Father and Son 


Father and Son 

The bus galloped across the wintry plain. There were only five people on board: the driver and the bus girl, Chu-ch'ol, his wife and Chu-on.  
"So what happened to Yun-gil?" Chu-on asked with an air of contrived concern. Chu-ch'ol stared out the window, pretending not to hear. The frost-covered pane distorted the world outside; the mountains, the clouds, the fields, the trees along the side of the road, the rivers, the villages, they were all refracted in dizzying patterns. Grizzled patches of snow lingered on the mountain slopes. The clouds were a murky gray, heavy with snow. Piles of straw dotted the fields, and a bleak morning fog hung over the dark brown earth, which lay plowed and fallow for the winter. The trees lining the road twisted occasionally, their gaunt branches stretching into the empty sky. Like an invading army spewing cannon fire, the bitter cold had reduced the land to a desolate ruin. The mountains and rivers were dying the way all living, breathing things die in the microbes or poisonous gas released by an attacking army.  
Hye-suk sat huddled to Chu-ch'ol's right, feigning sleep, her face buried deep in her muffler. Chu-on sat to his left, across the aisle. For some time, Chu-ch'ol had sensed Chu-on's eyes groping the back of his skull, across his ear and left cheek like a cockroach's feelers. A shiver ran through his body. He obviously didn't come for Chu-man's funeral. He's after Yun-gil. Rage surged inside him. His stomach and chest burned. Was it the anger or the beer? His stomach felt hollow, as if he was getting hungry, and all of his energy seemed to be seeping away. He had eaten a bowl of haejangguk before boarding the bus, but it hadn't calmed his stomach. If only he had something to drink.  
"I'm going to have to give that boy a good talking-to. He's in big trouble if he gets much further out of line."  
Chu-on seemed to have been waiting for the chance to say this. Earlier in the ride he had taken out a cigarette; he was still pinching it by the filter, rolling it back and forth between his thumb and forefinger. His eyes rested for a moment on the tip of the twisting cigarette, then darted to Chu-ch'ol's face again. Chu-ch'ol could feel his gaze. He's toying with me, he thought. How am I going to get rid of this ungrateful bastard? He clenched his teeth, bearing down on his rage as he turned Chu-on's words over in his mind. If he gets much further out of line... Was Yun-gil out of line? But how had it started?  

"Water flows as dynamic energy, and any force that obstructs it is reactionary energy. So what about you, Father? Where does your writing fit in?"  
It was nearly sunset on a Sunday afternoon, in the autumn of Yun-gil's freshman year in university. Chu-ch'ol had practically dragged his son from his room, where he had been ensconced for the day, and taken him to the mineral springs on the hill behind their house. They sat down to rest in a patch of eulalia grass. New stamen were just beginning to sprout, round and hard like scabs forming over a scratch.  
Chu-ch'ol pointed out the trees and plants to his sonΑthe alders and cherries, the juniper, birch and beech trees, the poplars and oaks, the bush clover, azalea and rhododendrons. He explained the unique character of each species. He told the story of the mountain reeds, the eulalia, the scouring rush, the asters and the wild chrysanthemums. Man gives names to all things in this world, he explained, and using their proper names helps us understand them and initiate a spiritual exchange.  
Chu-ch'ol wanted to instill a sense of artistic sensitivity in his son, a history major. It wasn't so much that he wanted Yun-gil to choose a career in literature. He simply wanted to cultivate in his son the eye of a scholar, in other words, the perception and wit needed to see directly into the heart of all phenomena.  
Literature isn't the only field that requires artistic sensitivity. Politicians, businessmen, academics, merchants, bureaucrats, people in the judiciary, doctors, industrialists, laborers and farmers all needed it as far as Chu-ch'ol was concerned. He had always believed that such sensitivity was beneficial not only to the individual, but to society and the state as well. If politicians ruled with artistic sensitivity, the country would be a more open and hopeful place to live. Judges and prosecutors would better understand those living on the other side of the law, and criminals could expect sympathy and would no longer need to worry about unreasonable punishment. A patient treated by a doctor lacking in such sensitivity would clearly suffer, and laborers would be exploited at the hands of insensitive management. Chu-ch'ol had always thought Einstein's extraordinary discoveries, Churchill's grand politics and Kennedy's youthful vision were born of their artistic sensitivity.  
Be that as it may, his son's question took him by surprise. Stunned, Chu-ch'ol stared at the clouds floating between the tops of the eulalia grass. "Reactionary"ΑIt was the term that stunned him. When he was a boy, the village children had taunted him for being the "reactionary's brat." A reactionary was someone who stood on the side of forces resistant to change, someone who raised obstacles to the dynamic driving force of the proletariat revolutionΑno simple middle-of-the-roader. It was only after reaching adulthood that he understood what it really meant.  
Chu-ch'ol's father had been a farmer who worked his own land in their home village of New Town. With two and a half acres of paddy and nearly five of dry field, he was the richest of the tideflat villagers; the rest worked less than a half acre of paddy and only an acre or two of dry field, or lacking that, depended on fishing or seaweed cultivation for their livelihood. As a result, the propertyless villagers who had joined the South Korean Workers' Party labeled Chu-ch'ol's father "a hindrance to the creation of a new society where the wealthy's land is redistributed to the needy."  
"Wait a minute. Where is your 'dynamic energy' supposed to be flowing anyway?" Chu-ch'ol asked.  
What was Yun-gil thinking? The wind shook the tops of the bush clover. The eulalia grass rustled metallically. The mountain shadows were beginning to settle, pale and purple, over the grassy spot where they were sitting. A desolate silence fell over the woods. The autumn wind made Chu-ch'ol feel lonely. He was frustrated by the mood his son was creating.  
"That's such an obvious question," Yun-gil replied. An awkward smile played on his lips as he stared down at the short stalks of cogon grass sprouting beneath his gray tennis shoes. Maybe he regrets asking me about my writing, Chu-ch'ol thought. It's my fault if he does.  
"I guess you're right," he said. "But do you know why I asked? Because your question reeks of Marxism. Apparently you've been reading a lot about Marx, Lenin and Stalin these days... but to tell the truth, I don't care much for them."  
Chu-ch'ol regretted his words immediately. Here he was, a father trying to talk to his son, and he came right out and said he didn't care for the very people his son respected.  
"So if my father rejects someone, I have to reject them too?"  
Yun-gil reacted just as Chu-ch'ol had expected. His face hardened, and a gloomy look, dark as the mountain shadows, settled over his features. Why am I so tactless with this boy? Chu-ch'ol bit his tongue in frustration. Yun-gil was a quiet, thoughtful child. What little he did say ran deep and unseen, like an iceberg. He took after his mother in that respect. Chu-ch'ol often got in trouble for his flippant remarks to Hye-suk.  
"I'm not saying you have to reject who I reject. I'm just saying I don't care for their materialistic interpretation of history, the way they define human history as the history of class struggle. I'm for a free market economy. I think capitalism is better than communism in many ways. It makes life easier for people. It makes true human liberation possible."  
Chu-ch'ol babbled worthless theory. He simply wanted to clarify his own position and turn his son around, if, in fact, the boy was leaning toward Marx and Lenin.  
Yun-gil glanced at his father, then stood up.  
"Shall we go?" he said with an awkward smile. Eyes focused on the path, he started down the hill ahead of Chu-ch'ol. His gait seemed heavy, laden with discontentment. His movements spelled loathing and rebellion.  
"You'd better keep a close eye on your son once he's in university. Make sure he doesn't get involved with the student activists."  
Chu-ch'ol recalled the advice of a professor friend. Suddenly he felt dizzy. His face flushed at what Yun-gil had said about his writing. Maybe his son had already joined the student movement. Chu-ch'ol felt as if Yun-gil and his new friends could see right through him. He had tried to reflect the pain of Korea's alienated masses in his poetry, but each poem ended there; he never tried to touch the masses or offer any real solutions.  
Chu-ch'ol was forever the bewildered captive of a contradiction only he understood.  
As a child growing up in New Town, Chu-ch'ol was accustomed to his status as the rich man's son, but when he left the village to attend middle school in the city, he soon realized that he was really the son of a poor man. His classmates' clothes, their spending habits, lunches and books all proved it. Chu-ch'ol rented a room and had to cook and clean for himself. His school uniform was made of muslin dyed and sewn by his mother, and his winter underwear was stuffed with thin cotton wadding and quilted at home. His lunch consisted of boiled rice and barley, with a spoonful of bean paste or spiced anchovies on the side. He had only his textbooks to study from, no reference books or dictionaries like the other students. Snacks were an unthinkable luxury, there were no special treats to take on school picnics, and he missed the senior class excursion because his parents didn't send the money. Such were his middle and high school years, then he went to Seoul for university, but there too he was forever running out of food. He felt inferior to classmates who didn't suffer like him and he detested people of great wealth. Still, when he returned to New Town, he was the rich man's son. There was no getting around it. None of the other villagers could afford to send their sons and daughters to school the way his father had. They were dirt poor.  
From a logical point of view, Chu-ch'ol's rich boy-poor boy contradiction was hardly a problem. It was simply a matter of changing the way he thought. The rich man's son was no more than a big fish in a small pond. Far better to admit he was the son of a poor farmer and fisherman and stand on the side of the impoverished masses wherever he went. As time passed, however, he came to think like a member of the bourgeois elite. He may have sung of the masses in his poetry, but he loathed the idea of them ruling the world for he knew that they would attack him as a pallid intellectual. He knew he would feel terribly wronged if they levied heavy taxes on the wealthy, in effect nationalizing all property.  
In addition to the house he was now living in, Chu-ch'ol owned a plot of orchard land valued at 100 million won. His wife had inherited it from her parents, and she and Chu-ch'ol were thinking of selling it one day to finance overseas studies for one of their children, something along those lines. But if the impoverished masses came to power, Chu-ch'ol might lose that precious possession. Even if it wasn't confiscated, he had the sneaking suspicion that he and his family would not enjoy their present comfort. Chu-ch'ol resented being included among the ranks of the "haves" because of his middle class fixation on security, but, while hardly becoming a poet, it was a natural enough response for an ordinary man.  
Thanks to Chu-ch'ol's stubborn contradiction and the orchard land, the clash with Yun-gil was unavoidable. Their differences surfaced the morning after Chu-ch'ol bailed his son out of jail.  
