Summer of Soju

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When we return to the Kingdom the next day, we find Justin and Frank laid out on each sofa, vacantly gazing at some K-drama on TV.

‘Yo…’ Joey announces as he shuts the door behind us.

‘Well, hello there.’ Frank sits up. ‘How’s it going, boyos? How was Seoul?’

‘Not bad.’ Joey grins. ‘Interesting at least.’

‘Interesting, eh?’ Frank turns his head. ‘What happened?’

Joey glances at me for a second, then drops his grin again. ‘Oh… nothing, nothing,’ he says. ‘Only messing.’

‘Right-o, lad.’

‘You up to much?’ I ask Frank.

‘Nah.’ He shakes his head. ‘Nothin’ much, are we Justin? Just kickin’ back.’

‘Yep,’ Justin agrees. ‘We were thinking of going to play some pool, though, if you fancy it?’

‘Pool?’ Joey shrugs.

‘Yeah?’ I repeat the same action. ’Why not?

‘Good stuff, then.’ Frank stretches his arms and lobs the remote at Justin’s head. ‘Let’s get the fuck outta here.’

*

After a short ride on the metro we arrive at some place near downtown.

Stopping by a CU on the way, Frank directs us to one of those elevators on the side of the street. We ascend to a room full of pool tables, where two friendly-faced Korean men sit on stools playing cards. One of them, wearing pyjamas and slippers, smiles and waves his hand familiarly as we enter.

Frank and Joey start setting up a couple of tables.

‘Let’s pit the brothers against each other, shall we?’ Frank suggests.

‘Alright.’ Joey nods. ‘Need to warm up before you play me, do you?’

‘Oh, I’m always warmed up, baby.’

‘If you say so…’ Joey leans forward, lining up a shot to break. He cracks the triangle open and knocks a striped ball into a corner pocket.

‘Very lucky.’ Franks points his cue at Joey. ‘Everyone knows the break is luck.’

‘You wanna break, Frank?’ Justin asks.

‘Nah, you go right ahead.’ He raises his beer can. ‘I’ll get started on this replenishing Hite.’

‘I was thinking of taking Leon to Bijindo this weekend,’ Joey says. ‘What do you guys reckon?’

‘Lovely.’ Justin breaks, failing to pot anything. ‘Weather meant to be any good?’

‘Thirty degrees, blue skies.’

‘Not bad, not bad,’ I say, lining up a shot. ‘What’s Bijindo?’

‘Oh, it’s beautiful,’ Justin answers. ‘It’s this tiny little island that barely anyone knows about.’

‘Yeah,’ Frank agrees. ‘Gotta say, it is lovely. Even most Koreans I’ve met haven’t even heard about it.’

‘How did you guys find out about it?’ I ask.

‘Joey found it,’ Frank says, potting two balls rapidly. ’How did you find it, Joey?’

‘Can’t remember now, but it’s definitely becoming more well-known. They’re much more wary of tourists now than they were before. I could only find a couple of guesthouses that would host foreigners.’

‘Bloody bastards,’ Frank mutters, missing his shot.

‘Why can’t they all be like this guy?’ Justin says, pointing his cue at the man wearing pyjamas.

The man cheerfully waves back.

‘I swear that guy is here like 24 hours a day,’ Joey sniggers. ‘Whatever time, it’s always that same guy.’

‘Well, why do you think he wears pyjamas, Joey?’ Frank giggles. ‘One of these tables probably doubles up as a bed. You know, they love sleeping on uncomfortable surfaces.’

Joey grins and pots a yellow ball. ‘Can’t argue with that.’

‘Do you guys know what happened to Sam, by the way?’ Frank asks.

‘Sam?’ Justin echoes. ‘Who’s Sam?’

‘That new guy from our school. You know, we went out with him a couple of times. Black hair, quite tall?’

‘I remember,’ Joey says. ‘Why?’

‘Well, haven’t you noticed that he hasn’t been around for a while?’

‘Wait, wait,’ Justin interjects, ‘is he the one that we thought was going out with Paula, but actually he wasn’t?’

‘Yeah!’ Frank laughs. ‘That’s the bastard!’

Joey scratches his head. ‘What about him, though?’

‘Well, as I was saying, haven’t you noticed he hasn’t been around for a while?’

‘Not really,’ Joey says bluntly.

’Well, he hasn’t. And I think he got fired.’

Justin raises an eyebrow. ’Really? What for?’

‘I dunno.’ Frank lights a cigarette. ‘But it sounds dodgy.’

‘Why?’ Joey inquires.

’Well, he was a little creepy, wasn’t he?’

‘Creepy, how?’ Justin laughs. ‘Was he?’

‘He had a weird vibe,’ Frank states assertively. ‘He was a creep. You know, I heard he learned French from watchin’ Gaspar Noé films.’

Justin sighs and shakes his head. ‘Frank, he’s Canadian.’

So? They don’t all speak French, Justin.’

’Yeah… but he’s French-Canadian.’

’Oh… whatever.’ Frank scowls. ‘You didn’t even know who the guy was a minute ago!’

‘Yep,’ Justin grins, ‘but then I remembered.’

‘What are you trying to say, anyway?’ Joey prods Frank. ‘That he was messing with the kids or something?’

‘Hey, now, I didn’t say nothin’…’ Frank raises his hands. ‘But perhaps we shouldn’t be rulin’ anythin’ out.’

‘Oh, come off it.’ Joey shakes his head. ‘He probably just got fed up with teaching or something.’

Justin suddenly clicks his fingers. ’Hang on! Wasn’t this the same guy that famously stole some girl you were after, that fateful night at Thursday Party? The girl of your dreams, wasn’t it?’

‘What…?’ Frank glares. ‘What are you talkin’ about, Justin?’

Joey’s eyes then start to glow and he clicks his fingers, too. ‘Wait wait wait!’ He chuckles. ‘Yes - I think I know who!’

‘Yes!’ Justin howls. ‘Remember? Don’t act like you don’t remember, Frank!’

’I don’t remember!’ Frank grimaces, but is eventually forced into cracking a smile. ’Well, okay… I do remember. But that has nothing to do with it. Sam was a creep.’

‘You really are despicable.’ Joey tuts. ‘Trying to ruin a man’s life. All because of a girl.’

‘Hey, pal – Cassandra has nothing to do with it.’

‘That was it!’ Justin cackles again. ’Cassandra! God, she wasn’t even that great.’

‘Now, you watch your mouth.’ Frank sobs theatrically. ’She was beautiful! And I won’t hear a bad word about her.’

Justin leans across the table to take his shot and manages to pot both the black and the white.

‘Ha!’ Frank applauds sarcastically. ‘That’ll be karma for ya, son!’

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