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The Old Garden: The Fuel Hole (Part 26/28)

The Old Garden: The Fuel Hole (Part 26/28)

October 28, 2009

Previous: What Was Written in Yoon Hee’s Sketchbook

I closed Yoon Hee’s sketchbook and finished cleaning the room. I kept thinking I should warm up the room more, so I went out and walked toward the fuel hole. First, I stacked a handful of thin branches and ignited them with a lighter. Like a wriggling little animal, the flame spread to the top. I picked a few thicker branches and broke them. They were stacked over the flame, crossing each other to support a couple of logs on top. They were so dry that they caught easily without emitting too much smoke. I put a couple more logs in. The fuel hole was soon filled with warm yellow light, and the warmth spread to my lower body. I stared blankly at the flame. It looked like the tongue of a live creature, licking the fuel hole and spreading toward the kitchen.

The first day we arrived here, Yoon Hee did not go back. She started the fire with me in front of this fuel hole. Each of us insisted on starting the fire and finally agreed to do it together. One of us said, Do you know how much fun it is to start a fire? The other said, Who doesn’t know that? And we coughed and cried because of the peppery smoke from the pine tree branches that were still fresh. The smell of smoke, the darkness, so warm, our bodies getting closer.

There was no electricity at the time, only one candle to light the room. A month after living there, we brought in cables from the main house and installed a fluorescent light. We decided that we liked the candle better. We borrowed two flannel blankets from the owners that first night. The floor was burning up, it was so hot. Each of us took a blanket and slept on opposite sides of the room, maintaining a careful distance from each other.

After filling up the fuel hole I went back to the room to finish mopping. By the time I was done, the sun had set and darkness had fallen. Under the fluorescent light, the paper window was an even paler shade of white, and the glass window darkened to black.

Continued October 29

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