But after three years, the Ginkgo tree suddenly started to grow with frightening speed, remarkable considering its slow progress in the first three years. The pea-sized tree grew to the size of a chestnut in a mere month, and an orange in two months. On the third month, it was the size of a watermelon.
“It’s awesome! It grew so much this month, too. I think the manure really helped. A little smelly, though. Ha ha. Anyway, I’m glad the tree is growing well, but I’d hate to draw attention to myself because of this. What if I end up on TV? What if people crowd me and demand to see my tree? I can’t stand a racket. It can’t be good for the tree, either.”
But that was the least of our worries. We were worried about his health. It goes without saying that the only source of nutrients for the tree was the man’s body, and there was no telling what that meant for him. The roots already run all the way down to his wrist, and he had next to no movement in his left hand. But he was completely oblivious to our worries and driveled on about his plans for the tree.
“Maybe I should just let it all out in the open and raise it proudly. It’ll be a little trying, but that’s the only way I can have some semblance of a social life and still keep my tree. By the way, they have Ginkgo tree experts at the Korea Forest Service, no? I have so many questions. How much sunlight does the tree need? I hear Ginkgoes have male and female trees. How does the pollination work? Does the wind take care of everything, or do they need the help of bees and butterflies? ‘Cause I hate bees. Butterflies are okay, though.”
As time went on, the man shriveled. He kept losing weight until he went from chubby to scrawny. His face was jaundiced, and his entire left arm was paralyzed. His digestive system started to fail him—he couldn’t hold anything down. We implored him to consider the only option he had: to have the tree surgically removed by taking out a part of his finger and digging the roots out of his arm. The way things were going, he was sure to die soon. But he politely declined and put his affairs in order like someone on his way out.
“Has he lost his mind?” cried his agitated wife. “It’s not like he’s got a new woman! He’s throwing everything away—his life, his family!—and for what? A Ginkgo tree! Tell...
Kim Un-su has written three novels and one short story collection. He won the Munhakdongne Novel Award in 2006. His books have been translated into French, Japanese, and Chinese. He was invited to the Saint-Louis Literary Festival and the French literary festival, “Meeting.”