Shove Push Stand
The granddaughter of the most powerful witch in the world woke up to bright sunlight shining through her bedroom window. An idea hopped around in her head. She was getting old. It was time to get married.
She got to Suncheon-si kindergarten an hour later. She sat in her homeroom seat. She inspected the boys in her class. They were talking. They were laughing. The crybaby was crying and repeating mommy over and over again. Not one of the boys was paying attention to her. That would change soon.
She took out a sheet of paper and drew an emerald ring. Now, whom should she give it to? Yesterday in gym class, Lee Jun-ho had run the fastest and jumped the highest. Everyone had cheered for him the loudest. If she was going to get married, she definitely wanted someone who everyone thought was a winner.
Six-year-old Jong Eun-Yul stood up and went to Jun-ho. She held the drawing of the ring directly in front of his face.
“Now we’re engaged,” she announced.
Jun-ho’s eyes opened wide. “What?” he squeaked. The voices in the classroom lowered. Even the crybaby stopped crying for his mother. He turned along with everyone else. They stared at Lee Jun-ho and waited.
“Engaged? With me?” He looked around at everyone looking at him. He tilted his yellow chair away from the drawing. The front legs went higher and higher. He stared at the ring. His eyes opened wider and wider.
“Oh, no!” Jun-ho suddenly said. The chair’s legs went above the table. He tumbled down onto the floor with a clatter. The rest of the class laughed. Even the crybaby smiled through his tears.
Eun-Yul scowled. This was not going as she planned. Was that ‘Oh, no!’, meant for her? Or did Jun-ho just not want to fall? She did not want to speak again until Jun-ho agreed to be her husband. But he did not respond to her. Instead, he looked at Shi Song-e sitting on his other side. She looked down at him and smiled. Her hair tumbled down her shoulders like a pop star. Eun-Yul’s scowl deepened. Why did Song-e have to be so there?
Eun-Yul brought the picture closer to Jun-ho. If she touched him with the emerald ring, she would cast a spell. Maybe then he would stop looking at Song-e. Maybe then he would only look at her.
“Take this ring,” Eun-Yul instructed Jun-ho. She hoped she could get the words to the incantation right. She barely heard them buzzing around in the air. Magic could be so quiet. It didn’t help that she had never cast a love spell. Words to new spells were quietest of all. But when the annunciation became clear, she would say the words exactly as they came to her. Jun-ho would then belong to her alone. A wife’s husband.
The homeroom teacher walked into the classroom. Eun-Yul quickly pulled the picture away from Jun-ho. Maybe she wasn’t fast enough. Hye-Young Seonsaengnim paused and looked at the two of them. She said, “Jong Eun-Yul, what are you doing? Why is Lee Jun-ho on the floor?”
“She was trying to take him as a husband,” Song-e replied. Eun-Yul frowned at her.
The homeroom teacher sighed. “Put that ring away,” she told Eun-Yul. To the rest of the students, she added, “Purple Class, it’s time for gym with the English teacher. Let’s go downstairs now.
“And remember,” she warned, “no magic.” She was talking to the class. But she stared at Eun-Yul. Human disbelief in magic may cancel out their belief in magic, but Eun-Yul still liked to try. As long as Stephen Teacher didn’t directly see it, some magic might work.
Eun-Yul glanced at Jun-ho. Jun-ho was staring at Song-e. Song-e was looking at Jun-ho. This made Jun-ho smile. Jun-ho’s smile made Eun-Yul frown. If she could not stop Jun-ho from staring at Shi Song-e, she could at least stop Song-e from looking at Lee Jun-ho.
“Purple Class, line up.”
The students leapt from their seats. They rushed to the door. Jun-ho got to the front of the line. Eun-Yul shoved through those closest to her to get in line behind Jun-ho. Somehow, Song-e beat her to him. Eun-Yul pushed her out of the way to stand next to Jun-ho.
“Jong Eun-Yul, don’t do that,” Hye-Young Seonsaengnim scolded her. Jun-ho turned and helped Song-e back into the line. Their hands briefly touched. Eun-Yul’s frown turned into a scowl.
Hye-Young Seonsaengnim led them downstairs to the gym. It was on the first floor. When they entered, they saw Stephen Teacher standing in front of the birthday stage. The homeroom teacher lined the students up on the left side of gym. Moments later, Bo-Gyeong Seonsaengnim, the homeroom teacher for the White Class, led her students into the gym. She lined them up on the right side opposite the Purple Class. Then the White Class and Purple Class homeroom teachers left the gym.
