- A Good Family
Tr. Ally Hwang 2015
When the woman was ready to leave and came out, her son was still “playing games.”
“It’s been more than thirty minutes.”
The boy stopped her hand as it reached out to a palm-size machine.
“But I’m ‘studying’ now.”
Following the machine’s instructions, the boy spelled and pronounced the English words. Do you understand what I mean? The screen changed and the next word popped up. “What? Only twenty points?” the boy complained, moving the plastic button and clicking through to the next screen. A white puppy appeared on one side of the screen, its tongue darting out.
"You failed,” the red letters said.
“Gee, Mom. I lost to the puppy.”
“I told you to stop.” Her face twitched, which meant she was reaching the end of her rope. He stared wide-eyed at her. It was hard to believe those innocent eyes belonged to a seventeen-year-old adolescent boy.
“I’m studying for the listening evaluation. We have a competition tomorrow.”
His voice was courteous. Whether it was a computer or a gaming device, any conversation with the boy while he was in front of a machine tested the woman’s patience. In trying to convince him, she always ended up raising her voice, and she had to assert her authority as a mother to wrap up the situation every time. Both she and the boy knew that her so-called authority had run out like the air from a leaking balloon, and that there wasn’t much of it left now.
“You don’t understand. There’re tons of kids in my class who do nothing but play games all day long.”
He even smiled at her, as if he felt sorry that she didn’t know that she should be happy to have a son like him. Going to school, going to a cram school, doing homework, working with a private tutor, doing homework, working on exercise sheets, doing homework . . . There was nothing she could say to him, since he was dealing with such a packed schedule. Even her nagging wasted his time.
“Well, thanks, son. Would you like me to bow to you or something?”
She let it drop there. She had gotten him the Japanese game console last winter, just before his final exams were over. The boy, who had been losing sleep at night from his eager desire for a game console that seemed more suited to an elementary school student, barely met the condition she had set, which was to be ranked in the top five percent of his class. To afford a more expensive system, he cut his own expenses and added the entirety of his sebaetdon.1 He was good-natured and docile. Apart from having fallen in with some worrisome friends, he left nothing to be desired.
“I’m going over to see Jae-min in a little while. You know that, right?”