Father and Son 



Thousands of holes pierced Chu-ch'ol's body, like the holes in a bamboo flute. An icy wind blew through them. Chu-ch'ol slumped in his seat and pulled his parka around him. A metallic whistling rose in his chest. It hurt.  
The bus was rounding Ch'on'gwan Mountain. A broad expanse of newly reclaimed land unfolded before it. Another hilltop rose in the distance. It was Tokdo, the island where New Town, Chu-ch'ol's native village, was located. Chu-man had lived there but now he was dead. The sight of the island revived memories from the past, like the whistling of a bamboo flute.  
Dark clouds filled the sky. A thin fog hung over the mountains and fields. Hye-suk was staring in the direction of Temple Hollow on the northern slope of Hanje Mountain. Chu-on was seated next to Chu-ch'ol. He was looking in the same direction. Yun-gil was hiding there.  
We have to get a message to Yun-gil. He's got to find another place to hide...Hye-suk thought.  
I'd better get there before they have a chance to warn him... Fearful Chu-ch'ol and Hye-suk might realize what he was thinking, Chu-on tried to distract them. "Speaking of Cousin Chu-man, when I was a kid..." He glanced at Chu-ch'ol. "Every time he got drunk, he'd say his heart was punched full of holes."  
Chu-ch'ol closed his eyes. A woman's face rose before him. Her skin was puffy for lack of sleep. Her breasts were bound in a cotton corset to keep them from protruding from her blouse. She slumped slightly, as if ashamed of her bulging breasts. The woman was Chu-shim, Chu-ch'ol's younger sister. She had died twelve years ago. Chu-man was devastated on the day of her funeral. The image of his grieving brother was still clear in Chu-ch'ol's mind. That day Chu-ch'ol finally understood the holes that pierced his brother's heart.  
As he headed for Chu-man's funeral, the same flute-like holes pierced his own.  
Chu-man was as stubborn as a brick wall and unpredictable. He was like a machine whose screws had come loose, like a sweater that was slowly unraveling, stitch by stitch. He was disconnected, at loose ends. It was as if the stitches that were supposed to hold him together had come undone.  
From Mother's reports on her infrequent visits to Seoul, it was clear that Chu-man was living by fits and starts. For example, every year after he set a date to transplant the rice seedlings, he was a nervous wreck. He felt compelled to run from house to house, asking the neighborhood women to help with the transplanting and the men to carry seedlings from the beds to the paddies. There was no telling how many people he actually asked, but come transplanting day, thirty or more people showed up at his paddies. The problem was Chu-man had less than an acre of paddy to transplant. Once they set to work, there was barely enough room to move.  
The same thing happened when they harvested the rice, when they scooped out the latrine and when they took compost to the fields. When it was time to set posts for the seaweed harvest, he always managed to scrape together the money for the materials, but when it came time to move the frames from patch to patch, to change the ropes or to bind the posts, he wasn't interested. They never had a decent harvest. And then Chu-man would start drinking and cursing.  
"Lousy world! Life's too short for all this grunting and groaning," he sputtered, only to drop off to sleep and stay in bed until noon the next day.  
Chu-ch'ol had left his mother in Chu-man's care. A few years back, when Chu-man got married, Chu-ch'ol could tell his mother was behind his brother's offer to "take care of her."  
"I'll live with you. I can take care of the kids and help with the seaweed harvest. It'll be good for you. And your older brother's sure to buy you more land if you support me."  
In reality, Chu-man wasn't supporting Mother; she was supporting him. She didn't have a moment's ease when she was away from him. On the rare occasion she came to Seoul, she invariably rushed back to New Town at the crack of dawn the following day.  


It was a cold day in early winter when Chu-ch'ol received the telegram and returned home. The first snow had just fallen at the summit of Ch'on'gwan Mountain. Dark gray clouds hung in the sky; the wind was sharp. The weather glowered like an old woman who had skipped breakfast to spite her daughter-in-law. Snowflakes were falling, fat and white as peonies.  
Chu-ch'ol took the money that his co-workers had offered in condolence, borrowed some more, and bought a bolt of thick white cotton for wrapping the corpse and two rolls of hemp cloth for mourning clothes. When he stepped from the bus in Hoejin, he wasn't prepared for the reception that he received from Yong-man, a second cousin.  
"I'll bet that telegram was a real shock, eh?" Yong-man asked with an embarrassed smile. Chu-ch'ol thought of Chu-man and all his antics, but he couldn't believe that someone would say Mother had died when she hadn't.  
"So how did she die?" he asked.  
"To tell the truth, Auntie ain't the one who died."  
Chu-ch'ol was stunned. Luckily he had managed to shake off his co-workers when they offered to come with him. His face must have twisted in anger because Yong-man looked like a frightened child as he explained.  
"Chu-shim died, but Chu-man figured you wouldn't come if he said that, so..."  
Chu-man may have been right. Chu-ch'ol never came down for Father's memorial rite in early spring. He could hardly blame Chu-man for sending the telegram.  
Chu-shim was only twenty-nine. She had been living at home with Chu-man and Mother since leaving her husband's family five years earlier. Chu-shim and Mother had visited Seoul a month before. For treatment, of course, though her condition hadn't been particularly serious.  
Over the years, Mother had kept Chu-ch'ol up-to-date on his sister's illness. He had taken her to a major university hospital for a check-up once already. This time they went to a well-regarded psychiatrist.  
"She's suffering from paranoia and psychogenic angina. There's no need to worry, though. It will take some time, but she should get better."  
After offering this diagnosis, the doctor paused, lips pursed in thought as he fingered the pen lying on Chu-shim's chart.  
"By chance, has anyone close to the patient displayed similar symptoms? A maternal aunt or an aunt on her father's side? A grandmother or her mother perhaps...?"  
Chu-ch'ol said he didn't know of anyone. There weren't any crazy people in the family as far as he knew. He sometimes wondered if Chu-man didn't share some of his sister's symptoms, but he could hardly say that. Chu-man had never complained of a problem.  
The doctor nodded and prescribed a tranquilizer and some vitamins. It wasn't a congenital heart condition. All she needed was peace and quiet. Chu-ch'ol could almost see Chu-shim-seated in the doctor's office, dressed in a jade green sweater and light green pants-but now she was dead. It was hard to believe.  
"How did it happen?"  
"I ain't sure myself," Yong-man answered as he piled the bolts of cloth into his A-frame carrier.  
Apparently it wasn't something that could be explained in a few words. Chu-ch'ol didn't press his cousin.  
Chu-ch'ol's family home, where Chu-man had been living, was burned to the ground by communist party members during the Korean War and hastily rebuilt after the South Korean army retook the area.  
The house looked like it had a gaping hole in the middle. From the front, the main building, a four-chamber structure consisting of two rooms, a central wooden porch and a kitchen, was obscured by a shabby outbuilding, which stood across a small courtyard. The main gate was at the center of this outbuilding. On one side of the gate were the outhouse and a storeroom; on the other the cow shed and an extra room. Both doors had fallen off the gate, and as you stepped in the courtyard, you saw that the kitchen doors were gone too. The walls of the kitchen were black with soot. The kitchen's back door was missing too, but that wasn't apparent right away because the earth in the backyard, which rose behind the house, was a dusky brown, as dark as the kitchen.  
From the front gate, the kitchen looked like a dark lifeless cave. Not the kind of cave that had a stream running through it, not the kind where hibernating pythons turned into dragons and flew away, not the mossy home of a mysterious spirit; rather it looked like a ghastly stone tunnel where, during the war, people were roped together like dried fish on a string and burned to death. It was dark and dead, without a single blade of grass, without a single drop of water.  
On that winter afternoon several years back, when dark clouds hung low and heavy over the tin roof, Chu-ch'ol felt as if an enormous hole, as large as that gaping kitchen, was being drilled through his heart. The courtyard and back yard were filthy. The ground oozed with pig urine. The chickens pecked at the compost piled next to the gate. The earth in the front and back yards was rough and unraked with rocks poking up here and there. The wooden porch at the front of the house was covered with dirt. The latticed paper windows were full of holes. That night, Chu-ch'ol scolded his younger brother.  
"Look! Isn't it about time you fixed the doors on the front gate? You've got two perfectly fine doors. How come you don't hang them? Same with the kitchen. All you have to do is fix the hinges, but you just leave them there... Why, you can see right into the house from outside! It looks like it's been abandoned!"  
"I kinda like it. Nice and open." Chu-man stole a glance at his brother and smiled foolishly. "I've been so busy, just haven't gotten around to puttin' the doors on," he added with a wrinkle of his nose.  
"And how come you leave the yard full of pig piss?" Chu-ch'ol demanded. "You've got to keep the pigpen scooped out and the backyard clean. It's a fire hazard, and it looks awful! Clean this place up so it looks like people live here! And what about those chickens? Are you just going to leave them to dig around in the compost?"  
It was Mother's turn next. "He finds time to drink and run around, but he never has time to shovel the manure. I can't leave the house for a minute."  
Chu-man frowned slightly, puffing out his cheeks in irritation. His bulbous nose twitched like an old alarm clock ready to go off.  
"Geez, Mama!" he cried. "How can you say something like that? Life's too short..."  
"Look how he talks," Mother grumbled to Chu-ch'ol. "And he's supposed to be running this household! Why, if it weren't for me, this house would fall apart. Nothing would get done. If I didn't fix the cow's slop, the poor animal would starve. And that's not all!"  
Chu-man refused to give in, though.  
"Brother, listen to her! She makes it sound like she does all the work around here! No wonder the neighbors all think I'm some kind of half-wit." He turned to his mother. "All right, Mama. I'll leave and you can live as you please."  
Mother looked up at Chu-man. Her mouth dropped open in disbelief. How could he say such a thing when she was working her fingers to the bone for him and his family?  
"Brother, take Mama back to Seoul with you. Please. You don't have to worry about me. I'll make a life for my woman and kids. I don't care if I have to beg or borrow to do it! Just take Mama with you! I can't get along with her anymore. Damn this lousy world! Life's too short to make such a fuss night and day. I just can't take it! You take Mama and I'll go off and make a life for myself. I can't stand living in this lousy house! It's driving me crazy! You're angry 'cause I don't hang them doors, but you know what? I feel like I'll suffocate if I put them up! You don't understand how I feel, Brother. No one does!" Chu-man's voice broke and his eyes filled with tears.  

As they climbed toward the pass leading to the village, Yong-man explained what had happened to Chu-shim.  
"I just can't figure Chu-man out," he began.  
The narrow path through the pine woods was steep and slippery with gravel. As the local people said, you had to "huff and puff" to make it over that pass, but Chu-ch'ol had crossed it often enough as a child. He knew he had to pace himself.  
"I just can't understand him. If it weren't for Auntie, he wouldn't be able to run that house. But one drink and he's complaining about how she refuses to live with you in Seoul, how she's always making life miserable for him. Who knows? Maybe none of this would have happened if it weren't for that fight the other night."  
There had been a celebration in Hilltop Village three days earlier. Chu-man had spent the entire day drinking, and when he returned home around sunset, Mother scolded him.  
"Everyone's already moved their seaweed nets. They've got their drying frames up and are ready to harvest, but you haven't done a thing! Please, I beg you! Pull yourself together. You should have had one drink and gone back to work. How can you be so stupid-drinking all day like that?"  
Her anxious tone must have bothered him, or something may have happened at the party earlier. Chu-man reacted in anger.  
"Stupid? If I'm so stupid, how come you insist on living with me? Go live with your smart son!"  
Chu-shim was resting in the main room, and Mother was afraid Chu-man might upset her. "Oh, shush and go to your room. I can't stand the sight of you."  
"A person can't even enjoy a drink around here, huh? It's too much, just too much," Chu-man grumbled as he climbed onto the porch separating the rooms. "Can't stand the sight of me? So why don't you go live with that smart son of yours? Then I can live as I please. Damn this lousy world! Work like a dog but your hard-earned money always ends up in someone else's hands... Well, I ain't gonna let myself be used no more. Just take everything and get out of here!" he shouted as he sat down on the edge of the porch.  
The fool's mad because I spent some money on herbal medicine for Chu-shim, Mother thought.  
"You ungrateful brat! Quit that whining! Where do you think the paddy land we're living off came from? Someone had to buy it for you." She steered the conversation in Chu-ch'ol's direction, hoping to protect Chu-shim's feelings. Chu-man refused to give in, though.  
"Brother didn't buy me that land out of the goodness of his heart. He owed it to me. He's the one who sold off his parents' paddy and made me work like a slave to pay for his education. He owed me!"  
Chu-man was right, but Mother couldn't stand by in silence.  
"Since when did your brother sell all the paddy land? Your father sold off more than half an acre when he was sick. Your brother sold much less than that. He's a good person. That's why he bought you six nice fields, so why don't you shut up?" she said, shoving him toward his room.  
"I don't want your paddies or fields. I don't want nothing! Go live with that smart son of yours. I won't starve. Take Chu-shim and get out of here!" he hollered. He seemed to want his sister to hear.  
Mother beat him on the back with her fists as she pushed him into his room.  
"Just shut your mouth and you'll be fine. How come you have to spout off about everything? Don't you realize you owe him?"  
She convinced him to lie down, half scolding, half cajoling, then returned to the main room. Chu-shim was lying on her stomach. Sometimes it helped her heart stop fluttering.  
"Don't mind him. He's worse than a dog when he gets drunk." Mother was afraid that Chu-shim might have misunderstood what had been said.  
Chu-shim sighed. "Why should I mind?" she asked in a broken voice.  
"There's nothing to worry about. I still run this house. Don't pay attention to what anyone says. Just listen to me 'cause I'm going to make you better." Mother knew how her daughter felt. After all, she looked into Chu-shim's heart a dozen times a day.  
"Your brother's all right. He just causes trouble when he's been drinking. Why, only yesterday he brought home five shad and told me to fix them for you. He said raw fish is good for sick folks. You know how much he cares for you. It's just when he gets to drinking. He's a fine person at heart."  
But Chu-shim left the house that night.  
Mother checked the outhouse first. Then, on a troubling hunch, she rushed to the shed and fumbled around the shelf where they kept leftover pesticide. It was gone. Mother woke Chu-man and dashed to Uncle's house. The two families spent the night combing the hills, fields and beach.  