“Today, we will play a fun game,” Stephen Teacher said in English.
The kids cheered.
Stephen Teacher pointed to the end of the room. “Do you see the two sheets of paper?”
The students all turned to look. Taped to the walls were two sheet of white paper with colorful borders. One was on the left side of the gym for the Purple Class. The other was on the right side of the gym for the White Class.
Stephen Teacher said, “The first three Purple Class students. Please come here.”
Lee Jun-ho, Shi Song-e, and Jong Eun-Yul went to stand beside Stephen Teacher
“Now, three White Class students. Please come here.”
The first three students for the White Class came to stand on his other side.
“Please, sit down,” Stephen Teacher said. He handed Jun-ho a black marker. He handed Choi Young-Seok, the first student for the White Class, a blue marker.
“I will say a word,” Stephen Teacher explained. “The first student will run to the paper and write the first letter of the word. They will come back here,” Stephen Teacher pointed, “and give the marker to the second student,” he demonstrated handing the marker to the next student, “who will run to the paper and write the second letter of the word.
“Now, let’s try it!”
Stephen Teacher pointed to the paper. “Are you ready?”
“Yes, we’re ready!” the students roared in English.
“The first word is CAT. Go!”
Jun-ho pounced up and sprinted forward. The Purple Class erupted in cheers. Young-Seok jumped up, too. He tripped over his feet and hit his knees. The White Class shouted encouragement. Jun-ho flew down the gym. He wrote the first letter, C. When he got back to Song-e, Young-Seok was just getting to the paper to write C.
Jun-ho tried to hand the marker to Song-e. Eun-Yul decided she would be next. She leaned forward and snatched the marker. She jumped to her feet and ran.
“Wait, wait!” Stephen Teacher called. “You’re third, Sophia,” he said, using her English name. Eun-Yul pretended not to hear. She ran as fast as she could to the paper. Looking at it, she got an idea. She would make sure Song-e could not look at Jun-ho anymore.
Eun-Yul quickly wrote the letter A. Then she wrote Shi Song-e’s name in the colorful border of the paper. She whispered the words bubbling up from the magic, ‘Sight blinded by light to night.’ When she turned, she saw that the second White Class student had caught up to her and was writing the letter A on the paper.
“It’s okay, Sophia,” Stephen Teacher said, smiling. “Just run back and give the marker to Elsa.”
Eun-Yul ran back. The White Class student was right on her heels. Eun-Yul held out the marker for Song-e to take. Song-e did not reach out and grab it. She simply stared out with a blank look on her face. The third person for the White Class was up and running. Stephen Teacher walked over to Jun-ho, Eun-Yul, and Song-e. He crouched down next to them.
“Elsa,” he said, using Shi Song-e’s English name, “what’s wrong?”
“Colors,” she replied in English. She pointed at the air. “Red, blue, green, yellow, orange. So many pretty colors.”
Stephen Teacher waved his hand in front of Song-e’s face. “Uh, oh,” he said when she did not react. He stood. “Everyone, stay here,” he instructed them. Glancing at Elsa again, he left the gym in a hurry.
Jun-ho tried to kneel by Song-e. Eun-Yul stepped in his way. “You haven’t said yes, yet.”
Jun-ho looked over his shoulder. Then he pointed at himself. “Who? Me?”
“Yes to what?”
Eun-Yul took his hand. “Yes to our engagement. Then I can stand in line next to you all the time.”
“That’s a lot of the time,” Jun-ho said. He looked at Song-e again, who smiled. It seemed like she was staring directly at them. Could she see again so soon?
“And you can stand next to me in line all the time,” Eun-Yul continued.
Jun-ho was still looking at Song-e. “I think her eyes are starting to glow.”
“What?” Eun-Yul turned to Shi Song-e. Her mouth dropped open. Song-e’s eyes emitted a brilliant glow of beautiful colors.
“I can see better now,” Song-e happily said. “And everything is wrapped in lights.”
“Whoa!” Jun-ho said. The Purple Class kids came closer. The White Class kids came closer. Soon, everyone was crowded around Song-e.
“Ooh!” They said.
“Ah!” They added.
Oh no, Eun-Yul thought. Now Jun-ho was staring at Song-e even more!
