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"Fuel" by Yun Heung-gil

#Books on Demand l 2021-01-05

Books on Demand

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One winter day, the furnace pipe got clogged, turning the rooms cold and water icy. The boy’s mother nagged her husband to get some pine branches.

I couldn’t see anything but could hear every little noise. The clear, uninterrupted sound of wood chopping drove me crazy. 

Father was in too much of a rush. As if he was looking to get caught in the act, he was making so much noise that the quiet and sleepy Soradan was about to be shaken awake. 


“Stop right there!” 

An abrupt holler accompanying a flashlight beam made my father freeze on the spot. 


“Who are you?” (Forest guard)

“Turn off that flashlight first.” (Father)

“Shut up and take out your resident ID card.”

“Who are you to demand my ID?”

“Can’t you tell who I am? I’m the forest guard of Soradan.”

“Hey, stop accusing me of committing a crime.”

아무것도 안 보였으나 소리만은 잘 들렸다. 너무 잘 들려서 오히려 미칠 지경이었다.

아버지는 작업을 너무 서두르고 있었다.

때문에 들킬 작정으로 일부러 그러는 것처럼, 곤히 잠든 소라단을 흔들어 깨우고 있었다.

   ”꿈쩍 마라!“ 

느닷없는 호통 소리와 함께 전깃불이 아버지를 환하게 사로잡았다.

   ”으떤 놈이냐“ 

   ”불을 꺼야 대답을 허겄네“ 

   ”잔소리 말고 어서 양민찡이나 끄내“ 

   ”자네가 누구간디 내 양민찡을 보자고 그러능가?“ 

   ”보고도 몰라? 소라 산림 감시소 산감님이다“ 

   ”너 이노옴.  자식놈 듣는 자리서 어따 대고 함부로 놈 짜를 팡팡 놓느냐“

Interview by literary critic Jeon So-yeong

Around the time of the Korean War, Koreans were issued a resident card. But those who were known to be either ideologically different or related to someone who is could not get one, and the narrator’s father was among them. Unable to find a decent job and with the money running out, the boy’s father attempted to steal firewood when he was caught by the forest guard. A more likely story is that the father sent away the son before pleading with the guard to let this slide by. The father must have felt very ashamed to have been caught while doing something illegal and admonished in front of his son. So, he tells a different story to the boy, who doesn’t let on that he is somehow aware of his father’s lies.

“What are you still doing here? I told you to go home.” 

I had no answers for my father’s scolding. 

“You saw that, too, right? How I dressed down that impudent forest guard? I told him that I don’t usually go around chopping firewood in the middle of the night and look what he did. He offered to give me some firewood and even loaded them up on my back rack.” 

For some unknown reason, I was glad that I ran away alone and hid here. 

“You can tell your mother what you saw here, how your father gave a sound tongue lashing to that rude forest guard.” 

 “먼저 돌아가라니께 여태까장 안 가고 어디 있었냐?” 

아버지의 힐책에 나는 아무 대꾸도 못했다.

   “너도 봤쟈? 아버지가 그 버르장머리 없는 산감 녀석 혼내 주는 것,

    한 때 시국을 잘못 만나 운수 불길혀서 그렇지

    야밤중에 나무나 허러 댕기는 그런 사람이 아니라고 혔더니

    괜찮다고 그냥 가져가시람서 지게 우에다 얹어까지 주잖겄냐”

어쩐지 혼자서 도망쳐서 숨어 있길 참 잘 했다는 생각이 자꾸만 들었다.

   “집에 가거든 느 에미한티 본 대로 얘기혀도 괜찮다.

    아버지가 산감 녀석  버르장머리 곤쳐 놓는 얘기 말이다”

Yun Heung-gil (Born in 1942, Jeongeup, Jeollabuk-do Prov.)

: Debuted by publishing “The Season of a Gray Crown of Thorns” on Hankook Ilbo in 1968

Won the 10th Pak Kyongni Prize in 2020, etc. 

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