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FICTION

Sunrye House

  • onOctober 5, 2021
  • Vol.53 Autumn 2021
  • byYou Eun-sil
Sunrye House
2021

I lay down on my bed. The rain had stopped and fog rose from the heart of Geobuk Mountain. If there was one good thing about Wonder Grandium, it was that I had my own room. I felt sad at having to say farewell to my only space and sell all the furniture.

“Let’s face it, Oh Surim,” I muttered to myself. “Your parents know nothing. What’s more, they’re dirt poor now.”

I sat up. I couldn’t keep lying down and doing nothing when I had to take these immature parents of mine and Oh Mirim to Sunrye House.

I washed some rice and got the rice cooker going. I took out aged kimchi from the kimchi refrigerator, making a mental note to add the fridge to my To-Sell list. My eldest aunt would no longer send kimchi to us anyway, nor would there be any space for it there. From deep inside the freezer, I took out big, dried anchovies to boil with the ripe kimchi, perilla oil, and water. Kimchi stew—one of the quick ten-minute dishes Sunrye would cook for me.

 

©Park Sanghyuk

 

“Hey, stop making a racket!” yelled Oh Mirim. “You don’t know how to cook!”

I brought my face right up to hers. “Says the one who doesn’t even know how to turn on the stove. There’s no money to order in,” I said. She burst into tears and buried her head in the couch.

I went back to the kitchen; if the stew boiled over, I’d have to wipe the stove and the pot.

“Did you cook?”

Dad peeked inside the kitchen. His sweaty hair seemed glued to his scalp, making his balding situation even more prominent. Mom lay down next to Oh Mirim on the couch, in the opposite direction. The state of the couch’s fake leather wasn’t too bad. Good enough to get us a few dozen won through the bartering app.

“Look, honey! Our daughter knows how to cook!” Dad exclaimed. “And the kimchi stew is delicious. Please eat some and get better, dear. You are a strong, fierce woman who has overcome every hardship.”

Wow. Overcoming hardships? Just kill me already.

“Yes . . . honey.” Mom sat up, her voice whiny. Mom and Dad used formal, polite Korean with each other. To live with respect for one another, they said. Obviously, they only had respect for each other and were rude to everyone else. What an embarrassingly lovey-dovey couple.

The major leaguers polished off my kimchi stew. Not even a spoonful was left. As soon as they finished, Mom and Oh Mirim lay back down on the couch. Dad followed them, pulling up two chairs in front of them. He offered one of the chairs to me.

As I took the seat, he said, “I got some money from a small side job with a publisher. It can get us a two-bedroom half-basement apartment in the Cha-in-ri neighborhood—500,000 won a month, and a 1,000,000 won for the deposit. I still can’t get over those solar energy scam artists, but we can all get through this hardship.”

“But I don’t want to move there! I can’t let other kids know I bus from Cha-in-ri, it’s embarrassing,” Oh Mirim said.

“Those solar energy scammers!” Mom wailed. She hugged Oh Mirim tight. It was as if they had hypnotized themselves into thinking they were innocent victims of an investment scheme.

“Did you agree to the provisional contract terms already?” I asked.

“You already know the term ‘provisional contract’?”

“How much did you pay as down payment?”

“100,000 won.”

“Get it back. If they don’t return it, consider it as though you never had it in the first place.”

“What?”

I went to my room and came back with the floor plan of Unit 201. I sat back on the chair.

“This is a unit in Sunrye House, where Granddad used to live. It’s around 500 square feet with two bedrooms. The market price is 300,000 won a month for rent with a deposit of sixty million won. The smaller the deposit, the higher the rent. Granddad used to pay 300,000 won a month after putting down twenty million won for the deposit. And as you know, his deposit went straight to clearing his debts. I told Sunrye about our situation, and she offered to lease the unit to us for two years without the deposit, for only 300,000 won a month. Free Wi-Fi and the common rooftop area included. We have to pay 20,000 won for cleaning the staircase and follow strict recycling rules. Also, we have to be extra careful not to create noise at night. If we don’t abide by these rules, we’re unlikely to get a renewal. And of course, it’s just for the first two years that we don’t pay the deposit. We have to follow the building rules. And we’re free to leave anytime, because there’s a long waiting list of people who would kill to move in here. We’re cutting in line, you know. Sunrye is generously giving us this offer. Despite knowing there’ll be complaints.”