Hye-Young Seonsaengnim entered the gym. Stephen Teacher followed close behind her. The rainbow of lights in Song-e’s eyes winked out.
“Aww!” the kids all said together.
Hye-Young knelt by Song-e. She peered into her eyes. Stephen Teacher stood right behind her.
“Can you see?” the homeroom teacher asked in Korean.
Song-e shook her head. “Not now. But I could before.”
“The colors in her eyes are gone,” Jun-ho interjected. “They were so pretty.”
Hye-Young Seonsaengnim looked at him. She glanced back at Stephen Teacher. He looked very confused. Hye-Young Seonsaengnim said something to him in English. He nodded, stood, and winked at the kids.
“Don’t worry,” he said to the kids. He rubbed Eun-Yul’s head. “Your friend is going to be better soon!”
He gave them a thumbs up before leaving the gym. Hye-Young Seonsaengnim turned to the students. “Stephen Teacher is going get a cold towel to put over Song-e’s eyes.”
“Will that break the spell?” Eun-Yul asked.
The homeroom teacher looked at her. “How do you know it’s a spell, Jong Eun-Yul?”
Eun-Yul avoided her stare. She thought fast for an answer.
“Look! The lights are back!”
Everyone turned to Song-e. Her eyes emitted a soft prism of colors.
“Can you see now?” the homeroom teacher asked her again.
“Through the lights,” Song-e replied. “It’s so wonderful!”
Eun-Yul looked around at her classmates. Everyone was staring at Song-e again. Even Jun-ho.
Stephen Teacher walked back into the gym. He held a towel in his hands.
“I’ll have to figure this out later,” Hye-Young Seonsaengnim said. The lights in Song-e’s eyes dimmed as Stephen Teacher approached. He handed Hye-Young Seonsaengnim the towel. She put it over Song-e’s eyes.
“Is she going to be okay?” he asked.
The homeroom teacher nodded. “Don’t worry,” she replied. To the students, she said, “Ok, let’s go back to class.”
They lined up. Shi Song-e was first. She held the homeroom teacher’s hand. Jun-ho stood right behind her. And Eun-Yul was third. Finally she stood next to Jun-ho. But he stood closer to Song-e.
And his eyes were only for her.
That night, Jong Eun-Yul sat opposite her older sister, Jong Ga-Yul, in their bedroom. Eun-Yul’s homework was spread before her. Ga-Yul’s third grade books were also open on the table, but she was taking a break from studying. She was crouched in her chair, her head bent over a container of play-doh. In her hands, she rolled the play-doh, then shaped it. She molded a rose first with quick, practiced movements. She twirled it in her fingers and smelled it. Then she rolled the play-doh into a ball. She made a fish, and then a cat.
“Older sister,” Eun-Yul said. “I have a question.”
Ga-Yul rolled the play-doh into a ball again. Then she molded it into a horse with a single long horn. She spoke a series of magic words. ‘Run run jump jump play play.’ The unicorn shook itself to life. It reared on its hind legs. It kicked its front legs.
“Wow!” Eun-Yul said. She clapped her hands. “Awesome!”
The unicorn galloped across the desk. It hopped over a pencil. It leapt over an eraser. It raced along the edge of Ga-Yul’s textbooks. She caught it in her hands and spoke different words. ‘Run stop jump still play dead.’ The unicorn froze, and she rolled the play-doh back into a ball.
“What’s the question?” Ga-Yul asked.
“Oh,” Eun-Yul began, having forgot. She thought for a moment. “Today in class,” she said, “someone cast a spell.”
“Someone?” Ga-Yul shaped the play-doh into a dragon. She gave it a big pair of wings.
“Yes, someone,” Eun-Yul said. “I don’t want to say who. Maybe they will get in trouble if I do.”
“Why would someone get in trouble for casting a spell?”
“Oh.” Eun-Yul paused. “Maybe because someone did it in English class. Stephen Teacher was there, but he did not see it. And the spell worked.”
“So someone is pretty crafty.” Ga-Yul placed the dragon flat in her hand.
Eun-Yul smiled proudly. “And the spell was cast on a student and made her eyes beautiful.”
“So someone is very nice.” Ga-Yul breathed upon the dragon.
Eun-Yul’s smile turned into a frown. “Oh, she wasn’t trying to make Song-e’s eyes beautiful. The spell didn’t work right.”
