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Fukuoka and the Way to Be Free.

Zorro was the name I gave our neighborhood's shrewdest alley cat who had many physical defects including a stub-tail and fourteen bald scars including three on his forehead, two on each cheek, and one on his chin that made his face look sour and destroyed but also like a clock without hands. Zorro is the Spanish word for fox. It is also the secret identity of Don Diego de la Vega the renegade swordsman from Southern California who was birthed by a beautiful Indian warrior who was partially raised by wolves which is why she was named Toypurnia which means daughter of the wolf. On his last living day the neighborhood boys surrounded Zorro the alley cat and pinned him to the pavement with a trash can lid. Their leader crooked his neck and stuck his chin out then held Zorro at arm's length by his stub-tail. "Judgment day!" he shouted. "We sentence you to death!"

The leader swung Zorro in circles above his head so that Zorro's shrieks went high and low, round and round. Neighbors appeared on their balconies and cheered even when the leader squared up to a lamppost and smacked Zorro's body against the pole. The first blow caused hisses and squirting spit. The fourth blow rang Zorro's skull and killed him. The pole was messy. The leader flung Zorro's corpse onto the steps outside my building then gave a speech about how we'd all get a good nights rest.

I deciphered the Misters claps from the others. "That's life," he yelled to old Mr. Cho on the second floor. "No peace for criminals." Yoonhee saw me leaning over the edge of the roof and tried to wave me downstairs but it wasn't time for dinner yet so I went back to tapping the bricks. I'd found a sturdy stick and it tapped well.

Tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tat tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap.

Our apartment sat on the third floor of a four-story building in the heights of the Geumjeong district of Busan. From my roof you could observe a panoramic view of the suburbs stretching into the mountains in three triangular points which made Busan appear an enormous sea star that crawled out of the ocean and died with two of its arms still in the water and each of its spinnerets became a streetlamp. If you looked long enough you could see all of Busan at once. You could see each piece of clothing on each rooftop flapping to its own rhythm. You could also see every motorbike driver zipping up and down the grid delivering dumplings that we call mandu and the Japanese call gyoza but the Chinese call by their original name jiaozi which I can't pronounce because I don't like talking and because the Mandarin language has seven tones even though some people say Mandarin is not a language but just a dialect. I retraced the events that led to Zorros execution.

1. The leader of the neighborhood boys chopped off Zorro's tail with a shovel, leaving only a stub-tail.

2. Zorro informed the neighbors of his suffering by bellowing horrific screeches which Mr. Cho said reminded him of the wails of the Koreans massacred by the Japanese after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.

3. Many neighbors slept rottenly the whole summer.

4. The neighbor boys captured Zorro and everyone cheered from their balconies including the Mister but not Yoon-hee.

When the alley was safe again I stole Zorros corpse from the steps and carried him to the roof but not by his stub-tail. His hair stuck to his blood which stuck to my hands. I talked to Zorro without saying anything. I always believed he understood me even in death because he was a very clever cat although not as clever as the real Zorro who also played tricks on people at night. The real Zorro had a horse named Tornado and a servant named Bernado who was a mute which I find interesting even though I am not a mute. Sometimes I talk to Yoonhee. I asked Zorro what the Mister would say if I had a tail and the neighbor boys grabbed me by the tail and wrapped me around a lamppost.

"He would sing 'Korea Team Champions' and then teach the neighborhood boys polite drinking customs and give them their first drink."

I tapped my stick against the oil drum softer than the bricks because the oil drum taps loud and the neighbors don't like loud noises and I don't want them to wrap me around a lamppost. But still Mrs. Hong complained to the Mister. He didn't wait to hear the whole complaint. He found a combination lock in his red toolbox then marched upstairs to clamp it on the door to the roof. He didn't give me a chance to say goodbye to Zorro and it was my roof so he had no right to lock the door without sharing the combination to the lock. Yoonhee put me to bed early because no one in the history of the world has ever succeeded in forcing me to eat dinner when I don't want to.

In the middle of the night I pretended I was being dissected by grade school kids with safety scissors so I could screech in agony just like Zorro. I immediately understood why Zorro enjoyed screeching and whining and crying so much. It makes you feel dizzy and hot inside your stomach and throat. You can become so mesmerized by this performance that you feel just like an astronaut who can never be rescued because he drifted from his space shuttle and latched onto a star that while traveling at 265 kilometers per second would eventually disappear into a black hole containing such a great force of gravity that nothing could escape it except through the process of quantum tunneling which is unproven and probably impossible.

