So the Straw Bear and I
- onMarch 26, 2019
- Vol.43 Spring 2019
- byPark Min-gyu
Illustrations Copyright ⓒ Park Min-gyu
The straw bear and I met at the International Wilder Mann Festival1 held in the Björn region of Germany. Of course, this is a lie. But the straw bear came up to me and said hello, so I had to respond somehow. Given that this was the Wilder Mann Festival, I, too, was wearing the huge head of a bull, made crudely of fabric and leather. I could feel its heavy weight on my shoulders. Because of our supernatural costumes, the straw bear stood over seven feet tall while I was close to nine feet. Having no other choice, we just . . . bobbed our big, hulking heads and torsos along as we walked side by side. We were walking in a parade for Wilder Mann, a symbol of pagan religions around the world.
The straw bear asked me where I was from.
When I told the bear I was from Korea,
the mask grunted that it comes to this parade every year
but has never seen a Wilder Mann like me.
Of course it hasn’t. I was in town to visit my cousin and her family who lived near Björn. It was my cousin who told me about the festival; in fact, her precise words were, “Why don’t you join the festival? Aren’t you great at that wacky stuff?” Why yes. I was born a Wilder Mann. I didn’t need much in the way of a disguise really, but still I fashioned a bull’s head and slid it over my own, and was now waddling down this street. And although not a terribly important fact in and of itself, I seemed to be the only participant representing Korea.
What is the name of your costume?
The straw bear asked.
This thing couldn’t have had a name,
but for some reason I found myself
blurting out the word bulgogi.2
And that’s how. “Good to know you, Bulgogi,” the straw bear said. What a gullible person, I thought to myself. By now the participants had finished walking in the parade through the forest and were enjoying their own private festivals. Just then, the straw bear groaned, Ugh, I need to go to the bathroom. But now that it was a Wilder Mann, the bear observed, it found it a frightening notion to go to a human bathroom. Instead, we agreed that I would keep a lookout while the bear relieved itself in a secluded spot in the woods. We walked a few ways from the crowd and headed deeper into the forest where we . . . went about our respective duties. The straw bear was a woman. Or possibly a man who preferred to urinate in a rather strange position . . . In any case s/he was a supernatural being who had managed to hold in his/her pee for a significantly long time. The forest was dark.
Bulgogi! Don’t go too far,
said the straw bear, possibly because she was scared.
When I told her not to worry,
she replied, Thanks.
Want me to perform cunnilingus?
I asked, partly because I was bored of the wait.
Hm . . . Sure,
said the straw bear.
Okay. So the straw bear and I
decided to write a novel
for no particular reason really.
This was only a few days ago,
in any case.
Park Min-gyu debuted in 2003 with two widely-acclaimed novels: The Sammi Superstar’s Last Fan Club and Legend of Earth’s Heroes. He has authored the short story collections Castella and Double, and the novels Ping Pong and Pavane for a Dead Princess. His books in translation include Pavane for a Dead Princess (Dalkey Archive, 2014), Pavane pour une infante défunte (Decrescenzo éditeurs, 2014), and Ping-Pong (Editions Intervalles, 2016).