With the sky filled with low clouds and harsh wind blowing, it seemed unlikely to clear up anytime soon. Eun-Ha slid his head out of the window. Seung-Jae, the billiard hall’s son was waiting.
"What are you doing, come out!"
Seung-Jae looked up and shouted loudly when he noticed Eun-Ha. Eun-Ha signaled his finger to his mouth in case his grandmother would overhear.
‘Grandmother told me not to go out today, but…’
Eun-Ha sighed. He suddenly recalled the conversation they shared yesterday on their way home after playing hide and seek. He definitely said they would have more fun today than they do playing arcade games. More fun than the arcade! He couldn’t figure out what it was, but he could not give it up.
The sun had already set. He’s rarely gone out at this hour.
‘Just for a bit’ he reassured himself.
He grabbed his jacket, opened the door, and crept down the stairs. His house was quiet. Grandmother was probably out or reading the newspaper in the bedroom. Eun-Ha snuck out without anyone knowing. Upon stepping out, it felt as though the wind was blowing even harder. He zipped up his jacket. Seung-Jae, who was leaning on the telephone pole, greeted Eun-Ha.
“I waited so long”
"What are we going to play?"
Eun-Ha asked. Seung-Jae closed his mouth and tried not to laugh. Eun-Ha had no idea what was going on with him.
"Hurry, tell me."
Eun-Ha urged Seung-Jae for an answer.
Seung-Jae's eyes were already filled with enthusiasm.
“We’re going to put our courage to the test”
Eun-Ha's voice trembled a bit. Seung-Jae nodded. His face filled with mischief.
"Go to the public toilet alone and pee!"
Seung-Jae giggled. Is this the fun game? If he had known, he would have made up an excuse like he was ill to avoid coming out. Eun-Ha felt a rush of panic. He’s usually reluctant of scary things.
"If you're scared, you can just go! But I'll make fun of you for being a coward."
Seung-Jae threatened. Then he stared at Eun-Ha. His face was filled with playfulness. It was too late to back out now. He would look like a coward if he went back home and he was bound to be the center of a joke for a while. Seung-Jae had a lot of other friends and a rumor would spread that Eun-Ha is a coward. That would hurt Eun-Ha's pride.
"That sounds fun. Let's go."
Eun-Ha spoke in a hurry. Then he looked up at the sky. The speed of the clouds was beginning to be worrisome. The cold wind blew frequently. Eun-Ha sighed deeply. he already felt like he needed to pee. However, soon enough he forgot about Seung-Jae's joke and fell into a conversation.
It was a familiar path. Eun-Ha remembered walking this path with the girl. As he recalled the past, Eun-Ha missed the girl and shrugged. Though they were growing distant from neighborhood roads and approaching darker alleyways, Eun-Ha felt his fears rather fade away gradually. In no time, the two children were passing through the uphill entrance.
The chill wind shook the tree branches. The ground was damp with moisture. Suddenly, a raindrop fell on Eun-Ha's cheek. Eun-Ha wiped his cheek with the back of his hand. Seung-Jae looked at Eun-Ha, wondering if he had also been hit by raindrops.
Eun-Ha shouted. He thought they might not be able to do the courage test. No, it would be better if it rained a lot so they couldn’t do it. Seung-Jae quickened his steps. Eun-Ha followed Seung-Jae and walked fast. Seung-Jae managed to climb up the dark path without struggling too much. It seemed to be a familiar path for Seung-Jae. On the other half, Eun-Ha kept falling behind because his shoes were slippery. Whenever that happened, Seung-Jae stopped and waited until Eun-Ha caught up.
As expected, the drops of rain quickly turned into showers. The sound of rain was intense. The two were startled and ran blindly uphill. They were all drenched.
They arrived at Duryu Park. Though it was hard to see midst the rain, it was definite that the barber shop was among the dimly visible lights ahead.
