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New Year’s Literary Contest Fairy Tale Winner

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Writer Jogye Date13 Feb 2019 Read1,534 Comment0

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New Year’s Literary Contest Fairy Tale Winner

[Those existing without being seen]



Lee Eun-Jung      



After answering the phone, mom’s face became distorted. My brother and I were watching the TV next to her.

From the TV, the clear voice of the cartoon protagonist could be heard.

The cartoon protagonist did not feel any damage after being hit by a rocket from the antagonist. In the reality he would have died thousands of times. My younger brother laughed next to me. As soon as my mom was off the phone, I asked her.

“Mom, whose call was it?”

My mom let out a sigh.

“Hyuntaek, your grandfather is very sick, but he is insisting that he does not need to see the doctor.”

My mom let out a small sigh and disappeared to the kitchen.

“Hyuntaek, the protagonist is invincible. He can’t die.”

The protagonist in the TV screen was smiling after saving an old man. The whole time while eating a meal, mom had her head down seemingly having no energy.

That night, I passed by the living room to go to the bathroom while sleeping. The kitchen lamp was on. My mom and dad were talking sitting across from one another.

“For the whole life he has not listen to mom. He didn’t even tell her that he is sick…….”

Mom was speaking as she was crying.

“What can we do? That’s his wish. We can only take care of him on his way to go. Thankfully kids are on break so we can all go to see him together.”

Dad quietly murmured.

I went to the bathroom because my bladder was about to explode. I thought about my grandfather while peeing. Grandfather welcomed us whenever we went to the country side. However, he always read books and looked toward faraway mountains. He laughed and smiled at me and my younger brother.

Next day, I got into the car my mom was driving after packing. The whole ride, mom did not say a word.

“Mom, are we going to grandpa’s?”

My brother asked looking outside of the window.

Mom drove with her mouth closed.

I was happy that I did not have to take a test at the academy today.

“We are not going to have fun. Hyuntaek consider this as the last vacation before you go to the middle school next year.”

Mom must have seen my face and nagged me.

“Your grandfather is very sick. He might not pass longer than this week.”

My younger brother tilted his head after hearing what mom said and asked.

“What can’t grandpa pass? He cannot pass over the jump rope like me?”

I hit him on his head lightly.

The whole ride, mom seemed very sad. I watched my mom as I chatted with my brother quietly.

Grandfather’s countryside house was quiet. It was with the sounds of cicada, bugs and wind.

Grandfather’s house has a small floor in the center, and to its left there is the bedroom and storage. To the right there is a small room, a kitchen and a bathroom. Because it’s a renovated traditional house, it resembles thatched house. On the foot stone, there were old black rubber shoes and shoes for a woman.

When my mom went into the room, there were my grandfather and grandmother.

“Come in. Your father told me not to call you but I did. He said he didn’t want to bother you but I thought the children should see him leave.”

Grandmother left after a while. Grandfather had his eyes closed with a white blanket covering him up to his chest. Grandfather opened his eyes. He smiled but only lips moved a little bit since he had no energy.

Mom sat next to grandfather grabbing tightly the end of the blanket. My younger brother had tears in his eyes looking at our grandfather who became so thin.

“Are you very sick, grandfather?”

Grandfather shook his head. I sat next to my mom cutting loose strings from the blanket. Arms of my grandfather just outside of the blanket looked like dried tree branches. They seemed very fragile as if they would break soon.

My younger brother cried a little and walked out of the room as if he had done what he had to do. I also followed my brother.

“Let’s go to a hospital in Seoul.”

I could hear my mom’s voice from the room, but grandfather’s voice was unheard.

Sitting on the floor, I looked at the maize in the garden being shaken by the wind. To the noise of cicada bird responded by singing. The floor was cool due to breeze coming from the small mountain through the back window of the floor. The window seemed like a frame with a landscape painting. Mom’s voice could be no longer heard because of the noise of cicada.

My brother and I went to the backyard. We squatted down and drank water from the small well. Over the fence there was a bunch of grapes rippen into purple color. The grapes were small but were sweet and sour. As my younger brother chatted purple flower bloomed in his mouth.

We walked to the trail that was connected to the mountain behind the house. Next to the trail, mushrooms were growing from the trees.

After walking up the trail for a while, my younger brother, who walked in front of me, was squatting and looking at something.

“Hyuntaek, look at this. It’s a bird.”

It was a small bird. Because its feather was short and small, it seemed like a baby bird. From faraway, a bird was crying loudly.

“Hyuntaek, the baby bird must have lost its mom. Let’s find the mom.”

My younger brother lifted up the baby bird.

I patted the feather of the baby bird. It was cold. The body was stiff.

