My uncle was over forty years old but didn’t have any children. It had been more than 15 years since he got married, but his wife had never bore him a child. The only time anyone called him a father was when he was with his mule. That name was more humiliating than a cussword to him.
His mule was named “Eunbyeol,” a silver star. The animal had reddish-brown fur and a star-like patch of white hair in the middle of its forehead.
내 양아버지인 당숙은 그 때 이미 나이가 마흔이 넘었는데도
밑에 아이가 없었다.
결혼한 지 십오 년이 넘는데도 당숙모가 아이를 낳지 못하는 것이었다.
유일하게 ’애비‘로 불리는 말이 있다면
그건 ’노새 애비‘라는, 차라리 쌍욕보다 못한 호칭뿐이었다.
그 때 당숙은 ’은별‘이라는 노새를 끌고 있었다.
붉은 기운이 도는 갈색 몸통에
정수리 한 가운데만 별처럼 흰 털이 난 노새였다.
Su-ho found out that his aunt was infertile when he was in fourth grade. His relatives decided for the boy be a foster son to his uncle.More shameful than being a foster son was being the foster son of the mule daddy.
Interview by SNU Korean literature professor Bang Min-ho
The mule is the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse. The mule is infertile. It is ironic that the boy is going as the foster son to his childless uncle who made a small fortune by working his infertile mule. Everyone in the village knows that his uncle is infertile just like his mule. So it was humiliating even for the little boy to become the foster son of an infertile couple.
“I won’t go there as a foster son.”
“We’re not telling you to live there forever. You just need to host their memorial services later.”
“I still refuse to go.”
But it wasn’t up to me. When my grandfather passed away unexpectedly that autumn, I had to dress up in hemp funeral clothes and take up the role of the only son of my uncle’s family.
Even after that, I kept saying that I won’t become a foster son. I didn’t want to be anyone’s foster son, let alone the foster son of a mule daddy.
Even the village’s ox cart driver looked down on my uncle and called him a mule daddy, so imagine what other people thought of him.
“I will never be a foster son, so tell him to take it back.”
“나는 양재 안 가”
“누가 지금 가서 살라나? 나중에 작은 집 제사만 맡으면 되지”
“그래도 안 가”
그러나 그게 어디 내 마음대로 될 일이던가.
그 해 가을 덜컥 작은 할아버지가 세상을 뜨자
나는 단박 새로 지은 베옷을 입고 불려 나가 어린 상제 노릇을 해야 했다.
그러면서도 나는 말끝마다 ‘양재 안 가’를 입에 달고 살았다.
그냥 양자도 싫고 서러웠지만 ‘노새집 양재’는 더더욱 싫고 부끄러웠다.
마을에 우차를 끄는 종기 아버지조차
노새를 부리는 당숙을 노새, 노새, 하고 부르며
은근히 깔보고 우습게 아는 것이었다.
그러니 다른 사람들은 오죽했겠는가.
“나 양재 안 가니까 도로 물러”
Lee Sun-won (Born on May 2, 1958, Gangneung, Gangwon-do Prov.)
: Debuted by publishing “Daytime Moon” in 1988
Won the 1st Lee Hyo-seok Literary Award in 2000, etc.