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  • To the Kennels
  • Pyun Hye-Young (bio)
    Translated by Yoosup Chang (bio) and Heinz Insu Fenkl (bio)

When he opened the front door a letter fluttered to the ground-he was leaving the house on his way to work in the city. The envelope had been stuck in the doorjamb and it was crumpled, as if someone had tried to force it in. There was a white birdhouse mailbox in front of the house, but the envelope had been stuck in the door as if to draw attention to it. It was nothing remarkable. What caught his eye was the red print on the envelope. Any other time he would have dismissed it as a flyer from the local pizzeria or a mailer from a new herbologist, but as soon as he saw the red text he knew this was a special kind of letter-an eviction notice.

He slowly picked up the crumpled envelope. The notice meant they could barge into his house any time they wanted. His wife, who had come out to see him off, glanced at the envelope in his hand and immediately gasped. She also knew it was from them. Her face went white. She screamed, Aaah! What do we do now? Her voice was full of fear, as if she thought they might come charging in right then. Now his mother screamed from her room, not even knowing why his wife had screamed, and his wife grew even more scared because of the noise. His mother was suffering from dementia. She would not stop screaming. He frowned slightly in annoyance.

They had climbed over the fence last night like thieves to stick the notice in the door. They might have been hiding there last [End Page 307] night by the newly paved road-so dark you couldn't even see your toes-watching him return from work. He looked toward the length of new pavement that led to the village entrance as if to stare them down. He couldn't be sure they weren't still there, spying on his family and the anxiety they had caused.

That morning in the village was no different from any other. The heads of the single-story houses got into their cars in unison for the commute to the city. Every day, they got into their cars at approximately the same time and squeezed out of the village. Those who didn't leave then usually couldn't get to work by starting time at 9 A.M. The cars carrying the breadwinners disappeared in an orderly line over the new road, and mixed in among them were three or four of the same make, model, and even color as his. Typically, he would also have been mingling in the parade to the freeway. To leave the house at the same time every day, he got up at the same time, and to do that he went to bed every night around the same time. For him, even sleeping, eating, and sex followed a schedule.

The wives leaned against their fences and waved to their husbands leaving for work, then exchanged greetings with their eyes as they headed inside. After the wives were back in their houses, he continued to glare toward the new road until all the cars were gone. Only a thin, early morning fog from the hills lingered on the new road; there was no sign that the men who had stuck the notice in the door were hiding anywhere. He could see the sound wall of the highway beyond the fog, but the rumbling noise of a vehicle was still clearly audible through it. It was probably an overloaded freight truck or a semi. The new road shook slightly, as if startled by the noise.

The envelope was thin, like it was empty. He was upset that his daily routine was ruined by this flimsy envelope. Normally he would have left the new road and been on the highway by now. He stared at his and his wife's names for a long time-in stiff, bold print-at the bottom of the envelope. The longer he did this, the more unfamiliar the names...