They found Chu-shim the next morning, as the sun rose over Sorok Island and the Noktong Peninsula across the bay. The sunrise was as red as the blood she had vomited on the dry grass. She was lying in front of Father's grave in Persimmon Hollow.  
"It broke my heart to see Auntie crying so. Bad enough she kept beating her chest, but then she'd cry out, 'Oh you miserable witch, you just tried to save yourself!' I don't know who she was talking about, but it near broke my heart. She hasn't eaten a thing. Don't look like she'll last long."  
You just tried to save yourself! Just tried to save yourself! The words echoed through Chu-ch'ol's heart.  
He looked up at the cloud-filled sky. The cold had come early this winter. It had started with a rain that felt more like the late spring monsoons, then changed to snow. And just as the snow began to melt, a new storm brought more, which melted again, only to be covered with still more. The clouds peeking through the pine branches promised another storm.  
A cock pheasant strolling through the bushes by the side of the path caught sight of the two men and took flight, its purple-feathered mate flapping behind him. The image of Mother pounding her chest rose with the pheasants over the woods toward the facing hillside.  
You just tried to save yourself! Just tried to save yourself!  
Chu-ch'ol understood what she meant.  

The hill behind the house was terraced. The terraces were used for drying seaweed more often than farming, but the villagers planted peppers, zucchinis and sweet potatoes there in the off-season. The poles and straw used for the drying frames were piled like grass tombs along the edge of each terrace and at the bottom of the hill.  
Long ago Chu-ch'ol had spent many nights hiding among the poles and straw with his father. It was late summer the year he turned nine. The sun was hot during the day, but at night the air turned chill. Father hid in the pantry off the kitchen in the daylight hours. The pantry had been used as a granary since Grandmother and Grandfather had passed away. Its bamboo slat window was lined with a sheet of tin to keep rats out. The tiny room was as damp and dark as a cave. Father spent the day there, confined like a leper, and when the light faded, he took Chu-ch'ol up the hill behind the house and hid under a stack of poles, sweating and shaking like an ailing ox. Chu-ch'ol disliked the cavernous darkness of the pantry, but he hated the chilling darkness under the poles just as much. The darkness came from the pine grove, where the village's tutelary guardian stood among a cluster of stone baby graves. The darkness rode a stream down the hill, flowing past the upper village to creep around the terraced fields like the spindly legs of a goblin. Chu-ch'ol couldn't see a thing: the straw thatch protecting the poles from the rain blocked his view. All he could do was listen-to a pinging sound that rang through the darkness, to the crickets, to the pained groans of his father rustling in the straw.  
Chu-ch'ol was afraid of his father then. The man was too silent. The boy couldn't understand why his father dragged him to the hill each night. All he could understand was his father's labored breathing, the heat of his hands, and the way they trembled as he bent to pull his son over the edge of the terrace.  
Communist soldiers, clad in khaki uniforms and carrying rifles, came to the village. They gathered the villagers on the beach and gave a speech. It was summer when the cry of the cicadas in the trees by the beach reverberated through the entire village. That was the day Sam-ch'ol's father and Sun-hui's older brother started wearing red arm-bands and carrying swords as long as a man's arm, and that was the day Chu-ch'ol's father stopped going out. He began hiding in the pantry after a trip to Hoejin with Sam-ch'ol's father, Sun-hui's brother and Uncle Kae-dong.  
Ten days after the communist soldiers' visit to the village, Chu-ch'ol returned home from the beach, where the children had been gathered to learn "Glorious be the Morning," to find three pairs of unfamiliar black rubber shoes under the porch off the main room. He could hear people talking in low tones inside. Mother was squatting in the kitchen with Chu-shim strapped to her back. She was listening to what was being said as she fed the fire. She rinsed a raw sweet potato and pressed it into his hand. Chu-man stood behind her, chewing as he sniffed up the thick yellow mucus that dripped from his nose. Chu-ch'ol had just taken his first bite when the brusque voice of Sam-ch'ol's father filtered through the door.  
"Just do as we ask, all right?"  
"Why should I hand myself in?" Father responded in a firm tone. "I haven't done anything wrong. Since when is being village chief or director of the Fishermen's Association under the Japanese a crime?"  
"I know. I know. But you're part of the bourgeoisie. You've got to hand yourself in," Sun-hui's brother retorted.  
"Bourgeoisie? And what's that?" Father asked incredulously. There was silence for a moment.  
"This is ridiculous," he continued. "Since when does a couple of acres make someone a capitalist landlord? When did I exploit the poor laborers or farmers? I was never involved in usury. I never had any sharecroppers. You need at least ten acres and sharecroppers to be bourgeoisie, don't you? Just think! I only have a couple acres! When did I exploit anyone? You know, when I was village head and director of the Fishermen's Association I tried to help people. That's why I hired servants I didn't need and paid them more than the going rate. Think about it! It's all because our village is so poor. You know, I'd be a middling farmer in a larger village. No matter how you look at it, there's no reason I should hand myself in. I didn't touch a single penny of public funds when I was village head."  
"Oh come on! Do you think people hand themselves in 'cause they're guilty? Look at the world today!" Sun-hui's brother replied. He had been a farmhand in the upper village his whole life, but after the communists' arrival, he had come to New Town wearing that red arm-band.  
"Just come with us tomorrow morning," Sam-ch'ol's father ordered gruffly.  
"You ain't committed no crime. Why, you saved a lot of skins during the right-wing's rule! You can hold your head high at a people's trial," Uncle Kae-dong added.  
The following day Chu-ch'ol's father, dressed in a white hanbok reserved for special occasions, crossed Hanje Mountain with Sam-ch'ol's father and Uncle Kae-dong. Sam-ch'ol's father was head of the People's Committee. The security police had given him the job because his oldest son had been killed during the Yosu Rebellion in 1948.  
"Don't worry. I'll stay with him," he whispered to Chu-ch'ol's mother as they left.  
"If there's a people's trial, I'll take his side," promised Uncle Kae-dong.  
Father didn't return that night. Uncle Kae-dong came to the house late in the afternoon.  
"He's going to sleep there tonight so you'd better send him some supper. The people's trial went real well," he said before leaving.  
As the sun dipped over Hanje Mountain, Mother prepared the children's supper, then drew Chu-ch'ol aside.  
"I'm going to take Father his supper so you and Chu-man lock the gate and go to sleep."  
Chu-ch'ol's heart sank. He was afraid of the funeral bier ghost. His father stored the bier in the outhouse. He had gotten the bier years before when Chu-ch'ol's grandfather died, and now he lent it out when there was a funeral in the village. The dusty old bier had carried Ho-ch'ol's grandmother and Kil-ho's father too. Mother often complained that Father didn't burn it, but he simply snorted, "What's wrong with letting them use it to cart off those pitiful corpses?"  
The local children said the funeral bier ghost came out at night. Kil-ho said he had heard it once on his way to market.  
As Mother took Father's supper to town, little Chu-shim strapped on her back, a bloody sunset lit the mackerel sky, then stained their courtyard and roof red. It was almost as if Mother had been sucked into the fire.  
Sunset passed and darkness descended. Chu-ch'ol locked the front gate and took Chu-man into the main room.  
"It's scary, isn't it?" Chu-ch'ol whimpered. "Let's hurry up and go to sleep."  
They lay down on the floor and pulled the blanket over their heads. Like most children with large eyes, Chu-man was easily frightened. He lay his head on his brother's chest and held his breath.  
The following morning Chu-ch'ol woke at dawn to find Mother sleeping beside him, Chu-shim in her arms. Father had not returned. When it grew light, Mother rose and began bustling around the kitchen. After feeding Chu-ch'ol and Chu-man, she rushed off with a basket containing Father's breakfast. She returned at midday, her face as pale as a blank sheet of paper, and rushed to the saltflats. It wasn't long before she returned with Uncle Kae-dong, his face hardened like steel. Kae-dong wandered around the courtyard as he waited for Mother to cook Father's supper, stopping from time to time to roll a cigarette and sigh. Mother wrapped Father's supper and headed across the pass once again, this time with Uncle Kae-dong following in her footsteps.  
That night Chu-ch'ol woke to his father's groans. He was lying at the other end of the room, moaning in pain. The sound echoed strangely, bouncing from the ceiling to the floor to the outer walls. It echoed through Chu-ch'ol's heart as well. Mother sat at her husband's pillow, preparing some herbal medicine to relieve the bleeding. The stench of the medicine filled the room. A kerosene lamp flickered in the corner. The shadow around its base looked like a deep black hole. Chu-ch'ol sat up and looked at his father. His features were contorted in pain. He looked like he was having trouble breathing. An oppressive numbness occupied Chu-ch'ol's heart like the dark shadow at the foot of the lamp. He straightened up, took a deep breath and crawled closer. His father took Chu-ch'ol's hand. The corners of his eyes glistened in the lamp light. His breathing was uneven. Each time he drew a breath, his nostrils dilated, large and dark, as if they were drawing in the shadow from the lamp.  
The following day Mother stuffed some pine needles in the mouth of an empty bottle, tied a stone to it, and lowered it on a long string into the outhouse hole. That was the day Chu-ch'ol stopped going to the beach to learn the communists' songs. His father wouldn't let him go anymore. Chu-ch'ol was bored, but he sat by his father's side blinking in wonderment as his father drank the yellow liquid that Mother had collected in the outhouse.  
As he watched his father suffering, his face contorted and dark, Chu-ch'ol imagined him dying. His father's eyes rolled back in his head, and they put him in a coffin and buried him. Mother wailed and pounded the ground. Then she pulled Chu-ch'ol into her arms. He felt an electrifying thrill when he entered her sweet embrace.  
He hated himself for these thoughts and turned from his father, biting his tongue. Chu-man and Chu-shim were sleeping beside him. He imagined them dead too. They had drowned in the well. The villagers wrapped their corpses in white cotton cloth, placed them in large jars and carried them to the mountain. Mother flung herself on their graves, wailing, then pulled Chu-ch'ol to her and hugged him.  
Chu-ch'ol hated himself for thinking that. He bit down on his tongue again. He squeezed his eyes shut and turned over. This wasn't the first time he'd had such thoughts. They occurred to him at the strangest times, as he played with his pasteboard cards, as he sat in the outhouse. He secretly enjoyed the thoughts. He enjoyed them on the way to and from school, he enjoyed them as he took the ox to graze, as he cut grass for the newborn calves. He relished them, then bit down on his tongue in guilt and anger. Sometimes he beat the pigs oinking in the sty with a stick or thrashed the ox with the reins as he took it to the fields. And other times he squashed frogs in the rice paddies and stoned snakes he found crawling through the grass.  
He felt that he was committing a sin against Father, Chu-man and Chu-shim. He prayed for his father's recovery in hopes of freeing himself from the guilt. "Oh gods in heaven, oh revered ancestors, please make our father well." He even prayed for Chu-man and Chu-shim. "Oh Heaven! Please heal the boil on Chu-man's head. And heal my sister's measles." He prayed out loud so he could hear the words. He prayed in the outhouse and as he cut grass for the calves. "What are you mumbling about?" his mother and friends would ask.  
Ten days after returning home, Father had recovered enough to walk to the outhouse by himself. That very evening Sam-ch'ol's grandfather came to their house. The old man had been like a brother to Chu-ch'ol's grandfather. His bamboo pipe trembled as he climbed onto the porch and entered the main room where Father lay. Chu-ch'ol had been playing pasteboard cards with Chu-man, although his little brother was hardly a worthy opponent. He left the game to follow the old man into the room. Father shooed him out, though. He sat on the front porch pretending to count his cards while he listened to what was being said inside. Sam-ch'ol's grandfather whispered something but Chu-ch'ol couldn't understand what he had said. A moment later the old man spoke again. "Take my words to heart," he said as he stepped from the room, the long pipe protruding from his white beard.  
That night Chu-ch'ol's father took Chu-ch'ol to hide in the stacks of bamboo poles for the first time. Years later Mother told him what happened that night.  
After Chu-man fell asleep, she put Chu-shim on her back and climbed to the stand of bamboo behind their house. There was a pile of firewood lying on the ground. She hid there. She couldn't go any further because she was concerned about Chu-man, of course. She had the baby on her back and was afraid a burglar might break in while she was away.  
The main gate and front yard were visible through the bamboo. She crouched on her knees watching. She had lost all track of time when the sky brightened to the east. Was the moon rising already? Dogs were barking on the beach in the lower village. Sam-ch'ol's grandfather was right: they were purging the reactionaries that night. Her hair stood on end, and goose bumps covered her flesh. She heard a rustling at the corner of the house and the main gate squeaked. Then she heard someone jump over the wall. Through the bamboo she could see a dark shadow enter the dimly-lit yard.  
That was when Chu-shim began to fuss. Mother shifted the baby to her lap and offered her breast, but the baby arched her back and whimpered as she took the nipple. A bug must have bitten her. The shadow in the yard approached the house. She heard the door of the main room open, then the door to the kitchen. Chu-shim kept arching her back and whimpering. The shadow looked inside the outhouse. Mother covered Chu-shim's mouth with her hand. The baby struggled for breath. Mother took the corner of the baby quilt and covered Chu-shim's face. The shadow went around the back of the house and circled the large condiment jars stored there. He hesitated by the back door to the kitchen, then returned to the front yard and climbed back over the wall.  
The following morning when Father returned to the house and heard Mother's story, he sighed.  
"Let's get out of here! Let's take a boat and get out of here!" she begged. Mother was terrified.  
"And where would we go?" he asked. To another island, she replied. He just shook his head.  
Father spent the next day hiding in the pantry, and as darkness began to seep down from the rocky pine grove to fill the shed and kitchen with black shadows, he took Chu-ch'ol's hand and climbed through the bamboo grove to the stack of poles on the hill.  
The house burned down that night. Local party leaders from Hilltop Village and New Town thought they could flush Father out by setting the house on fire.  
Mother spent the rest of her life grieving over what happened that night. After having so much trouble quieting Chu-shim the night before, she put Chu-man and Chu-shim to bed in the main room and went to hide behind the pile of firewood alone. The moon rose around midnight. The sea rippled with silver waves, but the hills of New Town were submerged in darkness. Several black shadows climbed over the wall. Once in the yard, they scattered, banging doors as they searched the house. Mother's heart ached at the thought of the sleeping children. What if the black shadows stepped on them? She closed her eyes and rubbed her hands together. "Oh gods in heaven, please, please keep them safe," she whispered over and over again.  
