Sneak Peek of She Is Haunted, a debut story collection by Paige Clark

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She Is Haunted

“Many Elizabeths appear in [She Is Haunted]. They are zany, tender, slyly wise, and always enchanting. I laughed! I cried! And I winced knowingly along as they plunge into the mysteries of diasporic identity, intimacy, and loss.” —YZ CHIN, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

! e l t i t s i h t f s l o o o k t e e e h t p h t k i a w n.) e t u n s o y a la r scree y e h o t j En n change of you m a o c t t u o o (Y top or b stories at the

Paige Clark


She Is Haunted

“Many Elizabeths appear in [She Is Haunted]. They are zany, tender, slyly wise, and always enchanting. I laughed! I cried! And I winced knowingly along as they plunge into the mysteries of diasporic identity, intimacy, and loss.” —YZ CHIN, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY

stories

Paige Clark


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Additional Praise for She Is Haunted “With this cohesive and tantalisingly interlinked collection of 18 stories, Paige Clark presents her readers with a unique voice and a spirited way of expressing each character’s narrative. Covering themes of family relationships, grief, intimacy and connection, this mercurial yet relatable work of fiction will instantly appeal.” —Kate McIntosh, The Readings New Australian Fiction Prize shortlist 2021 “This book is a true original, with skilled, delicate power and an unforgettable mix of raw humour, fantastical digressions and melancholy insight… This is one of the most enjoyable, memorable Australian books of this year.” —Michael Williams, The Guardian, “A Best Book of 2021” “Unexpectedly tender and witty. Fans of Crying in H Mart and On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous will love this collection of stories for its depiction of transnational Asian identities, grief and family. I loved Clark’s ability to subtly draw the reader in and leave them in a web of complexities.” —Rachel Brewer. Carmichael’s Bookstore “This book is quietly hilarious, even as Clark contemplates serious topics like abortion, jealousy, climate change, and the rise of anti-Asian hate amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the characters grieve— the loss of a loved one, the end of a relationship or job, the absence of their culture in a new home—and devise elaborate plans for redemption… I can’t wait to read more!” —Mary Wahlmeier Bracciano, The Raven Book Store “A wondrous spirit animates She Is Haunted. In sentences of bracing snap and clarity, Clark’s stories delight and amuse, even as they expose tender truths and secrets. An astonishing debut.” —Wells Tower, author of Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL


COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL “She Is Haunted is electrically original in both prose style and energy. Fans of inventive fiction such as Elizabeth Tan’s recent Readings Prize-winning Smart Ovens for Lonely People or Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties will find much to admire about She Is Haunted, but this collection will also resonate with anyone drawn to stories of identity and connection, especially female friendships and mother-daughter relationships. An absolute pleasure to read.” —Stella Charls, bookseller at Readings Carlton “This seamlessly connected collection of standalone stories focuses its perceptive lens on the lived experiences of women exploring death through life, and life through death. Clark walks sharp lines between truth and rejection, innovation and tradition, fate and contingency, with casual intelligence and deep emotional resonance. Every story reads like a thought experiment, or a fragment of self; hyperreal, philosophical, and rich in non-generic symbolism.” —Nanci Nott, ArtsHub “Paige Clark’s debut collection She Is Haunted might just be one of the best books of the year… Haunting is exactly the word that I would use to sum up the effect of reading this book; even a week after closing its final pages, I still think about re-reading it.” —Emily Paull, The AU Review “Everything about She is Haunted, including Paige’s absence from social media, makes you think. The book is a collection of tender stories detailing grief, trauma, female relationships, and Paige’s Asian identity. It’s her story, fictionalised and told through the lens of many different characters.” —Steffanie Tan, Pedestrian “She is Haunted lingers as a mediation on hard times and relationships that hums with a sharp intelligence and black wit, drawn with a complex emotional palette.” —Jo Case, InDaily COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL


COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL “Aching and disquieted, urbane and oblique, Clark’s is a humorous, wiry voice: a mix of high and low culture, boppy registers and jibes and sudden intrusions of seriousness; epiphanies (occasional); poignancy (often frustrated). Many of the Asian characters are only nominally so—they are hyphenated, diasporic… She Is Haunted is the strongest fiction debut I have read all year. —Declan Fry, The Sydney Morning Herald “Comprising eighteen short stories, Clark’s collection of fiction braids the real and the surreal. Perspectives are skewed playfully but an intent to explore serious matters often lies beneath the whimsy.” —Thuy On, Sydney Review of Books “In their originality and shocking excellence these stories reminded me of the mahi of Pip Adam and Sharon Lam… Many of the characters are living in strange states: brain modification, dementia, delusion, intense self-deception. Some are ghosts peering in on the living… Many of the stories are centred around Chinese-American or Chinese-Australian characters, and contain familiar themes of generational differences in immigrant families and the loss and recovery of native languages. Clark has a particularly deft touch in illustrating complicated mother-daughter relationships that range from strained to downright cruel.” —Elizabeth Heritage, The New Zealand Herald “The stories in She Is Haunted grapple with a mix of timeless human problems and uniquely contemporary dilemmas: grief, illness, identity, and heartbreak, but also who gets custody of the dog after a break-up, bureaucratic responses to deeply personal relationship issues, and the politics of food. Paige Clark writes with wit, warmth and nuance, using precise, playful language, giving us a collection of (sometimes embarrassingly) relatable characters, sneaky insights and surprising bursts of joy.” —Emily Maguire, author of Love Objects and An Isolated Incident COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL


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She Is Haunted stories

Paige Clark

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WHO WE ARE Two Dollar Radio is a family-

run outfit dedicated to reaffirming the cultural and artistic spirit of the publishing industry. We aim to do this by presenting bold works of literary merit, each book, individually and collectively, providing a sonic progression that we believe to be too loud to ignore.

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All Rights Reserved ISBN4 9781953387202

COPYRIGHT4 © 2021 BY PAIGE CLARK

Library of Congress Control Number available upon request.

Also available as an Ebook. E-ISBN4 9781953387219

Book Club & Reader Guide of questions and topics for discussion is available at twodollarradio.com

SOME RECOMMENDED LOCATIONS FOR READING:

Near a dog you can pat, or, pretty much anywhere because books are portable and the perfect technology!

AUTHOR PHOTO4

Marcelle Bradbeer

First published in Australia in 2021 by Allen & Unwin

COVER PHOTOS4

scissors: Vladimir Sukhachev/Shutterstock.com hair: Winai Tepsuttinun/Shutterstock.com

ANYTHING ELSE? Yes. Do not copy this book—with the exception of quotes used in critical essays and reviews—without the prior written permission from the copyright holder and publisher. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means. WE MUST ALSO POINT OUT THAT THIS IS A WORK OF FICTION. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s lively imagination. Any resemblance to real events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

This book was written on the lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. Sovereignty was never ceded.

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For all the Elizabeths who have lived through this and more

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Table of Contents

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross........................................................ 3 Lie-in................................................................................... 11 Gwendolyn Wakes............................................................ 25 Safety Triangle................................................................... 47 Times I’ve Wanted to Be You......................................... 59 In a Room of Chinese Women....................................... 67 Cracks.................................................................................. 83 A Woman in Love............................................................. 95 Conversations with My Brother about Trees.............. 119 Private Eating................................................................... 129 Why My Hair Is Long.................................................... 139 The Cranes....................................................................... 145 Amygdala.......................................................................... 157 She Is Haunted................................................................ 167 Snow Angels.................................................................... 185 Fortune............................................................................. 191 What We Deserve........................................................... 199 Dead Summer.................................................................. 225 Endnotes.......................................................................... 233 Acknowledgements......................................................... 235

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She Is Haunted

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Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

I make a deal with God. He stands on my veranda and asks after my husband. We’re not married, I say. God was passing by, admiring the horses, when he saw the man in the field. A handsome man, God says, but much more than plain handsome—­​strong too. His hands are as thick as two decks of cards shuffled together. The horses are well trained. I twist a bit of hair that has fallen in my face. I am twenty weeks pregnant. My lover is mild. Every night before we go to sleep, he gets down on both knees. He holds his hands together and they do not shake. God, those are my horses and that is my lover. We made a baby together and that baby is twenty weeks old, I say. That pinto is a good horse, even-tempered, he says, but the man is better. I’ll take him. I think God must be lonely. His face is not what I expected. His eyes are kind but they shine with early tears. I have so much. What about the baby? I ask. You won’t keep your end of the deal, God says. You’ll want the baby. 3

