- Secret Lover1
"I'm serious. Yang-mi's got a man now. Cross my heart!" Yich'ŏn-daek2 struck her knife on the table like a cleaver slicing a fish. I tore a sheet of paper towel from the roll in one corner and started to wipe the counter. In the background, a plate of chapch'ae noodles was spinning in the microwave.
"Come on, Odong's dad, why don't we just stuff our own mouths? We'll find out all about her gorgeous future husband later," Yich'ŏn-daek shouted at me in a loud voice.
Across the corridor, in the Chicken Corner, Yang-mi looked at us and smiled shyly. She's going to skip her breakfast today again. It's already the fourth day.
"Well, it's about time Yang-mi got married. What's your problem, old lady?" I snapped at her.
Unwittingly, I was taking Yang-mi's side before I even started thinking. But there's truth in what Yich'ŏn-daek was saying-Yang-mi does need to lose weight. I am a man 178 centimeters tall but I weigh only 75 kilograms. There is no way that Yang-mi, who's only 158 centimeters tall, should weigh as much as 70 kilos! [End Page 191]
"Men! They say a girl's looks don't matter, that it's her good heart that counts. Crap! Tell them to try picking their own brides, huh? Take a hundred men and a hundred will pick out the prettiest faces first. I hope that a naïve gal like Yang-mi isn't chasing a false hope." Placing some chapch'ae noodles on my rice dish, Yich'ŏn-daek went on with her nagging.
"Look lady, why don't you go ask her the details?"
"Like she'll tell me what's on her mind? A big snake inside her stomach, I tell you. If only she could vomit out that snake, I'll bet she'd lose at least 20 kilos!"
"You have such a big mouth, you know. An hour goes by, and everyone at the Mart is babbling about what you said."
I stuffed the chapch'ae noodles with rice into my mouth. Yich'ŏn-daek gave me a dirty look with her piercing eyes. It's all the same to me! I thought.
"Yeah, yeah. Don't even talk to me again, eh? Don't you dare eat! Why do you even eat what I give you?"
Yich'ŏn-daek snatched my rice dish. I grabbed it back almost immediately.
"You know, you shouldn't even bother a dog when it's eating! Don't you complain next time people call you a jealous nag, old lady!"
"Who says that? Besides you, Odong's dad, who ever says I'm a jealous nag? Is this the thanks I get for feeding you?"
Yich'ŏn-daek works at the Side Dish Corner of the Food Section located in the basement of the Mart. Son Yang-mi works at the Chicken Corner, and I am the Team Manager of the Shipping and Parcels Department in the Storage Section. We're used to eating breakfast together. We even eat dinner together at least twice a week. We started eating together from the fall of this year when I became a formal contract employee, so I guess it's already been almost four full years. It all started like this. One morning I went to deliver some styrofoam plates to the Side Dish Corner. Yich'ŏn-daek and Yang-mi had come in early and were trying to eat their [End Page 192] breakfast before the Mart opened. Clever Yich'ŏn-daek had put aside in the fridge one or two side dishes that didn't sell out the day before, and they were eating them for breakfast. Now that a huge Air Purifier Plane has been installed in the ceiling, all the food Corners like the Fish Jelly Corner and the Chicken Corner are on either side of the corridor. But up until last year, Yich'ŏn-daek's Side Dish Corner...