‘Men and Dogs’ by Jess Row


From Five Chapters:

In Ati’s kitchen, her hands ghost-white with rice flour, Jihwon is telling the story of how, when she was eight, her brother jumped on top of her from the high branches of a pear tree in her uncle’s backyard in Pusan. She caught the full force of the impact on her lower spine, as if she’d bent over to give him a piggyback ride, and ruptured a disk that wasn’t properly fixed for years. All through elementary school she walked with a pronounced limp. Boys imitated her behind her back. It ruined her for sports, of course, but her teachers seemed to think it made her an idiot, too, and kept her in the low-performing classes, and it wasn’t until she moved to Seattle, and entered eighth grade, that she had the operation to repair the disk, and could play volleyball and take AP Chemistry.

She did those things, and then she applied to the University of Washington, and in her sophomore year she fell in love with her anthropology professor, a tall, shyly beautiful man with gold-rimmed glasses. They went for long walks together with his two Labradors. Eventually he took her upstairs to his attic study and slept with her. Afterward he stopped returning her calls. For your own good, he said. The next week she was eating lunch at the counter in the window of the natural foods store and saw him walking his Labradors with another girl in the class. That night she stared at herself in the mirror for hours at a time, and before long she found herself limping again.

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