Five years since I’ve had the best food in the world.
The restaurant looks the same: the same line of 50 people waiting to get in. I get in line, the smells bringing me back: appetite and nostalgia winding a tight braid inside me.
“The special, please,” I say as a waitress comes up the line, taking advance orders. No time for looking at a menu.
I wonder how many have eaten here in the last five years. Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands?
I spot the owner as I reach the door. She looks up. “Where have you been?”
This is actually a true story. When we were in Korea, we lived in the city of Jeonju. In the old market, there is a restaurant called Nammun Pisundae (남문피순대). It is famous all over Korea and has been in business for decades. There is seriously a line outside of at least 50-100 people at every single meal time and it is always busy. They really only serve one thing: a spicy soup of blood sausage and pig organs. You might not think that sounds great but that’s because you haven’t tried it. It is seriously my favorite food in the world, specifically from that restaurant.
I got a chance to go back to Korea in 2019 and made a point to go to Jeonju to see old friends and to eat at this restaurant. Even after all that time, the owner recognized me right away and asked where I’d been. I explained I’d moved to the US 5 years before. To be fair, there probably aren’t many non-Koreans who were regulars there.
(You might wonder about the title: what an Oran Man is or who Ida is. This is a transliteration of the Korean expression meaning “long time, no see”).
Big things are happening in the land of green walls! For all my Friday Fictioneers friends out there and anyone else who might not know, I have started a website for children’s stories called the Green-Walled Treehouse. As part of it, I have a place for kids 0-18 to submit story ideas and I will write a story for them based on it. If you know anyone interested, have them email me at email@example.com.
Me and the fellers are unwinding when one of them new auto-harvesters drives by. The ones that took our jobs and left us homeless by the highway.
“Ay, ya arshdriver!” Kenny shouts, flipping the double bird as it roars by. I flip it off too just as a piece sticking out chops off my right middle digit, clean as a butcher. It goes flying into the fire where Robbie’s cooking roadkill.
It’s nothing but ash now. Bad enough the bastards take my job, but now I can’t even flip the double bird in protest? It’s enough to make you misty-eyed.
Happy New Year everyone. Globally speaking, this has been a pretty terrible year and a lot of people are still suffering quite a bit. We can only pray that 2021 is better and do what we can to make it so. I have hope.
Hope from Above
The wind caressed the dress shirt from its rooftop drying rack. It rose into the air, a well-dressed ghost preparing for a New Year’s Eve party. A cross breeze sent it dancing with invisible partners.
Sung-Ho sat listlessly on the curb. Suicide? Why, with no life insurance? Burn down the building? Insurance companies could tell. Start over?
He felt Eun-Ha’s hands on his shoulders. “We’ll get the money somehow,” she whispered.
The shirt fluttered down. Sung-Ho caught it before it hit the ground.
“See?” his wife said. “2021 will bring hope. Even God is sending us his dry-cleaning now.”
“For the last time, we don’t need artists. We need laborers. If everyone did what they wanted, what would we eat? Where would we live?”
“There are millions of us! Why can’t I be different?”
“But why you?”
“Because I’m asking.”
She let him try. In a month the hill was covered in a rainbow of swirls and circles. The word spread. In a jungle of 400 trillion ants, he was the only one with a name.
. . .When you don’t, you’re all they see.
* * *
In 1835, French naturalist George Valentin came across a nest of Argentine ants in the Corrientes province of Argentina. It was three feet high and covered in symmetrical patterns of berries and twigs, including one design that many claim to be the figure of an ant. It was destroyed in a flood the next year. To date, it remains the only example of ant artwork ever found. Source*.
*Okay, so this didn’t actually happen. But it makes a good story.