My return to earth came by way of a beating to the back of the neck and head with a rolled up newspaper. I counted off the Mister's hits in the gruff voices of the involuntary soldiers satisfying their service to the nation by shouting One! or Two! or Three! or Four! with every step as they march down the street. Eventually the Mister grew wheezy and stopped. An hour later I returned to screeching three or four long screeches every twenty minutes in an attempt to mimic Zorro's old schedule. I didn't quit screeching until dawn.

Later that morning the neighbor ladies gathered outside Mrs. Lee's grocery shop to trade opinions about the source of the screeches. Yoonhee did everything she could to perpetuate Mrs. Lee's theory that Zorro's ghost had returned to haunt us because the neighborhood boys neglected to bury his corpse. But after three more nights of screeching everyone figured out that Zorro's ghost was me. The Mister gave them his usual rigmarole of counseling office explanations and in return the neighbors offered their usual advice that our family move to a ginseng farm in South Jeolla Province. As old Mr. Cho once put it, "You've got to take the kid somewhere he can run around naked, bark at the birds, howl at the moon. He don't mix with people."

It all blew up at breakfast seven days after Zorro's death. If I have a good stick I'll bring it to breakfast but on this day the Mister snatched it after only four taps and stored it out of reach near his red toolbox. After that I decided to close my eyes and not open them no matter what for three reasons:

1. I was tired from screeching all night.

2. Rice tastes the same with your eyes open or your eyes closed.

3. The Mister insists that I look at his face which I hate but with my eyes closed my level of discomfort is reduced from severe to mild/moderate.

Between bites I bobbed my head to a series of imaginary tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap taps, even though bobbing at breakfast is prohibited.

Tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap.

Bobbing is easy to start but difficult to stop both for me and the Mister who hates bobbing almost as much as he hates me pretending to be somnambulistic and/or blind. He stood up and hovered behind my back which was his normal way to threaten me. During one breakfast he hovered behind my back then put two hands on my shoulders even though he knows I hate that especially on the shoulders so I kicked the table and it flipped over and covered the floor in soup and side dishes. Some of the soup splashed onto Yoonhee's stomach that turned red and shiny and she screamed. But here the Mister was hovering behind my back again while breathing voluminously which I also hate.

"Get ready Kwangho, I'm going to touch your shoulders now. If you don't want me to touch your shoulders then you can open your eyes and stop bobbing."

It was fun trying to figure out what was happening only by listening. I guessed that Yoonhee was moving the soup bowl to the floor then holding the table down while shaking her head at the Mister. I barely opened my left eye to discover that I was correct on all guesses including Yoonhee shaking her head which was soundless.

"He pretends he doesn't hear me and now he doesn't want to see me either."

"Sit down," Yoonhee said.

"I'm trying to teach him."

"Teach him what?"

"That his parents aren't here to be ignored all day and kept awake all night."

"You don't understand him," she said.

"Don't you see? This is all a big joke to him! Stop BOBBING!"

"You don't understand him."

"What's he doing right now? Huh? Channeling aliens?"

"If he was channeling aliens he'd be telling us what the aliens were saying."

"Smartass!" he shouted. "Like mother like son!"

"He's afraid. Who's fault is that?"

The Mister's footsteps moved toward the sink and after that I guessed he was stretching for my tapping stick near his red toolbox. I knew I guessed correctly when he hit it against the floor.

"If you don't open your eyes, I'm breaking your stick."

I squeezed my eyes tighter even though I didn't want him to break my stick. I felt my chair yanked from under me but I held on vigorously and slid away from the table with the chair. There was a whooshing sound and a snapping sound and finally a wet sting on the top of my feet that forced me to release the chair and fall to the floor but I still didn't open my eyes. The Mister continued to hit my feet while Yoonhee yelled at him and tried to pry my stick from his fist. The bones in my feet felt like they'd suddenly been replaced by bigger bones that would take a while to adjust to like leather shoes or a new seat on an old bicycle. The beating ended with the sounds of breaking glass and shards sprinkling the floor which informed me that our kitchen would no longer be blessed by the framed monk with the thorny beard and wild bushy eyebrows because the Mister never fixed anything he broke in anger. I detected the sound of the Mister's back sliding down the wall near the bathroom door followed by his rear end thumping the floor. Near the stove a flick of a lighter signaled that Yoonhee was smoking one of the Mister's cigarettes which also signaled that breakfast was over. The Mister got dressed without showering first while Yoonhee put the antibiotic ointment on my feet that turns your feces green if you eat it. He popped his head into the apartment after we thought he was gone.

"I'm buying a muzzle tonight. And if that doesn't work, we're taking Mister Kwangho for a long walk. You can visit him on weekends."

"You can visit him on weekends," I whispered to Yoonhee.

"Traitor!" the Mister shouted.