Yun-gil had been picked up for participating in a sit-in that had stretched on for several days. As it was his first offense and he wasn't deeply involved in any key organizations yet, Yun-gil was released into his parents' custody after they promised to take responsibility for him and provide proper guidance. It was well past midnight by the time Chu-ch'ol got Yun-gil into a cab and brought him home. Hye-suk was waiting by the front gate. Yun-gil hadn't slept or eaten properly during the sit-in, so his parents simply fed him and sent him to bed without showing any emotion. The next morning they woke him a bit after eight and gave him breakfast.  
"Why don't we have a talk?" Chu-ch'ol suggested as he sat down across from the boy when he finished eating.  
"I wish you'd leave politics to the politicians and get on with your studies. Change has to come gradually. This idea that you can get rid of obstacles, everything you don't like, by physical forceΑall this stuff about revolutionΑit's just no good."  
Chu-ch'ol had stayed up all night composing a detailed speech, but he was rambling now. Even he found his argument feeble. It wasn't going to convince Yun-gil of anything.  
"You kids are like saplings just beginning to grow. You have to cultivate yourself if you want to grow strong and tall. If you rush out and get involved in the labor movement or some anti-American democracy demonstration, you're just wasting time that you should be using to study. That's no goodΑnot for you or the nation and the people. I'm not saying your sacrifices and dedication are meaningless. I just think they'd be a lot more meaningful if you waited until you've grown. I mean, throwing rocks and shouting slogans through a cloud of tear gas can be meaningful, but becoming a bookworm who studies in the library can be just as meaningful, even if the other students look down on you for it. Actually, it might take more courage to be a bookworm than to throw stones."  
Yun-gil listened in silence, his eyes fixed on the floor in front of him. When Chu-ch'ol finished, the boy shook his head slowly.  
"I'm sorry, Father," he began in a low voice. "Your logic typifies the deceptive appeasement measures of today's so-called intellectuals. It simply echoes the fraudulent governing logic of our rulers."  
Chu-ch'ol was speechless. The morning sun bounced off the window frame and spread an amber light across the room like the ribs of a fan. Hye-suk was standing with her back to the door. When did she come in? he wondered. She hadn't slept or eaten for days. Her face was gaunt, her lips chapped. Shadows hung like dark purple bruises in the triangular hollows beneath her eyes.  
"I can't believe he's our son!" she sighed bitterly as she turned her head to the ceiling.  
"Who knows? Maybe the spirit of one of your enemies, or someone who hated Grandfather, has descended on me. Parents may give birth to their children physically, but they can't give birth to their spirits. Why do you even try to pretend to understand? Why do you try to get involved? It'll just break your hearts. Forget about me! You may have given birth to me, but I don't belong to you. In the end, my body belongs to the wretched masses of this land."  
Then the son began lecturing the father on political economy.  
"You may call me a communist sympathizer, but I believe Marx was right in many cases. He was right about the conflict between the relations of production and forces of production and how it forms the root of the historical change that brings about human liberation. He was right about the connection between conflict, confrontation and class struggle. It's already been clearly proven. During the feudal period, the bourgeoisie was the dynamic class representing the forces of production, and the aristocracy was the reactionary class, right? In monopoly capitalism, the proletariat is the dynamic class, and the bourgeoisie is the reactionary class. In the collision between a dynamic and a reactionary class, the dynamic class always wins. It's inevitable, all part of the great flow of history. The problem lies with the forces that resist the natural flow of history. In a class society, the state invariably strengthens its bureaucracy, courts, police force and military, and serves as a mouthpiece for the interests of the ruling class.  
"In the clash between the forces of production and the relations of production, the ruling class uses a variety of measures to maintain the status quo. One method is to mobilize the state's legal force. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean physical force. First, the state attempts to conceal class exploitation and suppress consciousness-raising within the dynamic class. When that fails, it is forced to mobilize its legal forces. That's why the struggle between the dynamic and reactionary classes is never restricted to the economic arena. It always becomes a struggle for political power. Lately that's what our new rulers have been trying to do."  
From time to time Yun-gil paused to moisten his lips. The light from the window glistened off them as he spoke. His pale, swollen face reminded Chu-ch'ol of a patient with kidney disease. A sharp, metallic pain pierced his chest. He felt an excruciating regret, as if he had discovered parasites on the branches of a chestnut tree that he had carefully watered and fertilized.  
"I've read those books," he replied, his features crumbling like fragments of a broken pot. "I know that theory backwards and forwards, how Lenin developed the concept of a dictatorship of the proletariat, how the proletarian masses are supposed to rule until the people's consciousness has been raised, and how the 'reactionary' bourgeoisie will be purged."  
Chu-ch'ol's heart fluttered nervously as he spoke. He paused to light a cigarette.  
"I know it too," his son replied in an icy tone. His eyes were fixed on the floor still.  
Chu-ch'ol swallowed hard."Well then, you must have read all about the communist countries that are even more rigid and hierarchical than the capitalist societies they despise... And you must know that the Soviet Union and communist China are actually trying to introduce capitalist reforms..."  
Hye-suk was still standing at the door. She looked back and forth between her husband and son. An even darker shadow had descended over her face now. She moistened her blistered lips, and interrupted in a pleading tone.  
"Do you really think a few kids can change anything? Do you realize how many people have been crippled and died for dreams like yours? There've been hundreds like you since Korea was liberated from Japan, but they just come and go like the morning dew."  
"You keep out of this," Chu-ch'ol snapped. he turned back to Yun-gil.  
"When I was your age, I was tempted by that sugary idealism too, but I gradually came to realize that it's all a lie. The communist countries have all launched ruthless purification campaigns in the name of their two-bit liberation, and they're all creating a new class society within their planned economies. I think a system that promotes the gradual creation of an ideal world, within the context of a free market economy, is better than a system that forces change. Classes exist under all forms of government, and left to themselves, they fall into a pyramid. I'm for a free market system that would lift the people at the lowest echelon to the middle to create an egg-shape. This can't be achieved through class struggle. It has to be achieved gradually, the way a tree grows, on the basis of the stability we have now."  
Chu-ch'ol flushed. I sound like some kind of government spokesman, he thought. But what could he do? Those were the ideas he'd been brought up on. His son grinned and spoke in sympathetic tone.  
"You needn't say any more. You must feel awful. I understand the contradiction you face. I know how it's tortured you over the years."  
Aghast at her son's impudence, Hye-suk looked at the ceiling and laughed.  
It wasn't long before Yun-gil was forced into the army because of his involvement in demonstrations.  
Winter's first snow fell the day he entered boot camp.  
"Why does he have to go to boot camp in the middle of winter, of all times? It's not fair. I knew this would happen... from the moment he started acting up." Hye-suk was devastated. "Don't they see that they're just a bunch of idealistic kids? Why can't they give them a little leeway and try to guide them in the right direction? Why are they giving them such a hard time? I can't believe this! How can they do this? How can they drag someone off and force him into the army in the middle of winter?" Spittle gathered at the corners of her mouth.  
Chu-ch'ol tried to comfort her when she returned, teary-eyed, from seeing her son off at the front gate of the army base.  
"It's all for the best. By the time he's discharged and returns to school, all his buddies will have graduated. He won't have a reason to demonstrate anymore. It's better this way. They've actually saved him from getting in worse trouble, from going to jail or getting expelled. I know it's cold and it'll be hard going but... He'll just have to suffer through it. After all, it's all of his own doing. It's part of growing up. Don't let it get you too upset."  
Yun-gil never wrote home. All they got was a mimeographed note from the commander of an infantry company on the front line: Private Pak Yun-gil is presently serving under my command and performing his sacred obligation to the defense of his nation. He is in good health. There is no need for concern. Thank you.  
After a year in the army, Yun-gil came home on leave. The following year he returned once more, then a few months later he was discharged.  
Each leave lasted twenty days. He spent the entire time holed up in his room. He seemed to be writing something, and judging from the paper he discarded, it wasn't poetry. It looked like he was writing a novel.  
"I guess you were right," Hye-suk said with satisfaction. "Army life really has made him grow up."  
But Hye-suk was wrong.  
Chu-ch'ol was seized by a disturbing premonition from the moment his son came home on leave. Something wasn't quite right. He pretended not to notice, for fear his wife would start losing weight and get fever blisters again, then one night before Yun-gil was scheduled to return to the base, he snuck into the boy's room to talk.  
"I have a feeling you're hiding something from me. You know, I've always been very sensitive. You seem to be having a hard time in the army. Why don't you tell me about it? I know someone high up at army headquarters. Maybe I could pull a few strings for you."  
Yun-gil was seated with his back to his father. All Chu-ch'ol could see was the back of his son's crew-cut head. Suddenly Yun-gil spun around and shot a murderous look at his father. The whites of his eyes shone with a bluish glint. His pupils reflected the light like the steely blade of a knife. He pressed his lips together for a moment, forming deep dimples at the corners of his mouth, then spoke in a low, pained tone.  
"Just try it and I'm deserting."  
Chu-ch'ol didn't know what to say.  
It wasn't until after Yun-gil was discharged that Chu-ch'ol learned why his son had become so spiteful. He didn't hear the story from Yun-gil himself; his son's girlfriend told him.  
Yun-gil had been assigned to a reserve infantry regiment on the front line as soon as he finished boot camp. That was when the t'aekwondo training had begun. After learning a few basic moves, Yun-gil was sent into matches against better-trained opponents. Agile and fierce as wild beasts, they beat him relentlessly, pounding him until he collapsed. It wasn't long before he became a vicious monster himself. He had to if he wanted to survive.  
Yun-gil returned to school immediately after his discharge. Soon he didn't bother coming home at all. He'd had a heated argument with his father. Chu-ch'ol had kept scolding and advising, advising and scolding, all with the best intentions, but father and son ended up arguing. Yun-gil refused to accept anything Chu-ch'ol said. He snarled at his father, spitting and glaring like a crazed cat. Helpless to control his own resentment and anger, Chu-ch'ol slapped his son several times across the face with all his might.  
"Get out of here! You can drop dead for all I care!"  
Yun-gil let out a snort. "Fine," he answered in a husky voice as he jumped to his feet. "I'm leaving this stinking reactionary dump!"  
And he stalked from the room without a backward glance. Overcome by the sense of defeat and rage boiling inside his head, Chu-ch'ol ripped off his undershirt, tore it to shreds and flung it to the floor. His skin was streaked with red as the rage coursed through his body.  
"I don't understand you," Hye-suk cried. "You're acting just like him! Why, he's only a boy! He hasn't even had a chance to recover from the army yet. Why are you acting like this? Can't you control yourself? Just wait! Do you think he's going to come back? What am I going to do? I can't take this anymore!"  
