Today: Fred gets a call from Korea – but not one that is promising




Cast of characters








Max – a friend of Thomas from Korea








One morning Fred rushed out of the house and forgot to unplug the phone.




When he returned later, there was a call.




Unexpectedly it was from Korea.




The chopped-up long distance voice simply said, “My name Max. I friend of Thomas. He give me your number. Please call me…”




* Is Thomas in trouble? *




The male’s tone of voice sounded urgent.




Caught up in the moment, Fred called right away and instantly connected with Max.




Apparently, he ran a pool hall near Thomas’ Englishy school.




“He was regular customer,” Max said through another poor phone connection with an annoying several-second delay between talk and response.




“But suddenly – for one week now – he no longer visit my pool hall. Why? I don’t know.”




“Maybe something wrong. Also, before he visit his girlfriend coffee shop many many times every day, but now he never go.”








“Maybe he and his boss – bad feeling.”




“Do you know how’d I be able to contact Thomas?”




“These days nobody can find him. His girlfriend no know where he go.”




“Would it be any use calling her?”




“Her English – terrible – worse than me. We call you if we receive new information. Okay?”




* Fred bides his time *




Fred wasn’t so much upset and worried; he was more frustrated by a plain and simple lack of information.




It was as if Korea was behind a huge wall of secrecy.




Nevertheless, he did feel responsible for Thomas and felt all the more compelled to get over to Korea as fast as possible.




And for the first time, the thought really hit him: Amazing.




I am going to Korea!It was a daunting prospect: Traveling across the Pacific and the international date line to a completely foreign, mysterious country.




Was he out of his mind?




He couldn’t speak Korean and knew nothing about the ‘Hermit Kingdom’ and its 5,000-year-old culture.




With his visa surely coming soon, he burned up his few last days in the library reading any books he could find on Korean history and studying the language.




* Fred continues biding his time — will he pack in his Korean junket? *




Yet everyday he’d come home anticipating a call about the visa but the light wouldn’t be flashing and there’d be no call.




He came to perfectly understand how Donna had felt.












Left out in the cold.




“I’ve been karma’d!” he yelled out into his empty room one day.




All alone.




No one telling him anything.




Just waiting in silence.




And with no job or even a single friend to keep his mind occupied, he grasped for constants.




One evening for old times’ sake he decided to ride his bicycle downtown and actually visit his old security stomping grounds.




When he arrived at the parkade entrance nobody was in sight but he started thinking about Donna.




Surely that call centre had hired her back?




The thought gave him a glimmer of hope.




He headed up to the third level to see if her car was in its usual spot.




Maybe that other guy – Damion? – was up there with his stupid dummy.




A big smile broke out on Fred’s face as he peddled up the levels.




But when he got there, there was only some broken glass and cigarette butts scattered around, and they didn’t even look fresh.




It even felt like the car hadn’t been there for a while.




Another week came and went.




No job prospects; nothing in the mail except bills.




They didn’t bother Fred as much as the silence on the visa.




The total informational vacuum was driving him crazy.




It was as if he was being tested by some invisible, all-pervasive Korean force to see how he’d react.




It started to occur to him that maybe – as with Donna – the whole thing had fallen through, just that no one had the guts to tell him.




He sank into phases of depression and anger, rejection and alienation.




Was this just Korean culture at work, and he was feeling it even though he wasn’t even in the country yet?




Finally, Fred found the only way to deal with his misery was to put Korea out of his mind completely.




It worked. Magically, things started to return to normal.




He went for a job interview and felt it went well.




Suddenly Korea was the farthest thing from his mind.




That’s when the Korean Consulate called.








Tomorrow: Fred makes it to Korea.