The door-banging stopped and the black shadows scampered back and forth between the front and back yards. All of a sudden Mother heard a rumbling sound, like a battleship. Ah, the police are coming to save us, she thought. Then she smelled gasoline. A large black object seemed to be floating over the silver waves stretching across the strait to Sorok Island. But why the gasoline smell? Could the smell of the battleship's fuel reach all the way up the hill? Mother kept rubbing her hands together and praying. Then, whoosh, the scene below was lit by a brilliant light. Flames engulfed the roof of the house. A man touched a torch to the eaves, then ran to the back of the house. The firewood in the kitchen was burning. The porch was burning. The ribs and paper on the bamboo door to the room where the children were sleeping were burning too. Then she heard their cries, shrill like cloth ripping. "Fire!" she shrieked, dashing down the hill. Her voice seemed caught in her throat.  
"Oh no, my children! What should I do?" she screamed as she darted from the back yard to the front, oblivious to the danger. A black shadow popped over the wall. He whispered something to the men in the courtyard, then fled back over the wall. The other men followed him.  
Mother broke through the burning door and went into the room. The crying children shrieked at the sight of their mother and retreated into the corner. She gathered them up and dragged them outside. Chu-man kicked and struggled, screaming, "Mama, Mamaaa!" Chu-shim jerked and gasped for breath as if she were having a convulsion, but Mother didn't have time to console them. She left them by the front gate and returned to the house, hoping to salvage some of their belongings. The fire had engulfed the wooden-floored room at the center of the house. Suddenly Father appeared and pulled her to the ground.  
"Water, get some water!" he cried, then ran to the back yard. Only then did Mother realize that she had to put out the fire. She followed Father to the back of the house.  
Chu-ch'ol awoke to the sound of a woman crying "Fire! Fire!" Somehow he knew it was Mother. He groped among the straw mats lining the pile of poles, but Father was gone. Looking down the hill, he saw the house on fire. He could almost see Father, Chu-man, Chu-shim and Mother in the flames. Suddenly a dark phantom appeared before him-a monster as large as the pile of poles that they had been hiding in. Its hair was tangled like a mass of dried weeds; its eyes, nostrils and mouth gaped open like a huge mortar. The monster leaped in the air, flailing its arms and shouting. The sound rang through the hollow mountain valley like an echo. Chu-ch'ol understood what it was saying. Heave ho, heave ho! Die, die, die right now! Die, Papa. Die, Chu-man. Die, Chu-shim. Die, die, die... Chu-ch'ol repeated the monster's call in his heart. His chest pounded, his blood seethed with a gloomy whine. He frightened himself as he shouted along with the monster.  
"Papa!" Chu-ch'ol called as he bounded down the terraced fields. In his head he pictured his father, mother, brother and sister struggling inside the red ball of fire. Mother was the only one to escape. Heave ho, heave ho! Burn, burn, burn! Die, die, every one of you! was all he heard.  
When he reached the bottom of the hill, the yard was bright as day. Someone was hauling buckets of water from the well and pouring them on the roof of the house. It was Father. Mother was wailing beside him. "The house is on fire, the house is on fire." Her sobs seemed to alternate with those of Chu-man and Chu-shim. It looked as if the two younger children were inside the fire. Chu-ch'ol jumped from the bamboo grove into the yard. He ran to the front of the house to find Chu-man and Chu-shim locked in each other's embrace. He picked up Chu-shim and lifted her onto his back. She attached herself to him like a leech, and Chu-man clung to his leg, inconsolable still.  
It didn't sound like crying. It was a deathly scream, a knife in the heart. Chu-ch'ol looked up at the burning roof and broke into tears.  
As a tongue of black smoke and fire lapped onto the outer porch, Chu-ch'ol heard the roof creak, and flames shot into the sky. Suddenly the roof crumbled. The cracking sound and whoosh of the flames seemed to echo through his body. Chu-man and Chu-shim let loose a new chorus of wails and clung even more desperately to their older brother. It almost sounded like the cry of a chicken as its neck was wrung. His chest crackled like the fire, his body trembled as a wave of vertigo and nausea swept over him. He wanted to weep out loud, but the sound would not come. The monster's call kept ringing in his ears. Heave ho, heave ho! Die! Die! All of you!  

"It's my fault," Mother once said. "I'm responsible for what happened to Chu-man and Chu-shim. Imagine how they felt when they woke up and saw that fire burning through the door! They've never been the same since." She must have been referring to herself when she cried, "You tried to save yourself!"  
Chu-ch'ol's back was dripping with perspiration by the time they reached the pass. "Let's stop and rest," he suggested. Yong-man leaned his carrier against a tree and plopped down wearily in the dry grass.  
The pine grove at the top of the pass overlooked New Town. Several houses were roofed in slate. A narrow road snaked over the hill at the entrance to the village, slithered through the dark earth of the surrounding rice paddies and twisted its way out of town. Beyond the hill lay the sea. The water, flat and gray as the sky, was encircled by the faded ink-color shores of Sorok Island and the Noktong Peninsula.  
Chu-ch'ol gazed at his brother's house in the upper part of the village. The black coal-tar tin roof lay flat on its belly; a hill rose like a staircase behind it. Dark yellow bamboo frames formed another set of stairs, but there was no seaweed on them. It wasn't time for the seaweed harvest yet. Chu-man's house was the only house without bamboo frames.  
Chu-ch'ol recalled how Chu-shim used to remove the seaweed from the drying frames. She caught cold easily. One winter, he returned home to find her working at the frames, a white wool muffler wrapped around her head and neck.  
They shouldn't have had her get married. She'd never had a decent night's sleep. She tossed and turned the night away, sighing in frustration.  
"Mama, please send me to a Buddhist temple." She had pleaded with her mother on several occasions, but her mother tried to console her.  
"Oh baby, what are you talking about? Don't you worry! Mama will make you better. You're not cut out for a nun's life."  
Mother had tried every medicine known to cure chest spasms and insomnia. Not only did she buy the finest over-the-counter drugs, she also tried everything that the local herbal medicine shops had to offer. Chu-shim's illness didn't seem to improve, though. On overcast days, she beat her chest, complaining that she couldn't breathe. Sometimes she hid under her quilt to escape visions of great black things. She paced from room to room, from the house to the yard, and when it was really bad, she ran to the stream and spent the night walking the ridges between the rice paddies or the beach, only to return at dawn, clothes damp with the dew.  
When Chu-ch'ol returned home after completing military service, Mother told him about the medicine she had been buying. She said she had tried everything. She had taken her daughter to the finest acupuncturists who pierced the girl's soft flesh in every imaginable place. Now she didn't know where to turn.  
Chu-ch'ol took Chu-shim to a university hospital in Seoul. After registering at the front desk, she was given an X-ray and blood and urine tests, then she was called to internal medicine. She told the doctor of her symptoms, about the pain in her chest, about the black things that came after her when she was trying to sleep, about her heart palpations.  
"Your heart is perfectly normal," the doctor explained. "Don't worry, you're not suffering from heart disease. You just have a bad case of parasites. All we need to do is get rid of them. Get some rest and take this medicine," he said as he handed her a prescription. Chu-ch'ol took the prescription to a pharmacist and learned that it contained a sedative and some vitamins. He bought her a month's supply of pills, then sent her home. He had to stay in Seoul to look for a job. Chu-shim had reached marriageable age, and her mother had received a matchmaking inquiry from a neighboring village. Determined not to miss the chance, Mother pushed Chu-shim to accept the proposal. Chu-shim, who seemed to have improved thanks to the medicine, acquiesced, saying she would take the leap since her mother was so anxious for her to marry.  
Thrilled to have recovered the daughter she had lost so long ago, Mother made a list of dowry items for Chu-ch'ol to get in Seoul. She spared no expense and provided her daughter things that only the richest country folk could afford-a sewing machine, a radio, a wardrobe, a vanity table, a kitchen cabinet.  
Mother believed Chu-shim's symptoms would gradually disappear if she married and had regular relations with her husband. She had seen many girls whose mental problems cleared up with marriage.  
Chu-shim was different, though. When she got pregnant and began to experience morning sickness, her symptoms reappeared, more seriously this time. Then one night she came running home. She had taken two or three sedatives but still couldn't sleep. To make matters worse, she had a miscarriage at three months. Soon she began to lose weight, and her heart palpitations worsened. She never returned to her husband's house.  
The doors on the front gate still hadn't been hung. The kitchen gaped dark and sooty like a cave. Chu-man's wife, a stocky woman, and Yong-man's wife, who was slender, were working in the kitchen. Smoke from the firepit and steam rising from the large iron kettle crept through the kitchen door, over the eaves and onto the slate roof. Relatives had gathered in the front yard to make straw ropes for the funeral, and several pairs of rubber shoes were resting on the threshold of the side room where Chu-man and his wife slept. The family elders had gathered to discuss preparations for the funeral.  
When Chu-ch'ol stepped in the gate, the people in the yard stood and greeted him.  
"Well, you sure got here quick."  
"Took an express bus, eh?"  
They were all distant uncles or cousins.  
Chu-ch'ol entered the main room to find Mother leaning against the wall at the far end of the room. She straightened up at the sight of her eldest son and began a new chorus of weeping.  
"Chu-shim, oh my poor Chu-shim, your big brother's come!" she wailed, pounding her chest. "Oh you miserable witch, you just tried to save yourself!"  
Chu-ch'ol's heart ached. Uncle Tal-jin's wife, herself distraught, leaned over and tried to console his mother. "Don't cry. Let her have a peaceful journey."  
Chu-man stumbled into the room. His breath reeked of drink. "What are you crying for, Mama? Chu-shim's lucky to be dead," he growled. He then took his brother by the hand and told him that the elders in the other room wanted to see him.  
After receiving Chu-ch'ol's bow of greeting, Uncle Tal-jin turned to the business at hand.  
"We all feel sorry for her, but there's nothing we can do now. We were going to bury her today but your mother wanted to wait for you, even if it meant putting it off a day. But now that you're here, what's the point of waiting? Everything's ready. Why don't we get the funeral over with?"  
The others agreed. Chu-ch'ol glanced at his watch. It was almost four.  
They carried Chu-shim's unadorned coffin up the hill behind the house and around two neighboring knolls. "Careful now!" someone cried, and the pallbearers answered "Yes, up and over carefully."  
"Careful now. Be gentle with her. Higher in front! Yes, up and over. Lower in the back! Yes, gently now..."  
As the coffin crossed the ridge beyond the village, blossoms of snow began to fall, covering her bare coffin with white flowers.  
Her grave was to be located in the pine grove below Father's tomb at Persimmon Hollow. The funeral took place quietly amidst the falling snow.  
When the grave mound was finished, the entire hill was covered with a blanket of white. The needles on the pine trees were enveloped with a delectable layer of white, and the snow kept falling, rustling like a woman's skirt.  
They returned to the house by the light of Yong-man's flashlight. Not long after the relatives had finished eating and left, something happened.  
The snow in the courtyard made everything light. Inside Mother pounded the floor, lamenting the fate of her poor daughter buried in the snow. Yong-man and his wife sat in the corner by the door, their heads bowed. Uncle Tal-jin's wife sat next to Mother, blowing her nose from time to time and wiping her hand on the sole of her sock. Chu-man's wife sniffled as she sat next to Yong-man's wife, nursing her baby. Chu-man was nowhere to be seen. The others assumed he had passed out in the other room. Chu-ch'ol sat awkwardly; he didn't know how to console them.  
An oil lamp, chimney dark with soot, hung from the ceiling, dimly illuminating the walls. The rest of the room was hidden in its shadow.  
All of a sudden Chu-man burst in from the other room with a large bottle of soju in one hand and a bowl in the other. He had been finishing off the liquor that the pallbearers had left behind. The bottle was still one-quarter full. He staggered into the room and collapsed under the lamp.  
"Mama, stop your crying! Chu-shim's lucky to be dead," he said as he poured some soju into the bowl. Chu-ch'ol didn't want to scold his brother or tell him to stop. Chu-man had quit elementary school in the fourth grade to help pay his older brother's university expenses. He had never had a chance to learn good manners.  
Still, Chu-ch'ol couldn't help frowning. He hated the sight of his brother tottering around with a bottle. "There's nothing left to eat. Who is going to drink now?" he asked. Chu-man turned to Yong-man who sat uncomfortably in the corner.  
"Want a shot?"  
Yong-man declined and turned to the corner. Chu-man snorted and thrust the bowl in Chu-ch'ol's direction.  
"Here, Brother, have a drink."  
"No one wants a drink," Chu-ch'ol snarled.  
"All right, all right. I'll drink it,"Chu-man said, hanging his head as he picked up the bowl.  
"Without any food to go with it?" Chu-ch'ol demanded, grabbing the bowl.  
"Oh, that's all right. Don't worry," Chu-man retorted. "Damn this lousy world. Life's too short for all this." He jerked his brother's hand away and tossed the soju down his throat. Chu-ch'ol picked up the bottle and gave it to Yong-man.  
"What are you trying to do?" he asked Chu-man, then turned to Yong-man and told him to get rid of the bottle.  
Yong-man put the bottle on the porch and returned.  
"Don't you understand how I feel?" Chu-man asked, glaring at his brother. "I can't live without booze. I can't!"  
"How come? Please, I beg of you. If not for your own sake, quit drinking for our poor old mother. Why can't you stop?" Chu-ch'ol pleaded. Chu-man fixed his bloodshot stare on his brother, then dropped his head.  
"Brother, listen to what I have to say and then do as I ask. Take Mama with you. I can't live with her anymore. You don't have to worry about me. I'll manage one way or another, me and the wife and kids."  
Uncle Tal-jin's wife spoke in Mother's place.  
"Chu-man, you shush up and do what your mama tells you. You can't do a thing without her. What about the kelp beds? What about the seaweed nets? What about the fields? You couldn't do anything without her!"  
Chu-ch'ol spoke next.  
"You know when I see how you treat Mother, I feel like taking her back with me. I know she doesn't want that, though, so I'll just leave things as they are for now. Understand?"  
