Fables are often told in third-person, but instead of an authoritative tone, the first section is told like a tall tale where we’re not sure of the omniscience. Why that choice?
Maus: The interesting (and often tragic) thing about consciousness is its tendency to spin tall tales about the past. Even immortals are no exception!
Cass: I hate the idea of things being black and white. The world isn’t binary. Nothing’s exactly what it seems to be, so why pretend that one person or one narrator could possibly encompass the world in their perception?
I liked the shifts in slang and voice through the story as the two protagonists shift and change over time and place. This is often handled poorly or forced in short stories, but here it was very smooth and natural. Was evoking this kind of voice a challenge?
Maus: Not as much as we’d feared. In a way, this story is about the many facets of self—how our beings are necessarily a conglomerate of our experiences, and yet we pick and choose a subset to display at any given time. Cass and I have lived a number of different lives, in a way, and are no exception.
Cass: . . . we’re also both multilingual. Well. Maus is bilingual. I speak five languages. The idea of code-switching, too, is incredibly familiar to both of us. So, the idea of two immortals absently moving between language forms just seemed completely natural.
A life lived in a short story is fun to compress, but I’m so curious about the choices of what to leave out, including Sean’s marriage. It utterly changes his nature and life and yet we see only the impact of the wife in her absence and his fears. Why not include her as part of the narrative?
Maus: To be fair, wives can be pretty scary. Part of the reason is that when there’s so much to remember and so much that’s “been there, done that,” edits are just a matter of necessity. There’s a lot to be inferred by noting what’s said, and what’s not. Between friends, there’s a lot that’s just . . . understood.
Cass: Because it is their story and not hers. Like, I’m normally one of the first people who would bounce up and go, “Excuse me? Excuse me, but what about the damn wife/aunt/mother/sister?” But this is the story of two immortals and a friendship that stretches across long centuries. As much as the fox fell for her, she’s . . . the love of a single lifetime, and the maneki-neko has been his friend from the beginning.
I guess that’s also another part of it. In some ways, this story’s a response to how our society puts so much emphasis on romantic attachments, how it ignores the idea that platonic relationships can carry the same amount of importance. This tunnel vision has been instrumental in creating lonely people—so many adults find themselves suddenly starved of affection because all they do is work and go home to family, and that’s because we’ve been conditioned to believe that “best friends” and “posses” are childish things to be left behind with youth.
We end with a note of friendship between two immortals who get to know each other by forgetting each other (in the case of Sean) and leaving and coming back (in the case of maneki-neko). It made the price of being human seem worth it, which is often not the case in immortal stories about watching people die while the poor immortal lives on. I liked that choice to end on, but I wondered if there was any dialogue on how the story was to resolve itself between both of the authors!
Maus: None. Take that for what you will.
Cass: No dialogue. Just a natural understanding—we’ve been friends almost as long as the fox and the maneki-neko!
Spread the word!