Friday, May 15, 2015

Watchlist Countdown, Day 26: “Dinosaurs Went Extinct Around the Time of the First Flower” by Kelly Luce

      Mr. Ukaga wanted her on the horse again.

          from “Dinosaurs Went Extinct Around the Time of the First Flower” by Kelly Luce

Mr. Ukaga likes to watch. Mr. Ukaga is a repeat customer (“always the same love hotel, always Tuesday”) and though Tara admits she’s bad at escorting, there is something about the man which makes her say yes to his requests again and again. He’s a family man living a double life in Tokyo, but Mr. Ukaga also has a fetish which Tara (a Canadian Jew who slid sideways into this call girl gig) agrees to indulge: he likes to take Polaroids of her lady parts. Kelly Luce’s story in the Watchlist anthology is graphic in its description of the love-hotel rendezvous, but Luce (author of Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail) also manages to drill down to the heart of her characters with very little fanfare or throat-clearing. Tara wonders what Mr. Ukaga does with all the photographs--does he keep them hidden in a shoebox somewhere, does he post them to secret online fetish groups?--but in the end, she realizes it doesn’t matter because she’s found rebirth in the very click and whirr of his Polaroid camera: “It was strange: ever since Mr. Ukaga had started taking the pictures, she’d felt different. Not just more visible but more solid. As if he were bringing her to life with his gaze.”

Watchlist: 32 Short Stories by Persons of Interest, edited by Bryan Hurt, will be published by O/R Books on May 21.  The “persons of interest” contributing short stories to the anthology include Etgar Keret, Robert Coover, Aimee Bender, Jim Shepard, Alissa Nutting, Charles Yu, Cory Doctorow, David Abrams, Randa Jarrar, Katherine Karlin, Miracle Jones, Mark Irwin, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Dale Peck, Bonnie Nadzam, Lucy Corin, Chika Unigwe, Paul Di Filippo, Lincoln Michel, Dana Johnson, Mark Chiusano, Juan Pablo Villalobos, Chanelle Benz, Sean Bernard, Kelly Luce, Zhang Ran, Miles Klee, Carmen Maria Machado, Steven Hayward, Deji Bryce Olukotun, Alexis Landau and Bryan Hurt.

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