Flowers of Mold by Ha Seong-nan, Janet Hong
English | 2019 | Short stories, Literary, Horror | ePUB | 3.0 MB
Ha Seong-nan is known for what the critics have termed “microscopic depiction.” Her early works, in particular, provide superb examples of her ability to use words to paint a meticulously detailed and finely nuanced picture of ordinary people and events without being verbose or sentimental. Beyond mere descriptive prowess, however, Ha’s works exhibit the author’s thorough understanding of her subject matter as well as the care with which she examines seemingly mundane and trivial events. Often, she does not rely on direct description of outward appearances or personality traits to visualize a character, but instead weaves a complex picture of memory, expressions, landscapes and surrounding objects that bring a character to life. “Flowers of Mold” features a man who searches through garbage for truth. Each bag of garbage bears a particular signature of the household that produced it, the man believes, but even after examining hundreds of garbage bags, he fails to establish a meaningful relationship with another human being
A jealous classmate tries to copy you and jumps from the swings. But she lands headfirst and begins to howl through her sand-filled mouth. Her nose is bleeding and her face is scratched up. Your homeroom teacher comes running.
“This is very dangerous! Who started this?”
All at once, every gaze is directed at you, but now the eyes are cold. After this incident, you never see anyone jump from the swings, at least not on the school playground. You don’t go near the swings again.
“Teacher, I want to fly, but the ground keeps pulling me down.”
You sit facing your teacher in the empty classroom after everyone has gone home. For the first time she looks at you very closely.
What a small child, she thinks. She recalls the woolen dress she recently bought; it had accidentally shrunk in the wash. Every feature is smaller on this child, just like the shrunken dress. Suddenly, an uneasy thought flashes across her mind. This child who wants to fly, what if she decides to take flight from a rooftop? The teacher shakes her head as if to dislodge this disturbing thought, but in her mind you keep falling from the school roof. The teacher looks into your small eyes and speaks, emphasizing each word.
“I want you to listen very carefully. Only birds can fly. It’s impossible for people to fly. You’re just able to stay in the air a little longer, that’s all. Can you tell your mother to come see me?”
Your mother comes home from work at seven o’clock every night, and if she misses even a single day, she’ll lose three days’ pay. For lack of anything better, your teacher makes you write “People cannot fly” over and over again on the chalkboard. Because you’re so small, your writing reaches only halfway up the board. The teacher stands behind you and thinks, So that’s why they call you Birdie.
When you enter middle school you push aside thoughts of flying; you’re too old to play on the swings, and you’re no longer naïve enough to confess your desire to fly. You learn more about this gravity that keeps pulling you down.
Back then it was the trend among students to write famous quotes on the covers of their notebooks. But instead of writing something like “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree,” you write, “The force of gravity between two objects is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.” You believe if people could escape the confines of gravity, they could fly like birds. However, you find even the task of simplifying the law of gravity difficult. You’re still smaller than the other girls. The average height of a middle school girl then was five foot two, but you’re a mere four foot nine.