Chu-man glared at his brother.  
"Do I have to spell it out for you?" he cried, then turned to Mother. "Mama, please go with Brother. I just wanna sell off this land and try livin' on my own. Don't you understand?"  
All eyes converged on Chu-man's face. What are you talking about? they seemed to ask.  
"Chu-ch'ol, don't pay any attention to him!" Mother whispered in a mosquito-thin voice, then dropped her head.  
Chu-man tore open his overcoat to reveal a gray undershirt. He ripped the buttons open and exposed his pale chest.  
"Look at this!" he moaned, thrusting out his chest. "Chu-shim was lucky to die." He was crying. The lamp sputtered noisily as it sucked up its oil. The sound seemed to come from the black shadow that billowed from the cave-like kitchen.  
"I wish I could cut open my chest and show you how I feel!" Chu-man wailed. No one spoke. All of a sudden Chu-ch'ol heard the voice again: Die! Just die! Stab a hole in your chest and die!  
Suddenly Mother collapsed against the wall as if she were short of breath. "Oh you miserable witch! You just tried to save yourself!" she cried, beating her chest. Outside, the snow illuminated the night as it piled deeper and deeper, rustling like the starched white skirt of a woman in mourning.  
A Festival for the Living  

Chu-on picked up a broom made of millet stalks, the tiny husks still clinging to the stems like drops of dried blood. He moved slowly as he swept, but his gaze was trained on Chu-ch'ol and Hye-suk. From time to time, the sleepy eyes lit up as if by a flash of lightning.  
Chu-on was watching for a meaningful glance from one of the relatives gathered for the funeral, for a furtive poke in the ribs as someone passed, for a note changing hands, for the exchange of words in a dark corner. He was especially alert to Tal-gyun, Chu-ch'ol's youngest uncle, who lived in a Buddhist temple on the slopes of Mt. Hanjae. He walked with a slight limp and was actually five years younger than Chu-ch'ol. Tal-gyun was born of Chu-ch'ol's great uncle's liaison with a woman who cooked at the temple. As a young man, he had wandered the country, from Kwangju to Seoul and Pusan, but returned home at the age of forty, with a pretty woman in tow. They now lived at the temple with his mother, who was almost ninety.  
Chu-on gathered up the straw mats and feed sacks that were piled against the wall between the porch and the main room. He was clearing a spot for the coffin. Beneath the mats and sacks were a layer of leftover feed grain and dust, a few dried brown persimmon leaves and a dingy plastic bag.  
When he saw the plastic bag, something crashed inside Chu-ch'ol's heart. The blood rushed to the top of his head and he felt dizzy.  
Chu-on leaned forward to sweep up the dust, then paused, picked up the bag and looked inside. Its contents were visible from the outside; it was several lengths of iron chain. Chu-on reached into the bag.  
Of all people, why did he have to find that? Chu-ch'ol muttered to himself. His heart pounded, almost as if he had been caught stealing, and his face began to burn.  
Chu-on coiled the chain around his hand and pulled it from the bag. The chain was quite thick: a grade thinner than those used to control traffic in front of fine office buildings or factories policed by uniformed guards with gold-fringed hats, and a grade heavier than those used on German shepherds or guard dogs. Here and there the silver paint had worn off to reveal coffee-colored rust. Two pairs of cuffs were attached to the ends of the chain, and a gold padlock was fastened securely to each cuff.  
Chu-on's face hardened as he studied the chain. Chu-ch'ol grimaced, and a groan escaped his lips. He pulled out a pack of cigarettes, hoping to calm himself with a smoke. Chu-ch'ol and his mother were responsible for the chain.  
One day early last summer, his mother had called from the village post office. "I can't take it anymore. You've got to come down here. And bring something to tie him up with. We can't live like this any longer." Her voice was trembling.  
"Do you mean you want me to bring chains?"  
"You wouldn't believe how strong he gets when he's drunk. Why, two or three strong young men can't hold him down! We need chains, and no ordinary chains at that. I know it won't be a pretty sight, but what can we do? This is no time for pity. Just do as I say and bring something strong!"  
The next day Chu-ch'ol stopped at the hardware store on his way to the bus terminal. He had gone there many times-for a briquette stove, a coal bucket, a piece of stovepipe, a gas exhaust pipe, some wire, a few nails-and he depended on the store owner when it came to installing things. Neither he nor his wife knew the couple who ran the store by name, but they always exchanged nods when they met.  
The owner wasn't in but the door was open. "Anybody here?" Chu-ch'ol called as he stepped inside and looked around. He spotted a collection of chains hanging in the doorway like a bamboo curtain, chains of all descriptions, from thin ones perfect for tying a cat to thick ones that might be hung across a factory driveway. Next to the chains were row after row of dog and cat collars, ranging in size and color from dainty artificial leather collars fit for a small poodle to sturdy leather contraptions meant for large shepherds or hounds.  
"Are you looking for a dog collar? How big is your dog?" The owner's wife asked as she emerged from the quilt shop next door. She began sorting through the collars and chains.  
Chu-ch'ol felt a cold wind rise in his chest. No, it's for a person. A person. I'm looking for a chain to tie up my crazy brother. The cold wind was a strange tangle of sorrow and guilt.  
Do we have to chain him up? Isn't there some other way to stop him from drinking? No, Mother wouldn't have suggested this method if there had been any other way left. How many times had he fallen into a coma, forcing them to put him in the hospital? When he got out, he always promised to quit drinking, but it never lasted more than three months. He would start drinking on the sly, and it wasn't long before he was guzzling at all hours of the day.  
The woman, with her white blouse and permed hair, gave off a distinct smell, but Chu-ch'ol couldn't tell whether it was from soap, shampoo, water or simply her own unique odor.  
"It must be a large dog," she said as she took down a chain of the second thickest grade. Chu-ch'ol had been fingering it with the thought that it would be just right for locking a bike or pushcart.  
He pretended not to hear what she had said. Chu-man is stronger than a German shepherd, he thought. A dog might pull on the chain or chew at it, but Chu-man would try to cut it with some kind of tool. We'll need something thicker.  
"This strap should hold even the largest dog. Most people get leashes like this, not chains. It's made of rope covered with soft artificial leather. It doesn't hurt your hand when you take the dog out for a walk, and it looks nice too. Why don't you try it?" She took down a stout brown leather leash. It was as thick as a new-born baby's wrist.  
Chu-ch'ol shook his head. How are we going to tie him down? he wondered. An image from a television program rose in his mind: mental patients shackled in chains because they threw violent fits. Their hands were locked in cuffs. We might have to do that with Chu-man, he thought. They would have to put him in the main room, lest his children see. They would have to drive spikes into the door frame to hook the chains on and put shackles on his ankles. They would have to tie his hands too so he couldn't remove the shackles or use some kind of tool to pull out the spikes and break the chains.  
Chu-ch'ol bought two lengths of the chain that the woman had first offered: one for Chu-man's ankles, the other for his hands. He also got four large spikes, four leather dog collars, and four padlocks to fasten the chains to the spikes in the door frame. Better safe than sorry, he thought.  
The woman put his purchases in a large plastic sack. It sagged as if it were about to burst. Chu-ch'ol put the sack in his travel bag and hefted it onto his shoulder. The weight nearly pulled him over.  
On the bus south, he kept imagining Chu-man, wrists bound and shackled, gnashing his teeth with a wild fury in his eyes. How did he end up like this? Chu-ch'ol's heart was weighed by something much heavier than the chains in his bag. He was shackled himself.  
Chu-on stared at the tangled chains, then glanced at the pencil-thick spikes in the door frame. One of the locks was still fastened to a spike. Chu-on's eyes flashed. Chu-p'yong, Chu-ch'ol's youngest brother, was seated on the porch. He turned to look at Chu-on, then snatched the chains away.  
"What's this?" he protested in a mixture of tears and anger. "What is this?"  
Chu-ch'ol wet his lips and stared silently at the corpse lying at the end of the room. He was seized by a bitter sense of disappointment, guilt and anxiety. Chu-man's body lay covered with a sheet. Alcoholism may not have been the sole cause of death, Chu-ch'ol thought. Chu-on and Chu-p'yong probably thought he was responsible for his brother's passing.  
"Get that stuff out of here. I can't stand the sight of it! Go bury it or throw in the reservoir. Just get it out of my sight!" Uncle Tal-jin snarled. His face was flushed from the soju that he had drunk earlier. His younger brother Tal-gyun grabbed the plastic bag from Chu-p'yong and went out to the yard. His limp was more conspicuous than usual.  
Snowflakes, as soft and plump as cherry blossoms, were falling sporadically. The thick dark clouds overhead seemed part of the soot-blackened eaves.  
Tal-gyun threw the chains into the corner of the shed adjacent the ox stall and returned to the house. Meanwhile, Chu-on, who had been staring intently at the spikes, suddenly turned to Chu-ch'ol's mother, who was rummaging through the wardrobe like an old mother dog. He looked back and forth between the old woman and the spikes. His eyes shone with a bluish glint, like a hungry wolf that had discovered something good to eat.  
The old woman pulled a bundle from the wardrobe. It was Chu-man's shroud. Her dark pupils were small as peas, her face the color of lead. A white towel was wrapped around her wiry gray hair. She spread the shroud on the floor, carefully unfolding the hemp pants and shirt and neatly arranging the waist and ankle ties, the overcoat, the long roll of silky hemp cloth, the ball of cotton, and a parcel of mulberry paper.  
Her body seemed enveloped in a strange eeriness, as if she had been waiting for Chu-man to die, as if she had been preparing for it.  
"Why couldn't you do as I asked? Why? It didn't have to come to this!" Chu-p'yong whimpered. His voice was tinged with frustration and anger as he stared at the snowflakes whispering down in the fields beyond the wall. No one acknowledged him.  
"Oh Father who art in heaven! Oh Father!"  
Chu-p'yong's face contorted as he clasped his hands together in prayer and murmured into the sky. The snowflakes kept falling, like flower petals on a spring breeze.  
Chu-p'yong was the only Christian in the family. In a sense, by becoming a Christian, he had chosen to isolate himself from the household, which had long been dedicated to the Confucian tradition. Chu-ch'ol and his mother had vehemently opposed Chu-p'yong's marriage into a devout Christian family, but he insisted on marrying the young woman, a deaconess in her church. In the end, Chu-ch'ol gave them permission to marry. "You and your family can believe what you like, but don't you breathe a word of that Jesus talk to anyone else in this family," he had warned. In fact, he didn't grant his permission so much as surrender to his brother's wishes.  
From a Christian's point of view, a seed had been planted in the Pak clan, until then ignorant of Jehovah, and the Savior's hand was set to work. However, from the Confucian Paks' point of view, Chu-p'yong's marriage signaled an invasion by the Christian god. Ever since Chu-p'yong joined forces with his future wife and embraced Christianity, he had pressured his older brother to accept and respect them as Christians. At first, Chu-ch'ol resisted. He was stubborn and conservative. "If you marry a Christian, I won't think of you as my brother anymore." Chu-p'yong, however, insisted that he wouldn't marry anyone else, then their mother intervened. "Let him do as he pleases. What if we hold out and he does something really awful?" Chu-ch'ol came up with the condition-that Chu-p'yong never breathe a word of Jesus to the rest of the family-but with absurd results. It was like asking a wolf with a lamb in its mouth not to hunger after more sheep-an empty and powerless appeal to the Buddha. Since his marriage, Chu-p'yong had been a messenger of the Good News to the Pak clan.  
At first, he was mindful of Chu-ch'ol, but gradually his evangelizing grew more blatant. Every time he came to the house in Hoechin, he sweet-talked their mother into going to church. He even succeeded in getting Chu-man and his wife to go. He visited all the relatives, preaching tirelessly.  
It was only natural that Chu-p'yong should be saddened and bitter upon discovering the chains. He had called Chu-ch'ol when he learned that Chu-man had started drinking again, this time after being hospitalized for liver failure.  
"Brother, please send Chu-man to live with us. I'll take care of him and make him go to church. There's a good religious retreat center near here. We could send him there. Why don't you send Mother along with him?"  
Chu-p'yong worked as a high school English teacher in Ch'unch'on. Chu-ch'ol promised to discuss the matter with their mother, but he knew he could never send Chu-man there. Chu-p'yong left for school early in the morning and didn't return home until late at night. Chu-man could rush out to a bar at any time. Chu-p'yong's wife may have thought she could transform her brother-in-law by the power of her faith, but she was off visiting church members and preaching door-to-door as soon as Chu-p'yong left the house in the morning. Why, she even enlisted her husband's help with the baby's bath and diaper washing! How could she keep that drunkard in his room, convert him, and make him quit drinking? No doubt they planned on committing him to a religious retreat center recommended by a fellow believer. One of those places where they lock up mental patients and senile old people for several million won a head...  
"It's obvious. They're going to send him to that retreat center. How can they possibly take care of him at home?" Hye-suk said. After tossing and turning all night, she had come to a conclusion. "We'd better let your mother decide. After all, he's her son. Just tell her what Chu-p'yong said. We don't want to get blamed for something later on."  
It seemed to make sense, so Chu-ch'ol called his mother and relayed his brother's suggestion. Mother was vehement.  
"I've heard about those retreat centers. Why, they drive normal people crazy there! I don't care if he dies drinking, I'm not sending him to one of those places."  
Chu-ch'ol agreed and called his brother to relay their mother's decision. Chu-p'yong called several times after that, begging him to send Chu-man to Ch'unch'on. He swore that the retreat center wasn't what they thought, and he promised to turn Chu-man around on the strength of his belief alone.  
"It's Mother's decision," Chu-ch'ol replied. "What can I do? We just have to leave him at home and hope we can keep him from drinking. Besides, I don't trust those places anymore than she does..."  
Chu-ch'ol made his opposition clear. Of course, he sometimes wondered if Chu-man might actually quit drinking if he went to one of those places. Maybe he would stay off the stuff if he got a little religion, but Chu-ch'ol refused to believe it. He wanted to believe that even if they could get his brother to stop drinking without beatings or drugs, he wouldn't stay sober for more than a month after he was discharged. To tell the truth, he didn't want to lose another brother to the Christian god. If Chu-man gave up drink for religion, his mother would be the next to go, then it would be Hye-suk's turn. Maybe he was simply afraid of losing his family to Christianity.  
