- onJuly 16, 2015
- Vol.28 Summer 2015
- byCheon Myeong-kwan
- Modern Family
Tr. Park Kyoung-lee 2015177pp.
Half-asleep, I heard the sound of someone laughing and talking. When I opened my eyes, the television in the living room was on, and a giant of a man was scooping chicken stew from the pot while watching a comedy. It was quite chilly, but he was wearing a shortsleeved shirt, and his pot belly hung out from below. His fleshy mid-section sloshed about every time he burst into laughter.
Man, what a sight. Watching him lap away at the pot of stew, I found myself growing distraught.
This oversized man was the firstborn son in my family, otherwise known as my brother Oh Han-mo. Age fifty-two and weighing 260 pounds; a pervert with five criminal convictions including assault, rape, fraud, and theft; a mentally retarded freak… All in all, a good-for nothing. In his youth, he went in and out of prison like it was home. Then, a few years ago, he left for Cambodia to start a latex business and returned penniless two years later. He crept into Mom’s place at some point, and three years have passed since.
After finishing the stew he began scraping up the bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Since I’d last seen him, he’d turned into a fat and bald middle-aged man. Age had caught up with him. As I sat up on the sofa, he sensed my presence and shot a glance at me.
“What’re you doing here?” he asked, still scraping at the leftover stew. (The crust at the bottom is tasty!)
"I’m staying here.” The words fell out of my mouth on their own. If I planned on staying, I suppose it’d be better to get it out in the open.
“Here? You?” he scowled and asked in an aggressive tone. He seemed to think an invader was entering his territory.
“Why not? Can’t I stay here?” I shot back with my head held high.
Brothers reunited after two long years, and we glared at each other. It was the epitome of absurdity: a turf war between two middle-aged men who’d failed in life.
When I was young, he was my worst nightmare. He studied at a notorious technical high school; instead of books in his schoolbag, he carried a file, a scraper, and a steel triangle. These tools were used in class for practical training but also wielded as lethal weapons if need be. Being dim-witted by nature, he wasn’t cut out for studying, but when it came to using his fists, he was a legend, even in that infamous school of his. At that time, he was nicknamed Hammer, in reference to the large hammers that are used for crushing rocks at construction sites. Like a bull seeing red, he lost all capacity for reason when provoked. He’d start throwing just about anything within reach, including bricks. One time, I was what was thrown at his target. True story.
Growing up, I was beaten countless times by Hammer. He gave me nosebleeds, broke my teeth, and even slashed my face. I always wished that he’d end up dead. For all I cared, he could have been beaten to death in a fight or hit by a car while in a drunken stupor. I longed for him to disappear. Now, tens of years later, he was still alive and standing right in front of me.
As anticipated, he made the first move. He flung the pot right at my face. “What are you staring at!”
Hammer was a step ahead of me in anything that involved fighting. The pot smashed into my face, and I wavered. I see you haven’t lost it, Hammer!
I couldn’t back off now. There was no place else on earth that would take me in. What’s more, the one person who didn’t deserve to live here was my brother. The money we received from Father’s death was enough to get ourselves a larger place, at least a thousand square feet. After persuading Mom to give him his share of the money, he squandered half of it on opening an adult video arcade. What nerve he had, trying to kick me out of a house that he never even partially owned.