms of his hands. She floated in the ocean while he stood on the beach, watching, growing larger and larger. She waited for him to grow big enough to reach out from shore and sweep her back into his arms. She knew she wasn’t a strong swimmer and she needed both hands to stay above water, but she desperately wanted to wave to him. Then she realized she wasn’t swimming at all, and she let the waves cradle her body. She let them rock her back and forth, up to heaven and down to the bottom of the sea and back.

Edward had fallen asleep as well, his daughter beside him, his wife buried, when he heard the noise outside. He felt for his daughter’s head against his arm—still there. He got up to see what the sound was. He put his hands against the window glass, feeling the difference in temperature. What could possibly prepare you for this, he wondered as he looked out. How was he supposed to know what to do with her? He wanted to ask Min-ji just a few more questions. How would he know when Soo-young was ready to go into the world alone? How was he supposed to get her ready for that? He remembered the day he had decided to run out on his wife and newborn daughter, to return to America and not give everything over to his family. He had slipped out of bed and called a taxi to take him to the early morning flight he had booked out of Gimpo Airport. They got a few blocks down the street before he asked the driver to turn around. It was still dark out, but when he climbed back into bed, he thought he saw Min-ji’s eyes open. She never said anything about it, so neither did he, afraid to hear that she had seen him. Yet now that she was gone, he wanted to believe that she had done just that—she had known exactly how close she had come to losing him, and hadn’t blinked. As he looked out on Jeju Island from the hotel room he had booked for their anniversary, a stray dog trotted around the corner and turned towards the holes his daughter had dug that morning. It sniffed and pawed at the ground, and Edward waited to see if it would turn up whatever his daughter had buried.

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