Court in Session
The defendant will please rise.
Hwang Tae-kyung, under Section 784.045, you are hereby charged with two counts of Aggravated Battery:
- Intentionally or knowingly causing great bodily harm and permanent disfigurement
- Using a deadly weapon
Oh, what baloney. Where is my lawyer? Release me!
The defendant will please behave or face more charges. Call the first witness.
Your Honor, I was in this godforsaken room full of furry creatures like me, just minding my own business, just trying to breathe since I was at the bottom of the heap, when all of a sudden the door flung open and a gangly figure with furrowed brows walked in, muttering, “Where is the damned switch?”
Immediately all of us animals froze because we recognized that voice and even in the darkness we could see his sneer and we felt deathly afraid and…
Mr. Rabbit, stick to the pertinent facts. We don’t have all day.
Yes, Your Honor. So the gangly one, I mean the defendant, said, “I need to find a rabbit and a pig.” He then rummaged the room and that was how he found me first. Next he found Pig. By then his eyes looked positively evil, so Pig and I were about to crap our pants…
Yes, Your Honor. I apologize. My mom told me to speak formally and she’s gonna be so pissed that I forgot.
So, where was I? Ah, the defendant took Pig and me up to the rooftop terrace and proceeded to hit us against each other with such force, until we saw stars. Never in our lives have we been so battered! Then he said, “Now that I’ve knocked you senseless, there’s no need for anesthesia. Let’s go for surgery.” Oh my god!
I’m allergic to dust and they were dusty! I wasn’t abusing them!
The defendant will please not speak until called to the stand. Sit.
So we were taken, barely conscious, to the music room and all the time the defendant was chuckling, like he was really happy. On top of the piano were arranged all manner of weapons… Yes, Your Honor, Exhibits A, B, C, D, E, F, G. Ruler, penknife, pliers, scissors, stringing wire, goggles, a glue gun!
The defendant said, “This is going to be a very elaborate surgery,” and at his words Pig promptly fainted, which was just as well, because… Oh, I shudder at the mere thought of it!
Yes, Your Honor, I will compose myself. He… He… then proceeded to slice Pig’s nose off! He said, “It’s a huge success,” but his face turned white when he saw the gaping hole, so he flipped Pig over and then he stuck Pig’s nose on mine! Oh my god, just like that I got a nose transplant that I didn’t ask for!
I didn’t remove your nose, so technically you have two noses now, what are you complaining about?
The defendant will please not interrogate the witness. Sit.
After that he held me up by my ears, fanning me throughout. Yes, that paper fan over there, Exhibit H. After 20 minutes he said, “Hmm, it’s perfect,” and I thought it was all over, but he took out a shiny hair clip and clipped it to my ear!
Couldn’t he see from my bow tie that I’m a buck, not a doe? Do I look female? It’s not like I’m wearing eyeliner and earrings, or have my hair up in a topknot!
The defendant will please not lunge at the witness. Sit!
The defendant may now speak. No frowning or sneering, and no wild gesticulations. Rise.
Your Honor, more than 2,300 years ago, Socrates asked his listeners in an Athens marketplace this question:
“Would you rather be a troubled man or a happy pig?”
The logical answer, of course, was that the Athenians would rather be troubled men. No matter how deliriously happy, who in the world would want to be a pig eating slop all day? Would you, Your Honor?
The defendant will please not direct personal questions at members of the judiciary. Continue.
What I’m trying to say is that humans are more important than ungulates. Moreover, that pig was just one in a truckload of gifts from my fans. I can’t jolly well tell them to stop giving me things, can I? Will they listen?
The court will please note the defendant’s ungratefulness toward his fans. Continue.
I created a new species, a hybrid: pig-rabbits. I don’t get any recognition for that?
After careful deliberation, the court returns a verdict of GUILTY. The defendant is hereby sentenced to five years in the countryside where he will raise pigs. If the pigs thrive under his care, he will be eligible for parole after two years.
The defendant will dispel all thoughts of running away because the villagers will serve as the court’s eyes and ears. Any attempts to flee will result in a doubling of the sentence. If the number of pigs there dwindles suddenly and the cause is ascertained not to be swine flu but poisoning, the defendant will have his sentence quadrupled.
Not a pig farmer, Your Honor. Anything but pigs! President Ahn, save me!!
Hyungnim! What’s the matter, Hyungnim? You were shouting so loudly!
Oh wow, it was just a dream? Phew!
He looks at his glow-in-the-dark watch and sees that it’s only three in the morning. Mi-nam has gone back to sleep, but his heart is still pounding. He lies awake now, thinking. It could have been worse. Instead of that trial, it could have been his mom in his dreams.
