Cast of characters








Mr E




Miss No

















Evening, December 31.




They piled into Mr E’s car and drove several hours southeast from Chinju to the seaside. Donna and Fred chatted merrily in the back seat while E and Miss No argued in the front.





* What are E and No arguing about? *




During a rare pause in their hostilities, No mentioned that Mr Go was already at the beach waiting for them.



Fred was surprised, given Go and No’s ongoing bitter dispute and the emerging court case.




Fred admired that about Koreans: they could overlook differences in certain situations and all come together.




“Glad you came along,” Donna said quietly aside to Fred. “I’m sure Miss No appreciates it.”




He shrugged, fed up with always doing things for other people, which seemed to be the Korean way. “Really, I just came for the festivities.”




He heard his name mentioned in the conversation up front and cocked an ear that way.



E was narrating a story in an animated voice and flailing his arms; No smiled, nodded and finally laughed.




* What story could E be telling? *




Fred turned to Donna and asked quietly, “What did he say about me?”




E was now practically shouting. Donna listened closely to his histrionics for a few seconds then cracked a big smile and whispered back to Fred:



“You need not be concerned. Mr E’s telling about the time you sang a Korean song at the singing room.”




Fred glanced at E – who was now sounding irate – and then looked back at Donna skeptically.




* Is Donna telling the truth? *




She reassured him. “He’s not angry; says you have a good sense of humour because you did a disco version of My Way and he’d never heard that before. It was original and hilarious!”




Miss No was nodding her head. “She agrees and says you’re a good man and fun person.”




The last city on the way to Lighthouse Beach was Ulsan. Fred saw the sign for it and thought of Thomas. Mr E had the radio news on.




“Ulsan city is now the richest city in Korea. That also means it’s the newest haven for pickpockets and thieves.




And con artists of all sorts. So, if you’re heading to the beach tonight for New Year’s Eve, watch your wallets!”




The report got a snicker from everyone in the car except Miss No. She had a particular hatred for thieves of all sorts.




“I really, really hope I don’t run into one of those delinquents tonight.”




* Do you think anyone of them might? *




She was saying it as a warning and clutched her purse – the same one she’d unwittingly TKO’d Damion with. “It would be a really bad time for me to go to jail if I hurt one of those hooligans…”





The snickering from the others died out quickly and the car was engulfed in a dead silence.




Just before they got to the beach, Fred spotted a lone building on the opposite side of the road – a normal looking house-like structure with a fairly new-looking sign protruding from the front: Store.




“Good to know that’s there,” he commented to no one in particular. “Might need some goodies later. I’m already getting hungry.”




His comment hung there for a few seconds and then Miss No broke the tense silence. “Ayeesh, that store belongs to relatives of Mr Kang…”




Hundreds of cars were already parked near the beach, along the road and in small public parking lots.



From Fred’s Canadian viewpoint it looked absolutely hopeless finding a space yet E didn’t seem fazed.




Sure enough, he cruised slowly through one lot for 30 seconds and then squeezed between two cars that had parked sloppily.




Fred chuckled to himself and Miss No cursed again mildly as they all had to squeeze out of their car doors like sardines trying to evacuate a barely-cracked sardine tin.




Out on the beach a giant bonfire blazed with the fair-sized crowd edging close to it since the seaside temperature was sub-zero with a face-slapping, ball-biting breeze.




E and No continued bickering around the fire but at first interlude Fred pulled E away and pointed out a large soju tent up the beach.




E said he’d come along shortly and sent Fred off alone.




Fred didn’t want to abandon Donna. “Wanna come?”





* Do you think Donna will join the men for some soju? *








Tomorrow: The boys end up in the soju tent.