She's right, Chu-ch'ol thought as regret surged over him, but then he snapped back in anger.  
"Forget about him! Forget he exists! Remember? He's the one who said he belonged to the 'wretched masses'! Our ties to him are broken. We're not his parents anymore!"  
Chu-ch'ol went into the bathroom. As he washed his face and poured water over his head, he was seized by frustration and loneliness. The misery and self-hatred made him retch. He pressed his eyes shut and bit down hard on his tongue. Maybe his son was right. Maybe I'm just trash, all contradictions and conceit... Nothing more than a chunk of rotting flesh. Suddenly he felt like killing himself.  
It wasn't long before life returned to normal, though. After all, fathers and sons have their own lives to live, he thought. Who isn't swayed by life's contradictions? Everything begins in contradiction, conflict and confrontation. Life and death, creation and extinction, good and evilΑthe significance of all being lies in the pendulum motion between opposites. In the end, all things are one. Left is right and right is left. There is no left and there is no right. That was how Chu-ch'ol rationalized his actions. He tried to forget about his son and break free of those aggravating thoughts.  
On the night of the fourth day after Yun?il left home, Chu-ch'ol returned from work late to find Hye?uk upset by a visit she'd had during the day.  
"She was just a wisp of a girl, no bigger than a sparrow." Hye?uk's face twisted as she spoke.  
"She said Yun?il sent her. I couldn't believe it when I saw her. What is wrong with him? He's gone too far! That girl... why, I couldn't stand the sight of her行her face, her hair, her clothes... She couldn't be more than four and a half feet tall, and she's skinny as a rail. Her skin's rough and drawn, and she has so many freckles it looks like someone poured black sesame seeds on her face. She's got these frog eyes行and they're the only thing about her that sparkled! Her forehead and cheekbones stick out, her cheeks are hollow, and her lips are thin and tight.  
"She's smart enough, I guess, but there's not a hint of femininity in her. She could have worn something a little prettier, but no... she was wearing a baggy old tee shirt on top of a worn?ut pair of blue jeans and torn sneakers. Her hair's kind of brown, and cut... not exactly in a pageboy or short like a man's. It's not even permed... It's just cut in patches, like a rat gnawed it. And her hands are rough, like she's been pulling grass or digging around in the dirt. Why, she looked like some kind of factory worker! No, I take that back. I don't think you could find a factory worker dressed like her in this day and age.  
"Anyway, I figured as long as she was here, I might as well ask her a few questions, so I sat her down and asked her about Yun?il. You know, where he was, and does he have a place to stay, and is he getting enough to eat, and is he going to school... Anyway, you would not believe that girl! She referred to him as 'Brother!' Without the slightest hesitation! I couldn't believe it! She said he'd been staying in her room and they might get married someday. I asked what she did for a living, and she said, 'Me? I dropped out of school. I'm with the labor movement now.' She kind of laughed and then nonchalantly added, 'Brother and I think alike. In a former life, we must have shared the same body, like an earthworm. Everything fits just perfect.'"  
Hye?uk paused to see if he understood.  
"So what are you saying?" he demanded brusquely, avoiding her embarrassed gaze. "Are you saying we should run over there and get him?"  
"I know, but I can't accept a girl like that for my daughter?n?aw. The very thought of it makes me want to die."  
"Just forget about it. Our ties to that boy were severed long ago. What he does is his problem, not ours," Chu-ch'ol said. But in his heart he had already begun working on a speech to persuade Yun?il to come home. He decided not to tell his wife about his plan. No point in raising her expectations.  
Chu-ch'ol lay awake at night, turning his scheme over and over in his mind. Think of the dreams I had for that boy! I've got to make him understand this contradiction of mine. He's got to realize that it's part of me. Yes, that's what I'll do. I'll go to him, and we'll open up and say what's on our minds. We'll find some kind of middle ground.  
Chu-ch'ol stole the girl's address from his wife's note pad, then went to her house late one night a few days later.  
As he gazed out the taxi window, he saw the moon slipping by, suspended between the roofs. Round as a ripe pumpkin or an advertising balloon floating high in the sky, it reminded him of his son's face. When Yun-gil was a baby, Chu-ch'ol used to take him to his hometown to see his mother. The old woman would bounce her grandson in the air and exclaim, "He looks just like a bright shiny moon!"  
The moon made the dizzying labyrinths of the city seem much larger. It awakened him to the existence of a distant, infinite vastness on the other side of space. There was more to the world than what was found here on earth.  
It was late autumn. An unseasonable rain had fallen during the day, and as evening progressed, the wind had grown cold. The clouds had scattered, and finally, the moon peeked out. The asphalt was still wet; ginkgo leaves littered the ground like yellow butterfly corpses. The fluorescent light of the street lamps streamed down in icy threads. Chu-ch'ol felt a flash of warmth at the thought of seeing the child he had abandoned. When Yun?il had the flu as a little boy, Chu-ch'ol would lay his hand on his forehead, hot as a brazier stone, and say, "You'll just have to wait it out. Your body's trying to grow more quickly. That's why it hurts so much."  
Chu-ch'ol believed that. Spring rains brought warm breezes, late autumn showers prompted winter's arrival. Children lost weight when they were ill, but once recovered, they gained quickly, growing by leaps and bounds. When old people caught a cold or the flu, they got more gray hairs and wrinkles. His son was suffering from an illness called youth now. The ordeal would provide him with an opportunity to mature.  
Yun?il agreed to see his father, but he was clearly annoyed by the visit. He refused to meet somewhere quiet and cozy, like his girlfriend's room or a restaurant; instead he insisted they meet in a wine stall on the corner of a major thoroughfare, exposed to the damp, cold wind.  
"The food at these stalls is outrageously overpriced, but I make a point of drinking here. These people can't afford to rent even the shabbiest little bar, so they're stuck on the streets. I figure I'm doing a good deed, giving them my business like this."  
Yun?il chuckled expansively as he perched himself on the long wooden bench. The proprietor of the stall, a squat man in his early forties, welcomed them with a good?atured smile. As Chu-ch'ol sat down beside his son, he thought how naive and arrogant Yun?il sounded. The boy speaks with the self?ighteousness and superiority of someone who thinks he's one of the chosen, he thought. After all, Yun?il had always been an honors student. He had gone to only the best schools, and people were always raving about how intelligent he was. But did he have to flaunt that sanctimonious attitude in front of his father? The little jerk is trying to get back at me for slapping him!  
They ordered chicken gizzards, roasted eel and mussel broth to eat with their soju. Back in Chu-ch'ol's time, young men turned to the side when they took a drink before their elders. Yun?il was insolent by comparison, gulping down the liquor as he sat straight and proud in front of his father. Chu-ch'ol hadn't had a chance to teach his son drinking etiquette. It was too late now. He refilled Yun?il's empty glass, almost as if he were a friend or acquaintance from school, and as he did, he recalled how he had cared for his son when he was delirious with fever as a child. "There's nothing to be afraid of," he said, squeezing the boy's hand and smiling. "Everyone has to be sick sometime. It's part of growing up."  
A gust of wind whisked under the sides of the tent covering the wine stall. Chu-ch'ol felt the chill run through his body. A dark cloud of steam and smoke rose from the eel the proprietor was roasting for the customers next to them. He turned the eel over with a pair of thongs. The man's face was deeply wrinkled. The flame in the kerosene lantern hanging over the table writhed in the wind. Milky white steam rose over the kettle of mussel broth. The people next to them smoked as they talked. Their conversation, peppered with swearing, suggested they were boiler workers. The thin man in a brown jacket with the dark stubble and unwashed hair spoke in the Cholla dialect. His companion, a lanky fellow with a Ch'ungch'ong accent who, while similar in age, seemed insecure, chimed his agreement to everything the Cholla man said.  
"Let's go home," Chu-ch'ol said. "I'm your father. I can't leave you here like this, and you can't turn your back on your parents forever, just because we disappointed you once. I know it sounds funny, but neither of us have had any practice at this father and son business. I guess the understanding and love shared by a father and son grow out of situations like this."  
Chu-ch'ol rambled on, almost as if he were talking about someone else. His son took a noisy slurp of mussel broth before he spoke.  
"I'm sincere when I say this, Father. I always thought you were the greatest dad in the world. You were the one who gave me the courage to leave home in the first place.... Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to mock you. It's just that... Life is a form of suffering, a kind of penance, I guess. And no one can pay penance when they're cooped up like a hothouse flower. That's why I can't go back with you. How can I save the suffering without sharing their pain?"  
As Chu-ch'ol listened, he sensed a profound distance separating them, as if his son, who was right beside him, was sitting on the opposite side of a vast river. He felt as if his voice would never reach his son's ears, no matter how he shouted, as if the words would simply scatter, meaningless, into the air. It wasn't only his relationship with Yun?il. All his relationships seemed empty: his marriage, his relationship with his daughter, a sophomore in university, his relationships with the president of the publishing company where he worked, with the other editors and staff.  
"I understand. It's up to you. But I have a couple of requests to make. First, about that girl you've been seeing... Just think of her as a friend. Don't plan on marrying her. A woman has to look gracious, you know, pretty and good?atured. A marriage affects more than the bride and groom. You have to think of the children!"  
Chu-ch'ol figured he might as well achieve at least half of what he had set out to do that evening, but Yun?il shook his head.  
"Father, let me make this perfectly clear. I'm the one who's going to live with the woman I choose to marry, and the children she bears are going to be my children."  
"Listen here, young man! She's more than your wife! She's going to be my daughter?n?aw, and the children she bears are going to be my grandchildren!"  
That was what Chu-ch'ol wanted to say, but he couldn't.  
 "All right, I understand," he said. "Let's say you're right. There's one more thing. I don't want you to get involved in any extremist activities. Violence is unforgivable, no matter what. I despise the radical left and communist sympathizers. I hate radicalism. Whether it's Marxist class struggle or liberation theory or Leninist revolution or the dictatorship of the proletariat行I'm against it all!"  
Yun?il glared at his father. His eyes narrowed to knife points. A venomous blue light streamed from them, piercing his father like tiny needles. Chu-ch'ol shuddered. Yun?il shook his head again and chuckled as if it was all too absurd.  
"So now my father's trying to make me out as the communist!" he snorted. "You've got me all wrong, Father. I merely sympathize with their ideas. I'm just advocating the overthrow of reactionary bureaucrats who oppose the great flow of history. We've got to get rid of the foreign powers who treat our bureaucrats like personal servants."  
