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MOTHERLAND/Mm Jin Lee Tokyo, 1979 Etsuko Nagatomi loved all three of her children, but she did not love them all the same. Being a mother had taught her that this kind of emotional injustice was perhaps inevitable. By rnidmorning, Etsuko had finished everything she had to get done for Solomon's party and was sitting m her office in the back of the airy, birch-paneled restaurant. She was forty-two years old, a native of Nagano who'd moved to Tokyo foUowmg her divorce six years before, and she had maintained a youthful prettiness that she felt was important to being a restaurant owner. She wore her jet-colored hair in a chignon style to set off her lively, egg-shaped face. From afar she could appear stern, but up close her face was animated, and her smaU, friendly eyes missed nothing. She applied her makeup expertly, having worn rouge and powder since middle school, and the red wool Samt Laurent suit that Solomon's father, Moses, had bought her hung well on her reedy figure. Though Etsuko would normally have been pleased with herself for being so ahead of schedule, today she wasn't. She continued to stare at the phone message from her high school-aged daughter, Hana, with an unfamiliar Nagano number (maybe a coffee shop or a friend's house since Hana was rarely at home or at school). Calls with Hana could take five minutes or an hour, depending, and Moses was coming to pick her up soon. Her boyfriend of five years was a patient man about most things, but he liked her to be punctual. Etsuko dialed anyway, and Hana picked up on the first ring. "I've been waiting." Hana's voice was reproving. "Tm sorry," Etsuko said. "I got the message a few minutes ago. And I can't talk long." Even though Etsuko was afraid of her fifteen-yearold daughter, she had been trying to sound more firm, the way she was with her staff. "Where are you?" she asked. "Tm four months pregnant." "Nani?" Hana repeated herself, and this time Etsuko waited to speak. In her mind she could see her daughter's large, unblinking eyes. Hana resembled the girls in comic books, with her cute, loltipop head and smaU, The Missouri Review · 9 girlish body. She dressed to get attention—short skirts, sheer blouses and high-heeled boots—and accordingly, she received that attention from all kinds of men. It occurred to Etsuko now that this was her unmet. Her ex-husband used to dismiss this idea of fate as a lazy explanation for the bad choices people made. But no matter; life had only confirmed her beliefs that there was indeed a pattern to it aU. To Etsuko, this had to happen because as a girl she had been no different. When she was seventeen she had been pregnant with Tatsuo, Hana's oldest brother. Etsuko and Hana remained silent on the tine, but the poor phone reception crackled tike a campfire. "I want to come to Tokyo right away," Hana said. "Why?" "What do you think?" Etsuko took a moment to breathe, for she had literally forgotten to take in air. "Does your father know?" "Are you stupid?" "Hana—" Again she tried to sound authoritative, but it had no effect. Hana merely said that she'd take the next train to Tokyo. Then she hung up. Two years after the divorce, when Hana was eleven, she'd asked if they could talk to each other like peers, and Etsuko had agreed because she was grateful that her daughter continued to talk to her at all. Also, she agreed because when she'd been a girl she had lied to her mother and father about everything. But Etsuko found that being detached as a mother had its own burdens. She wasn't allowed to ask any prying questions, and if she sounded too concerned (something Hana hated), her daughter hung up the phone and didn't call for weeks. Etsuko had many regrets about her life in Nagano, but what she was most sorry about was what her reputation had done to her chüdren...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 9-26
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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