“This bird is dead.”

At my words, my brother was about to cry and he dropped the baby bird on to the ground.

He made a long face and ran off. I wanted to bury the dead baby bird but followed my brother.

After seeing a dead pigeon on the street, my younger brother hated the word, “death”. After running for a while, I found my brother on a hill full of balloon flowers. He was picking the flowers. As the wind blew the balloon flower buds were shaking.

I also picked the flowers to make a flower tomb for the baby bird on the way back.

My younger brother and I walked around the mountain. After a long time, we went down feeling hungry.

On the way down, we found the baby bird again. By then, hordes of ants were on top of the baby bird. From distance, my younger brother waved his hand saying we should hurry and go. I unconsciously frowned.

I buried the baby bird under the balloon flowers I have gathered. We could no longer see the baby bird or the ants.

When we came back, mom was cooking in the kitchen. As the knife hit the cutting board, I could hear a small drum beat.

Grandfather wet his lips with water mom brought every now and then. When my mom was busy, I would scoop drops of water and put them in grandfather’s mouth.

Grandfather was becoming more and more frail. His eyes dark as the night stared me from his skinny face.

“Are you very sick, grandpa?”

I asked feeling that I should try to speak to him. My grandfather answered with as smile.

“No, it’s not that bad. I can handle it.”

I overheard the conversation between my mom and old lady who was grandfather’s neighbor that my grandfather had cancer. They said he will pass away this week or the week after.

Most of time, my grandfather slept with his eyes closed. Sometimes he would yell out people’s name while sleeping.

“It seems that he is calling out his friends from childhood.”

My mom said.

I could not imagine my grandfather as a child.

My grandfather occasionally opened his eyes and stared at a single spot. His face is so skinny that the eyes may pop out.

His body became thinner and thinner. At first his frail appearance was strange to me but after a week I got used to it as if he always was frail.

My mom told my grandfather that he should come to Seoul with us.

“You should consider your children who have to take care of you.”

When mom was saying this, my grandfather had his head down looking like a student lacking in confidence. He closed his eyes.

For my brother and me, we went around the neighborhood, swam in the stream and hiked up the mountain all day.

My grandfather spend most of his time with his eyes closed.

I occasionally woke up at night. Over the mosquito net, from grandfather’s bedroom voices of my mom and grandfather sounded like a lullaby. The sound of dog barking at night sounded like the long sound of trumpet.

“I should have sent your mother in a colorfully decorated bier.”

I heard grandfather’s weak sounding voice. Mom did not respond.

All my three brothers called in order.

“You should come this week. Dad has something to tell us. He’s sorry for making life difficult for our mom and us.”

My mom had eyes was shining tears.

Grandfather stopped drinking water. When we came down from the mountain, mom was on the phone. “I think he will pass away tomorrow of the day after tomorrow.”

Mom’s voice trembled slightly.

I opened the bedroom door where grandfather was lying down. Grandfather looked like a dry dark log that was lying in the mountain.

I woke up that night having to pee. I peed on a side of the garden. I could hear my grandfather murmuring in the bedroom.

“Mother, mother.”

The next day, all three uncles and aunts came. My cousins did not come. I heard they were coming later. My mom is grandfather’s youngest daughter. She got married late and had us in relatively late age. So my older cousin has already gotten married. His child is expected to born today or tomorrow. Then, I will be an uncle. It would feel strange if the baby called me an uncle.

Adults filled the smaller bedroom. Everybody had their heads down so I could not see their expressions. Grandfather still had his eyes closed. Only his weak breath was heard. He did not call anyone’s name anymore because he probably did not have dreams anymore.

The adults came out to the floor and sat quietly. The cicadas were crying. Listening to the constant noise of cicada I felt sleepy.

My mom brought steamed corns on a plate. After eating the corns, I felt less sleepy.

Adults had a corn each sitting on the floor. It seemed like they were playing harmonica. I could see my grandfather lying in the bedroom through the open door. His eyes are closed with his lips slightly lifted as if he was listening to joyful music.

My oldest uncle turned the water on from the rubber hose in the corner of the garden. As he watered on the garden, rainbow appeared. My brother smiled clapping his hands.

“Here comes the rainbow.”

My uncle smiled and lifted the rubber hose. He had his hand slightly blocking the end and lifted the hose to the sky. Beautiful rainbow appeared between the flowing water.

My brother made a wry face and looked at the sky. He stood like a rock on top of the foot stone.

“What are you doing?”

I asked.

“I am seeing if there is a hole in the sky where the rainbow came down.”

I did not know what to say.