"You know that's the communists' logic, don't you? And all those terms you're using行they're almost all pro?ommunist!"  
Yun?il's eyes narrowed once more, streaming blue venom.  
"Why shouldn't the people advocating democracy borrow a few of the communists' good points?" He said in a patient tone laced with sarcasm. "The communists often use terms like democracy and freedom, just like we do. Creating a better life for the poor, for those without, working on behalf of the laborers and farmers行do the communists have a corner on those ideas? Class clearly exists in our society. So why is everyone so suspicious of any discussion of it? Why is it pro?ommunist to talk about class?  
"Korean Christians have borrowed plenty of terms from Buddhism, things like devotion and emptiness. The Korean Bible is full of quotes taken from Buddhist texts. 'Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.' That concept comes straight from Buddhism行the idea of freeing captive animals and birds. And all that business about 'Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven...' That's taken from references to the pure?earted in Buddhist texts. But that doesn't mean Christians are Buddhists. No one thinks they're heretics. And yet, this so?alled free country of ours is riddled with preposterous taboos. We're all so afraid of being called communist sympathizers for using 'tainted' expressions like 'comrade,' or the 'propertyless masses,' or 'class origins,' or 'self?riticism,' that we end up using substitutes that are completely meaningless."  
"But Yun-gil, people like us, who are good but powerless, have to conform to reality. Remember that old saying: The virtuous man flows with the times."  
"What? How can you say we're powerless?" Yun?il snapped. The veins in his neck bulged. "We simply don't use the power we have. And why is that? Because of a few ridiculous preconceptions行the belief that we're all middle class, that our lives are fine the way they are, that nothing will change no matter who runs the government, the Korean people's fixation with security... These ideas have robbed us of our passion!"  
Chu-ch'ol didn't know what to say. As he gazed vacantly into his son's face, he thought of a swamp. Yun?il refilled his father's glass, then his own. "Perhaps you've had too much to drink, Father," Yun?il said as he emptied his glass.  
"It's a swamp," Chu-ch'ol sighed. "A muddy, boggy, frightening swamp that every decent human being in this country has to fall into at least once in his life. Just make sure you don't end up drowning. You have to get out as soon as you can... but you'll have to do it on your own."  
Yun?il was drunk too. "Oh, Father," he slurred. "You and your generation are just a bunch of romantics. You think my generation cares about nothing but ideological struggle, but you're wrong. We're fighting to transform this immoral society into a principled unified nation."  
Yun?il smiled awkwardly, then reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of newspaper folded into a small, thick square like the pasteboard cards children play with.  
"I may be a history major but I finally plucked up the courage to write something. It's called 'The Riddle Story.' Why don't you read it when you get home?" He placed the square on the table in front of his father.  
"Do you know what a riddle story is?" Yun?il asked. "It's a new literary genre I invented: a combination vignette-riddle. I was going to call it 'The Riddle Vignette,' but I changed the title to 'The Riddle Story.' I figured we should respect our mother tongue and use a pure Korean word."  
On the way home, Chu-ch'ol asked the taxi driver to turn on the overhead light, and, eyes bleary with drink, he began to read his son's story.  

* * *
The rats destroyed the family's peace. No one could sleep; everyone was a nervous wreck.  
The house sat in the middle of a field. When winter came, the rats flocked inside. At night, they thundered about, waking the family with their fighting and squeaking. From the day the rats moved in, the family couldn't sleep.  
The children were frightened by the rats banging and squeaking in the ceiling; they didn't want to sleep in their own room.  
"What? You can't sleep because of a few rats? Don't be silly!" the parents shouted as they herded their children back to bed. The children went to sleep, but during the night they returned, one by one, to their parents' room.  
The family bought mouse traps by the dozen and set them where the rats frequented. They baited the traps with pieces of beef gristle and squid dipped in sesame oil. They caught a few at first, but after one rat was captured in a trap, the others would not go near it. They seemed to smell the death of their comrades.  
Next they tried rat poison. They mixed it with the rats' favorite foods行rice, sweet potatoes, dried anchovies, cookies, and the like行then placed it near the rats' hideouts and scattered it in the crawl spaces above the ceilings in every room. They were going to wipe out the whole pesky lot in a single stroke.  
Their first attempt was a great success. The morning after they laid the poison, the parents found rats staggering around the wash basin and drain, bellies distended from the water they had drunk through the night. Several had simply stretched out and died. They collected the carcasses, counting more than a dozen all together. After burying the rats, the family slept soundly for the first time in a long time.  
"We should have done this from the very beginning," the father sighed.  
"Let's use poison again if they come back," the mother added.  
The rats returned on the third day and began making a racket all over again. The father and mother smirked knowingly and, the following evening, set about mixing the poison again.  
Things didn't turn out as they expected, however. The rats did not eat the poison. It was as if they knew that it would kill them. The parents stared in disbelief at the untouched heaps of poison. The children trembled with fear.  
How could they get rid of the rats now? There were so many. The rats flocked in, fifteen or sixteen at a time, squeaking and snapping, loafing about, chasing one another back and forth.  
So the family got two cats. They borrowed a large female from a relative who ran a shop and bought the second, a medium?ized male, at the market.  
They figured the rats wouldn't dare come in when they heard a cat. "The cats'll catch'em. We should have thought of this long ago," they thought. They were, however, sadly mistaken.  
The father sent the male cat into the crawl space above the ceiling. The mother tied the female on a string in the granary where the rats often played.  
The male cat fell from the crawl space and died with its eyes rolled back in its head. It had eaten the rat poison. The rats didn't go anywhere near the granary. They simply squeaked and scampered in the ceiling or along the eaves and roof as before. At some point, the rats learned to ignore the remaining cat's meows. In fact, the cat deserved to be ignored.  
The father and mother bought another cat to replace the one that had died, but it wasn't particularly effective. They couldn't send it into the crawl space with all that poison. They simply hoped it would chase the rats away. But it didn't work. Finally, the father and the mother gave up on cats and began looking for a surefire method to get rid of the rodents.  
By that time, the rats had come down from the attic and were chewing holes in the rice bags, leaving urine and droppings on the family's bedding, invading the closets, and gnawing holes in their clothes. The family spent their days maligning modern cats and cursing the rats.  
Then one day a well?ressed stranger with a large suitcase appeared at their door. He said he had, until recently, been a high government official and possessed an amazing solution to their problem.  
"I'm thinking of taking out an international patent," he said, "so don't tell anyone about this. It's a rat extermination system based on fratricidal logic."  
His amazing solution worked like this.  
"First, you need a large jar, then you make a balance by suspending a lever across the mouth of the jar, and you fasten chunks of tasty beef at each end of the lever.  
"Once the balance is fastened to the mouth of the jar, a rat climbs up to get the meat. He circles the top of the jar a few times, then screws up his courage and crawls out onto the balance to take a bite. The balance tips, and the rat falls into the jar.  
"Now, people say there isn't a man alive who won't pick up a knife and commit robbery after three days without food. As time passes, the rat's eyes begin to burn with a frightening glow. And then another rat goes after the meat and falls into the jar, just like the first one. After a day or two, the two hungry rats start trying to eat each other. The one who finally manages to eat his opponent is the victor.  
"It isn't long before another rat is lured by the smell of the meat and falls into the jar like the two before him. The rat that has already eaten one opponent devours the newcomer. And so it goes. The rat begins to eat his comrades, first one, then two, then three, then four... then ten, twenty, and so forth, until he realizes just how tasty his fellow rats can be. Soon he's mastered the art of killing on the first try.  
"Leave the jar for a year and the rat will consume nearly one hundred of his comrades. That's when you turn the jar on its side and release him. He'll eat nothing but rats after that.  
"And if you give him a shot of liquor or hallucinogens, it's even more effective."  
"That makes great sense!" the father exclaimed when the traveler finished. The mother and children clapped their hands and jumped up and down. The father and mother bought a jar so enormous the two of them could barely carry it. Then they constructed a balance just as the stranger had instructed. They placed two pieces of mouth?atering beef on each end of the balance and fit it over the mouth of the jar. So began their treacherous vigil waiting for the no?ood rats to turn into vicious cannibals. This time they patiently endured the rodents' squeaky commotion in the ceiling and yard.  
But readers, do you think the family's dream came true? The answer is located at the bottom of the editorial on page 2.  
* * *
Chu-ch'ol turned the newspaper over and looked for the editorial. At the bottom was the answer to the riddle.  

Fratricide is based on human logic, not the logic of rats.  

Chu-ch'ol got out of the taxi and trudged up the steep path toward his house, hands buried deep in his pockets. He smiled bitterly when he realized how miserable he must look: the stern patriarch deprived of his authority. The cold wind raced up behind him and sent the dead leaves scurrying along the path drenched blue by the street lamp. Just like the rats scrambling to devour their brethren, Chu-ch'ol thought. The logic of fratricide... the logic of rats...  

"Have you read that ridiculous riddle story? The one Yun?il wrote, I mean," Chu-on asked, as he finally stuck the cigarette in his mouth and flicked his lighter. Chu-ch'ol stared out the window, pretending he hadn't heard. He was lost in a dull confusion. Was his son really out of line? Or were the people who thought he was out of line the ones with a problem? Outside the window a wind, relentless as an army ready for battle, whipped the plain; the gaunt branches of the trees thrashed in the wind. Chu-ch'ol folded his arms across his chest and tucked his chin inside the collar of his sweater. The wind rushed through a crack in the window, a knife of cold. Grizzled flakes of snow mixed with the wind. Through the flakes, a village appeared, nestled at the foot of a low hill, as if wrapped in a winter muffler. At the entrance to the village stood an old spirit tree. Its leaves were gone now. It seemed to be waiting for something, eyes closed and quiet. Chu-ch'ol shut his eyes. His head filled with cherry blossoms floating on the chill breeze of early spring. White butterflies fluttered as they mated above a yellow field of rapeseed flowers. Clouds drifted over the mountains, the fields were shrouded in a misty haze, and sky larks soared above.  
Chu-ch'ol's toes ached. He had suffered a severe case of frostbite in the army. Eyes closed still, he wiggled his toes. The cockroach rose before him. It transformed into an enormous black phantom, overwhelming his senses. The ride from Seoul seemed like a long journey through a nightmarish tunnel.  

Night Train  

They had received a telegram: Chu-man, Chu-ch'ol's younger brother, was dead. His death gave them the excuse they needed. Chu-ch'ol and Hye-suk felt terrible: it was a shame to have to use poor Chu-man, but they did. Free from prying eyes at last, they rushed to catch the night train.  