His mom. This woman who gave birth to him, who abandoned him so long ago.
He should hate her and he does. Yet… why does he yearn for her, too? Why does he jump every time the phone rings on his birthday, his hand trembling as he answers the call, hoping she’s calling to say, “Happy Birthday, my son”? He should stop counting the number of times she has forgotten, but he can’t. It’s like a sickness inside him, this obsession with her. Why should he collect her albums when he should rightly despise her singing? A deceased songwriter fills her mind, not him.
His thoughts shift to Mi-nam. He raises his head and looks at her sleeping on the floor, her arms wrapped around Pig-Rabbit.
To see her reaction when she saw this strange creature that he had created for her, ah, it was worth all the dust, the sweat, the trouble. Her joy literally bounced off the walls of their shared room; he had never seen anyone so happy. Of course she didn’t know he was looking, but even with his eyes closed he knew. How could he not when she was squealing with that much glee?
He didn’t tell her, but he didn’t give her Pig-Rabbit just so he could return her hair clip without looking idiotic. It was also to thank her for what she did for him on his birthday.
Remembering the events of that night, he can’t help smiling all of a sudden. No, not that meeting with his mom; that event he wants to erase from his mind forever. No, it was what happened after that.
First the water and then the lights. His empty bottle of water now filled. A faulty lightbulb suddenly working perfectly again. He knew at once it was Mi-nam; call it intuition or sixth sense, but who else except a rabbit-like creature could scurry so swiftly back and forth from studio to convenience store in minutes?
Two could play this game of stealth. So he pretended to say loudly to himself, “How I wish I have a hot cup of coffee now!” and lo and behold a hot cup of coffee did indeed materialize, except he caught her red-handed this time.
Ah, Mi-nam, Mi-nam. Has anyone told her how adorable she is? Especially that night, standing there, like a deer caught in the headlights, looking so guilty when she had no reason to be. Seeking forgiveness for something she didn’t do. After all, it was her aunt that opened the package from his dad.
After his mom left that night, he thought he would just work in the studio till dawn, immersing himself in his music so that he wouldn’t think of the horrid things his mom had said. But Mi-nam had other ideas and he was secretly pleased that she had come.
First she asked how he had celebrated his fake birthday because she wanted to do the same things but for real this time, on his real birthday. What? That silly girl.
Even with a magic wand she couldn’t conjure up a stadium of 15,000 screaming fans and 15 guest celebrities. Not that he would want her to, even if she could. Sure he smiled gaily that day; he would be lying if he said he didn’t enjoy being the center of adulation. But a fake birthday is exactly that: fake.
Okay, then let’s have some seaweed soup, she had said. In a cup!
He laughs quietly now, remembering how he had pretended to be grouchy. People think he’s sullen all the time, a stick-in-the-mud, but he can be funny. She didn’t know about his allergy to sesame seed? Let’s try some histrionics with her. So he had said with utmost sternness:
Thanks to you, I almost died on my birthday.
Haha, wasn’t that hilarious? He, Hwang Tae-kyung, pretending to behave like a drama queen just so he could pull her leg. Really, if he hadn’t become a singer, he would have made one terrific actor. Hmm, that’s a thought.
After the seaweed soup (she drank his, the glutton!), she had brought him to a gifts shop, not the kind in Rodeo Street but a nondescript hole-in-the-wall, almost. That’s how he learned sneaky President Ahn had allowed A.N.JELL’s faces to be used on ttakji, this Korean version of pogs.
Who can’t play ttakji? Totally brainless stuff, this childish game. But Mi-nam was so excited, so he played along. He pretended to lose at first, pretended to be irritated that the discs with his image were all faulty. Send them all back, he had ordered. He chuckles now, remembering how convincing he was. Oh, just sign him up as lead in a drama right now!
The last part of the night, back at the A.N.JELL house, at 11.55 pm. His eyes mist over now as he recalls what Mi-nam did… and said.
This is something that Mother Superior always did for me, right before the end of my birthday. You mustn’t dislike it, okay?
Unsure of what she was about to do, he felt apprehension wash all over him. The day had been hard enough; surely she wasn’t going to do something that would upset him? A thousand unpleasant possibilities raced through his mind.
But it was nothing like he expected. She moved close, reached out her arms, and hugged him. For five minutes.
He wanted to cry then, but he held it all in. He had cried so much already; he didn’t want to cry any more in front of her. She mustn’t see him weak and weepy; that would be too embarrassing. So he stood there, scarcely breathing, scarcely believing.
The day that you were born is a precious day. Thank you for being born.
A hug could be so healing. Two sentences could make him forget all his hurt.
