Cast of characters








Mr Go








Go and Fred descended the spiral stairs for the final time and side-stepped a crumpled-up potato chip bag.




“Ayeesh!” Go lamented. “Students these days. Throw garbage everywhere. No respect.”




Fred bent down to retrieve it but Go tugged him away. “Don’t worry about that, Fred. I will clean the institute later today.”





“I have no plan and am not busy.”




He pointed up to the streaks in the long, regal windows, highlighted by the sun now beaming in. “I’m going to clean those windows too. I must take pride in my institute.”




* Will the institute truly become Go’s again? *




Fred cracked a grin at Go’s new vow of confidence.





They got to the bottom of the stairs, stepped outside, and Go pulled down the building’s rolling door.




“I am going to the immigration office right now to submit your new contract and get it stamped by the authorities. Then it’s official.”





‘Then I will go to the public bath house for a few hours and relax.”




He chuckled. “By the time I get back here, Miss No will have returned… That will be the end of my relax time for today!”




* That is probably true! *




They stood facing each other beside Go’s car, with the alley bathed in sunshine and warming up nicely. Go smiled and stretched.




“Ah, feels like spring already. Spring in this province is wonderful.”




“I will try to come back for a visit,” Fred said. “I will miss this place.”




Go lowered his voice: “Frankly Fred, you are leaving at a good time. A major battle is brewing between Miss No and me.




“You know, when I grew up I was told that in Korea men are sky and women are earth. It means men did important work and women supported them.




“But Korea is changing and everything here changes fast – pali pali! We are in modern times now – woman have equality.”





“I guess that’s partly why Miss No has risen so fast in my company!”




“But at the same time, I was naive and neglected to look out for my own interests. I was successful early on and became complacent.




“Maybe I deserved what I got from Miss No. Maybe in a way she was my guardian angel.”




He gazed up at the bright sun, the edge of which was peering down into the alley.




“It is a loss to my Chinju business that you are leaving because now I will have no foreigner for a while.”





“But I do have hope: You are my only hope – you and Thomas. Even if my Chinju business fails, the Ulsan business is coming into its own.”




They shook hands a final time and as Fred stepped away he bowed to Go, and then stood by briefly while Go got into his car and turned on the ignition.




He rolled down the window and with a cigarette hanging out his mouth asked whimsically, “Mr Fred, how about go for lunch – Korean bacon and soju? Okay?”




Fred knew that he should accept the invite – Korean style – but all he could think about was getting back to the apartment and preparing to leave tomorrow.




“Next time Mr Go!




“Yeah, yeah, as you wish Fred.”




Go backed his car out, and sped smoothly away, leaving Fred feeling guilty.




That’s the Canadian in me. Some parts of a person never seem to change. I just snubbed another Korean offering me something!




* Do you think Go was offended by Fred’s refusal? *




He flashed back again to that first night at Mrs Won’s when he’d rebuffed Rose’s spread of apple slices.





Haven’t I learned anything here during all this time? If I ever see Mr Go again, I definitely owe him a great big dinner! 




But knowing what he did about Korea and Koreans, Fred realized that may never happen. He knew that Koreans quickly forgot someone when that person moved away.




Would Go even remember him in six months? Or even six weeks?




* Will he? *




As Go’s car vanished and its exhaust cloud quickly dispersed in the alley’s warm air, the newly-freed Canadian briskly followed the same route out on foot.




Nipping around a corner and out of the alley, in a dim corner of his awareness, he half-heard another car enter the alley behind him.








Tomorrow: Fred’s last day in Chinju has come and (almost) gone.