For an instant, Chu-ch'ol was caught in a fantasy: he was departing on a journey to another world where he could cast off his troubles and feel completely unencumbered.  
As he took his seat, he made his usual bet. Whenever he traveled, be it far or near, on the bus to or from work, anywhere, Chu-ch'ol always made a bet: Would he meet someone he knew or not? It was a way of hypnotizing himself, of cheating time. If he ran into a familiar face, it meant something bad would happen, and if he didn't meet anyone, he could look forward to good fortune. The bets filled him with expectations, much like setting out the pieces for a game of go. Perhaps it was because of these expectations that he did not concern himself with the rules of fair play. Whenever possible, he avoided looking people in the face. And when he did look at them, he tried to avoid their eyes. He was afraid that if he looked into their eyes too long they might turn into someone he had once known. On public transportation he always adjusted his gaze so it fell on the chest of the person facing him. Often he dropped his eyes and stared at the floor or turned to look out the window. As a result, or perhaps because he really was lucky, Chu-ch'ol never ran into anyone he knew. Nor did he ever have any bad luck.  
He decided to bet on this trip as well. The bet would be effective from Seoul Station until they deboarded in Kwangju.  
He knew his game was nothing more than useless superstition, but still, he played it and soon was completely absorbed. The suspense chopped the time, which could be so painfully boring, into small pieces, and in the end, he was able to forget himself completely. It was a brilliant notion-a self-imposed cure, a means of hypnotizing himself. His bets allowed him to immerse himself in solitude, thereby escaping it.  
At one time he thought of telling Hye-suk about this brilliant idea, but he didn't. His wife had long since developed her own secret formula. Every morning she got up at five and went to the spring behind their house. When she got home, she poured water from the spring into a white porcelain bowl and placed it on the rice box in the kitchen. Then she knelt down in front of the bowl, pressing her forehead to the floor in a deep bow. Sometimes she used another secret technique: she pretended to sleep. It was a false sleep. When something bothered her, she swallowed the torment in silence, as if in a dream. Chu-ch'ol realized that his wife's false sleep was her way of escaping, and he didn't try to interfere.  
The idea of passing time with clever tricks first came to him as a student. He had learned nine-card solitaire from the woman who ran the boarding house where he lived. The game was played with a deck of flower cards from which eight cardsΑthe rain and paulownia tree suitsΑhad been removed. He bet on whether he could get the cards to come out even at the end. It was extremely difficult and tedious. He was lucky if he could do it once in ten games. Waging one's luck on coming out even was a pitiful business, so Chu-ch'ol applied a much simpler and more ingenious standard to his game. He bet that the cards would get stuck in the middle. It was impossible to come out even in nine-card solitaire unless you cut the cards just right. And as a result, he always enjoyed the good fortune of getting stuck in the middle.  
It wasn't long before he was chastising himself for his petty games of solitaire, and having listened to his own advice, he gave up betting on cards.  
He then developed a system of betting on books. It was after he started working at the publishing company and had had some success as a poet. One could say he had given up vulgar forms of gambling, such as solitaire with flower cards, for a somewhat more sophisticated pastime. But when he stopped to think about it, this new distraction was equally ludicrous. Whenever he started reading a book, any book, he bet on how far he would get before encountering a spelling error or missing word. An error signaled great fortune in the near future; a flawless book meant he was in for bad luck. Of course, there isn't a book in the world without some kind of error, so Chu-ch'ol could always expect countless good fortunes when reading. He sneered at the publisher's ineptitude each time he spotted his prey, but at the same time, he thanked them for the good fortune they offered. He realized how silly his bets were. He laughed at the thought of himself betting on such foolishness, and yet he never gave it up. He couldn't, and the older he got, the more thick-skinned he became. He knew he was being foolish, but he didn't do anything about it. It was that hypocrisy that caused him the most pain.  
He had brought along one of his firm's new releases in hopes of encountering that secret good fortune. He was responsible for new releases so he had to look over the books anyway. Betting on books made him feel comfortable and safe, as if he alone had a secret weapon, an exclusive prescription from a wonder-working doctor, a magic talisman. If he ran into a familiar face in his first wager, he could always recover his losses by opening the book and betting on where he would find the first error.  
The train rocked as it gathered speed out of Seoul Station. Hye-suk was sitting by the window. Suddenly she grabbed Chu-ch'ol's wrist. Her fingers sliced into his arm, as if she were twisting a cord around it. Chu-ch'ol jerked to his senses and turned to her.  
"Look! It's Chu-on," she whispered urgently, indicating the entrance to the coach with a toss of her chin. She hunched down, pressing her forehead against Chu-ch'ol's shoulder, and pretended to sleep.  
Chu-on stepped through the door. His hair was shaggy, covering his ears, his face long like a horse's, and his complexion was dark. He studied each passenger's face as he headed down the aisle, one hand plunged in his raincoat pocket. How did he find us? Chu-ch'ol wondered. His first bet had fallen flat and useless. Chu-ch'ol felt his chest constricting. He turned to look out the window. It had been bitterly cold for several daysΑhovering around minus fifteen degrees. Snow had fallen three days earlier, and white patches lingered in the shadows of the mountains and on the roofs of the villages they passed. The frozen earth was blanketed in darkness. The wind, cold and penetrating as a metal spike, barreled through the darkness like a tank armed with machine guns.  
The windows cut off the darkness and cold. They reflected another world, like a scene from a black and white movie, a negative that had been enlarged. Everything was swept up in what seemed a delicate ink painting, all coarse and pockmarked details removed. The wrinkles, scars and freckles on the faces in the window were gone. The distinction between beauty and ugliness was unclear. Everyone in the window exuded an air of dark stillness.  
It was sweltering inside the train. Hot steam ran through the pipes beneath the seats by the windows. The passengers had taken off their suitcoats and sweaters, overcoats and mufflers. Some sat in shirtsleeves, chatting quietly, while others gathered in groups of four or five to play flower cards. Still others slept, a sweater or overcoat covering their chest and shoulders. Their reflections shone in the window, as clear as a movie screen. Chu-ch'ol found his own image in the black and white scene. Hye-suk looked like she was really sleeping, her face tucked behind his shoulder. He stared at her sleeping reflection as he waited for Chu-on to reach them.  
"Aha! There you are! I nearly went crazy looking for you, Cousin! I called your house and the kids said you'd left a half hour earlier, so I jumped in a taxi and got to the station one minute before the train left. I'm sitting in the next car."  
Chu-on stood next to Chu-ch'ol's seat chattering in a manner unseemly for such a large man. He bowed to the attractive young woman wearing a maroon beret who sat across the aisle from Chu-ch'ol showed her his ticket and asked if they might switch seats. She glanced at the ticket and stood up.  
"Once I heard Cousin Chu-man died, I couldn't stay in Seoul. It's too bad. He was so young! You know how he doted on me when I was little!"  
Chu-on sat down in the seat vacated by the young woman.  
"She must have had a hard day," Chu-on remarked, glancing across at Hye-suk.  
He called over the vendor and bought two bottles of beer, some dried cuttlefish, peanuts and almond crackers. He also bought a bottle of juice and a cola, for Hye-suk, he said, when she woke up.  
"Actually, I came to comfort you and try to help you in your time of grief. You shouldn't carry the burden on your own. There's nothing like a good drink when you're faced with something like this. Have a couple of beers and go to sleep, or just sit back and pass the time. That's the best way to cope. Here you go! Have a beer!"  
Chu-on handed Chu-ch'ol a cup and filled it with beer. Hye-suk shifted to lean against the window, still feigning sleep. She was wearing a silk scarf around the neck of her loose-fitting gray cotton blouse. Tiny wrinkles, fine as strands of hair, creased her lightly powdered face. A blue shadow clouded the hollows beneath her eyes. She was like an insect that plays dead when in danger. Perhaps she's simply lapsed into a state of false sleep, Chu-ch'ol thought. She was always closing her eyes like that at home. She would take a sedative and lie with her eyes shut, but she never fell into a deep sleep. She seemed to think all her thoughts, dream all her dreams, and hear everything that went on around her.  
It all started shortly after Yun-gil left home. He made one last telephone call in early winter. They could barely hear him. Either the phone was tapped or it was a bad connection. Something whirred in the background, a combination of grass bugs whining and a ringing in the ears.  
"This may be my last call," he said, "but don't worry. I'm fine." He paused, and then, "Good-bye." He never identified himself.  
Yun-gil sounded slightly out of breath. Chu-ch'ol's gasped, temples pounding, at the sound of his son's voice. "All right," he said, but there was a click on the other end of the line before he finished the word. He must be going to hide down in the countryside, Chu-ch'ol thought. When he mentioned this to Hye-suk, she seemed even more concerned.  
"You know, it would be so much safer in the city where there's lots of people. We never should have told him about that place."  
Hye-suk bit her cracked lips nervously. Chu-ch'ol couldn't help thinking she was right. He had suggested that Yun-gil hide in the old fishing village, but now he wasn't sure. It was in the backwoods where few people lived, at the end of a deep ravine. If his pursuers burst in on him suddenly, he would have nowhere to run but the mountains.  
"Maybe we should call and have them tell him to hide somewhere else. Isn't there something we can do? Come on! We have to do something!"  
Hye-suk badgered her husband night and day. He didn't know what to do. He thought about calling Chu-man or one of his uncles down in the village, but he was afraid the phones were tapped. And if someone ran down there with a message for Yun-gil, they were sure be to tailed. He thought of sending a letter, but they would probably intercept it. His hands were tied, he was helpless, and then came the answer to his prayers: a message from his uncle in Tideflat Village. Chu-man was dead.  
Cruel though it was, the news of Chu-man's death was glad tidings to Chu-ch'ol and Hye-suk. They had been choking with frustration since that last call from Yun-gil. No one could be sure when Chu-man would die, but his neighbors knew he would go in the near future. Everyone secretly expected him to die soon. It was obvious from his symptomsΑthe way his face grew darker and darkerΑand his behaviorΑthe way he guzzled soju and ran around like a crazy man. Chu-ch'ol and Hye-suk should have felt sorry for Chu-man, but as they rushed to board the night train, they were thankful for this excuse to visit their hometown without worrying about what others might think.  
And then Chu-on showed up, like a cockroach, quick-witted and agile, crafty and sly. There was no way of catching him.  