Chu-ch'ol bit his tongue and thought. If we'd committed Chu-man to a retreat center maybe he wouldn't be lying here dead. No. He might have died even sooner, depressed and helpless. Maybe it's all for the best. Maybe he was supposed to die.  
"Brother, it's your blind conservatism and obstinacy that got our family into this mess," Chu-p'yong sobbed. The words pierced Chu-ch'ol's heart like knives, but he ignored them. Chu-man was dead. Further discussion was useless.  
"You pushed him toward death by giving him the money for that factory. He wasn't cut out for that kind of thing. He didn't have the brains or the ambition. You knew that," Chu-p'yong said as he stared out from his place at the end of the porch.  
That might be true, Chu-ch'ol thought. When he first gave Chu-man the five million won for the factory, he was uncertain.  
It was a seaweed processing plant, a cooperative project. Seven partners invested five million each and managed it together. The problem was, to run the machines efficiently, the shareholders had to harvest between 50 and 100 mats of seaweed each. A small boat wouldn't do for that. They needed a three-ton engine-driven vessel at the very least. That would take another 3.5 million won to build. The seaweed factory had state-of-the-art technology. It was powered by an electric motor imported from Japan and burned oil to dry the seaweed. With a good harvest, the equipment would pay for itself and yield each partner five million won in profits the first year.  
In late summer two years earlier, Chu-ch'ol's mother had rushed to Seoul to plead with him.  
"Everyone has a share in a factory these days. Why'd anyone want to peel off those sheets of seaweed by hand? Why, you'd have to be crazy to do that. You know how cold it can get out there by the drying racks. Lately I'm ashamed to walk through the village! Why, even the dogs seem to have a share in a factory! Your brother's the only one who doesn't. Why don't you give him a little push? It would make him wake up and get to work. All you have to do is give him five million won. If he can't pay it back, I'll sell off the land and pay you myself. All he needs is a share in a factory. After that, it's as easy as pie. You boys shouldn't ignore him just because you're educated and he's not. Chu-man needs your help."  
Chu-ch'ol knew why Mother tried so hard to help Chu-man. It was because of her debt to him.  
Whenever Chu-man or Chu-shim acted strangely, Mother pounded her chest and sighed, "Oh, you miserable witch, you just tried to save yourself!" After Chu-shim drank the pesticide and died ten years ago, Mother had repeated the same words.  
She felt guilty. That's why she prompted Chu-ch'ol to help Chu-man, to give him the money for the factory. She was tortured by her guilt. After Chu-man married and set up housekeeping, Mother often badgered her eldest son for money. Something had to be done about the paddies. The irrigation was no good, the land infertile. Could Chu-ch'ol help them pay for improvements? It was hard to make ends meet on a half-acre of paddy. Could Chu-ch'ol buy another half-acre? Just think of it as a favor to your old mother. Chu-man needed 300,000 won to set up his seaweed nets but where else could they go for money in the middle of the long, hot summer?  
Chu-man must have known how his mother felt. He often complained how hard it was to live in the country, how he was sick and tired of it all. And then he would get drunk and start wandering through the village. Mother tried to placate him by getting Chu-ch'ol to help. Chu-ch'ol did what he could. He knew that Mother took care of Chu-man, not the other way around, but he bought Chu-man the paddy that Mother had asked for, always making sure that it was the best land available. He sent money whenever she asked and bought them clothes, socks and underwear for every season, as well as school supplies for Chu-man's children. They kept saying that they would pay him back at harvest time or after they brought the seaweed in, but soon the loans-a hundred thousand won here, two-hundred there-added up to more than five million won. One day as Hye-suk studied the family account book, she confronted Chu-ch'ol.  
"Look at this! Are you going to give all your money to your brother? He's a full-grown man!"  
She often reminded him of the dangers of his actions. "It's not like paying off a gambler's debts. You know what they say-At least a gambler wins every once in a while. A drunk will eat you out of house and home."  
"Stop giving him money!" she would cry. "For his sake if nothing else! You have to stop, cold turkey!"  
Chu-ch'ol ignored her, though. He too felt a certain debt to his brother. In fact, it made him feel small and timid, like his fear of water.  
Chu-ch'ol had always thought of water as a living thing. It had the power to paralyze people by creating a mysterious atmosphere, like the night fog that covers the mountains, fields and villages. Flowing water in a river or stream, standing water in a pond or well, deep blue water in a reservoir, ghostly green water at the foot of a waterfall-it lured passersby with its magical powers, then drowned them. At times, it employed the water demon who lived deep within its shadowy depths to lure young men or women from sleep and swallow them. On nights in late spring or summer it wept sorrowfully like a young widow or wailed like a pair of copulating animals.  
Salt water was no different. It shrieked, it cried, it rumbled like a witch or evil spirit, to drown fishermen, to wreck ships, to sweep away women, young and old, who went out to collect alone clams or squid. Those waves and swells didn't occur naturally. They weren't caused by wind or currents. They were the product of the sea's dark will. The waves were like scales on the back of a monster. The sea was a living, breathing monster. The stones on the edge of the sea were alive too, as was the seaweed sprouting from them. They gave in to the sea's dark intent, trapped in an endless cycle of birth, growth, death and extinction. And the people living at the sea's edge yielded to those same dark waters, fishing, digging clams or collecting seaweed.  
Chu-ch'ol was trapped within this consciousness. From early childhood, he had felt dizzy whenever he went near the sea. He was afraid to swim. The other children plunged into the water and dog-paddled from the age of five or six, but Chu-ch'ol didn't learn to swim until he graduated from high school. And even then, he couldn't bring himself to swim into the deep water. He swam a few feet out, only to return in haste, overwhelmed by a terrible fear that he might be swallowed or caught in some mysterious conspiracy of the sea. His body shrank whenever he went in the water, as if he were developing a cramp.  
This fear of water continued to rule his life, even after he left the sea and moved to Seoul. For a man born and raised on an island, it was a source of great embarrassment and humiliation. It kept him from the sea; it made him ignorant of the sea. He couldn't help feeling that this ineptitude was tantamount to an ignorance of his roots and a major hurdle to his literary development. And so he devoted himself to the study of the sea. He tried to understand the lives of the fishermen and the people of the tideflats. He studied the marine animals and plants near his home village. He searched for poetic inspiration in the sea there and soon found that his soul resided in his home village, though his body was in Seoul.  
In the end, he couldn't be sure if he had overcome his phobia or if he was forever trapped inside the dark, mysterious atmosphere created by the water.  
Chu-ch'ol was also afraid of the villagers' wagging tongues. They had the power to create a vast forest as terrifying and mysterious as anything that the oceans produced.  
"He got a chance to study thanks to his poor widowed mother and his dim-witted brother and sister. It's time he woke up and started takin' care of them."  
"Yep, he'll suffer the wrath of the gods if he doesn't take care of those poor things."  
"You're right there. Why, they didn't even finish elementary school 'cause his schoolin' cost so much."  
His mother relayed what the villagers said. She wanted him to feel an obligation to his family.  
"Everyone in the village says Chu-shim wouldn't have died such a terrible death if we'd sent her to a temple for some learning or taught her to read. We never should have kept her at home like that."  
After Chu-shim died, Mother sang the same tune whenever she saw Chu-ch'ol. They couldn't let poor Chu-man take the same cruel road as his sister, could they?  
Chu-ch'ol sympathized with his mother, and in an effort to ease his guilt, which plagued him as much as his fear of water, he did as she asked. Chu-man bought into a seaweed factory and set up fifty seaweed nets as part of the bargain. He had a three-ton boat built and borrowed five million more to pay for it, playing on the guilt of his mother and eldest brother.  
"Do you really think you can save a man with money alone?" Chu-p'yong cried. "He died because of that money. You're responsible. You were wrong. You're a selfish egotist who thinks of nothing but his own reputation and writing. You don't understand the true meaning of life. You used your poor brother and sister as tools in your writing. You sacrificed them for your poetry. You're a sham, a fake who doesn't realize that true salvation means salvation of the soul!"  
"You little upstart! If you wanted to save your brother's soul, you should have come down here when he was alive!" shouted Uncle Tal-jin, his neck taut with anger. "What's the point of showing up after he's dead and blaming your older brother? Everyone knows Chu-ch'ol did everything he could for poor Chu-man. Heaven and earth know it too."  
Chu-ch'ol nudged his uncle in the side. "Leave him be. He's just bitter and sad."  
Chu-on was still standing in the middle of the porch, glancing back and forth from the kitchen to Tal-gyun, who was meandering around the yard. Chu-ch'ol smoked in silence, ignoring his cousin. Uncle Tal-gyun hadn't acted the slightest bit suspicious.  
"What's keeping you, Nephew? Hurry up and get in here!" It was Uncle Song-ho, one of the relatives gathered in the room next to the kitchen. There, several family members and Yong-sam, the head of the village funeral cooperative, were seated around a small table of drinks and food. Eager to discuss the funeral procedures, they had been calling Chu-ch'ol for some time. The relatives were unhappy because Chu-ch'ol had dipped into his own pocket and sent two younger cousins to Kwansan for the coffin, a bier and the food needed for the funeral ceremony. Tal-gyun had already told Chu-ch'ol and Uncle Tal-jin that the relatives planned to raise the money for the funeral themselves.  
"Damn them," Uncle Tal-jin spat, his features drawn in a fierce scowl. "What's there to talk about? It's your decision. After all you're practically the head of the household. You already gave the money for a bier and food, so what more is there to do? Those cretins are making a fuss 'cause they ain't got nothing better to do now that they've drunk all that free booze! What a bunch of fools..."  
"That Song-ho butts into everything. I can't stand the way he's always stickin' his nose in other people's business," Tal-gyun snarled in agreement. He turned to Chu-p'yong at the end of the porch. "It's gettin' cold. Let's close the door. Are you comin' in?"  
"Go ahead and close it," Chu-p'yong replied sullenly.  
"Hey, Chu-p'yong, why don't you go ask your Uncle Song-ho what that dead man has to show for himself?" Uncle Tal-jin called out sarcastically. "Hell, the poor fellow didn't have no property and his kids are still small. That's why we want a quiet funeral, with just his family and a few close neighbors. Why do we need to appoint a funeral director and invite the folks from the funeral cooperative? You tell them I said to have a quiet drink and get on home."  
He paused for a moment, then muttered on. "Why, there are twenty-five people in that funeral cooperative. If we have a three-day wake, that'll take at least a 250-pound pig, ten boxes of booze and one hundred packs of cigarettes. Do those fools really want that kind of funeral for Chu-man? Why, he was practically a beggar! They'd better remember who died here. I know people like to sponge off a funeral, but those guys are going too far!"  
Chu-on, who had followed Tal-gyun back into the main room, agreed. "Yeah, Song-ho is old enough to know better," added Tal-gyun.  
Chu-p'yong must have agreed too because he went to the other room to relay his uncle's message. As his footsteps faded, Uncle Tal-jin pulled a cigarette from his pocket and turned to Chu-ch'ol.  
"Your mother and Chu-man's wife already know what happened, but I better tell you, so you don't misunderstand." He paused, drawing silently on his cigarette.  
They heard someone emerge from the kitchen and cross the yard to the faucet. Chu-ch'ol caught a glimpse of black and yellow through the crack in the door. It must be Hye-suk, he thought. She was wearing black corduroy pants and a yellow sweater. Tal-gyun, who was sitting with his back to the door, sprang up, as if prompted by a sudden thought, and stepped outside.  
"Just forget about that... you know, that chain thing," Uncle Tal-jin said, blinking repeatedly as if the smoke had gotten in his eyes. Chu-on, who had been staring at the pictures on the folding screen concealing Chu-man's body, stood up and went outside.  
A noisy quarrel had erupted in the other room. Chu-on acted as if he were on his way to settle the argument, but Chu-ch'ol thought otherwise. He knew Chu-on had gone out to see what Uncle Tal-gyun and Hye-suk were doing outside. That stinking rat! Chu-on clearly thought Yun-gil was hiding at Uncle Tal-gyun's house.  
"You bought them, so we used them, but only once. He'd been drinking for ten days straight. He went crazy, beating up the kids, ripping the house apart. Then he took a kitchen knife and said he was going to kill the village head. Went after me too... It got so bad we called Tal-gyun and Song-ho over and tied him up with those chains. But it was only for two days. Couldn't stand to leave him like that. The poor fool cried his heart out. He promised he'd quit drinking and never do anything like that again, so we let him go. After that, we threatened him with the chains a few times, but we never tied him up. Thinking back now, I'm glad we didn't tie him up the other day when he started running around with that knife again. How would it have looked if he'd died in those chains?"  
Mother sat in the corner, spreading out Chu-man's shroud, then folding it neatly, patting the bundle, and unfolding it again.  
The voices in the other room grew louder. They could hear Chu-p'yong and Chu-on talking, and Tal-gyun's sarcastic remarks. Uncle Song-ho's husky voice, pompous and scolding, rose above the others.  
"What do you fools know? We don't need garbage like you. Go get Chu-ch'ol!"  
Uncle Tal-jin rose at Uncle Song-ho's words. Apparently he felt only he could settle the matter. Chu-ch'ol stood up. Uncle Tal-jin told him to stay, but he followed Tal-jin to the other room. Why were they making such a big deal about the funeral? Why did they think they had to take care of everything? As Chu-ch'ol stepped out onto the porch, Tal-gyun rushed over from where he had been standing by the other door.  
"Don't listen to Song-ho," he whispered. "I don't know what they hope to gain by takin' over this sorry funeral, but you just tell 'em you wouldn't call in the funeral cooperative if it meant carryin' Chu-man to his grave on your back! If you hire all the members from the funeral cooperative, there's no way you'll get by on one pig!"  
"Lousy bastards!" Chu-on grumbled. "Can't they work on the funeral without all this meat and booze? You know, the Family Rite Law was enacted so poor people like Chu-man could have a funeral without spending a fortune on it."  
Chu-p'yong was standing on the threshold of the other room. "Uncle Song-ho, how can you call me garbage?" he cried.  