Six minutes later he left for work. I kept my eyes closed during my bath and counted the heavy heartbeats in my balloon-feet. I didn't open my eyes until after I got dressed and it was Yoonhee's turn in the bathroom. Yoonhee had routines just like me and one of them was to hang her towel over her left shoulder while brushing her teeth in front of the mirror. When Yoonhee's hair was wet and she was naked she looked much braver than when the Mister was home and her hair was dry and she was wearing clothes. On the morning the monk fell off the wall my penis became heavier and thicker and it pulsed just like my feet. When I opened my zipper it pushed out and clicked its head back and forth like it was arguing with someone, probably the Mister. It was my first erection so I slipped my shorts off and showed it to Yoonhee.

"Kwangho!" she shrieked, whipping her head away. Most of the toothpaste in her mouth splattered onto the floor. When I pinched the tip of my penis until it looked like the battle helmet worn by Admiral Yi Sun-shin the greatest naval tactician who ever lived Yoonhee shut the bathroom door. Admiral Yi invented the turtle boat which is a small flat-bottomed warship with a domed roof like a turtle shell that deflected Japanese musket balls and at the prow had a big dragon's head that shot flaming arrows and smoke and scared and killed many Japanese. Admiral Yi's small fleet of turtle boats sank more than one hundred Japanese ships and killed more than 50,000 Japanese sailors which is almost twice the number of sailors involved in Sir Francis Drake's slaughter of the Spanish Armada. Admiral Yi was a renowned observer of nature and even his battle helmet looked like a turtle shell. When Yoonhee came out of the bathroom she was mostly dry and her towel was wrapped around her torso. She talked very slow and kept her distance from my erection like it really was Admiral Yi and she was Japanese.

"It's normal for your body to do that, but that's no reason to take your pants off. Now zip your shorts up and don't pinch it. That's how you get hurt."

I pushed my erection down but it swung back up. Yoonhee went into her bedroom and closed the door and that was not part of her routine. When my erection was finished I zipped up my pants and took my unbroken tapping stick down the alley to the sewage drain where I used to tap before I discovered all the tapping surfaces and the panoramic view on the roof.

That night the Mister didn't come home. I considered not screeching but then around three o'clock the tickling urge in my throat overwhelmed me and I had no choice. I consulted Zorro.

"I want to screech," I said.


"If I'm screeching, me and you are winning. And if the neighbor boys catch me and murder me they'll go to prison for life or even be sentenced to death by hanging."

"They could probably get away with cutting off one of your arms or legs."

"What about my penis?"

"That too," Zorro said.

"Would they be sentenced to death by hanging?"

"Probably not."

"Former President Kim Dae-jung doesn't believe in the death penalty because he was once sentenced to death for sedition which is another way of saying that he was a traitor."

"Just like you," Zorro said.

I screeched anyway. Right away Yoonhee's phone started ringing. She apologized over and over and explained that she couldn't take me to a motel because we would get kicked out and they would not return our money. She turned the ringer off three minutes before it began raining. Eventually the sun cracked open the night to illuminate a beautiful, turquoise mist pushing over the mountains. I hoped the Mister wasn't watching the same beautiful mist as me.

Yoonhee came into my room and dressed me and packed my Monday to Wednesday outfits into her suitcase with wheels. Our plan was to escape the Mister which was very noble and daring despite my feeling that as soon as we left the building we'd run into the involuntary soldiers on their morning marches. The trouble began when Yoonhee kept urging me to hurry hurry hurry because I hate hurrying. When we stepped outside the apartment I looked over the ledge and didn't see any involuntary soldiers but then I realized I forgot my tapping stick. I gripped Mrs. Hong's door handle and repeatedly banged my head against her door. Yoonhee started crying.

"Kwangho, I know it hurts, but you can walk. Nothing's broken and you can walk with me down the steps. Kwangho, we're going now. WHAT DO YOU WANT!"

By the time Yoonhee figured out what I wanted it was too late. The Mister caught us as I was walking while tapping and Yoonhee was dragging her suitcase with wheels down the stairway. The Mister looked shrunken and stupid in his soaking wet business suit especially when he made a sour face and turned his shoulders inward to mock me. I knew he'd been drinking all night because his sweat smelled like apple pieces after they turn brown which is the result of iron-containing chemicals inside apple cells reacting with oxygen in the air which has always confused me because apples are eighty percent air which is why they float. The apple enzyme that regulates oxidation is called tyrosinase. All humans have tyrosinase enzymes except albinos who can never get tan or turn brown like other humans or apples. The Mister swung at Yoonhee's neck with a navy blue umbrella that wasn't his. Yoonhee tried to block the umbrella but it deflected off her right hand and hit her face.

"My tooth! You chipped my tooth!"