Hye-suk sometimes shook her husband awake in the middle of the night. When she first woke him that way, Chu-ch'ol jumped from bed, thinking there was a burglar in the house. He searched the room for something to use as a weaponΑon top of the wardrobe, under the desk, on the dressing-table, the television. Then he heard his wife whisper, "There are two cockroaches as big as my finger in the kitchen," and the adrenalin drained from him. Unable to control his anger, Chu-ch'ol glared murderously into her face.  
"Oh, I'm sorry, darling! I didn't mean to startle you! Please don't be mad. Come to the kitchen. They just came out from nowhere. They're as big as rats and so quick, and their feelers are so disgusting, I..." He could hardly be angry when his wife apologized so diffidently. Still, he grumbled as he followed her to the kitchen.  
"I can't believe this. Imagine waking your husband in the middle of the night because you can't catch a couple of lousy cockroaches!"  
Hye-suk poked him in the ribs. "Quiet," she whispered. "They were digging in the garbage can by the sink, but they ran away when they heard me coming." She pressed a fly swatter into his hand.  
"I heard a rustling in the garbage can. Don't bother looking anywhere else. Go straight to the garbage can and whack them when they come out," Hye-suk said. They stood by the curtain that hung at the entrance to the kitchen. She flicked on the light and pushed him forward, as if to say hurry up and get it over with. He went straight for the sink. A faint rustle came from the garbage can; it sounded like arthropods crawling or rats gnawing grain. He bent over the garbage can, fly swatter poised. I'll knock the crap out them. He had plenty of reasons to punish the insects. A knot of ill feeling squeezed his chest. How dare they sneak into my kitchen in the middle of the night! I'm going to kill the little bastards! The thin sound of his wife's breathing seemed to refract the light of the incandescent bulb overhead.  
Chu-ch'ol grabbed the edge of the garbage can with his left hand and gave it a cautious shake. The egg and cockle shells, onion skins, empty milk packets and discarded cabbage leaves trembled slightly. Every nerve in his body was stretched taut as a guitar string. He shook the garbage can again, holding his breath as he waited for the roaches to crawl over the edge of the can. As he had hoped, a puff of black wind shot from between a cabbage leave and an onion skin. Chu-ch'ol swung the fly swatter down as the cockroach came over the rim. Whoosh! He had missed. In the blink of an eye, the cockroach slipped through the crack between the sink and stove.  
"Damn it!" Chu-ch'ol snarled. There are bound to be more, Hye-suk cried. Determined to succeed this time, Chu-ch'ol turned only to see another mouse-sized cockroach sketch a dark line in the direction of the previous escapee. Chu-ch'ol didn't even get a chance to raise his fly swatter. He shook the can again. There weren't any more.  
Chu-ch'ol was desperate to relieve his rage. He poked the fly swatter into the crack. It was pitch black, a cockroach paradise. They were probably laughing at him, flashing their iridescent blue eyes and twitching their feelers.  
"How am I supposed to catch these things?"  
"They're awfully fast, aren't they?" Hye-suk was careful not to find fault with his technique, as if she feared her husband's temper.  
"Can't expect much when you wake someone up in the middle of the night! Next time you see a cockroach, grab the fly swatter and get him yourself. There's nothing to it! Just whack him! Why do you have to wake up someone who's just drifted to sleep?"  
Despite his wife's efforts to console him, Chu-ch'ol muttered angrily as he returned to bed. The next morning before leaving for work he went to the drugstore and bought a can of their best insecticide.  
"Go to work!" Hye-suk snapped. "I'll spray after I've finished the dishes and covered the food."  
Chu-ch'ol insisted on doing it himself. Accustomed to her husband's impatience, Hye-suk wrapped the breakfast leftovers in plastic and put them in the refrigerator. Chu-ch'ol doused the roaches' hideouts with insecticideΑthe dank space behind the refrigerator, the back of the stove, the space behind the rice box and cabinets, the cracks in the linoleum. When he returned home from work that evening, he found the carcasses. There was still something chillingly evil about themΑthe black shells, the stiffened feelers, the light brown wings faintly visible inside the wing case, the half-crumpled legs. The care with which Hye-suk had left them on the kitchen floor reflected the depth of her animosity for the insects, and as he cleared them away, Chu-ch'ol realized that she wanted him to share the thrill of exterminating the black hordes. He thought of the insecticide he had used to douse their dark, dank haunts, then tried to forget the unpleasant memory. That night Hye-suk looked relieved as she went to bed.  
But four nights later, Chu-ch'ol woke to Hye-suk's shaking again. He rushed into the kitchen, fly swatter in hand, but he missed them, just like the first night. Three cockroaches, as large as his thumb, scurried like a pack of mice into the crack between the sink and stove. The next morning Chu-ch'ol used the remaining insecticide, and not long after, they discovered the carcasses scattered around the kitchen once more.  
The commotion reoccurred once or twice a week from that night forward, and the next morning Chu-ch'ol would spray again. After repeating the process more than twenty times, Chu-ch'ol and Hye-suk were exhausted. Yun-gil's problems arose around that time, actually, and they could savor their disgust for the black hordes no longer. "We'll have to seal off the house this weekend and spray an extra dose," they decided as they watched the cockroaches race through the kitchen and bathroom. In the days that followed they knew the cockroaches were dancing around their kitchen in the middle of the night, but they waited.  
"You just make sure the food's covered until we get rid of them," Chu-ch'ol warned. Every morning as he poured water from the kettle, a repulsive taste filled his mouth. The black hordes might have touched the rim of the cup with their legs and mouths during the night, he thought, but he swallowed anyway. Sometime later they stretched the interval between extermination sessions to two weeks, then a month.  
Chu-ch'ol sensed a strangely ominous connection between the cockroaches, his son Yun-gil, and his second cousin Chu-on. Yun-gil left home around the time the black hordes began their rampage, and that was when Chu-on began wearing down their gate with his visits.  
"Can't you just leave us alone? You're driving me crazy!" Chu-ch'ol practically spat at Chu-on in naked irritation.  
Even Hye-suk was openly hostile. "Uncle Chu-on, please come back later when I've calmed down a bit. Why are you doing this? For some reason I get goosebumps whenever you're around."  
"Oh, what's wrong with you two? It's only natural that I should come see you. After all, here I am in Seoul, where they'll steal the shirt off your back if you're not careful, and you two are the only people I know. You may dislike me, but I've nowhere else to go. You can turn me around and push me out the door, but I'll keep coming back."  
And so Chu-on kept disturbing them, bringing a bottle of liquor, a pound or two of beef or a cake every time he visited. Perhaps he didn't have anywhere else to go, but that didn't make him any less diabolic; he was like the cockroaches. Chu-ch'ol and Hye-suk shuddered each time they saw him. Chu-on refused to tell them where he worked or lived. He wouldn't even give them his telephone number. He was just like the cockroaches. It was impossible to tell where they lived or laid their eggs either. He showed up under the cover of darkness, just like the black hordes sneaking through the drainpipe or swooping in on the dark night fog. He telephoned in the middle of the night asking how they were. The connection was always distant and fuzzy, as if he were calling from a bottomless underworld.  
If Hye-suk greeted Chu-ch'ol with a displeased look when he returned home from work, it meant Chu-on had visited in his absence. He showed up during the day and hung around in Yun-gil's room, reading, sleeping, riffling through Yun-gil's desk drawers, sifting through his notebooks and books, digging through his hiking equipment and bags, strumming his guitar.  

The train chugged through the muddy darkness. It blasted its whistle and seemed to shudder down the tracks. Through the dark reflections of the windows, reddish lights blinked as they slipped past in the distance. The air was hot and humid inside the coach. Perspiration clung to Chu-ch'ol's forehead, backbone, crotch and buttocks. It was hard to believe that the cruel winter cold was clawing like a fierce beast outside. The beer had made him dizzy; he felt as if he were dreaming.  
Chu-ch'ol often dreamt of abandoning everything someday. It was as if shadows were whispering around him, like evil cockroaches. He put out two or three books each month but they just seemed to pile up in the storeroom, never selling a single copy. He was sure to be driven from his job. All the typographical errors he had discovered seemed to return, dancing across the pages like evil monsters. Open the door! Where's your son? Open that closet! Where's the attic? Who sleeps in this room? Tell the truth! Where did you send your son? Are you going to talk or not? Get up and put your clothes on! Get moving! He felt as if a gang of men with crewcuts and beige parkas or leather gloves and corduroy jackets would come crashing in at any time of the day or night.  
He and Yun-gil were always arguing. His son's daring and his own timidity were constantly at odds. Yun-gil's radicalism defied him; it loathed his father's conservatism. Who knows? Perhaps Yun-gil's contempt for his father's cowardice and conservatism had driven him to become a radical.  
"Don't even go near a demonstration. There's no point. You have to think of yourself, of what's good for you. Get killed and you're the one who loses out. I know you can contribute to the betterment of the people and humanity by getting involved, but you can make a much more profound contribution in other ways. Something much greater is waiting for you when you've matured and finished your studies. In a way, I'm like a tree. I don't want my fruit to fall before it ripens. I want to see it grow to its full potential."  
Perhaps he was acting out of selfishness, as is the habit of the well-to-do. Yun-gil assailed his father's advice as worthless bourgeois egotism.  
"I may have been born of your flesh but I'm not your personal property. I belong to the masses. If our country or national history need me, unripe as I am, then I have to serve and fall as I may. Who knows? Maybe our country, this age we're living in, want more of the unripe to fall. Just pretend that I was never born. You may be faced with great pain because of me, but you have to resign yourself to it. That's your fate for giving birth to me and raising me."  
Chu-ch'ol soon felt a cold breeze blowing from Yun-gil's younger sister and brother as well. He's right. I never should have expected anything. The feeling of betrayal grows in direct proportion to my expectations. Don't try to connect everything. Don't try to stick things together. Just live your own life. Cut off and separate. Forget about eternity. Concentrate on the moment. I have my life, and the kids have theirs. Sons and daughters may stray from the framework that their parents have drawn out for them, but that doesn't mean the parents have failed. Forget your expectations. Expectations connect things. You can't cut off and separate when you live on expectations. The more expectations you have, the greater the feeling of betrayal. That's the bone-wrenching truth. Why should I torment myself with such bitter betrayal?  
But his heart wouldn't accept it. He knew no other way of life. Living together as a group was the only way he knew. He hadn't learned how to cut himself off and live separately. That was why he always felt saddened by a certain betrayal.  
