- The Silver Trout Fishing Network
The day I was born, July 12, 1964, my father had gone silver trout fishing at the Wangp'i River in Ulchin. He went freshwater fishing every summer, sometimes at the Wangp'i, and other times at the Kagok River in Hosan, or even the Namdae River in Yangyang. So my mother ended up giving birth to me one sweltering July day, sweating alone in labor.
My father had luck in the waters that day, returning home with a bucketful of silver trout.
"I'll take him trout fishing when he's old enough," he said, gazing down at me swaddled in a blanket.
I awoke and began to cry at these words.
I grew big like a "forced" vegetable and soon began to tag along with my father on fishing trips. The silver trout rose to the bait we cast out on the water when we went fly-fishing, or when we trolled, using live trout as decoys. We'd fish all the way up to the month of September, when the silver trout would head downstream to spawn by the river's mouth.
Just as the silver trout would return from the ocean each spring and swim upstream, I, too, would go back upriver every summer. [End Page 113]
The first time I received their bulletin was late one Wednesday night. It had been placed in my apartment mailbox. That rainy autumn evening I had just come back from Lawson's, a 24-hour convenience store. I was carrying some quick-fix food items-bread, V8, cans of beer, coffee filters, things of that sort. In the faint glow from the streetlight, I cast a long and rather lonely shadow. Stepping over my own shadow as I entered the foyer of my apartment building, I found a sky-blue envelope tucked into my orange mailbox.
In the left corner was printed "The Silver Trout Fishing Network." The sender's name, address, or telephone number were nowhere to be found. I thought for a second it had been delivered to the wrong place but my name and address were printed on the bottom right in the same font.
I stood at the entrance to the building wondering where the envelope had come from while the security guard, taking a break from the 9 o'clock news, shot a sullen glance at me through his window.
I threw my wet clothes into the washer, ate dinner, and took a shower. Then I turned on Billie Holiday and sipped a beer alone on the sofa in the dim living room, which seemed to cry out for a visitor. Billie Holiday had been unable to escape the depressing cycle of alcohol and drugs. She had crooned melancholy lyrics right up to her death at the age of forty-four in 1958. On lonesome and gloomy evenings I often drank beer and listened to her sad words. Why would someone with such a great gift take her own life? I listened to the lonely voice of a black singer who had died before I was even born, and shuddered at the realization that I had somehow arrived at the loneliest place in the world.
The phone suddenly rang, rattling the dead air in the room. I glanced over at the darkness gathering beyond the windowsill, and waited for five rings before picking up. It was rare for someone to call me so late at night.
I said hello, but for a while there was no answer. I almost hung [End Page 114] up thinking it was a wrong number, but then I heard a faint, faraway voice, "Um. . . ." I felt something wasn't right and brought the phone closer to my ear, waiting for the caller to say something. After about ten seconds, a thin, unfamiliar female voice spoke.
"You are listening to Billie Holiday."
"! . . . ."
I felt as if someone had pricked my nerves with a sharp needle. As if someone had somehow snuck into my locked room. I held my breath tightly. When faced with unexpected encounters I usually try to relax and proceed calmly. I never...