Read: Matt Smith - The Unfortunate Odyssey of Lee Go-Saing

Matt Smith는 애리조나 주립대학에서 영문학을 전공했다. 지금까지 한국에서 3년 째거주중이다. 그는 영화광이자 피자를 아주 사랑하는 사람이다. 

그의 문학적 영감은  Jack Kerouac, Thomas Pynchon 그리고 Zadie Smith같은 사람들에서 얻었다. 

Matt Smith graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in English Literature. He's spent a combined three years teaching English in South Korea. He's an avid lover of film and has a most sincere love of pizza.

His literary inspirations include Jack Kerouac, Thomas Pynchon and Zadie Smith.  

The Unfortunate Odyssey of Lee Go-Saing


Part One

They almost tumbled onto the floor, they came through the door so quickly. Gasping and drenched in sweat, they tossed four duffel bags onto the motel bed. No one said a word. There was only the heavy panting of six men. The last man through locked the door. When he heard the metal bolt slide into place, Go-Saing's face twisted into a smile. He stood hunched over in the middle of the room, his palms gripping his knees. Out of breath, he choked into convulsions of laughter as he looked around the room. His cohorts were not amused. A shaken look of paranoia shifted from man to man.

Dae-Jung stood to the side of the window with his back to the wall. He made quick glances to the neighboring building just five feet from them. Even in the daytime there was nothing to see. A narrow alley was wedged between them and the more recently built motel, which hadn't thought to provide its guests with a teasing glimpse of cracked plaster and pavement spotted with the green broken glass of soju bottles.

“There's no one out there,” Dae-Jung assured them. He was the smallest and youngest of the group at twenty-nine years of age and respectful to a fault. He had honed his reconnaissance skills not through his two years of mandatory military service, but through his avid fandom of American action movies. Go-Saing was his uncle. Dae-Jung wasn't sure why he'd offered to help, nor why he was sitting on the stiff surface of a heart shaped mattress, nearly pissing himself with anxiety over what his family would think when they discovered what had transpired earlier that day. All of this was most likely due to the fact that he was never quite sure what he was doing— he slid through his waking hours with the absent-mindedness of Pooh Bear.

* * *

Go-Saing had closed all of their strategy meetings with memorandum on the importance of color coordination and a strict observance of the dress code requirements, he himself had written before he had taken a look at the layout of the bank they were to rob. The men were to pose as caterers from an upscale restaurant recently opened in downtown Ulsan. They would arrive in an unmarked white delivery truck that Go-Saing had purchased the previous month, and present as a gift to the staff a lavish bounty of pork bone soups and kimbap rolled in expensive seaweed. They would park at the front entrance right outside the door and roll through with their bags and weapons concealed inside the cloth of each food cart.

Each member was provided with a starched and pleated chef's uniform in his respective size. Fake names were stitched in red inside embroidered patches on the right breast. They were each given a pair of plain white New Balance sneakers and were instructed to keep them in their boxes until the afternoon of the heist. Go-Saing had scheduled hair appointments for the men and himself on the eve of the heist at a chic salon in downtown Daegu. It was the sort of place that presented patrons with a laminated list of complementary caffeinated drinks, which only Myung-Bak, who'd previously taught fifth grade English, could pronounce. They were given the same haircut, trimmed ‘til three inches remained on the sides and back, and four on the top. Six identical men, identically groomed, became an exceptional pain for the police to identify when all was said and done. The advantage was overlooked by Go-Saing, who was more interested in coordination. His personal and often-stated philosophy was that uniformity is the pathway to success. Moving as one indistinguishable unit would render them invulnerable to failure. Because he never explained why and it ended up working in their favor, the men looked upon him in awe as a criminal mastermind.

Everything from their unforeseen entrance to the quick speech Go-Saing delivered from the counter top went as planned. He was particularly pleased with his charismatic warning to the employees. He told them to huddle together in the middle of the room to be accounted for, and that everyone else should remain calm; he and his men intended no harm. Should they get what they want, they would be gone in a matter of minutes.

Go-Saing had taken it as no mere coincidence that during the week leading up to the heist, the John Dillinger biopic Public Enemies had played at least twice a night on television. It had actually played for eighteen consecutive weeks on the Korean cable network CGV. Go-Saing was taken as quickly by Dillinger's charm as the character himself had taken the loot. So before hopping down from the counter, he bent down to snatch the hand of a trembling female teller. She shook so much it looked as though she would fall to pieces. He leaned in close enough to feel the heat off her face and asked, “Darling, you coming with me?” The weight and space of a beautiful hostage turned accomplice had also been factored into his plan.

