I spent a good amount of time tonight trying to make this portion of a chapter a bit cleaner. It is mostly exposition – but I’ve not felt a way to introduce Kwon and his home in the Slums yet. Perhaps I’ll hack it up into an encounter. The whole ‘show rather than tell’ route. Regardless, I think it still turned out well.
Home was an abandoned warehouse complex on a formerly busy dock. The region had already given way to newer and larger construction upshore before the repatriation of the North. Once the trickle of refugees transformed into a flood as a result of the plagues and starvation and occupation of the former DPRK, the place had quickly been partitioned into smaller and smaller dwellings while separate Kondoleuui Dumong – the Vulture Lords of former Russia and the more opportunistic Chinese – mimicked their southern slum-dwelling counterparts, tearing land away from ineffective UN ‘peacekeepers.’ Kwon paced through the separate stalls that passed for housing, mostly partitioned by nothing more than thick plastic tarp and the occasional corrugated metal sheet that could be scavenged. As one of the first families to arrive in the district, his parents had lucked out. There was an administrative office in the warehouse that looked too squalid to live in at the time his family first laid eyes on it. But, with some effort, he and his father had made it work. The space was cramped and confined – but it had access to power when it was working, and there was lockable storage in the form of older filing cabinets left from the paper age.
It was not much, but it had a door that could lock, and there was enough space for he and his father now that his mother had gone.
“Father,” Kwon said, returning home. “I am back.”
There was a low moan from a corner where Kwon the Elder sat, obviously drunk, reeking of cheap Soju and stale sweat. Par for the course. He’d spent the majority of his time that way since his mother had left.
Kwon did not waste any further time on his father. If he was nearly passed out drunk it was better than him being only half drunk and asking him to ‘give him what was owed.’ In the beginning, Kwon had given him money under the guise that the landlord would then take the money from his father. But, as Soju bottles began to pile up and the landlord became more and more agitated, Kwon cut the middleman out. His father could not be trusted so much as to reliably pay rent.
“You know, boy,” his father slurred. “I used to own warehouses like this.”
Kwon didn’t look at him as he set aside his satchel and his beaten RealSim hat. He heard the sky open up somewhere above him, the roof of the hollow warehouse space echoing the drenching sheets of rain. It was like the sound of coins being flung against metal.
I suppose that’s what brought him around, Kwon thought. Maybe he thought someone started tossing out Won.
He hated that thought. His father had been a good man before the North had collapsed in on itself and the fighting had begun anew and new boundaries were drawn. His father was a broken shell now. Nothing of the man he’d looked up to clung to the shattered remnants of him.
“I know, father.”
“Where… when is your mother coming home?”
“Tomorrow.” The lie came easy. It was easier to lie when Kwon the Elder was in his cups.
There was an incoherent mutter as his father sunk back into his drunken slumber. Soon, Kwon heard only the sound of the rain, and his father snoring softly. He prepared his pallet, little more than a foam bedroll and a flimsy blanket, a blanket that would not be needed on a night like tonight. While the warehouse provided shelter, the heat of the day simply pooled into the concrete and metal of the old structure and did not release it until the brutal winters came. The turn of the seasons were a reminder to him that only lack was consistent in Dogtown. The kind of lack changed, but underneath it, the hurt and want of the slum was insatiable and constant.
As he undressed and prepared to bed down, he looked at his father, half out of his chair, still snoring. He couldn’t possibly be comfortable.
He stood up and approached his father. “Father. You should sleep. Come to your pallet. You will be sore in the morning.”
His father only woke up for the briefest of instants, but it was enough for Kwon to get his father clumsily to his rat-like nest of cloth scraps and bedroll. Once Kwon had him in position, the man was solidly, blacked out.
“Good night, father.”
Kwon locked the door and curled into his pallet.