The Mister grabbed the back of Yoonhee's neck and forced her to look over the railing down the center of the stairway.

"Remember your toothbrush? Huh! Want me to grab it for you?"

"It's chipped!"

"Why don't you WHINE about it! Is that all you know how to do? WHINE?"

"I HATE you! You ... you ... CAVITY!"

At that the Mister grabbed Yoonhee by the belt and dragged her up the steps. She kicked and cursed as her heels clapped and echoed in the stairway. I started rapping my temples with my index fingers because it felt good and the Mister prefers rapping over tapping. In the doorway at the top of the steps Yoonhee chopped his arm away and when he tried to punch her she slammed the door on his skull. It was a storm door made of heavy metal that caused the Mister to make a funny noise like a baby hiccupping as he collapsed.

Yoonhee grabbed her suitcase with wheels and squeezed my hand and over and over she yelled for me to lift my knees and move my feet. Without stopping I grabbed the navy blue umbrella that wasn't the Mister's and left him my tapping stick in return. I still imagine the Mister as I last saw him sprawled out at Yoonhee's feet with his tongue hanging loose like a dead tentacle. I also remember the sight of Yoonhee's leg muscles in full flex and the scent of her perfumed sweat and the feeling that deep inside me a tiny spider was singing "Korea Team Champions."


Our hydrofoil journey to Japan began with an educational video involving a camera mounted beneath a ship to show us that the hull was completely out of the water even though this camera was not mounted to our ship but only a ship similar to our ship and this video might have been fake. The crew members were all Japanese and one of them had so many teeth that she could hardly shut her mouth. I don't understand Japanese but I've heard it often enough to judge it repetitive and overly honorific. The ocean hardly affected me since I couldn't see any of the aquatic creatures which I respect for their diversity and envy for their 150 million square kilometers of additional territory underwater than humans have above water which allows many of them to live their entire lives pretending that human beings don't even exist. I behaved myself when one of the Japanese crew members gave me a blanket and patted my shoulder only because it happened so fast that I had no time to protest. Behaving myself is never easy and everyone on the hydrofoil got lucky that time. I don't like the Japanese which is one thing I have in common with the Mister.

On the high-speed train to Kyoto I pressed my forehead against the window and instead of staring into the Japanese countryside ahead or behind I stared straight out so that it flew by kaleidoscopic and blurry which made me dizzy and then everything went black and I had to check my watch to make sure we weren't traveling through time. After that Yoonhee asked me to look her in the eyes then to hold her hand. I responded by reciting a Lee Han-su fashion awards acceptance speech. I like speeches and can recite verbatim all my favorite speeches especially those by Lee Han-su who is considered abnormal. People hate me for this. Yoonhee went to the bathroom to change into a skirt and returned in time for my favorite line:

"Sky crash the cloned Buddha until the unknown strikes back. I want to believe."

"I'd love for you to explain that someday."

I returned to making kaleidoscopes out of the Japanese countryside.

"Do you remember Miss Jang?" she asked.

"Do you remember Miss Jang?" I asked.

"Kwangho, listen to me. We're going to visit Miss Jang. She lives in Kyoto. It's the ancient Japanese capital."

"It's the ancient Japanese capital," I said.

During the taxi ride to Miss Jangs house I observed optimistic bicyclists on spotless sidewalks who made me anxious because they looked like extras in a science-fiction movie just before an atomic catastrophe which in real life happened only twice but both times in Japan. The driver checked his mirror as Yoonhee pulled her hair into a bun and painted her lips rouge. He slowed down and squinted at the address she handed him and after that he dropped us off on a quiet street near a red bridge. The bones in my balloon-feet felt smaller than before but also sharper and hotter. We knocked at the front door and waited and knocked and waited and stepped back and Yoonhee straightened her skirt and stepped forward and patted her hair and knocked again. I went around the side of the house to tap the navy blue umbrella which the Mister probably stole against a pyramid of lava rocks in the garden.

Tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tat tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap tap tap, tap.

The navy blue umbrella splintered. Yoonhee hurried around the corner when she heard me twisting the metal from the fabric but she didn't try to stop me. She cupped her hands over her forehead and peered into Miss Jang's window. I did the same. On the kitchen table sat a tall bottle of oil, a frying pan, a bag of flour, and a bottle of bleach. The rest of the apartment was immaculate except for two sunken balloons slung over the back of a chair. It was strange peeping on Miss Jang but I'm only pretending when I say this because for me there is nothing strange about peeping on Miss Jang except that she wasn't there. In the days when I left the screeching to Zorro I used to sneak out my window and search out apartments with large windows and late bedtimes. After peeping on your neighbors for a few hours you start to feel like a member of the family even if the neighbors don't know you or like you or appreciate you hiding outside their windows. One night some involuntary soldiers caught me peeping and shoved me against a brick wall and hit my stomach. Another time I peeped on Miss Jang as she cleaned her house in her underwear and no bra with her breasts thrashing round and round and her rear end swaying to and fro as she scrubbed with both hands and crawled across the floor. I liked the cross she wore around her neck and the way the bun in her hair fell into wisps that she sometimes tucked behind her ears and other times let fall against her neck. I hit Miss Jang in the face once when she touched my head. Yoonhee pushed away from the window and kicked pebbles from the sidewalk back into the garden. She checked the mailbox but it was empty.