In that moment, the guard saw his opportunity and went to reach for the pistol on his hip. Kyu-Hah and Chung-Hee looked quickly at one another in terror. Go-Saing had outfitted them each with an airsoft replica of an AK-47, or basically toys. They were to grip the weapons with both hands to avoid shaking them and having the pellets heard. Panicked, Kyu-Hah lunged at the guard and struck him twice in the temple with the butt of his gun.

The rest of the operation was a hurried mess. Steps were forgotten, others performed sloppily. Go-Saing's face went beet red, and with every mistake the veins in his neck snaked closer to his ears. Drops of spit burst from his wide mouth, which struck a greater terror in the hearts of his men than it did the hostages. 

* * *

With their heist more or less a success, the six men stood around the heart shaped mattress and four unzipped duffel bags. They peered down at the bundles of crisp, golden yellow bills in disbelief. Not one of them had ever seen so much money. Atop the cheap mattress sat nearly a million dollars in fifty-thousand won bills.

Each bag was black but with its own border color, and contained an equal portion of the loot. Go-Saing had purchased them at the North Face outlet the week before. He would take the quarter in the blue bag since he had put the plan together. Chung-Hee and Kyu-Hah would split the green bag, Myung-Bak and Sung-Man would take the yellow, and Dae-Jung would get the pink, since he had been the driver.

Go-Saing broke the silence with the declaration, “It's time we celebrate!” He had a menacing smile. “Myung-Bak, Sung-Man, go down to the mart on the corner and purchase beer, wine, soju, and enough instant noodles to hold us over for the evening. Pay with the cash you withdrew this morning.”

“Right!” the two said in unison as they stood up.

“Hey, hey!” Go-Saing shouted. “Change clothes. Tie the ones you're wearing in a plastic bag and leave them in the dumpster around the side of the building.”

“Dae-Jung, you have the address of the spot where you'll drop the van?”

“Yes.” Dae-Jung quickly sifted through his pockets for the slip of paper he had put there earlier. Just as his horror had reached its peak, Go-Saing walked over and grabbed him by the ear.

“Is that the address?” He pulled Dae-Jung toward the door. “This little slip of paper I see on the floor?”

“Yes,” said Dae-Jung, avoiding eye contact.

Go-Saing slapped him once on the back on the head, just above his neck. “You piece of shit! What would have happened, had this fallen out at the bank? Huh?!” He slapped him again across the back of the head. Dae-Jung made no move to retaliate, he only stood steaming in his frustration and shame.

“Get out of my sight and dispose of the van, you little shit. You're dumber than a pig and about as useful.”

Go-Saing pointed to Chung-Hee and Kyu-Hah. “You two, watch over the bags and the room.”

“Where are you going?” asked a worried Kyu-Hah.

“I'll be next door. I'll be back in an hour.”

A moment later, all but Chung-Hee and Kyu-Hah had vacated the room. The two sat on opposite sides of the mattress, staring at flashing images on the television screen. Neither was paying attention and neither could shake the same unavoidable, searing thought; there was no one to stop them from taking all the money. Ten minutes of deafening silence went by and the two began to the grow suspicious of the one another. They kept their glance at the corner of their eye, upon the bags.

Chung-Hee's forehead began to perspire. He felt beads of sweat collect in the folds and creases of his forehead as he scraped at the underside of his thumbnail with his index finger. He stewed in his thoughts. His share wasn't enough. He could admit that two hundred million won was a lot of money, but it wasn't enough, not for the risk, not for what he had put his family through. He was too old to return to the military and he had no intention of quietly fading away in the tiny office the high school had given to the math professors.

Kyu-Hah was motivated more by greed than desperation. He had worked the morning shift at a CU convenience store for the past eight years and was certain he'd never see such money again. A buffet of temporary pleasures paraded through his mind. Of slick new garments, expensive alcohol and women, he dreamt. Oh, what he could do with his share, and what more he could do with everyone else's.