Chu-ch'ol advised Tal-gyun, Chu-p'yong and Chu-on to keep their mouths shut as he followed Uncle Tal-jin into the room. Uncle Song-ho, Yong-sam, the head of the village funeral cooperative, Chu-hwang and Chu-ch'an, two distant cousins, and Kil-sun, a friend of Chu-man's, were seated around a small table. They reeked of alcohol after several bottles of soju accompanied by kimchi and salted seaweed.  
"Brother, you can't leave out the funeral cooperative," blurted Kil-sun. "We'll take care of everything."  
"Hey! Keep your mouth shut, Kil-sun. We elders will handle this," Yong-sam snapped, then turned to Chu-ch'ol. "First of all, you have to appoint a funeral director. You can't pay for everything out of your own pocket. How about making Song-ho the director?"  
From outside, Chu-on shouted, as if he had been waiting for this moment. "Stop all this nonsense! Poor old Chu-man doesn't need any funeral director or funeral cooperative. His relatives and a few close neighbors can bury him just fine. Quiet and simple, that's all he needs! They've already sent someone for the bier and coffin and the food for the ceremony. All we need now is some booze."  
"Hey! You keep out of this," Yong-sam yelled toward the door, the vein in his forehead contorting like a worm. "We villagers'll take care of everything. What the hell would someone like you know anyway?"  
"I was born and raised here too, you know."  
"No, you're a Seoulite now. You aren't one of us," Kil-sun intervened. "Chu-man carried a lot of funeral biers in his time. Now it's his turn. He may not have had any money and he wasn't too smart, but that doesn't mean you can just sling him over your shoulder and bury him like some kind of beggar. He has a wife and children, so why shouldn't he ride a bier like everyone else? If you're going to have a funeral, you have to do it right. What would the other villagers think? Besides, I want to do what I can for my friend, and the people in the village want to do the neighborly thing. That's the way it's always been. Call us in and you can be sure we won't come empty-handed. We donate as much as we eat, you know."  
It was Uncle Song-ho's turn next. "He's right. The corpse doesn't belong to the Pak clan now. It belongs to the village. The clan can't bury him on our own." Despite his uncle's dignified tone, Chu-p'yong wasn't going to accept defeat.  
"There's no need for more talk. We're not calling in the funeral cooperative and that's that. If the villagers won't carry the bier, I'll stick the coffin in an A-frame carrier and bury him myself."  
"Yeah, you and I can take turns carrying him," Chu-on concurred.  
"Right. You two smart-asses try carrying him up that hill! That'll be a sight to see," Chu-hwang straightened up and yelled in the direction of the door.  
"You don't understand us. You're outsiders, plain and simple. Just sit back and watch!" Kil-sun sputtered.  
Yong-sam placed Chu-ch'ol's hand on his knee and gave it a firm slap. "Chu-ch'ol, you decide. Are you going to appoint a funeral director or not? Are you going to use the funeral cooperative or not? If you really don't want us, I can make sure no one shows his face around here, but you know, that would be a sad and regretful thing for the deceased. You have to use us. If you don't, we'll pitch in anyway. We'll butcher a pig and have some booze brought over... Of course, it'll all come out of our own pockets. And wouldn't that be a pretty sight? Anyway, the rest of you keep quiet and let Chu-ch'ol decide. You just say the word, Chu-ch'ol. What'll it be?"  
Yong-sam's voice cracked as he spoke. Everyone waited in hushed silence.  
Chu-ch'ol bowed his head. All eyes were on his face. He could feel it burning. His heart was burning too. Yong-sam's words were full of truth. For these people, life wasn't something to be lived alone. It was something to be shared. The warmth of their feeling moved him deeply. Yes, Chu-man's funeral wasn't his personal responsibility; it belonged to everyone in the village.  
"The same goes for the expenses," Uncle Song-ho added. "I don't know how much you brothers were thinking of contributing, but this is what we planned on doing. We'll collect donations from the villagers and add it to what you boys put in. Then, when all the funeral expenses have been paid, we'll hand over what's left to the widow and her children. You just wait. I'll bet the villagers' donations add up to a lot more than what you brothers put in."  
Uncle Tal-jin shook his head. "I don't care if the villagers end up giving three times as much as us. We're not the kind of people who'd want to profit from a funeral. We don't need a funeral director or anybody from the funeral cooperative. If you really felt sorry for Chu-man, you'd carry his bier for a lousy cup of soju."  
"Why do you have to be so damned stubborn?"  
"Stubborn?" Uncle Tal-jin countered. "Since when am I stubborn? I just can't stand the sight of you invading poor Chu-man's funeral like a swarm of flies! Stop smacking your lips over his misfortune!"  
"Are you finished?" Uncle Song-ho asked with an angry glare.  
"You just watch your mouth, Tal-jin!" Yong-sam sputtered. "Do you really think we came here to sponge off you? This isn't a family matter. Chu-man was a member of the funeral cooperative. We have a right and an obligation to take part in his funeral!"  
Uncle Tal-jin ignored him and turned to Uncle Song-ho.  
"Yes, I'm finished."  
Uncle Song-ho gritted his teeth and glowered at Uncle Tal-jin, then turned away with a sigh, as if he realized he had to control his temper. Wetting his lips, he took out a cigarette and lit it with a blood-red disposable lighter.  
Uncle Tal-jin grumbled on. "You keep gobbling up everything in sight and you're going to be punished, believe me."  
Chu-ch'ol sensed some unresolved feelings between the two men. It seemed to have originated long before Chu-man's death. Perhaps they had quarreled over who controlled the family's affairs, or maybe Uncle Tal-jin realized that Uncle Song-ho, who usually handled these matters, had been less than scrupulous when it came to family finances. However, he couldn't let them bicker just so he could learn what had happened.  
"That's enough. It's my turn now. This is my brother's house. I'll make the decisions, and I hope you'll cooperate," Chu-ch'ol announced, looking earnestly from face to face. "I'll appoint a funeral director and engage the services of the funeral cooperative. Uncle Song-ho, I'd like you to be director and finalize everything after discussing it with Uncle Tal-jin. The issue of the funeral cooperative, how they're to be fed, whether we're going to feed them beef or pork, how big an animal we'll need, what kind of liquor we'll buy and how much, how long the wake will be, where we bury him... I'm leaving everything to Uncle Song-ho. Of course, there will be things that you'll have to discuss with me, but I don't want to hear any more arguments. That would be an insult to Chu-man, to our mother, and to us, her unfilial sons."  
Yong-sam gave Chu-ch'ol's hand a friendly whack. "Good thinking," he said. "Good thinking. You know, when it comes to a wake, we country folk are like the blind man who kills his own hen for supper. Still, it'll be a good chance to wash the dust from our throats. All thanks to Chu-man, eh? You brothers just sit back and watch. We won't disappoint old Chu-man."  
The people who had been sent for the coffin and food returned. As the body was readied for bathing and dressing, a pig's squeal pierced the air, drowning out the din from the kitchen and the visitors' laughing and talking.  
Mother, who had been gazing absently at the corpse lying on the seven-star board in the middle of the room, suddenly slapped her hands on the floor and began to wail.  
"Oh, my poor son. Now they slaughter a fat pig! After you're gone! If only I'd bought more meat and made you soothing broth when you were drinking... maybe you wouldn't have died so suddenly! Oh, you stupid fool, you stupid fool!"  
She buried her face in the shroud, then lifted a corner of the sheet covering the corpse and stroked Chu-man's feet and legs. No one in the family had ever bathed or shrouded a corpse before, so Yong-sam, the head of the funeral cooperative, was called in. Reeking of soju, he asked for a hemp mourning hat, then blinking his blood-shot eyes, he crouched over the body.  
"Chu-man, I'm going to give you your last bath and dress you in some fine new clothes. Then we'll send you off on a pleasant journey to the other world."  
A basin of warm water and a bowl of pungent mugwort tea were brought on Yong-sam's instruction.  
Mother crawled slowly to the head of the corpse and leaned forward on all fours, like some kind of animal. Chu-ch'ol and Chu-man crouched across from Yong-sam. Chu-on stood at the corpse's feet, and Uncle Tal-jin and Tal-gyun stood behind Yong-sam. Chu-man's wife left her work in the kitchen and kneeled beside her mother-in-law.  
Yong-sam removed the sheet. Chu-man was stretched out, hands neatly folded over his stomach and eyes firmly closed. He was dressed in off-white long underwear. Everyone held their breath, except for Chu-p'yong who was sobbing, "Oh, Lord help us."  
Suddenly Mother cried out. "What was I thinking? He wasn't going to live forever! How come I didn't dress him better? How come I didn't feed him better? I treated him like an ox, like a work horse! Why did I make him harvest the seaweed in that icy water? Why did I force him to work those poor fingers to the bone?"  
All eyes lingered on Chu-man's face, then his throat, wrists and ankles. There were bruises on his face, scratches on one side of his forehead and along his cheekbones. Blood had dried dark-red along the scratches. But it was his wrists and ankles that captured their attention. They were swollen, like the limbs of an obese person, and were ringed with bruises. Some were red, tinged with pale pink and purple; others were dark blue and lavender. Everyone seemed to think Chu-man had died struggling against the cuffs and chains. Uncle Tal-jin rubbed his hands together, unable to conceal his embarrassment.  
"Wh.. wh.. why are his wrists and ankles like that? His mother and wife know. Those... you know Chu-ch'ol, the stuff you brought down from Seoul... We only used them for two days, and that was three weeks ago. We never used them again. But look! The bruises have shown up after he's dead! I don't get it."  
"Oh, Lord help us," Chu-p'yong exclaimed.  
"Come on now! Chu-man's mother was with him until the end, so don't go pretending you know everything," Yong-sam muttered as he bathed the corpse's orifices with mugwort tea. "In ordinary times, no one gives a damn, but when something happens, everyone's a know-it-all. You all stop that second guessing. Chu-man went in his own time. You just pray that he has a comfortable journey. Om Namo Amitabhaya Buddhaya, Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva!"  
"Don't worry, Chu-ch'ol!" said Uncle Tal-jin. "Heaven and earth know what happened. So do your mother, your wife and kids. I swear he didn't die in those chains."  
Mother snuffled her agreement and caressed the bruised wrists and ankles. As she leaned forward to brush her cheek against them, Chu-ch'ol felt as if his heart would break. The bruises on Chu-man's body spread to his own heart. He had killed his brother with those chains.  
One day in early spring two years ago, Mother had called.  
"He's left it all-the factory, the seaweed business, the boat, the house, the paddies, the fields. He just up and left everything behind. He said he couldn't stand to live here any more. He told me to ask you to come down and sell it all to pay off his debts. He said he's going to find a job as a farmhand and send for his kids later. Doesn't make any sense to me. I know you're busy but you have to come down here right away!"  
After Chu-man bought into the factory, the seaweed harvest failed two years in a row. Then a typhoon wiped out the seaweed mats as soon as they were set up the third year. They had to borrow more money to rebuild the frames. The typhoon grounded the boat too, despite Chu-man's efforts to save it. It took one million won to fix the hole in its side.  
Chu-man idled away the autumn and winter drinking, and the following spring, he left home to find work as a farmhand. He turned his back on the sea where he had invested more than ten million won.  
Chu-ch'ol hurried down from Seoul. He squeezed the travel expenses from his office on the pretense of visiting bookstores in Pusan and Kwangju.  
"There's nothing else to be done. You've got to sell the factory, the boat, all the equipment, the paddies and the fields to pay off the high-interest loans," Mother said. "The money you've sent from Seoul, the private loans from the village and the loans from the Fisheries Cooperative add up to twelve or thirteen million won. He just can't manage it. He asked you to come settle his debts 'cause he's scared. It's all my fault. I shouldn't have made him buy into that factory."  
Chu-ch'ol went straight to the factory and met the other shareholders, then visited his uncles. It was a bad year for seaweed cultivation, and no one was willing to buy Chu-man's share in the factory or boat, not even the land.  
"The interest on his loans from the Fisheries and Agricultural Cooperatives was piling up." Uncle Tal-jin had explained. "And then all the people who'd loaned him money began asking for more interest. I guess he just got scared and ran. You've backed him this far. Why don't you settle his debts one more time and get him to come back and start over?"  
Uncle Song-ho agreed. If they sold everything, Chu-man would be left as rootless as a floating weed.  
"What'll people say when they hear Chu-man's draggin' his wife and kids around workin' as a farmhand? Imagine what they'll think of you!" added Tal-gyun. "Sure, you could pay off his debts by selling all the paddy land, but no one'll buy it now. You'd never get what it's worth. I know you bought the land in the first place, but just pretend you're buyin' it all over again. You got to figure out a way to pay off his debts."  
Chu-ch'ol had ten million won in his savings account. He could take out seven million and ask Chu-p'yong to chip in the rest.  
He went to Hoejin and caught a taxi to Songch'i Village at the foot of Ch'on'gwan Mountain, where they said Chu-man had gone. The taxi left the main highway after passing through the town of Kwansan and headed up a narrow mountain trail, weather-worn and pockmarked with rocks the size of a man's fist. The trail wound around the steep cliffs. After crawling up a twisted ravine, the taxi emerged in a small basin surrounded by mountains, as tall and majestic as those portrayed in traditional screen paintings. Most of the cultivated land was in dry fields; there were few rice paddies.  
Songch'i Village sat at the foot of a steep slope, a cluster of thirty-some houses, all battered and crumbling. Most of the houses were thatched; less than a dozen were roofed in slate or tin.  
On the outskirts of the village were several abandoned thatched houses. It looked like the villagers were leaving their homes and land for the big city. Much of the land lay fallow. In a field at the middle of the village, sprouts of barley stood dwarfed and brown for lack of attention.  
Chu-ch'ol saw a man heaping soil around plants in a barley field on the side of a small hill, which rose like an island at the center of the basin. His heart tightened. From a distance, the man seemed no bigger than a kid goat, but Chu-ch'ol knew it was his brother. He didn't bother to go to any of the houses or wait to ask a passerby for information; he hurried straight toward the farmer in the field.  
You stupid imbecile! How could you do this without a word to your older brother? Did you really think I'd let you work as a farmhand? Chu-ch'ol's heart burned. The tip of his nose stung at the thought.  