It is said that he who walks well leaves no footprint. Words chosen carefully are faultless. An accurate reckoning requires no counting sticks. A door shut carefully will remain closed without a lock. A well-wrapped package will stay wrapped without twine... But I am none of those things. I leave footprints, I am at fault. I struggle to imprison others in my locks and strings, but I can't even do that right....  
The loss and frustration were inescapable. He was engulfed in self-doubt. Somewhere deep inside, he felt his hatred for Yun-gil, his condemnation, pooling like a poisonous juice. He couldn't help thinking he was responsible for getting his son into this mess. After Yun-gil left home, Chu-ch'ol kept imagining his son covered in blood, staggering along some dark mountain path, blood dripping from a wound made by a knife or gunshot. The image of the boy floating face down in a pond, like a discarded cigarette butt, lingered in his mind, still and dark as a film negative. Where can he be? Is he getting enough to eat? He need only hear the boy's mother worrying and the image rose in his mind. He couldn't bear the thought. What do all these images mean? Perhaps they proved that he really did wish his son dead. Each time he had these thoughts, he tried to visualize another Yun-gil, a happy healthy young man with a broad smile on his face.  
But it didn't work. Who is the real me? he wondered. Is he a wolf, a demon, while the nice guy, the generous angel, the bodhisattva that everyone's always talking about is nothing but a phony? Who knows? Chu-man may have died from my curses. Why don't you just drop dead, die, die, die... How many times had I thought that? Every time he heard that Chu-man had gone on another drunken rampage, that he had grabbed a knife or sickle or ax or whatever he could get his hands on, every time he heard that Mother had cut her hand or strained her back trying to stop him, Chu-ch'ol prayed to himself over and over: Die, just hurry up and die.  
"I can understand why Cousin Chu-man drank so much. Your mother was living with him so you gave him money for land and seaweed nets and you helped him start up the processing plant, but it all bothered him. Everyone was always bawling him out for drinking too much. They didn't understand how he felt."  
Chu-on bought four more bottles of beer from the vendor. His speech was slightly slurred now. Chu-ch'ol didn't want to discuss Chu-man's death. There were more urgent matters on his mind.  
"He had an inferiority complex," Chu-on continued. "And he was frustrated. He was probably smothering in loneliness too. He knew you were worried about all the things you'd paid for... You were afraid he might sell them lock, stock and barrel. Who knows? He may have thought you paid for that stuff because your mother was living with him, not because you cared about him."  
"Cut it out, will you? I'm sick and tired of hearing about him." Chu-ch'ol glared at his cousin. Chu-on nodded deeply and apologized for upsetting him. When Chu-ch'ol saw that subservient smile, he felt like killing Chu-on. He imagined getting him drunk, dragging him out of the coach and shoving off the train. And if that failed, at least he could take him out in the dark where no one was watching and kick the crap out of him. Then he chided himself for the thought and lifted his cup to his lips.  
I have to figure out what this jerk does for a living, he thought. He had to know what to be on the look-out for. First he considered Chu-on's hair. It was long, hardly the hairstyle for a man working within a strictly regulated system. Next he studied his clothes. Chu-on was wearing navy blue slacks with a wool shirt. His corduroy blazer and raincoat were hanging on a hook next to the window. The outfit collaborated the conclusion Chu-ch'ol had already made: Chu-on didn't belong to a group run according to strict rules. And he wore the same low-top dress shoes as everyone else.  
But you can hardly identify someone by the clothes they wear, Chu-ch'ol thought. A person involved in criminal investigation or surveillance would dress like an ordinary citizen to protect his cover. Yes, Chu-ch'ol thought, I'll look through the pockets of his jacket next time he goes to the restroom. Maybe he carries an I.D. card. Chu-ch'ol waited for Chu-on to excuse himself.  
"How much does it cost to publish a book of poetry these days? You know, I've been writing poetry for some time. You influenced me. When I was in high school, I was a member of the literary club and our advisor was always raving about you. He said that Pak Chu-ch'ol was a greater honor to his alma mater than any government official or business man. When I told him I was your cousin, he took a special interest in me. All my friends envied me. That's when I got the idea of becoming a poet like you."  
Chu-on offered cup after cup of beer. Chu-ch'ol felt uncomfortable talking about his poems. Over the years he had played the poet, writing and publishing his work, but he was never truly able to live for poetry. He could hardly claim to have dedicated himself to his art. It was a source of embarrassment to him, a sign he lacked confidence in his work. That lack of confidence meant his poems were false, which, in turn, meant he was living a double life, the life of a hypocrite. It was a painful thought. The words he used in his poems betrayed him day and night. No, he secretly betrayed those words himself. His poetry cried for a pure life, for sensitivity, for the ability to feel pain and shame at a breath of wind passing through the leaves, for unity with the common people, for a bodhisattva's generosity, for poverty, for deliverance, for rebirth. But Chu-ch'ol lived a filthy, trifling existence, the life of a swarm of flies. He knew no shame. He was selfish, he lived for himself, and he was constantly struggling with that burden. At some point he had started living a divided existence: Pak Chu-ch'ol, the poet, Pak Chu-ch'ol, the editor at a certain publishing company, Pak Chu-ch'ol, the husband and father. He was told he wrote beautiful, fresh, powerful verse, but at the same time he was forever maneuvering to make sure the books he made for the president of his company sold well. He tried to select controversial books and used every means possible, ethical and unethical, to make them sell. It was all a matter of staging. He mobilized the services of popular literary critics, he made sure the newspaper reporters covering literature and publishing were writing articles... and soon the readers were eating out of his hand. The publishing company where he worked had become a factory that produced best-sellers, popular writers and controversial poets. He and the president were constantly proclaiming their commitment to the advancement of contemporary culture. The goal of a publisher was to sell books, wasn't it? To attract the attention of readers who didn't know what they wanted to read. They were like fishermen who used lights to attract fish at night. But in the end, most of the books they produced (with a few exceptions, of course) differed little from the literary achievements of other companies.  
"Stop talking about poetry and tell me who you really are! What do you do? Who are you working for? How can you afford to hang around doing nothing? What job would let you spend all your time at our house?"  
Chu-ch'ol was feeling the effects of the beer now. Chu-on stared intently into his face for a moment, then turned his eyes to the ceiling and guffawed. The sleeping passengers jerked awake and glared at him for a moment, then returned to sleep, smacking their lips.  
"All right," chuckled Chu-on, ignoring the other passengers. "I'll tell you everything. I may not look like much but I'm one of Seoul's top jewel appraisers. Every two or three days I make the rounds of the jewelry shops. I don't have to worry about money." He laughed again. "I'll bet you're wondering how I developed an eye for jewels. Well, anything's possible. You know what they say-Every man has his trade.If you don't believe me, I'll take you on a tour of the jewelry shops. Now have some more beer!"  
Chu-ch'ol peered into Chu-on's face as he filled his cup. He wanted to believe him, but somehow he felt Chu-on was toying with him. His face was cloaked in a veil of lies. Just wait, you little jerk. I'm going to rip off that veil. I've made it through the last fifty years on little more than my senses. And those senses tell me something's wrong here.  
"So you still don't believe me, eh? Too bad my heart isn't a sock-then I could turn it inside out and show you. Heh, heh... Will you excuse me for a minute? I have to go to the john."  
Chu-on bowed deeply as he rose from his seat. As soon as his cousin had teetered down the aisle and out the door, Chu-ch'ol jumped to his feet and began rummaging through the pockets of Chu-on's jacket and overcoat. The middle-aged man in the seat next to Chu-on opened his eyes in narrow slits and stared up at Chu-ch'ol. He wasn't asleep after all. Chu-ch'ol's face burned and a shiver ran down his spine, but he simply apologized and returned to his search. It ended in disappointment, however. There was no wallet. He must have put it in another pocket when he took off his jacket. Chu-ch'ol's thoroughness drove Chu-ch'ol even deeper into that dark dizzying pool of suspicion. Of course! It had to be a lie. When would that bastard have had the time to become a jewel appraiser?  

"Nephew? Is that you? It's me, Uncle Kae-dong."  
One Sunday in early spring six years earlier, Chu-ch'ol received a call from Chu-on's father. His childhood name was Kaettong, "Dogshit". The old man had devoted his life to raising and educating the motherless Chu-on.  
"What? Uncle, where are you?"  
Chu-ch'ol had been lying on the warm floor looking through some manuscripts. He bolted upright at the voice on the other end of the line. Kae-dong's face rose before him. One of his eyes was milky-gray, like the screen of a television that wasn't turned on. His face was tanned dark-red. Kae-dong was built like an ox. Chu-ch'ol owed the old man. Chu-ch'ol had started school at the age of five, and each day, rain or snow, Kae-dong, a family servant at that time, carried him to school and met him at the front gate to carry him home. When Chu-ch'ol went to middle school and high school on the mainland, Kae-dong carried his book bags and bundles of rice and pickle jars to the terminal in Hoechin. As they parted, Kae-dong would squeeze his hand and give him a broad smile, revealing two rows of yellowed teeth. Chu-ch'ol's heart always ached at the sight of him heading home with his empty A-frame carrier after unloading his belongings in front of the terminal at the end of the pier.  
"I'm here in Seoul."  
"Then come right over. Just get in a taxi and tell the driver to take you to the entrance of the April 19th Monument in Ui-dong. I'll be waiting with the fare."  
Kae-dong arrived by taxi, as instructed, but when Chu-ch'ol ran to open the door, the fare had already been paid. He handed Kae-dong a five-thousand won note, but the older man waved it away, the light reflecting off the amber lenses of his glasses. Chu-ch'ol stared at him in disbelief for a moment. Kae-dong was completely changed. His hair had grayed, and thick lines had formed on his grizzled face. That was only natural, of course. What surprised him was how neat and clean Kae-dong's clothes were. He was wearing a jade green dress shirt, a brown tie with red stripes and a navy blue suit, along with a sparkling pair of wire-rim glasses.  
After escorting him into the house, Chu-ch'ol was again amazed to learn that Kae-dong's son was the cause of this transformation.  
"Chu-on? I heard he graduated from high school several years back. So he's found a good job?"  
Kae-dong laughed, exposing the yellowed buck teeth, and shook his head.  
"Job? What job? Why, he's just started university."  
Chu-ch'ol thought back to the Chu-on he had seen as a child. He must be at least thirty, he thought. After finishing his military service, he must have worked to make some money before going to university.  
"Where does he go to school? I'm surprised he hasn't come to see me, if he's going to school in Seoul...."  