“Stupid, rainbow is everywhere. Only we can’t see them. When it’s visible, we call it rainbow. Rainbow colors are just expressing the lights we see into colors.”

My shoulders were lifted as I told my brother what I saw in a book. After pondering, my brother asked.

“Is there black color in the rainbow?”

I don’t know. Is there black rainbow?

“You can’t say something doesn’t exist just because we can’t see it.”

I answered as it came to my mind.

“Does our grandfather exist even after he dies?

My brother asked showing his teeth full of pieces of corn.

Everybody became quiet. The eyes of the adults were shaking.

My oldest aunt said patting my brother on his head.

“There many things in the world that exist without being seen. Wind is blowing now, but you can’t see it with your eyes. We can only feel it.”

“So when the wind blows later, I can just think that grandfather came, right?”

My brother says many extravagant things. He watered the garden with the rubber hose. Adults talked on the floor.

After eating the corns, I felt sleepy again. I went into the small room and slept on with my arms supporting my head.

After a while, I followed someone in my dream.

I could not remember what kind of dream it was.

Short kid with short hair and black rubber shoes was walking in front of me. I called him constantly. The kid was holding the hand of a elderly lady. On the other hand, he had small bag.

Why did I call him? I do not remember.

Even when I called him, he did not answer. There was a big gingko tree on a green field under the bright sun. The kid was walking toward the big tree.

I called him repeatedly. He was short but faster than me. I could not catch up with him. He disappeared into the sun light.

I heard noise from the bedroom.

“Father, dad...”

Through the window, wind blew from the mountain in the back. The noise of cicada was also heard.

I thought about the kid with short hair while lying down. I was sulky about the boy for not looking at me. I wanted to tell him something. Wind and cicada were whispering to me.

“Alright, good bye.”

I wish the boy could hear these sounds from far away.


■Recipient’s comment


I wanted to embrace those who are weak and poor.


Until yesterday, my mind was a hell. Though heaven and hell are all in my mind, my foolish self has not been able to escape the hell. How can I escape this hell? At that moment, my eyes caught the portrait of my late father on my desk. “Please save me, father.” Though I am a mother of a child, I also am a child to my parents. Thanks to compassion of the Buddha, I heard the answer!

My father was awkward in expressing his love toward us. I wrote this story imagining my father’s mind as he was passing away thinking of us. I believe he wishes me to let go and leave freely. Birth and death, high and low tide, flower blooming and falling, moon waning and waxing; this is our life. I believe my father wished to say do not be afraid any longer, hold on to my mind and walk straight.

At today’s dawn I felt awakened after thinking about things that happened around me recently. I felt sorry for the elderly lady in the market who was selling vegetables to my mom when I was little. To my heart as a child, she seemed old and fragile. The homeless I saw from the window of a bus one day. I dreamed about a world where everybody had a shelter. While nursing my child who was sick, I thought of how lonely a motherless child with fever from flu would be. I thought about kids who died from corporal punishments, kids who died in Sewol Ferry accident, and many more weak and underprivileged souls..

I wanted to ignore them. I felt powerless. What can an ordinary person like me can do for them? However, my heart is telling me to write this story. It feels like a job to care for the poor, weak and underprivileged people. Though, I am weak, powerless people like me can join to be one, two and three. I hope that the joined power will one day make the ideal world come true. Hope is what we need. Other than hope, there is nothing we should have. I want to write a story that would give hope to the children.

I would like to thank the Buddhist Newspaper for giving me courage to writ such a story. I also thank my husband, child and mom. I also thank Ms. Jung, Hae-wang and Mr. Kim Eun-joong from Eojakgyo Writing Academy. I also thank my classmates in Eojakgyo and Lotus Lantern classes. I am happy that there are so many people to thank for.






Commentary


Prof. Bang Min-Ho/ Seoul National University

Clear piece that makes us ponder life and death



Children’s tale is a broad genre. The age of audience can be so diverse that some are written in consideration of pre-school age children and some others are written for adolescents. When reflecting on the significance of children understanding reality, pieces based on real issues seem important while the importance of fantasy pieces also cannot be taken lightly considering the significance of dream for the children.

I attempted to evaluate the strength and weakness of each entry in regards to their targeted effect. Regardless of the inclination or age of audience, the winning piece was selected based on whether it has affectively achieved its intended purposes. However, I also make clear here that children’s story should have articulate sentences and appropriate selection of vocabulary.

The winner of the contest for children’s story is “Those existing without being seen.” I believe that this piece has clearly and transparently depicted death, a topic that is so heavy. It is rare to find such a pure story among Korean children’s literature that makes us ponder the fundamental question of our life. I would like to sincerely congratulate the winner.




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