The man's hair was a magpie's nest of tangles; his face bristled with black stubble. He wore a faded brown jacket and ragged pants splattered with white spots of mud from the tideflats. It was clearly Chu-man. A gust of wind caught the soil that he was shoveling and tossed it in Chu-ch'ol's direction. It did not reach his eyes but they stung just the same. He couldn't control the tears. When he reached the edge of the field, he kicked over a bag of fertilizer that was standing between the furrows. Startled, Chu-man paused from his work and froze, staring into his brother's face.  
Head bowed, Chu-ch'ol walked up to Chu-man and grabbed him by the wrist. "But wh... what..., " Chu-man stuttered, still carrying the shovel in his other hand as his brother pulled him along, snorting like a bull. Chu-ch'ol felt as if their arms were fused together, like a grafted tree, as if Chu-man's blood were rushing into him like the incoming tide only to ebb back into his brother's body once more. A wave of dizziness swept over him, but he didn't know how to control it.  
They went to see Chu-man's employer, a graying man dressed in a white hanbok. Chu-ch'ol tried to apologize. "This fool owns an acre and a half of paddy land and nearly five acres of dry fields. He shouldn't be working someone else's land."  
He snatched the shovel from his brother's hand and threw it into the man's yard, then marched from the village, Chu-man huffing and puffing behind him.  
After they had left Songch'i Village, Chu-ch'ol sat his brother down in a sunny patch of grass and plopped down across from him. He had to talk some sense into him. Chu-man stared at the ground. He seemed discouraged.  
"If you're afraid of the sea, you don't have to cultivate seaweed. Just farm and raise animals. I'll go get the money in Seoul. I can clear your debts. All you have to do is take good care of Mother. I'll hold onto the paddy land and help your kids in the future. You just do as I say. Understand?"  
Chu-man plucked the dry grass blade by blade.  
"I'm sorry," he whimpered in a mosquito-thin voice, "I can't face you or your wife."  
"You're such a fool! Is that why you drink yourself sick? Is that why you came here? Because you couldn't face us?" Chu-ch'ol looked into Chu-man's leaden face. His eyes were gummy and lifeless. He reeked of alcohol. The words began to take shape in Chu-ch'ol's heart. Die! Die! If you can't live like a decent human being, better that you die now. No, it wasn't just that. Chu-ch'ol felt like killing him. He could strangle him, smash his head in with a rock, throw him in the reservoir, push him off a cliff... But how would he live with himself afterward? No, you bastard, don't make your brothers murderers! Kill yourself!  
After cleansing the corpse's orifices, Yong-sam stuffed them with cotton and carefully covered each one with a piece of snow-white mulberry paper. Chu-ch'ol thought of their relatives and the villagers as he watched. They all must have hated Chu-man for the way he acted.  
"I know it's wrong, but I can't tell you how many times I've thought of putting rat poison in his booze." Mother had confessed as much on several occasions. The others felt the same way, no doubt. Perhaps Chu-man had died from their curses.  
Yong-sam wrapped the corpse in a long piece of white cloth, beginning at the head, then binding the neck, arms, torso, thighs and feet. Mother slapped the floor and muttered in the shrill whistling voice of a shaman. "You can go now. Don't worry about a thing. Your brothers will settle your debts. You don't need to pay them back. It all belongs to the family, no matter what they say."  
As he listened to his mother, Chu-ch'ol thought of the sense of obligation that must have tortured Chu-man. Perhaps this was his way of escaping it. Yes, all our lives Chu-man, Mother and I have been struggling to free ourselves from that feeling of indebtedness. We were always struggling to dump it on someone else in the family. And in the end, it was Chu-man, the least intelligent and most innocent, who was sacrificed.  
Yong-sam was dressing Chu-man now. First pants, then shirt, vest, socks, ankle straps around the cuffs of the pants and overcoat. He's free now, Chu-ch'ol thought. He doesn't have to take the burden with him. He can hand back the guilt that we have heaped on him. In that sense, Chu-man had gotten his revenge and Chu-ch'ol had lost.  
Yong-sam seemed to be reading Chu-ch'ol's thoughts. "Remember this, Chu-man," he said as he picked up the straw rope used to bind the corpse. "Your brother Chu-ch'ol bought you land, he backed you in that factory deal, and he came back and paid your debts when it all fell through. You may be going now, but you have to remember what your brother's done to help you."  
He then wrapped the rope around the body, binding Chu-man's arms tightly to his sides. Chu-p'yong sat next to the corpse, eyes closed and hands clasped in prayer.  
"Oh Lord, please embrace my poor brother's soul. Lead him to your world and lay his weary soul to rest."  
After the corpse was placed in the coffin, the whispering and shuffling in the kitchen quickened.  
"Man, I can't believe this!" Chu-on said as he burst in the room, shaking his head in disbelief. No one had noticed him leaving.  
"They paid some guy for a 250-pound pig and it only weighed 220. You know, as a 'favor' to the pig's owner!"  
 "What? Who the hell'd do a thing like that?" asked Tal-gyun.  
"Imagine! Trying to rip off a dead man!" Uncle Tal-jin sniped.  
"Let them do as they please," Chu-ch'ol said coolly.  
After all, a funeral was for the living, not the dead, he thought as he stepped outside to urinate. The smell of pork broth assaulted him at the door. A group of men had gathered around the entrance to the kitchen off the side room. The women of the family were rushing around the main kitchen, steaming vegetables, cooking rice, soup and rice cakes. They reminded Chu-ch'ol of plump flies swarming at the smell of food.  
As he returned from the outhouse, Hye-suk approached him in the yard. She looked around anxiously, wiping her hands on her apron. He leaned forward to listen.  
"Yun-gil's at Uncle Tal-gyun's house, but I think Chu-on has already figured that out. We'd better send someone to tell him to leave the island tonight."  
"No, just let him be. If that bastard gets anywhere near our Yun-gil, I'll kill him," Chu-ch'ol sputtered. He stalked across the yard to stand by the wall. He gazed out toward the sea, visible around the curving slope of the hill in front of the house. Had Chu-on come to arrest Yun-gil or was he there for the funeral? The sunset was fading. By the side kitchen, the neighborhood men were feasting on pig's intestines and soju, mindless of those around them. They laughed and talked as they plucked slices of intestines from the steaming broth and exchanged glasses of soju. Someone was reeling off a list of villagers who had died from drinking too much. The secret to a sound gut was eating along with your drink, the man explained. The villagers drank the pig's blood, extolling its benefits for the sickly, then sliced up the penis and testicles, claiming they were good for virility. Black clouds passed through the sky overhead, scattering a few snowflakes.  
After eating and drinking their fill, the men moved the boiled meat to the shed and began working in the front yard in groups of two or three. They brought out straw mats to spread over the ground, then pitched an awning. They hauled firewood to the center of the yard and started a bonfire, wet some straw and set it by the fire, took the bell from the ox's neck.  
From the loudspeaker at the top of the tree by the village meeting hall came a man's voice, somewhat slurred. One of the men from the drinking party must have gone to make the announcement.  
"Attention, members of the funeral cooperative. Will all members please gather at Chu-man's house by eight o'clock this evening? In addition, we ask all village elders and friends of the deceased to attend the wake. Members of the funeral cooperative who fail to attend will be fined fifty-thousand won. If you are unable to attend, please send a substitute or pay a fine of ten-thousand won to the head of the funeral cooperative, five-thousand for missing the wake and five-thousand for not participating in the burial."  
Darkness descended. The bonfire blazed under the awning that stretched high above the courtyard. Members of the funeral cooperative and people from the village sat around the fire. There must have been at least thirty of them. Someone had a drum. They were discussing ways of entertaining themselves through the night.  
Chu-ch'ol stood at the wall, his back to the fire, as he gazed into the darkness settling over the mountain and fields. It's a festival, he thought. Chu-man was dead and they had come to confirm that they were still alive. They wanted to laugh and talk and enjoy themselves as they looked into each other's living faces. They paid lip-service to Chu-man, of course. "Poor fellow," they said. "Too bad he had to die." But they ate and drank, demanding more meat and vegetables and liquor, as if that was the way it should be.  
The coffin was moved to one end of the porch, and the folding screen was placed in front of it. There they arranged the ritual food on a table. At the center of the table was a framed photograph of Chu-man. He had it enlarged and put in a frame himself. Perhaps he had anticipated his death. Yes, Chu-man had been preparing for this.  
The ritual table was piled high with fruit, rice cakes, vegetables, colorful cookies, meat and fish. A pair of bowls, one of steamed rice, packed round and high like a fluffy white flower, the other of soup, was placed in front of the photograph. A candle burned at one corner of the table, and an incense burner sat on the ground in front of the table. The smoke from the incense sticks, tall and thin like tough green paddy weeds, permeated the air under the awning. Chu-man's eleven-year-old son, officially the chief mourner, sat on a straw mat between the incense burner and the bonfire. He was dressed in a mourner's coat and hat made of stiff yellow cotton and held a mourning staff in his hand. Chu-p'yong stood beside him, a mourner's hat on his head. Chu-man's nine-year-old son wore neither a mourner's coat or hat. He scampered back and forth between his brother and uncle, laughing and hitting his brother. Mother's wails drifted from the main room to mix with the clatter of the women working in the kitchen and the voices of the men gathered around the bonfire.  
"It's all right, children. It'll be quiet now, like the calm after a storm. No one's going to beat you. There's no need to run off to someone else's house to sleep. No need to go to the tavern to get his booze anymore. You can finally lie down on this nice warm floor and sleep in peace. Oh my poor baby... "  
Uncle Tal-jin was trying to comfort her. "Chu-man can rest now. He doesn't have to fight those demons anymore. He's better off now. He's finally gone where he was supposed to go," he murmured in a slurred voice.  
"It's time for me to go too," wailed Mother, pounding her fists on the floor. "This heartless mother was waiting for you to die! You were right. I didn't trust you. That's why I couldn't go to live with Chu-ch'ol. But now that you're dead, I'll leave it all behind and follow you. Ohhhhh, my poor son."  
Chu-on stepped from the room and ambled over to Chu-ch'ol. After a few drinks, the visitors began to rise one by one. Yong-sam, the head keener, rang the ox bell.  
"Hear ye, hear ye. The first bell has rung," he called, drawing the words out long and clear. People entered the gate in groups of two or three to join the others under the awning. The crowd circled the bonfire, following Yong-sam in the dirge.  
"Sweet briar of Myongsa, don't mourn your falling blossoms!" Yong-sam cried.  
"Ooho, ooho, ooho, ooho, owayo," the funeral cooperative members replied to the beat of a drum. One by one the mourners began to imitate Yong-sam's dance-like gestures, gently waving their arms as they sang. The melodious sound lifted the threads of darkness that hung over the awning and disappeared into the night sky. Black clouds floated overhead. Between them winked blue and yellow stars. Chu-p'yong stood stock-still before the ritual table, his head bowed in prayer. Chu-man's elder son bent to the ground, the mourning staff in his hand. Chu-man's wife, dressed in mourning too, wailed. Uncle Song-ho stood to the side, instructing them. In the storage shed, some of the younger relatives were setting a table for dinner. Pork was sliced, vegetables were heaped on plates, fruit cut. From the kitchen came pork soup, thick with tofu, sliced turnips and starch jelly. It was for the keeners who had worked so hard.  
"Look at this !" Chu-on exclaimed as he approached Chu-ch'ol by the wall. "It's just a party to them. They don't feel sad. They don't try to comfort the bereaved. They don't try to save on funeral expenses or pay for anything. They don't give a shit about anything except who eats the most and rips us off for the biggest share of the funeral expenses. I can't take this. It's too much!"  
Chu-ch'ol tried to ignore him, then shook his head.  
"You're wrong. It may look vulgar to you. Like they don't have any manners... Like all they care about is food, but maybe they're simply being honest. Maybe this is what it means to be human. When you think about it, a funeral is just a convenience, a festival for the living who want to be sure they're really alive."  
He paused for a moment, then continued in a sarcastic tone.  
"I'm more frightened by people who pretend to be upright and proper. They try to kill their targets from within, cutting off their oxygen so they suffocate, secretly informing on them..."  
As he spoke, Chu-ch'ol noticed something he wasn't meant to see. A shadow slipped around the corner of the shed. It was a woman with a large bundle under her arm. She dropped the bundle over the back wall with a loud thud, then snuck through the crowd and pretended to head for the outhouse before slipping out the front gate. At first, he didn't recognize her. Unsightly folds of fat covered her cheeks and neck. As he stared at her fleshy features in the reddish light of the gate, Chu-ch'ol sifted through his memory, trying to remember who she was. Yes. He had met her in the street about a year before. She was Uncle Song-ho's second wife. He had remarried after his first wife died. The woman picked up the bundle on the other side of the wall and stole noiselessly into the darkness.  
"That bitch... They can't do this," snarled Chu-on. He turned to go after her, but Chu-ch'ol grabbed his arm.  
"Just pretend you didn't notice."  
The mourners stopped singing and circling. The young men from the kitchen lifted one edge of the awning and carried in the table of food. Large bottles of soju were lined up next to the table. The women squatted in the kitchen and began to eat from bowls of soup and meat brought in from the shed. Some called their children and began feeding them as they continued to chew, cheeks bulging, like hungry ghosts.  
Song-ho was in charge of the food in the shed. "Can't mourn on an empty stomach," he said, raising his voice as he sent his nephew Chu-ho into the main room with a tray of food. "You go tell the Seoul uncles and cousins to eat hearty." It was strange: a silence fell over the household as soon as the food was served.  
Chu-ch'ol forced down a bowl of rice mixed with soup and drank several glasses of soju. His body felt heavy. He lay down in the corner of the room, and his mother covered him with a blanket. The dead may die, but the living have to eat, drink and sleep.  
Through a thin veil of sleep, Chu-ch'ol heard the second bell and the mourners' keening. He then heard the people eating again. Some time later, the third bell rang, then the keening and eating once more. The fourth and the fifth bells followed with the sound of hungry ghosts filling their bellies one last time.  
He turned on his side. I wonder how much pork is left. Are they going to leave enough for the burial procession and grave digging tomorrow? Are we going to have to get more for the third memorial rite? How much will that cost us? What's it matter? Uncle Song-ho will handle everything. After all, the villagers will pay for it. Chu-ch'ol was drifting off to sleep once more when he heard fighting. He listened more carefully and realized someone was being beaten.  