Frankly, Chu-ch'ol disliked it when people stopped by, but Chu-on was Kae-dong's only son. He didn't say it out of affection for Chu-on. He felt an obligation to Kae-dong.  
"He goes to K University. He's already in his second year. Must be mighty busy, though, 'cause I told him to come see you first thing last year and the poor boy still hasn't found the time."  
"At any rate, he's done a fine job. K University is a good school. Just think of it, Uncle. You're finally enjoying the fruits of all the hard work you put into raising him. How old is he now?"  
"Twenty-nine. It's 'bout time I found a nice girl for him but..."  
"Don't worry! He's sure to find one on his own."  
"You think so? When'll he find the time to graduate and meet a girl... I have never paid his tuition or sent him any pocket money. I didn't even help him find a room. I'm just grateful that he's able to go to school under his own steam."  
Behind the amber lenses of his glasses, Kae-dong's eyes misted over. There must be something I can do for his boy, Chu-ch'ol thought. After all, Chu-on is his only child. We could ask him to come share Yun-gil's room. Then he wouldn't have to live in a boarding house or find a room and cook for himself. I'll have to discuss it with the wife, he thought.  
"It sounds like he's a good student. How much is he getting in scholarships?"  
Kae-dong shook his head.  
"I haven't the slightest idea. I hear he gets some kind of monthly salary."  
"A salary?"  
Hye-suk brought in a tray of drinks and food. Chu-ch'ol offered Kae-dong a glass. He remembered hearing something about honor students being paid to study. He looked at Kae-dong once more. How did Chu-on get to be such a good student? he wondered. When Kae-dong was a servant at their house, he made flutes from stalks of bamboo and played them whenever he had the chance. He was a good flute player and he memorized the Thousand-Character text by ear. Once he started working at Chu-ch'ol's house, he quit night school, but he knew his numbers. He could add, subtract, multiply and divide. Kae-dong was the product of the union between the stepson of Chu-ch'ol's great grand-uncle and a widowed beggar-woman who lived in a hut at the entrance to the village. The stepson had left home as a youth, only to return years later, empty-handed and gray. Chu-ch'ol's grandfather had set him up with the beggar-woman. Kae-dong was a big strong man, but he had a bad eye. He worked in the family saltworks, and later ran errands for the local arm of the South Korean Workers' Party. As a result, he was dragged off to police headquarters, beaten senseless and tortured. Chu-ch'ol's father got him released. After he recovered, he went back to work at the saltworks and met a wandering crazy woman. Chu-on was born of their encounter. When Chu-on was still a baby, the woman set fire to their house and died. Kae-dong's life revolved around his son after that. It was amazing, though, to think that Chu-on was so smart when his mother was crazy. Did Chu-on get his brains from his father or his crazy mother?  
As Chu-ch'ol sat gaping in amazement, Kae-dong stroked the suit he was wearing.  
"Last night he took me out and bought me this suit. These glasses, too."  
So the gutter spawns mighty dragons after all, thought Chu-ch'ol. If Chu-on was such a good student, he was sure to cut a fine figure no matter what field he went into.  
"What department is he in?" Chu-ch'ol asked. Would Chu-on head into politics, the law, business or the cultural field? Kae-dong shook his head.  
"I'm not sure. Ain't told me a thing. He don't answer my questions. But when I tell people he gets a salary for going to school, they say he must be in the law department. Shoo-in for a post as prosecutor or judge, they say. But I don't know. I don't have a hint. When I told him I was coming to see you, he gave me enough money for the ticket home and some pocket money and put me in the taxi. He said he had someone to see."  
"Didn't you stay with him last night?"  
"Yep, but we slept at an inn. Ain't been to his room. He said something about living in a dormitory with twenty other students."  
Maybe he lives in one of those lodging houses for students preparing for the bar exam. Chu-ch'ol envied Kae-dong his bright son and feared Chu-on. The people in their village had always pointed to Pak Chu-ch'ol as the greatest success to ever come from their neighborhood, but it looked like Chu-on would be taking his place in the future.  
"Wait a minute... Your father told me you were in the law department at K University..." Chu-ch'ol glared at Chu-on when he returned from the rest room.  
Chu-on looked up. "When did he say that?"  
"A year before he died. He came to our house. In the spring of your second year at university, I think."  
Chu-on squinted, then burst out laughing.  
"Ehhh, what did he know? Who cares where you go to school or what you study? I just went to school because I was bored. It's a sad story. Let's drop the whole thing."  
Aha! Chu-ch'ol thought. He wasn't going to school after all. He looked down and clenched his teeth. The bastard duped his poor father and me. I may be a distant cousin, but he can't afford to ignore me... What's he after? Never take in a stranger for he's not likely to repay the favor. That's what the proverb said, and here was Chu-on, biting the hand of his benefactor, as if he were trying to prove the old saw true.  
Long ago, when Chu-ch'ol was staying at his parents' home after being discharged from the army, he had seen young Chu-on playing hide-and-seek and kite-hawk in the yard with the children of the other farmhands. Chu-on was always the dirtiest and most ragged of the bunch. The crotch of his pants was torn, and dirty patches of skin peeked through the holes in his ragged shirt. His hair was like a crow's nest, teeming with nits and lice as big as barley grains.  
"Oh, will you look at that poor lil' thing?" Chu-ch'ol's mother clucked. "Just look at him!" She had been preparing a snack for the workers, but paused to grab Chu-on by the hand and drag him off to the well where she filled a tub, stripped off his rags and bathed him. She dug some of Chu-man's old clothes from the closet and dressed Chu-on. The little boy was like a crow that had shed its black feathers to become a magpie. That night when Kae-dong returned, happily drunk, from the fields, he swept Chu-on into his arms and laughed out loud.  

"You bastard! Do you have some kind of grudge against me? How come you're so obsessed with catching Yun-gil? The boy is practically your nephew!"  
Chu-ch'ol tossed down another cup of beer and glared across the aisle at Chu-on. Chu-on looked up. His eyes were bloodshot." What's that supposed to mean?" he asked.  
"Don't play dumb with me! I know what you are. You're like some kind of a hunting dog." Chu-ch'ol scowled. Chu-on's cheek flinched for an instant, then a mocking smile spread across his face. He straightened up, relaxed his contorted features and laughed heartily. Chu-ch'ol saw the insidious wickedness of the cockroaches' feelers in his face. Chu-on finally managed to control his laughter and filled Chu-ch'ol's empty cup.  
"Oh, Cousin! Why can't you trust me? I told you: I make my living appraising jewels."  
Chu-on chuckled as he stole a glance across the aisle. Chu-ch'ol tossed his beer in his face. Chu-on didn't seem the least bit surprised. It was almost as if he had expected it. He sat stiff as a stone statue for a moment, then slowly took his handkerchief from his pocket and mopped his face.  
"Wow! One cold splash in the face and I'm sober," he laughed. Chu-ch'ol felt a shiver run through his body. That composure, that self-assurance, that cunning-Did they teach them that? Well, let's see how composed and cunning he really is! Chu-ch'ol jumped to his feet and grabbed Chu-on by the wrist.  
"Darling, what are you doing? Oh no, you're drunk! Uncle Chu-on, I'm sorry. Try to control yourself."  
Hye-suk stood up and grabbed Chu-ch'ol by the shoulders. The passengers in the surrounding seats leapt to their feet to watch the squabbling drunks. Ignoring the stares, Chu-ch'ol pushed Chu-on up the aisle. Chu-on hurried along, almost as if he had anticipated this happening. The other passengers craned their necks to see the two men stumble out the exit. Hye-suk forged her way through the stares and followed Chu-ch'ol and Chu-on out the door. Three or four curious young men pushed their way ahead of her.  
Chu-ch'ol and Chu-on had disappeared into the restroom and locked the door before the others made it through the exit. Hye-suk pounded on the door, shouting for them to open it, but there was no response, only the sound of blows.  
After pushing Chu-on into the restroom, Chu-ch'ol grabbed him by the throat with one hand and slapped him across the cheeks with the other. He punched him in the shoulders, kicked him in the shins, and slammed his forehead against Chu-on's face.  
"You lousy bastard! Tell the truth. Are you following me or are you really going to Chu-man's funeral?"  
"Will you stop? Haven't you let off enough steam?"  
Blood poured from Chu-on's nose. He grabbed Chu-ch'ol's arms, twisted them behind his back, unlocked the door and escaped. Chu-ch'olchased after him.  
"You miserable bastard!" he shouted. "You'd better get off at the next station! We can get through Chu-man's funeral without the likes of you! Don't ever show your face around me again, you stinking worm!"  
His nose swathed in a handkerchief, Chu-on slipped into the next coach. Hye-suk shoved her snarling husband back toward their seats.  
"What's wrong with you? Don't you realize what he could do?"  
All of a sudden, Chu-ch'ol was sober and felt the hot sting of the other passengers' stares. He returned to his seat and closed his eyes. It all seemed like a dream. He hated himself for drinking with Chu-on in the first place. On one hand, he felt he was right to beat up the bastard, but on the other hand, he was afraid his outburst might trigger some kind of retaliation against Yun-gil and himself.  
He thought of the bet he had made as they boarded the train that night. He should have done something. He should have read a book. He should have wagered on those countless typing mistakes and misspelled words. That would have canceled out the bad fortune he had anticipated in his first bet. He never should have shared a drink with that sneaky bastard. Turning his regrets over and over in his mind, Chu-ch'ol bit down on the tip of his tongue and fell asleep.  
"We're here," Hye-suk said, shaking her husband by the shoulders. "Wake up! It's time to get off." The train had come to a stop. A flutter passed through the quiet air as the passengers bustled to collect their baggage. Their footsteps receded into the distance like an ebbing tide. Chu-ch'ol closed his eyes again and pretended to sleep. He had learned that trick from Hye-suk. "Come on. We're the only ones left," she said angrily after a moment or two. The coach was completely empty. A cleaning woman, her hair wrapped in a white towel, was removing the seat covers. The bluish light of dawn etched dizzy ripples in the frost-covered window panes. The memories of life's frustrating routine, forgotten in the night, returned with the frigid wind blasting through the open door of the coach. Outside the cold was armed for battle. Chu-ch'ol swallowed bitterly and was slipping on his jacket when Chu-on stepped through the door.  
"So Cousin, have you sobered up?" Chu-on crinkled his nose in a smile. Thousands of tiny feelers seemed to squirm inside his grin. Rage rose in Chu-ch'ol's throat like a wave of nausea but he gulped it down.  

Translated by Julie Pickering and Yu Young-nan.