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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL But I need the man, I say. A baby could be nice, he says. Lucky you’re patient, God. Until then, he says. He eyes my belly. On his way down the driveway, he stops to admire the horses again. He runs a thin, silver hand along the truck parked at the gate. I lock the door, but I am unsettled. I want my lover safe. We can make another baby. When that baby is born, it will bounce on my lover’s knee, practicing. One day the baby will be big enough to ride the horse in the field. That pinto doesn’t spook easily. See, I’m patient too. I’ll wait for God. My lover pats down the horses and feeds them each a piece of black licorice. God was generous when he made this man. He comes inside and lights a fire and I go to draw the curtains. Out of the corner of my eye I catch God mounting the pinto. He rides it in large loops through the field. Our house radiates with warmth but God does not knock to come in. Before he says his prayers, my lover pats my stomach with wide, flat strokes. When the baby is born, he says, we will be happy. I thought we were happy, I say. I am, he says, but I can’t wait. For what? I say. For God’s little miracle. Don’t joke, I say. I thought you didn’t believe in God, he says. I remember the deal, made in hushed tones so as not to disturb the man in the corral. I remember God circling our house, riding that majestic horse—­​its black and white spots flashing in the wheaten sky. 4 | Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL — Oh, God. I made a mistake. Can we make another deal? I told you, God says. I knew you couldn’t keep your end of the bargain. I knew you didn’t like deals. God is smug. He didn’t come to check on me. He came to check on his baby. He asked me for a cup of tea—­​white with two sugars. My lover wants the baby, I say. I’ll lose him without it. Then you’ll have it all, God. Is that what you want? What about the dog? Do you think the dog compares to the baby? What will you do with my baby anyway, God? They’re a lot of work. I’d take good care of a baby, God says. God, you know that’s not what I meant. What about my mother? She is old but she is fit, I say. She is mostly good company. She has a red-hot wit and a knack for making dessert. You don’t even like your mother, he says. Nobody likes their mother. Don’t worry. You two will have the best time. She won a competition once for her pav. The baby kicks, but I do not put hand to stomach. The baby will be a lot of work, but my mother, she is easy, I say. I don’t know if she seems easy, God says. I think she might be more difficult than the baby. I’ll try her out. If I don’t like her, then we’ll talk again. At her funeral, I am fat with child. My brother gives the eulogy. He only lies a little. She was a fantastic mother, he says, and an even better grandmother. She was very good with shortcrust. Paige Clark | 5

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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL My face is red and wet. By all accounts, I am sad. After the service, mourners gather around me, drinking cups of lukewarm tea—­​ white, no sugar. They talk about my mother’s perfect health. She had a soft spot though, I say, for meringue. I waddle through the grieving, one hand in my lover’s. The other I leave on my large belly. I glow. I’ve made a good deal. I think about God. I hope they’re okay. In the viewing room, I take my mother’s stone hands in mine. Mama, you are cold, I say. You’ll never meet my baby. I remember my mother standing in the kitchen, her face pink from the heat of the oven. I could have been a pastry chef, she said. Her hands were cold even then. I bathe in relief. No take-backs, God. She is ready for the ground. God called me on the phone. Goddamnit, I say. How did you even get my number? I looked it up on the internet. You know how to use the internet? Your mother taught me. The baby is restless. I feel her turning inside me. She does not like to hear from God, but I’ve got him on the phone and he’s wanting. You probably know why I’m calling. I know, God. How is my mother? She’s a lot of work actually. I need something to entertain her. What about the dog, I say. The dog could work, he says. Maybe the cat too. 6 | Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL My lover digs a grave for the dog and a grave for the cat in the corral near a large tree. The vet came round last night and said there was nothing more he could do for either of them. He said they’d both be dead by morning. My lover suspects the neighbor. He’s poisoned them, he says. They were both in perfect health. I look out to our field. The pinto runs untroubled. I am accepting. I stoop to pat the dog one last time but my big tummy makes me unsteady. Whoa, I say, careful. I’ll miss the dog, but I’m counting my blessings. At our last appointment, the doctor said my baby is as big as a pineapple. I’ll name her Eve. The cat died but the dog just won’t die. As soon as my lover made a hole in the ground, the dog got scared. I don’t want to hear from God. I try to coax that dog to death. Maybe the dog will make it, my lover says. He likes the dog more than the cat and more than my mother. He doesn’t like the dog as much as the baby. I am parked on the couch, a baby beluga. Die, dog, die, I think. My lover sits next to me and strokes my stomach and my big boobs. He wants to be my lover again but I can’t focus. I want that dog gone. Every day I think I’ll get a phone call or an email from God. Every day that dog lives I am nervous. Well, the dog died. My lover cries and buries the dog next to the cat. I cry too. I liked the dog. He was a gentleman. He never jumped on you to say hello when he had muddy paws. He didn’t smell too bad. God, do you like the dog? I ask, but God’s not answering me today. He must be busy with my mother and the dog and the cat. Paige Clark | 7