"Now what?" she said. "We're homeless."

"Now what?" I said. "We're homeless."

We walked to the red bridge and watched the sun's sparkles light up the stream. I was very happy to watch the sparkles and even happier that Yoonhee didn't ditch me at the ferry station in Fukuoka which would have been the easy and logical decision if she wanted to free herself of me without having to pay bills at the psycho hospital which is sometimes called the white house on the hill even though it's not always white or on a hill. The white house on the hill is the other place the neighbors often suggested the Mister take me since he doesn't know anything about ginseng farming. I wasn't sure what Yoonhee wanted to do with me now that I was growing hair on my legs and testicles and still refusing to look her in the eyes or hold her hand which is abnormal for a child but antisocial for an adult.

"Go ahead, scream," she said. "Or is it only fun when we're all trying to sleep?"

Instead of screeching 1 recited former President Kim Dae-jung's speech after his brother was arrested and he had to quit the MDP party and the Mister stopped supporting him.

That night we checked into a small inn. While Yoonhee was showering my erection returned and I discovered rubbing it with her skirt was almost as satisfying as screeching and only slightly less urgent. When she saw what I was doing she snatched her skirt and returned to the bathroom and shut the door again and cried. After that she sat down to write a note for Miss Jang. She wrote six drafts and the fifth one she threw on the floor because she didn't like how she had folded it. We walked back to Miss Jang's house. Yoonhee peeped through the kitchen window again before putting the letter in the mailbox. Then she took me to a convenience shop where I ate instant noodles with black bean sauce. After that we watched a free puppet show in a park near an elaborate shrine which in Korea we would call a temple though we would never dedicate a temple to Inari the god of business. The shrine had many beautiful lanterns, prayer boards, and barrels of sacred sake guarded by two mean-looking foxes with keys in their mouths though I didn't find any locks anywhere that would fit the keys. While Yoonhee prayed I searched the premises for some of the 20,000 cultural assets stolen from Korea during the Japanese occupation but I found nothing. When she gave me coins to put in the donation box I tapped the box with my fingernails and kept the coins. Before returning to the inn we checked Miss Jang's mailbox but Yoonhee's letter was still there.

That night I slept on the floor even though Japanese floors are not heated like Korean floors. After Yoonhee gave me the heavy blanket off the bed she kissed my forehead. I swung at her and missed on purpose.

"Goodnight," she said.


The next day we went shopping. Walking was a slow chore with my balloon-feet and my Velcro sandals. Yoonhee bought me a pair of green tennis shoes with three yellow stripes on each side and afterward I said, "Thank you." The day after that we went to the Japanese movies and we couldn't understand anything. I was tremendously self-restraining and did not screech even once. I didn't fight Yoonhee, except for the following times when I signaled my frustrations by the following methods:

1. Told to eat something Japanese--pulling my hair.

2. Not allowed to go to the red bridge--spitting on my tee shirt.

3. Forced to wear a newly bought tee shirt--ripping my tee shirt into two pieces.

4. Told to stop acting like Zorro--trying to break an ashtray that wouldn't break.

5. Forced to put away my erection--pinching my ears.

6. Not given enough time for tapping--pretending to be paralyzed.

7. Not allowed to watch TV--swallowing two remote control batteries.

8. Told to stop laughing--pulling my hair.

9. Window would not unlock--hitting the window.

10. Told to stop headbanging--more intense headbanging.

11. Told to eat something Japanese--kicking Yoonhee.

12. Forced to put away my erection--pinching my penis until it turned purple.

13. Not allowed to watch Yoonhee towel off--pulling my hair.

14. Told to stop acting like Zorro--more pretending to be dead and bloody Zorro.

15. Not given enough time for tapping--beating my knee with my forehead.

On the third morning Yoonhee's credit card was rejected at the inn which meant we had to take our suitcase with wheels out of the room and store it in a closet near the front desk. Yoonhee tested her Japanese with the innkeeper but the innkeeper only blushed and smiled and said good luck in Korean. After that we went to a liquor store. Yoonhee wanted Korean soju because it's superior to Japanese sake but there was none. The liquor store proprietor tried to stop me from breaking chocolate bars into pieces in their packages so I screeched. A can of beer fell out of Yoonhee's arms and exploded onto the floor. The proprietor ran for the mop while the beer sprayed white foam onto a stack of newspapers. Yoonhee cried heavily and bowed profusely.