They took refuge under a small vine roof and squatted next to each other. It was barely enough space for the two of them. Though uncomfortable because they were soaked, they had no other choice. Water leaked beneath the roof. But because it was better than being outside, no one complained.
The rain showed no signs of stopping. Fortunately, because it wasn’t windy, it was not as cold as it was earlier. Due to their damp, sticky clothing, it would prickle and itch whenever the vines touched them. Eun-Ha frowned. Seung-Jae was eagerly shaking off his wet clothes and hair.
“Will that dry it?”
“Well, I figure it’s better than not trying.”
Eun-Ha thought for a while. There was no one around except Seung-Jae, he thought he might just take off all his clothes.
As he was contemplating such thought, Seung-Jae said whatever and began to take off his clothes. Water spurted out as he squeezed his removed clothing. As if he’d been waiting, Eun-Ha shouted ‘Woah’ and took off his clothes. Seung-Jae took off his pants and tossed them. Eun-Ha giggled pointing to Seung-Jae's wet underwear. Seung-Jae smiled and pulled down Eun-Ha's pants. Arghhhhh! Eun-Ha dropped down to the ground. And so did Seung-Jae. The two looked at each other and laughed. Their underwear was covered in dirt. The two children under the vine roof, now ridiculously in their underwear, burst into laughter and couldn’t stop. It is unknown how long they laughed and played in the cold rain. Eun-Ha was having so much fun, he forgot about the cold for a moment.
The two children, suddenly got tired and decided to sit still until the rain stopped. Seung-Jae complained it was cold as he dozed off. Eun-Ha couldn’t sleep. He could see the barber shop building from under the roof. Eun-Ha stared at the dim light for a long time. He could see the silhouette of the wind violently shaking a banner. He didn’t think there was only one, but it was too dark to make out what it said.
"Should we take the courage test next time?"
Seung-Jae asked all of a sudden, his lips shaking. Eun-Ha nodded continuously, at the welcoming response.
"Yes, I'm hungry."
"And it's cold."
"Let's just go home today."
Eun-Ha stooped to his feet and went outside. The rain had reduced, but it looked quite dangerous in the dark. The two held hands and began to walk back down the road they had come up on. While his teeth were shuddering, Eun-Ha looked back multiple times.
The two children came down the mountain and were walking along the street when they were caught by surprise. Everyone in the neighborhood was already looking for Eun-Ha and Seung-Jae. The back door entrance of the market was dark at night much like a back alley since the light had gone out and was never changed. However, unlike usual, the back door of the market seemed bright. They could almost hear people’s voices too. Seeing the light grow closer, the two began to run recklessly. This was because the fear they had been suppressing blew in an instant. Seung-Jae was practically sobbing.
“There they come!”
shouted someone from the back entrance of the market. Eun-Ha squinted his eyes. The buzzing grew and Eun-Ha saw his grandmother running with an umbrella from a distance. The stockfish store owner and billiard house owner followed behind her.
Eun-Ha landed in his grandmother's embrace.
"Where have you been!? Dear god, all soaked and wet!"
His grandmother spanked Eun-Ha repeatedly and couldn't even get her words out properly. It hurt Eun-Ha, but he couldn’t escape as swiftly as usual because of the emerging cold. Sudden fatigue poured over him. Grandmother covered Eun-Ha with a blanket and put an umbrella over him. His shoulders stung from time to time. He seemed to have scraped it huddled under the vine roof without his clothes.
"You boys have no fear, huh?"
The stock fish owner brushed through Eun-Ha's wet hair and laughed. So, Eun-Ha laughed timidly.
"What are you laughing for?”
Grandmother said, but as if she was merely relieved of their safe return, hugged Eun-Ha tightly.
“They’re all safe!”
Someone’s voice was heard for the last time as the market lights were completely shut off and people took a breath of relief as they headed back. The children, before they could say their goodbyes, were each taken home by their guardians.
저작권자 ⓒ 한국소비경제신문, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지