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  • Frank and I
  • Cheon Myeong-Kwan (bio)
    Translated by Kevin O’Rourke (bio)

Let me begin at the end. I never met Frank, but my husband regaled me with so many Frank stories that he must have thought I knew him well.

The two boys grew up like brothers in back-to-back houses. They went to martial arts together, and when they were a little older, they combed the neighborhood together and indeed every nearby neighborhood. Twenty years ago Frank emigrated to Canada where he set up a small auto repair shop. The boys were cousins; Frank was the son of my husband’s father’s elder sister. He changed his name to Frank when he decided to go to Canada.

That’s all I know about Cousin Frank. My husband’s lengthy stories about him follow a pattern, more or less as follows: The boys sling their guitars across their shoulders and head for a fun part of town. Some beautiful college girls gather around them. Just by chance. The boys aren’t much interested. Predictably. The girls make the move to mix. They have to. The atmosphere mellows nicely. That’s when the local heavies appear. Invariably. There’s a lot of them. They pick a fight. Naturally. Frank puts up with the abuse. Patiently. He remonstrates. Gently. They don’t listen. They begin to harass the girls. Shamelessly. Frank puts up with the abuse and continues to remonstrate. Unequivocally. Of course they don’t listen. Their fists fly first. Wham! A punch lands. Boom! Another [End Page 151] fist flies; another punch lands. Phew. Frank puts up with it. He continues to remonstrate, patient to the end. Please, he pleads, please, for the last time, the very last time. Earnestly. The heavies snort in derision. Swish, another punch flies. Smash! The fist of justice strikes. A lightning jab. The heavies are scattered across the floor. Poetry in motion. Mercy, mercy; let’s get the hell out of here; the heavies take to their heels. The girls applaud. Frank smiles sheepishly. Before the smile disappears from his face, the heavies pile back. This time there must be twenty of them. Minimum. They have sticks, steel pipes, motorcycle chains. Cowards. One of them points at Frank. Their leader steps forward. He has a knife scar on his face. Monstrous. Tattoos, too. Ugly. And a fish knife in his hand. Blue-glinting sharp. He spits through his teeth, sneers, lunges with the knife, cuts callously. Frank feints. That was close. A moment later the leader of the heavies is dumped to the ground. His lieutenants rush to the attack. As one man, but through empty air. Pipes swing, knives fly. The heavies are scattered across the ground. Justice is the victor.

My husband’s stories about Frank’s deeds of derring-do always end the same way. Frank is a man among men, the just among the just. I don’t know if it’s true, but he insists that Frank never lost a fight prior to going to Canada. My husband always called him Frank. It allowed my husband to be Paul or Richard.

He once showed me a photo of Frank and himself, taken in the martial arts gym before Frank joined the marines. Stripped to the waist, they face the camera with laughing faces, fists raised like a poster for a fight. My husband is slightly bigger but Frank with his dark skin looks tougher. Firm fleshed, no flab, they have the air of young men who have not yet attained maturity. “When were you ever that slim?” I ask. “Look at the photo!” he says. In the old days, he claims, he could fly up walls like a character in a martial arts movie. Between the time the photo was taken and meeting me, he put on twenty kilos, and in the fifteen years since we were married, he’s added another twenty. 1.85 meters and over a 100 kilos, you [End Page 152] might think he’s a bit of a monster but not so. Despite his size, he’s cute and charming; he cries regularly watching TV dramas. He likes to perform...


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pp. 151-171
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