The major leaguers went quiet, staring at me. It was the first time I’d ever gotten their complete attention. Certainly, the first time I’d spoken to them at such length. Mom stood up from the couch and came close to me.

“You’re not kidding, are you?”

“Do you really think I’d be joking around at a time like this?”

“I’ll follow all the rules,” Mom grasped my hand.

“Thank you so much, Surim,” Dad blubbered. “You saved us. Sunrye’s house is a palace compared to the house in Cha-in-ri!”

“So I don’t have to bus to school then?” Oh Mirim asked.

“Yes, my dear, it must have been a tough few days for you. Honestly, look at us. Because we all love and care for each other, honestly, there’s a silver lining even after getting scammed,” Mom said, patting Oh Mirim on her shoulder.

No, that’s not . . .

I felt like I needed to make something very clear if I was to get this ridiculous bunch to Sunrye House.

“You do know that Sunrye basically raised me, right?”

Mom stopped patting Oh Mirim. She avoided my eyes and didn’t answer me. I thought of bringing up “Granddad’s accounting book” but decided not to. It was too early to use that. Better save it for a more serious situation.

“Dad, you know that, right?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Do you know how much it costs a month to hire a babysitter for a full day? I mean, we’re talking seven years. That’s how long she took me in for.”

Dad bowed his head.

“And I’m the closest to Kim Sunrye, the landlady of Sunrye House. If you guys ever talk nonsense about Sunrye using Granddad’s money or whatnot, I’m going to rat on you to the landlady.”

“. . .”

“Be grateful to her.”

“Understood,” Dad replied. Mom didn’t say anything.

“Mom, you know that Sunrye never moved in with Granddad.”

Mom kept silent.

“Do you or don’t you know that?”

“I do.”

“And yet, you still call her names, ‘live-in girlfriend’ and whatnot. You didn’t even let them marry, and you called her that even when you knew they didn’t live together.”

“Hey, the two of them traveled together . . . And honestly, what’s so wrong about the word ‘girlfriend’?”

“Your insinuation.”

Mom couldn’t refute that.

“If you ever call her names, I’m going to rat you out, too. I mean, Sunrye must be out of her mind, offering you guys a home without a deposit.”

“I will never call her that,” Mom said, lowering her head.

“And if we save up enough, we’ll pay her some kind of deposit, yes?”

“Sure, of course,” Dad said.

“I trust you, Mom and Dad. You’re intellectuals.”

“Y-yes, of course.”

I said I trusted them, but I didn’t. I called them intellectuals, but that was not what I really thought of them either.

“By the way, I didn’t realize you were this articulate, Surim. And you can cook, too?” Dad asked.

“Well, yeah.”

“I had no idea.”

“I was considered the dumb one only in this family.”

Dad couldn’t utter a word.

“We really have no time. We should start posting our stuff for sale on the bartering app. Oh Mirim and Dad, you guys start posting the books on the secondhand bookstore app. If you look at the floorplan, you can see the sink is much smaller. So sell off any kitchenware that can bring in cash, except what we absolutely need. Anything unsellable, just give it away for free. We need to save some money on waste stickers and garbage bags. We also need to think about our moving date because the movers charge more on ‘lucky’ days when no evil spirits are supposedly roaming around. We have to cut down our stuff, start getting quotes from movers, and decide on the moving date. And just so you know, Sunrye has generously offered to re-paper the house for us, even though it was rich of me to ask her about that when we’re not even paying her a deposit. Granddad took great care of the house, so it’s in great condition. Also, cleaning fees are 10,000 won per thirty-five square feet, so a total of 140,000 won. But I’ll start cleaning it up whenever I find time. The 140,000 won does add to our burden, especially when we’re basically relying on one credit card to pay off another. And I borrowed this tape measure from Sunrye. It’s one of her favorites that she got for a Christmas present. We have to return it in perfect condition. And do calculate the rooms and sizes precisely—don’t slack off and just bring our furniture out there. It’s highly probable that none of them will fit.”

The major leaguers looked at me, dumbstruck.

“Umm, Surim, where did you learn all that?” Dad asked.

I was about to say, “Geobuk Village,” but then I wanted to provoke my mom and said: “From the ‘shabby neighborhood.’”

 

 

Translated by Sandy Joosun Lee

 

Sunrye House 
BIR Publishing, 2021