Thank you, Go Mi-nam. Because of what you did on my birthday, I forgive you for preferring Shin-woo’s smiling-face ttakji and Jeremy’s cute-expression ttakji over my scowly ones. But don’t expect to get away with it twice!
She stirs on her makeshift bed now and suddenly he feels bad that she’s sleeping on the floor. She’s nursing a cold, too, after getting soaked by that avalanche of water at the nightspot. Hmm, was Yoo He-yi behind that?
But he should thank He-yi. If she hadn’t taken the hair clip when Mi-nam dropped it at the filming site, hadn’t stupidly removed the 3,000-won price label and stuck it on her wine bottle, he wouldn’t have realized the clip on her hair was Mi-nam’s. Then he would have missed the opportunity to create Pig-Rabbit!
And if He-yi caused that waterfall on Mi-nam, it all turned out well in the end.
He remembers the whole scene like it’s unfolding in front of him now. Mi-nam singing Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. The water suddenly falling on her from above. She standing there, drenched, stunned, frightened. Shin-woo reacting first and then Jeremy, the two walking up to the stage, singing that same carol.
Because his legs were sore from standing all day filming, he had moved last. But did he merely walk to the stage? No, he grabbed a tablecloth with dramatic flourish, like a matador!
He smiles now, recalling the gasps when he swept the cloth off the table. Even louder were the cries of “Wow, Hwang Tae-kyung, what a gentleman!” when he wrapped the tablecloth around Mi-nam’s shoulders and chest so that her wet clothes wouldn’t give away her gender, so that she wouldn’t be cold.
Standing there on that small stage, giving that impromptu performance, the confetti flying around them, everything seemed so unreal.
Looking at Shin-woo, Jeremy and Mi-nam next to him, he felt a camaraderie that he hadn’t sensed before. They weren’t playing to the crowds this time. They were there protecting Mi-nam because she was one of them. They were a team. And because the moment was unrehearsed, it was all the more special.
When they got home that night, he learned that the Internet was abuzz with their carol performance. There were so many messages from fans he couldn’t read them all. People were crying watching their performance. Some wrote that it felt as if Christmas had arrived. Some confessed sheepishly that they could not stop humming the Rudolph carol. Please release an album of Christmas carols, A.N.JELL!
All in all it had been a great day. Even if He-yi had threatened to ruin it at first when she forcibly kissed him (yikes!), to end the day with Mi-nam hugging Pig-Rabbit so tightly and being so giddily happy, he would gladly go through it all again. But without the kiss, thank you.
He looks at his watch again. Four o’ clock. Mi-nam is still sleeping soundly. Thunder or typhoon, that girl sure can sleep through it all.
Ah, to be like her, so unscathed by the world. Her favorite color is white, after all. White for innocence. Shin-woo and Jeremy didn’t know that fact, of course, because she told only him. To them she had said her favorite color was black, because aren’t guys supposed to favor black above all colors? But just look at Shin-woo’s face at the photo shoot. The guy’s wearing black yet his face is all solemn. He even claimed the daschund was trying to eat him, can you believe it? That timid little dog? Ha!
Then there was Jeremy in yellow, eating banana after banana until he was about to gag. You just can’t equate colors with a person’s moods, can you? Wearing something doesn’t mean you personify that color. Just take him, Hwang Tae-kyung, as a good example. He was dressed in a lime color and had to suck on those stupid sour limes until his tongue was numb and ready to fall off. But is he a sour person inside? Of course not. He’s really a sunny yellow. People should stop judging him by his scowls.
But wouldn’t you scowl too if someone keeps popping up like some pesky fly?
What’s with that He-yi, really? Is she turning into a stalker? Just as they were enjoying that breather, trust her to show up and spoil their mood. He really should tell President Ahn privately that he and He-yi aren’t an item. Then the boss would stop shoving the two of them together at every opportunity. But how to explain the reason for the pretense? How could he tell President Ahn that He-yi was holding him hostage because she knew Mi-nam was a girl?
That He-yi… He’ll need to watch her closely. There’s no telling what she’s capable of, after the hair clip and water incidents. Who knows what’s behind that smile? He frowns now as he remembers what he, Shin-woo and Jeremy saw the day of the promo shoot. He-yi yelling angrily, “HWANG TAE-KYUNG?!” Mi-nam cowering.
What was going on? Why was that fairy devil shouting his name and why was Mi-nam so afraid?
And why was he feeling a sense of deja vu suddenly? That face staring at him, with a wicked glint in its eyes. He had seen that face before. And why was that face multiplied a hundredfold? Why were they all around him, bibs on their chests, mouths open, stamping their hooves?