We rested at a concrete park with a dry fountain where teenagers in uniforms were talking and laughing and playing near the benches in the shade. Yoonhee drank her first beer noisily with her eyes wide open like a man. She didn't tell me to stop when I started headbanging. A dirty, bad-smelling man with a mustache and patches of hair here and there on his cheeks approached us and began speaking to Yoonhee in a curiously indecipherable mixture of Japanese, Korean, and English.

"I know gochou. Gochou you. Kankoku? KOREA! Where Kankoku? 1 tell you where Kankoku."

"I am very tired today," Yoonhee answered.

The man walked to the other side of the park and returned with a piece of cardboard that he pretended was a sitting cushion. Then he offered Yoonhee a cigarette which she accepted even though the Mister once repossessed her driver's license when he caught her smoking in public. Three mangy cats sneaked up on the fountain. The first had yellow eyes with pus oozing out like acid tears that burned the fur on his face. The second hid in the basin of the fountain where I couldn't see him. The third spread her hind legs and licked her genitals.

"Do you sleep here?" Yoonhee asked the man on the cardboard.

"No, yang woman. Noise! Urusai! Who is it?"

"This is my son, Kwangho."

"Infirmary? Kare wa kichin to suwaranairo semushi ni naru yo. Broken back sitting! YOU!"

"He reads three to five books a week."

"Shit. Art."

"I don't understand,"

"Daegu city, yes?" She shook her head. "BUSAN!"

Yoonhee smiled and offered him a beer but he shook his head and pointed at the sun.

"Twelve time, OKAY. Jiggum, ani. NO!"

Three beers later Yoonhee told the man on the cardboard she worked for a cellular company and she was divorced which were both lies. Two beers after that her eyes were bulging and the man slid his cardboard closer and laughed and pointed at her sweaty red face. Yoonhee laughed about the time in college when her date stood her up for a pocketball tournament so she joined the tournament and won it and never talked to her date again. I pretended I was stroking Zorro on the roof which made it easier to guess what he would say to me.

"This is your last chance," he said. "How will you help Yoonhee?"

"What can I do? I'm ineffectual at everything except screeching."

"She wants your love. Holding hands and giving hugs and kisses and saying I love you, that's how you show your love."

"I'll have to think about it."

At exactly twelve o'clock the man on the cardboard asked Yoonhee for a beer. She told him we would return with more but then we walked in a different direction from the liquor store.

"Remember Miss Tangs house?" she asked.

"Remember Miss fang's house," I said.

"Okay, take me there, and don't let me fall. You're my guide now, so don't let me fall over."

"Don't let me fall over," I said, glad we weren't going back to the park which meant that Yoonhee wouldn't replace the Mister with the man on the cardboard.

It was a stressful walk because Yoonhee was wobbly and kept trying to use me as a balance. Several times I shoved her which was very funny because each time she fell to the ground she said sumimasen which means excuse me in Japanese. Eventually we found the river. It was the same river because it smelled the same so we followed it to the red bridge. At Miss lang's house Yoonhee fell asleep on the lawn. I picked all the flowers in the garden and arranged them in rows according to color. Next I arranged the flowers around and on top of Yoonhee so that it appeared she was wearing a yellow and white warrior's vest with a purple bow strapped over her shoulder and a red halo around her head. It was almost dark and I was tapping the lava rocks with a substandard tapping stick when Miss Jang surprised us. She gave me a sour look, then bent down to touch Yoonhee's shoulder and face.

"Yoonhee? My dear?"

Yoonhee woke and covered her face and burst into tears. Miss Jang helped her into the car then drove us to the inn to pick up our suitcase with wheels then to the countryside where she lived. She referred to her house as an estate because it was actually comprised of three small houses connected by stone pathways lined with rose bushes. The roofs of these houses were covered in arched tiles like the ones at the shrine except instead of black they were deep blue and shiny. My favorite room was Miss Jang's living room which included a photograph of Miss Jang waving at the camera while standing next to a real live penguin who was also waving at the camera and also a gigantic painting with hundreds of multicolored doves flying in all directions. Miss Jang told Yoonhee about her new husband the airline pilot. Yoonhee asked Miss Jang if she was pregnant. Miss Jang said no she didn't think so but one could always hope and when she said one she probably meant herself.

"You have to call him, Yoonhee. You're not the first wife to go on an unannounced vacation. He can press charges and the judge will take his side."

