Ji-seoks fists tightened on the handles of the empty steel buckets he held in his hands. He was glaring hard at the three women who stood beside the public tap, holding up the line as they carried on a prolonged chatter amongst themselves as the two taps placed there filled up their empty pails.
He was the fifth in line.
Even the others behind him were starting to get impatient as well; since it was a Monday morning, meaning it was a work day for the adults and of course school for the children.
”Hurry up! ” a man in front of Ji-seok yelled at the chattering women.
They all turned to him at his audacity.
”Wait your turn, mister! ” one of the women spat contemptuously as she stared him down. ”We came here before you so we can stay as long as we like, ” she finished venomously.
”Idiot, ” another of the women spat in derision as she pouted her lips sourly at the man.
”Ehn?! What did you fools just say?! ” A woman way behind roared. Immediately there was an angry murmur from the people who were still waiting on the queue to fetch water.
Ji-seok gripped the handles tighter and looked away towards the dusty street. He could see kids his age already in their school uniforms, headed for school.
Suddenly a burly man walked up to the three women beside the tap to hurry them up. He lived in the compound beside the public tap and every day he sat by it to maintain law and order.
Everyone that fetched water already knew him and took his decisions to be fair so he was kind of a big deal to the small folks, even though he himself did not have a job yet.
” He barked at the three troublesome women.
”Hurry up! This isn your property…you
e going to make people late for work with your idle chattering! ”
”Whats his problem? ” The third woman muttered as she picked up her pail which was filled up by then.
e all so annoying, ” her second friend yelled at the crowd as the three of them departed.
Some people, mostly the women in the crowd, shot insults at the three women as they left with their pails. Thankfully the line began to move quickly once more.
Ji-seok counted the people in front of him till it got to his turn. They were just two.
He sighed. Older brother would be seriously mad at me. He thought as he bit his lower lip, thinking about his high school-aged elder brother that was waiting impatiently for him, in the shabby old house where they lived, for his bath water.
”Oy! Kid! Its your turn! ” The man yelled suddenly, snapping Ji-seok out of his jumbled thoughts.
Ji-seok quickly looked up and saw that the two people in his front had both gone and the ones behind him were starting to grumble at his tardiness. He hurriedly went up to a tap.
Since it was two taps that were there, the man behind him rushed to the second one with his two huge kegs.
Ji-seok quickly filled up his first bucket and while his second bucket was filling up, they all heard a loud shout and everyone in the vicinity became alarmed.
The societal miscreants, popularly called The area boys, had arrived.
Every day, at some minutes past the hour of seven in the morning, these area boys always made their way down to the public tap to surround it and extort money from the people that wanted to fetch water; fifty Won per bucket, and if its a really big one, then the person pays one hundred Won.
Even the man that normally restored order at the tap could do nothing about the extortion. The first time he had tried confronting the miscreants, he had gotten the beating of his life that resulted in grave injuries for him, and nobody had been courageous enough to intervene as he was being beaten mercilessly by the area boys.
All at once, before the area boys reached the tap area, everyone abandoned the orderly queue and surged forward, trying to fill their pails and kegs before the area boys arrived.
Ji-seok managed to pull out his two buckets which had been filled up.
But just as he was sneaking out of the crowd, he stumbled clumsily right in front of the area boys.
”And where do you think you
e going with that water?! ” One of the miscreants asked him roughly as he shoved him backwards while the other street boys went to yell at the people who were still struggling for water near the tap.
Ji-seok moved back a bit but managed to still stay balanced on his feet, causing just few drops of water from his buckets to spill instead of the whole thing pouring out.
”Thats five hundred won each, ” the bigger of the area boys who accosted him growled at him. ”One thousand for the two of them. ”
”No way! ” Ji-seok snapped back at him angrily and made to move pa
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