"You bastard! Who are you tryin' to fool? What do you have against me anyway? Why would you want to spy on my house at this ungodly hour? You wretched whelp of a crazy woman! You don't deserve the name Pak!"  
Chu-ch'ol stepped outside to find Tal-gyun yanking Chu-on around by the collar. No one intervened because Chu-on was letting himself be tugged around without a word in protest. He laughed nervously as he flopped from side to side. Tal-gyun grumbled on, unable to suppress his rage. The mourners were getting up to leave now that they had eaten their fill; they made way for the two men. Above the gate, the sky was growing lighter, though the snow kept falling.  
"Chu-ch'ol! Look at this son of a bitch! He's been actin' funny ever since he got here so I've been keepin' an eye on him, and you know what? I caught him sneakin' off to my place. He was gonna search the temple, and the day hasn't even broke yet!" Tal-gyun tightened his grip on Chu-on's collar and growled, "You bastard! Why would you want to go to my house? Figured Yun-gil was hidin' there, huh?" Tal-gyun growled as he shoved Chu-on into the main room. Hye-suk ran from the opposite room and pushed Tal-gyun back outside.  
"Uncle, Chu-on isn't that kind of person. You don't understand. I know him. Please don't make a scene."  
Chu-on laughed nervously as he wiped the blood from his lips with the back of his hand.  
"Do you want me to tell you where I was going, Uncle? I was on my way to my father's grave. I didn't want anyone to know. You've got it all wrong! What would I want with Yun-gil? You don't understand. It's not fair. I'm telling you: I came down here for Chu-man's funeral. Nothing more. I'm not after Yun-gil."  
Swiping at the blood once more, Chu-on sat down against the wall where Chu-man's corpse had lain the night before. Hye-suk grasped his hand and shook it.  
"Don't worry. I believe you."  
"Son of a bitch. No tellin' where his parents came from. He ain't no Pak as far as I'm concerned. I'd like to kick the shit out of him. That bastard would have turned my house upside down, and if he didn't find Yun-gil, he would have come after me with his questions. 'How come you hid him? You helped him escape! Where did he go?' I know he would!" Tal-gyun shouted over his shoulder as he strode toward the bonfire. He was drunk and angry. Chu-ch'ol grabbed him and dragged him toward the other room.  
"Can't you keep quiet? Think of poor Chu-man and my mother. She hasn't taken a sip of water, much less any food. This is no time to worry about Yun-gil!"  
"What? How can we not worry about Yun-gil?" Tal-gyun bellowed, the veins on his neck and forehead bulging. "To tell the truth, people like me and Chu-man, and scum like Chu-on, and all the dimwits in this village could drop off the face of the earth and it wouldn't make a lick of difference, but bright young kids like Yun-gil have to be free to do and say what's right. You know what I mean? He's already gone so it doesn't matter now. He went to hide somewhere else, but I learned a lot from him while he was with us. He's a smart boy. Let me tell you: Our family has produced a remarkable man. You just wait. He's goin' be a lot smarter than you, Chu-ch'ol. A lot more successful too. And that's the way it should be. Your son is gonna' be an even greater man than you."  
Tal-gyun's words refreshed Chu-ch'ol, as if he had drunk a cup of peppermint tea, but fear soon spread over him like a dark cloud. Yun-gil wasn't trying to build on his father's accomplishments. He was trying to sweep his father away completely. His was an act of betrayal, a rebellion.  
As morning broke, the snow began to fall more heavily. The world was white, as if covered in a quilt of cotton. Lovely white flowers clung to the gaunt trees.  
"Ooooh, ooooh. How can you bury my baby in this snow?" Mother sobbed. "Wait until it's melted. Let him sleep here one more night."  
Uncle Song-ho ordered the pallbearers to carry the coffin from the house. They circled the yard three times, then headed out the gate, toward the beach where the bier was waiting. The bier was pure white. Not a spot of black showed under the blanket of fresh snow and the white paper flowers that were used to decorate it. The snow continued to fall until the pallbearers had completed the road rite and turned to leave the beach.  
The bier headed up the snow-covered hill. The pallbearers stumbled on branches and crevices hidden by the snow, but they kept climbing. Song-ho had paid a man from Changsan eight-thousand won to lead the dirge. He sang in a clear, high-pitched voice, and the drunken pallbearers echoed his tune in their own merry voices.  
The grave was to be dug at the end of a ridge overlooking the sea and the village. The procession rested three times before it arrived at the grave site. Each time they paused, the pallbearers feasted on thick slices of pork and more soju.  
Chu-ch'ol and his wife trailed the procession at a distance. Chu-p'yong followed closely on the bier's tail, clasping the hands of Chu-man's two sons.  
Chu-p'yong hadn't bowed at the ritual table or at Chu-man's coffin. He had simply kneeled and lowered his head in prayer.  
"Come on. It doesn't look right," Chu-ch'ol had said impatiently. "Just bow. Is it going to taint your religion to get down on your knees and bow to your dead brother? Just make up your mind and do it! Do you have to insult him? Chu-man could be superior to your god for all you know. Get down and bow. Do it, eh?"  
Chu-p'yong refused. "It's my choice. Just leave me alone. My prayers are more likely to get him to heaven than your bows. I've learned a lot from this experience. I've been too passive in my belief. I bent under pressure from you and let Chu-man die. From now on, I'm going to take an active role and save my nephews from their suffering. I'm going to guide them to the church."  
"He's completely nuts," Chu-ch'ol felt like muttering, as he watched Chu-p'yong following the bier, their nephews' hands in his. "I wonder how he got to be such a fanatic?" Chu-ch'ol glanced at Hye-suk and decided it was better not to express this opinion out loud. Perhaps he and Chu-p'yong weren't so different after all. Chu-p'yong was just trying to repay his debt to Chu-man.  
After a rest and another drink, the pallbearers hoisted the bier to their shoulders once more. Chu-on walked to the right of the bier, Tal-gyun to the left. What the hell does Chu-on do? Is he a detective? Has he come to get Yun-gil, or is he really here for Chu-man's funeral? Where was he going when Tal-gyun caught him?  
"I'm not sure if I should tell you this, but Yun-gil came to the house last night," Hye-suk ventured, looking to the procession ahead of them. "He said he's staying at Uncle Tal-gyun's in Temple Hollow. Uncle Tal-gyun dug a cave in the hill behind the house. He says no one will ever find it. He hides there when he feels something in the air, but usually he stays in a nice warm room. He told me not to worry."  
Chu-ch'ol couldn't believe what she was saying.  
"I'm so grateful to Uncle Tal-gyun's wife," she continued. "They barely have enough to eat themselves, but she fries him an egg everyday and washes his clothes... And Uncle Tal-gyun's been especially kind to him. Once a week he goes out and traps a rabbit or butchers a chicken to feed Yun-gil."  
Chu-ch'ol was helpless against the confusion that burned in his heart. It soon turned into an awkward feeling of obligation, constricting him and making him feel guilty. How am I supposed to pay him back? Suddenly Tal-gyun looked so lovable, so noble as he limped along of them. At the same time, Chu-ch'ol felt the arrogance pounding in his temples. I'll slip him a couple hundred-thousand won when I leave for Seoul, he thought. Chu-ch'ol didn't want to feel indebted to anyone. But would two hundred-thousand repay Uncle Tal-gyun for his kindness? The image of his uncle attacking Chu-on rose before him.  
As the coffin was lowered into the ground that day, Chu-ch'ol thought of that immeasurable gratitude. "Don't worry," he murmured. "I'll take care of your kids. I'll put them through high school, college too if they want. Don't worry. I'll make sure they have a good life."  
He also made another promise, too profound for Chu-man to understand.  
"I'm going to write poems that transcend the sufferings of wounded people like you. I'm going to write poems that will prevent more people from being hurt, that will stop the ideological war and bring unification, that will pull the Korean people together by confirming their common bond."  
He bit his tongue. Could a poem do that?  
Chu-p'yong had once accused him of using his siblings as fodder for his writing. Chu-ch'ol regretted that he hadn't told Chu-p'yong that he was using his brothers as targets for his evangelism.  
Chu-ch'ol smiled bitterly. He realized that he simply wanted to rid himself of the sense of obligation he felt toward his dead brother. He wasn't alone in that. They all felt the same debt-Chu-p'yong, Chu-on, the other relatives, the people from the funeral cooperative, the villagers.  
"There's no better gift to the dead than laying one more piece of sod, one more shovel of dirt. We want him to stay warm on his journey."  
"Chu-man and I always took turns helping each other with the fertilizer and pesticide."  
"Yep, Chu-man had a heart of gold."  
"There ain't a man in the village that didn't get a free drink off Chu-man at one time or another. Why, when he sat down for a drink at the corner store, he'd invite the crows to join him!"  
"He never rode that new boat of his, but we sure made good use of it. 'First come, first served,' remember?"  
"Yeah! Everyone who used Chu-man's boat, bring over another piece of sod!"  
The young villagers bantered back and forth as they stumbled through the snow carrying sod. They were happy to do the job.  
The winter sun fell quickly. They worked hard but the earth was frozen and the snow slowed their progress. Dusk had settled by the time they finished, and with it came more snowflakes, as white and fluffy as cotton balls.  
They hurried down the mountain and gathered at Chu-man's house once more. At Uncle Song-ho's direction, the younger relatives and the women who had been waiting at the house laid another table of food. It looked as if they were all going to stay there, enjoying themselves, confirming their existence, as long as there was pork, soup and soju to be had.  
"That snow's covering my baby like a blanket," Chu-ch'ol's mother cried, pounding her chest. "He must be frozen stiff out there!"  
Chu-ch'ol and Chu-p'yong sat in front of her. They didn't know what to say. She pulled Chu-man's sons to her bosom. "Where'd you boys put your father? You can sleep sound from now on. No need to hide anymore."  
Chu-ho entered with a tray of food. He called Chu-ch'ol onto the porch.  
"Something strange is going on. Chu-on snuck out around sunset, and Uncle Tal-gyun went after him. Looks like they've gone to Temple Hollow. Folks are saying Chu-on has a pistol. Somebody saw it fall out of his jacket pocket when he was digging sod for the grave."  
The grave diggers huddled over the food, their spoons and chopsticks flying. The room off the kitchen was filled with people too. A few drunken voices rose above the others.  
"I'm not kidding. They'll never be able to pay Chu-man back."  
"Right, right. Now shut up and eat."  
"What do you mean? Chu-ch'ol did everything he could for Chu-man."  
"Still, it wasn't enough. He could weave sandals with his hair and it still wouldn't be enough."  
Snow was accumulating on top of the awning now. The snowflakes sparkled gold and silver in the light of the lamp hanging from the eaves. Beyond the awning, the yard was ankle-deep in snow. Chu-ch'ol stared at the yard and thought of Chu-on and Tal-gyun running through the dark snow-covered fields: Chu-on ahead, Tal-gyun chasing behind him. They joined in a tangle of fists, hitting, kicking, biting. Soon they were covered in blood. Chu-on pulled out a pistol and a shot echoed through the ravine.... Was Chu-on a detective? Was he one of their snitches? Had he come for Yun-gil? Isn't there something I should do? I can't just sit around like some kind of idiot. Maybe I should go up to Temple Hollow. Chu-ch'ol felt helpless. Impatience and despair spread through his body like wildfire. Uncle Song-ho emerged from the shed and came to his side.  
"What are you doing out here? You know, I can't be sure till tomorrow morning, but it looks like the meat won't last through the third memorial rite. We're going to have to buy a side of pork at market or butcher another pig."  
As Uncle Song-ho spoke, a heavy-set woman dashed back and forth between the shed and kitchen. In a tinny voice, she asked the women in the kitchen to prepare five more bowls of soup, then scurried toward the group seated outside under the awning. It must have been cold up there, she said. Eat hearty! She was Uncle Song-ho's second wife. Chu-ch'ol remembered her dropping the bundle over the back wall and disappearing into the darkness.  
She rushed up, skirts flying. "Nephew," she pleaded in a regretful tone, "what more can you do for him? He's dead, but everyone knows how hard you tried to help him. Don't be so sad. Think of your health. Go in and have something to eat. You know what they say: You have to keep on living."  
Suddenly Chu-ch'ol remembered the spikes in the door frame. I've got to take those out, he thought as he turned away, but the woman stood in his path.  
"I'd better tell you before you hear from someone else," she whispered. "You mustn't give any of Chu-man's things to Tal-jin. Not the factory, not the boat, not the land, not anything. Why, before Chu-man died, everyone was already talking about how Tal-jin was after Chu-man's property. He's already using Chu-man's seaweed harvesting equipment. If you must, let him manage the factory and the boat, but we'll take care of the paddy land. You won't regret it."  
Chu-ch'ol suppressed a wave of nausea and dashed inside.  
"Uncle, did you see this?" he cried to Tal-jin, pointing to the spikes. "How can you just sit there? How can you eat and drink with these things around?"  
Uncle Tal-jin lowered his spoon. Chu-ch'ol turned to shriek at Chu-p'yong.  
"What are you doing? Go get a hammer and pull these things out!"  
Chu-p'yong remained seated by the table of food and closed his eyes. He was running to his god.  
Uncle Tal-jin called Chu-ho and asked him to remove the spikes. The young man brought a long lever and pulled them out with little difficulty.  
Chu-ch'ol grabbed the spikes and ran from the room. He gathered the bundle of chains from the shed and dashed out the front gate. The snowflakes felt cold on his face and neck. A monstrous thought rose inside his brain like an angry viper. It's all because of these spikes and chains. First they bound Chu-man and now they were trying to shackle Yun-gil.  
Slipping, sliding, tumbling along, he crossed the snowy ridges and dark ravines. When he reached the small pond near the path leading to Temple Hollow, he threw the bundle of chains into the water and dashed onward, toward Uncle Tal-gyun's house at the temple. The snow blinded him. Chu-p'yong's words filled his brain with white, like the blossoms of snow.  
"You used Chu-man and Chu-shim as fodder for your writing. You just sat by and watched as they unraveled, stitch by stitch, like a couple of old sweaters. And then you wrote about it."  
The words echoed through the ravine like the scornful cackle of a ghost. They turned to cold snowy dust and poured down from the dark sky, piercing his spirit like sharp particles of steel. (to be continued) 

Translated by Julie Pickering and Yu Young-nan