Miss Jang offered her cell phone but Yoonhee didn't take it. I tapped the sliding door to the garden with a battery I removed from a clock.

"You bringing Kwangho here, it's kidnapping. I could be an accessory."

Yoonhee laughed but didn't say anything. While sitting next to Miss Jang it was easy to see that Yoonhee was more beautiful than Miss Jang. Yoonhee had rounder eyes, blanched skin, a symmetrical face and a prettier smile.

"Kwangho's getting older. You've done everything you could. Now is the time to think about the next step. There's nothing selfish about it."

Yoonhee didn't say anything which made me wonder if she'd ever speak again. But then she walked into the garden and Miss Jang followed her and to my dismay they started talking. I studied the dove painting. I stared at it from different vantage points and always chose one dove to focus on until all the other doves seemed to move around and form different objects that only existed in my imagination. This was interesting because it felt like I was the painter even though I don't know how to paint. While standing next to the bookshelf I was able to discern an old woman bathing in the sweaty smoke of a fire on which she was shaping a glowing red rapier which is a sharp-pointed sword of the type Zorro used against the imperialist Spanish. This woman must have been Luchuza Blanca the shaman and spiritual healer who was the grandmother of Zorro and mother of Toypurnia. When I stood directly in front of the painting a man with a long thin beard and big fish eyes on the sides of his head appeared in the top right corner. He waved a tapping stick at me and wagged his tongue back and forth with the motion of the stick and I think he was a madman.

Captain Terada showed up around nine o'clock and we all went to the kitchen to watch him eat. He was tall and gangly with a pale face and a handsome pilot's uniform. He smoked with his elbow fixed to the table and his arm cranked up and down for puffs while Miss Jang spooned scrambled eggs and mixed vegetables onto pieces of toast. She shoved these little sandwiches into his mouth by hooking his cheek open with her finger. When he touched his right ear and squinted she turned the volume up on the TV. When his ash grew longer and longer she pushed the ashtray closer and closer. The Captain smoked, ate, and quaffed decaffeinated coffee at a fantastic pace. I could have watched him smoke and eat for hours. I bobbed my head and rapped my temples but always felt a step behind.

"Where did you fly today?" Yoonhee asked. She drank hot tea which resuscitated the alcohol scent on her tongue. The Captain didn't hear her.

"Where did you fly, Captain?" Miss Jang repeated. Captain Terada turned to me and tongued a ball of sandwich from one cheek to the other.

"That's one heck of a goofy kid," he said, in Korean, but in an atypical way from Koreans which was great. "A little nervous, huh?"

Yoonhee smiled then informed him not to touch me. A gray cat with long white whiskers entered the kitchen through a flap in the door to the garage. He pranced directly at me and leapt into my lap. Miss Jang admonished the cat in Japanese. I stroked his ears and his tail.

"A cat lover, eh?" the Captain asked.

Yoonhee nodded and sat tall like she always did when the Misters parents used to visit.

"I love cats," he said, looking at me. The cat's eyes were green and brown. "When I was in university in England I had two cats. One named Blacky and one named Pussy Galore."

Miss Jang laughed and slapped his arm then hugged his arm. Yoonhee smiled even though she didn't understand the joke or like the Captain as much as me.

"I love cats," the Captain repeated, chuckling to himself. He swished another mouthful of coffee then turned to the TV to watch three Japanese women in miniskirts jump in circles on a new sleeping mattress that cost [yen]79,000.

When Yoonhee started nodding off Miss Jang took the cat with green and brown eyes from my lap and showed us to the guest room. After Yoonhee fell asleep I decided I needed to go home to my roof and my tapping stick. I needed to look up from tapping my stick and see my city. This need felt like a long noodle dangling down my throat caught in a place where the muscles couldn't move it up or down. I was just about to start screeching when I thought of a solution to our problems. I hated the Mister and Yoonhee was scared of the Mister so I decided we should live in Japan in an estate with shiny blue tiles but instead of being Yoonhee's son I would become her Mister and sleep with her. Once we became married I wouldn't need to screech even if I still needed my tapping stick and I would never hit Yoonhee or make her cry. We could even buy a gigantic painting that would be easy to reconfigure into other paintings with our imaginations except instead of doves our painting would be covered in variegated turtles like Admiral Yi Sun-shin's turtle boats.