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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL I saw a mouse the other day. My lover set a trap. I remembered the cat then, her incandescent body slinking through the corral. Jesus Christ, I said, when I saw that mouse. My lover says maybe we should buy some things for the baby. We go to the baby shop and we buy a cot, a stroller, some diapers and some other things a baby needs. He builds the stroller and rolls it around the living room. I imagine him putting the cat in the stroller—­​a joke. There is no cat. There is no cat and there is no dog and there is no grandmother. We are a family of three. It is enough for me. Still, I can’t forget God, his white hair liquid behind him in the winter wind, riding that pinto through the field. Of course, he did not need a saddle. That horse is a good horse, strong with an even temper. There’s plenty of space for him to run in heaven. I wonder if we have a gun. My lover packs a bag for the hospital. It’s almost time, he says. It’s not that close to the time, I say. God, are we good? The baby is almost here. I don’t dare look down. But I can’t stop this baby from being born. It’s all part of God’s plan. My lover and I drive the truck to the hospital and I am sweating from pain and from fear. The doctors give me medicine because I’m green with dread and they think I don’t want to have this baby. My lover holds my hands steady. I want to have this baby. I want to love this baby. And I want to hear from God. I talk to him instead. Take the truck, take the house, take the horses if you want, take my job, take my lover’s job, take my 8 | Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL favorite tree in the field—­​the Wollemi pine we buried the dog beside—­​take my brother and his wife and their baby too. It’s only young! She still smells good. She can already crawl. Take me if you must. My lover looks at me with big black eyes and I know I am not doing well. I am not having this baby in the right way. I don’t know how to stop being afraid because God has the cat and the dog and my mother and he wanted my lover and my baby too. Why would he stop wanting them now? I haven’t. I can hear myself crying for God. That’s the thing about him. He doesn’t answer when you call. When he wants something, he takes it, and when you want something, he’s busy. He has a lot on his plate. He has to reprimand the cat for bringing in stray mice. He has to feed the dog and the dog is always hungry. He has to entertain my mother and she’s a real pain. I lied a bit when I said she was a good match for God. The nurse places my daughter in my arms. I stare at her miniature hands folded together. Now that she is here, I can forget about God for good. In the morning, we walk out of the hospital and into the parking lot. My baby is in my arms, wrapped in a woolen blanket. The sun touches her face for the first time. In the distance, I see our truck being towed. My lover curses under his breath so as not to wake the baby. She is so beautiful. She is so goddamned beautiful. I hope you like the truck, God. It is a good truck with worn leather seats. The air conditioning is new and the stereo goes loud. My lover and I drove it across this country once. We camped on the Nullarbor Plain and slept every night under the open sky. I’m sure you know what that feels like.

Paige Clark | 9

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With remarkable grace and an assured style, She Is Haunted masterfully grapples with charged mother-daughter dynamics, grief, exes, and the complexities of friendship in a debut collection of stories that range from competitive call centers to Chinatown restaurants.

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“She Is Haunted is a beautiful, brutal, and unsettling debut. Clark confronts agency, identity and longing with masterful precision and true originality—each story has its own skewed logic and wonderfully odd atmosphere. I can’t stop thinking about this stylish, deeply strange collection.” —KIMBERLY KING PARSONS, AUTHOR OF BLACK LIGHT “Paige Clark’s stories in She Is Haunted illuminate all of the corners of the heart— she examines her characters’ journeys through grief, envy, connection, and love, across nations, identity, and trauma. Her work has the deep honesty and precision of writers like Amy Hempel, Yoko Ogawa, and Alice Munro. A stunning collection.” —KAREN E. BENDER, AUTHOR OF THE NEW ORDER

“What a beautifully wrought collection this is. Paige Clark has a singular voice, witty and graceful, and her explorations of grief, loss, and identity are deeply moving. I will remember these strange, funny, melancholy stories for a long time.” —ALIX OHLIN, AUTHOR OF WE WANT WHAT WE WANT

“Quick-witted, astute, and deeply felt, Paige Clark’s precise and confident prose delivers us to the center of our most painfully fleeting yet necessary moments in life, surprising us with mercy and humanity.” —SARAH GERARD, AUTHOR OF TRUE LOVE “She Is Haunted kept me looking forward to a new story each day, with anticipation for something that would absolutely surprise me, make me think all the next day about how we operate as humans, as creatures, as lovers. Never predictable, riveting and trembling with the unexpected, this book is a remarkable debut, and Paige Clark a writer to celebrate.” —SUSAN STRAIGHT, AUTHOR OF IN THE COUNTRY OF WOMEN Printed on Rolland Enviro. This paper contains 100% post-consumer fiber, Printed on Rolland Enviro. is manufactured using renewable energy - Biogas ISBN 978-1-953387-20-2 This paper contains 100% post-consumer fiber, and processed chlorine free. 51799> is manufactured using renewable energy - Biogas and processed chlorine free.

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