Their thoughts were interrupted by a bang against the wall the television was mounted to. The dresser shook and rattled the air freshener and cheap cologne next to the mirror. On the other side of the wall, the headboard slammed against the concrete divide. It grew louder and louder as the moan of a woman in throes of passion reached its climax. Then a familiar voice came into range, something that, between words, was more guttural and filled with grunts.

Kyu-Hah burst out laughing, while Chung-Hee found nothing amusing.

“Hope he's not overdoing it, in there,” Kyu-Hah smirked.

“I can't take this, I refuse to let us be the pawns while he treats this like some vacation.” Chung-Hee stood up. “You can choose to take half of the money or stay, but I'm claiming what is owed—”

The door opened at the just the moment he was to finish his sentence. In came Myung-Bak and Sung-Man carrying the heavy weight of four plastic bags full of liter beer, grape wine, rice wine, corn chips, processed beef, squid jerky, and enough freeze dried noodles to sustain them for the night.

“What's going on?” asked Sung-Man, noticing Chung-Hee's grimace.

In the next room, Go-Saing, on his knees, watched as drops of sweat collected on the small of the woman's back. They fell from strands of hair that stuck together at a point like cactus spines. Finished for less than a minute, and already he'd felt himself retract an inch or two and slip out of her. Feeling this, she stood and up and began dressing herself leisurely, while he rolled over on his back and fetched a cigarette from the pocket in his pants on the floor.

She didn't say a word, and when she had finished dressing she turned to face him. With the slim cigarette between his middle and index finger, he pointed toward the dresser with narrowed eyes. Underneath the room key were four folded, but still very crisp, fifty-thousand won bills. She moved across the room without making a sound. Her feet seemed to glide over the faded carpet, over years of broken hair follicles, dust, dried fluids, and cigarette ash, all invisible to the eye. She took the money and placed it in her purse, then did a slight bow and exited the room.

Go-Saing inhaled deeply, and when he let it go he chuckled. His smile displayed two rows of molars and incisors stained brown from years of smoking. He'd never felt so accomplished, and his list of feats was no short one. Raised in the cold, hard discipline of his father's rule, he was made to shine in all the ways his old man could not. Until the age of eighteen, he had no concept of the term 'social life.' He was schooled for seventeen hours a day on weekdays and saw three separate private tutors on the weekend. This was not without its reward, for it brought him to the head of his class, and even in the sanctuary of college, away from his father, he maintained the same habits which eventually awarded him summa cum laude in his engineering program at Daegu University. He married shortly after to the daughter of a family friend. She was radiantly beautiful, had long jet black hair that sat graceful upon her shoulders, with a face as round as an apple and skin as white as milk, or so he would describe her to his friends. She dropped her modeling aspirations shortly after marriage and devoted her time to tending to their large apartment and becoming somewhat of a fashionista. In her free time, she wandered through endless boutiques in search of new and exciting wear, some of which she turned a small profit for online.

The two had one child, a daughter, named Geun-Hye. Go-Saing had always made a point to spoil her. She lived her life in the cushions of luxury, knowing there was nothing she desired that stood beyond her grasp. She got her first phone at the age of six and her first car at the age of fourteen, though she would retain her personal driver until turning seventeen. She had studied for a semester in Manchester and another in Vancouver before her family's influence gained her entrance into a prestigious private academy in Seoul. Her visits home were infrequent but always announced, so that the maximum of fanfare would be waiting at the doorstep on her return.

After ten minutes of basking in the self-glory of victory, Go-Saing stood up and dressed himself, then walked to the mirror to straighten his hair. He spent another minute admiring his bare chest. His muscles had loosened with time, as if they could no longer hold their grip. Still, there were faint outlines of tone. He made his best attempt to mimic the poses of the colossal meatheads from the posters in his gym. He liked what he saw. In the aftermath of the orgasm, his parts hanging about, he felt more virile at forty-three than he did at twenty.

His wrinkled dress shirt was half tucked in when he returned to his men in the other room. His entrance was at first startling, though no louder than any other door opening and closing. Go-Saing looked with confusion at five tormented faces.

“What's wrong?” He demanded.

They looked at one another for half a minute. No one wanted to speak.

“I said what's wrong?!” He yelled.

“Hey, turn it up! Turn it up, so he can hear,” Dae-Jung whined.

Go-Saing turned to look at the forty inch Samsung television on the wall. Displayed on the five o'clock news were six forensic portraits of each of the men in the room.