That night I couldn't sleep without screeching but anyway I didn't screech. When I heard laughter coming from the house where Miss Jang and the Captain slept I crawled out the window and crept quietly along the stone path. I hid between the rose bushes and the window and pretended to understand Japanese as the Captain and Miss Jang bantered in high-pitched voices from opposite sides of the room. Miss Jang was wearing a kimono and high-heeled shoes. The Captain was wearing his pilot's jacket and nothing else. He lassoed Miss Jang with an invisible rope and when he pulled her close to him she started kissing the buttons on his jacket. Then I watched him undress her and have sex with her. After Miss Jang flipped the light off I crept back to the guest room but a light in the garden suddenly turned on and when I looked back toward the house where the Captain and Miss Jang slept my shadow was stretched across their window. Miss Jang sprang up in bed and shrieked something in Japanese. I ran around the house and crawled through the guest-room window so quickly that I scratched a long red line into my stomach on one of the screws in the frame. Instead of sleeping on the floor I slipped under the bed sheets and laid as close as possible to Yoonhee without touching her. I woke up very early with another erection so I rubbed it with the sheets until the bed shook and Yoonhee woke up with a big sigh. It was still early when Miss Jang drove us to the train station. She hugged Yoonhee on the platform.

"You've made the right decision," she said, which I understood as Yoonhee's decision to return to Korea, but which I know now referred to her decision to check me in as a patient at the white house on the hill. We bought tickets but didn't board the train right away. Yoonhee took me to a famous fish market where I pressed my head against the biggest tanks and tried to listen to the low frequency squeaks and squeals of the eels so that I could share in the adventurous planning of their catadromous journey to the western slopes of the Suruga Seamount near the underwater mountains west of the Mariana Islands where they spawn but of course eels in tanks can't go on catadromous journeys or any other journeys which means they wouldn't bother to squeak and squeal about their plans. Until recently this spawning location remained a mystery which is a strong indication that eels are cleverer than they appear. Yoonhee didn't look into the fish tanks but bought an instant camera and took photos of me looking into the fish tanks. She took about twenty photos even though I didn't move and even some of the eels didn't move except to swim without moving forward which for humans is called treading water but for eels in a tank is considered a standard state of being.

I hurry hurry hurried and lifted my feet instead of dragging them and we made the train just in time. Yoonhee wanted to take more photos but the train was moving so fast that in a flash a long band of pines appeared and blocked our view of the sun shining on one side of the ocean while a group of rain clouds stormed on the other. We turned into a wide bend and Yoonhee put the camera down without taking a shot. I must have been scratching the cut on my belly for a while because Yoonhee noticed blood through my tee shirt.

"Kwangho! What happened?"

A businessman with glasses in the row across from us saw my blood and made a sour face that reminded me of the Mister's sour face when he mocked me. Yoonhee told me not to touch the cut When she took me to the bathroom I managed a few more scratches on the way. The bathroom was small and I sat on the toilet. Yoonhee dug into her purse for the antibiotic ointment that turns your feces green if you eat it. There was barely enough room for her to kneel but she managed. I let her take my shirt off and dab the cut with ointment and I did not screech. An erection was coming fast so I unzipped my pants to let her see it rise. Yoonhee stopped dabbing at my stomach. She didn't tell me to put my erection away.

"Look at me, Kwangho."

I pinched the tip.

"Look at me," she said.

I almost looked at her. I glanced at her eyes because she was going to be my wife and I would need to practice looking into her eyes which I thought I might be able to do because I liked her round eyes very much.

"Do you love me?"

"Do you love me?" I said.



"I love you very much," she said.

She looked at my erection but didn't sigh or whip her head away. I pinched the tip again but instead of telling me to stop Yoonhee pinched it very quickly then eyed me and braced herself to receive my fists which I thought about swinging but didn't. After that Yoonhee took my erection into her hands. She stroked it and this felt good so I didn't hit her. When she put her mouth over the tip I feared being injured by her teeth but she didn't touch me with her teeth and her mouth felt even smoother than her hands so I let her. I had to laugh a little and pull her hair. Yoonhee was very gentle on the erection so I tried to be gentle on her hair. I laughed and pulled as her mouth slid up and down and up and down which eventually made me feel the need to screech except this time the long noodle dangling down my throat felt even longer and more maddening and suddenly I wanted to screech and tap and hit and break and rip things all at once. Yoonhee didn't stop until I exploded like Zorro against the pole. At that instant my thoughts turned to poor dead Zorro and I was very sad.

"Open your eyes," Yoonhee said.

I tried to look her in the eyes and say I love you. I loved her and didn't want to move to the white house on the hill but I started to screech like the collective wail of the Koreans massacred by the Japanese after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. I screeched until I tasted my guts lifted into my mouth. I screeched until I imagined the train accelerating to 265 kilometers per second and Zorro and I were the only passengers and we rocketed past planets and stars and Yoonhee and everyone.
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Author:White, Michael J. (American novelist)
Publication:Chicago Review
Article Type:Short story
Geographic Code:9SOUT
Date:Sep 22, 2010
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