Daisy was the middle sister. She was in charge of bad ideas. Jennifer, the eldest, was tasked with revising and developing these bad ideas. Ena, the youngest, simply did what she was told. More often than not, Daisy managed to force her sisters into the adventure that would get them whipped later by their mother. More important, she managed to steer them toward danger without ever being blamed for it later. Her sisters’ strange amnesia allowed her, forever and ever, to do the most damage and yet suffer the least consequences. And this afternoon was no exception. The girls wandered through their house, looking for any object that might fetch a fair price, anything that they could sell.
Their mother was long gone, off at five in the morning to clean the houses of people so rich that Daisy imagined them simply as rays of pure light. She would not be home until seven at the earliest, so the sisters, freed from school, thought of this window of time as purely their own, no one to lay claim to it, no one to dissuade them from whatever they wanted.
Daisy laid out a silk sheet, decorated with an ornate gray-and-red dragon. Her mother had not brought it with her from Japan; it had been given to her by a man who had pursued her until he found out about Daisy and her sisters. Anything in their tiny house that spoke to their Asian heritage had come from white people, as if they thought their mother needed to be constantly reminded that she was Japanese, as if any of them could forget.
When they rode the bus, when they shopped for groceries, when they walked up and down the halls of their school, they were always the only Asian people. They were used to the strange way that people would stare so openly at them, at how out of place they were, and then, as if by some magic trick, the way that they became invisible to those same people, forgotten, not worth the effort of remembering. The few times that they had seen another Asian person, always an adult, never another child, they felt an instant gratification, that they weren’t alone. But the adult would regard them, Daisy and her sisters only half-Japanese, their almond-shaped eyes, their olive skin, their hair dark brown and wavy, and then turn away without a second glance. “We’re not Japanese enough for them,” Jennifer had explained to Daisy and Ena. “What about white people?” Ena had asked, and Jennifer laughed so loudly that a few other people on the bus had turned to look at them. Jennifer shook her head and then said, “We’re definitely too Japanese for them.”
Daisy’s own father, who had met her mother when he was stationed in Japan, had brought her to Nashville, sired three daughters, and then ran off to Denver, Colorado, with less than a good-bye. They hadn’t heard from him in two years since he sent Daisy a card for her seventh birthday, not a single dollar to go with it. Daisy had set it on fire, and then she and her sisters stamped it to ashes in the driveway.
Their mother had demanded obedience, manners, deference to their elders, but they were so poor that the sisters couldn’t figure out what good manners would change about their circumstances. And their mother was so tired from her work that she eventually gave up; she let them turn slightly feral, beating them only to slow them down, not to stop them.
Each time one of the sisters found something good enough to sell but negligible enough that their mother would not notice its absence, they placed it atop the silk sheet, and soon they had a decent pile of goods, among them a chipped coffee mug they’d stolen from a Waffle House, back issues of Teen Beat, a fake ruby ring, a Canadian penny they had found in the pocket of a jacket at Goodwill, a can opener, a rubber-band ball, a Ronnie Milsap cassette that had belonged to their father, and a kikoi cloth skirt that one of the rich ladies had given to their mother but which she had never worn, the colors so garish that it could be worn only on vacation. Daisy gathered up the corners of the sheet to make a bag and listened as the contents shifted around as she gathered it up.
“How much do you think we can get for all of this?” Daisy asked Jennifer.
“I don’t know,” Jennifer admitted.
“A hundred dollars,” Ena suggested.
“Not that much, you idiot,” Daisy said.
Ena, undeterred, not the least bit fazed by cruelty, then said, “Enough so that we can each buy a Dana doll?”
“Maybe,” Daisy finally allowed, the desire for a brand-new Barbie so strong that she believed that she could talk this bag of random wares into cash.
. . .
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