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  • My Brother's Back
  • Kim Young-ha (bio)
    Translated by Kyong-Mi Kwon (bio)

My brother's back, with some ugly girl by his side. She had makeup on but it wasn't enough to conceal her age. Sixteen or seventeen at the most? Then she's only three or four years older than me. "We're staying here for a while," said my brother, taking off his old pointy shoes and stepping into the living room. Did they really think it'd be that easy, walking into someone else's house? The girl hesitated and tried to hide behind my brother but he pulled her by the arm and urged her to come inside too. Dad was speechless and could only stare at my brother until suddenly he shouted, "Why you little brats!" and sped out of the room with a baseball bat in his hand. A swing at my brother's thigh was a success. The bat found its target and my brother—he must've thought dad wouldn't dare and let his guard down—yelped in pain as his knee buckled. The ugly girl ducked her head and started screaming, too.

But my brother wouldn't be my brother if he just took the beating and did nothing. When dad raised his bat to strike again, my brother tackled him at the waist and knocked him off balance like a Greco-Roman wrestler. Then he grabbed the bat and pounded dad without mercy. Dad barely made it to his room and locked his door as one blow after another came down on his butt and back and legs. "Son of a bitch, you dare beat your own father? Go to hell, you son of a whore!" His rambling tirade spilled out of the room but my [End Page 37] brother pretended not to hear him. He just marched into the other room, dragging the girl behind him. Of course, he was still holding the baseball bat.

I knew it. Dad was no match for twenty-year-old man in his prime. He's a hopeless case, that one, striking out only to get beat up by his own son. After a few kicks, even a dog hides its tail between its legs but that man, our so-called father, makes me wonder whether his IQ is lower than a mongrel's.

As for the girl that my brother brought home, she stayed with us from then on. With her yellow dyed hair and long manicured nails, she probably worked at a bar in some hick town. She talked so little that I thought she was a mute at first but I think she was just shy or nervous, because gradually, she started talking. She said, "Just call me sister" and offered me an ugly hairpin. I'd be crazy to ever call her my sister. The girl's name is the same now as then. It's "You, there." She knows I'm calling her when I call out, "You, there." "You there, can you make me some noodles?" "You there, the key's on top of the shoe case." So it went on like that.

I'll never understand what my brother saw in such an ugly girl but thanks to her, he started coming home early to hang out with her. I don't have to tell you what they do together so enough about their personal life. Besides, my undies also stopped disappearing from the washing machine since she came to live with us. What the hell was he doing with his own sister's undies anyway? Did he really think I didn't know what he was up to? He's my brother but he sure is a sorry case. I only let him get away with it because he's head of the household. Whether it's money or food, it comes out of his pocket. As for my dad . . . I hate to say it but he's a parasite.

"You just study hard and I'll take care of everything," my brother would say. He really cracks me up when he starts on one of his long-winded speeches, as...