Ga-Yul spoke a series of magic words. ‘With wind beneath your wings, take flight.’ The dragon reared its head, and pounced into the air. It soared past Ga-Yul’s thick black braid. It opened its tiny maw. A high-pitched cry shrieked forth. Eun-Yul followed its flight in delight. She laughed and clapped her hands. When she looked at Ga-Yul again, she saw her older sister was staring directly at her. Her older sister always seemed to see everything. Even adult wizards and witches said so. Maybe one day she would take her grandmother’s place. Maybe one day Ga-Yul would be the most powerful witch in the world.
Eun-Yul looked back at the flying dragon. “So how do you think the spell can be turned off?” she asked.
“Magic works in cycles,” Ga-Yul replied. “Usually the way to cast the spell is similar to the way to end it. Except in reverse. So if I do this.”
She held out her hand again. The dragon flew down to her palm. Before she had breathed on the dragon. Now she placed her lips close and inhaled. She spoke a new set of words. ‘In still winds wings flap no more.’ The dragon stopped moving. She rolled the play-doh in her hand. Then she separated it into eight tiny balls.
‘A new solar system is born and she will be your center.’ Ga-Yul plucked the eight balls one at a time. They zipped across the desk to spin around Eun-Yul’s head in wide elliptical orbits.
“Wow!” Eun-Yul said. Her older sister smiled at her. Eun-Yul’s worry melted away at the love in her sister’s eyes.
“Magic is alive,” Ga-Yul said. “It thinks just like we do. The stronger the witch, the better she’s able to communicate with it.
“So someone today cast a spell that made a classmate beautiful. Maybe she wasn’t trying to do that, but the magic read her heart.” Ga-Yul reached over and touched Eun-Yul’s chest. “And since there’s nothing bad in here, the magic took the request and did something good with it.
“But be careful,” Ga-Yul warned. “Like everything else, magic isn’t perfect. It’s trying to figure you out just like you’re trying to figure it out.”
Ga-Yul raised her hand. ‘A solar system cools to death and returns back to the big crunch.’
The balls wobbled. They spun faster. And suddenly, they flung out away from Eun-Yul and splattered against the walls.
“You may speak the incantation, but the magic is listening between the words to understand your true intention.”
The next morning, Hye-Young Seonsaengnim stood in front of the class. She clapped her hands to get the students’ attention. They were all looking at Shi Song-e’s rainbow eyes. Her smile was as bright as her gaze. Even the crybaby was staring and not crying for his mother.
“Yesterday, I had a long conversation with Shi Song-e’s parents,” the homeroom teacher began. “Though they think her eyes are very cute, they don’t want them to remain that way.”
‘Aww!” The class said.
“Yes, well. It’s very distracting.”
“But she’s so pretty,” Lee Jun-ho said. Song-e’s smile became even brighter. Jong Eun-Yul thought about what her older sister had said. Somehow in gym today, she needed to listen closely to the magic to end the spell.
“It’s a bit of a problem,” the homeroom teacher said. “When she’s around humans, she can’t see. That’s not good. So let’s try and think really hard today on how to reverse this spell.” Though she spoke to the entire class, the homeroom teacher looked at Eun-Yul.
“Ok, Purple Class. It’s time for gym. Line up.”
The kids jumped up from their chairs and rushed to the door. All the boys shoved each other to stand next to Song-e. They wanted to look into her eyes. Eun-Yul pushed to stand beside Jun-ho.
“Lee Jun-ho,” Hye-Young Seonsaengnim said, “hold Shi Song-e’s hand. When she gets to the gym, she won’t be able to see again.”
Eun-Yul ended up third in line behind the crybaby. He seemed to have forgotten totally about his mother. Eun-Yul stared at Jun-ho and Song-e holding hands. She tried to push past the crybaby. He sniffled, and the homeroom teacher turned to look at her.
Eun-Yul remained third.
They went downstairs to the gym. The homeroom teacher opened the doors. Stephen Teacher stood in front of the birthday stage. He smiled brightly at them and said, “I’m so happy to see you’re back!”
The Purple Class lined up on the right side of the gym. The White Class came a moment later and lined up on the left side. This time, the homeroom teachers did not leave. They remained to observe the game. Eun-Yul kept watch on them out of the corner of her eyes. She would have to be really crafty to reverse the spell without Hye-Young and Bo-Gyeong Seonsaengnims noticing.
She looked at the paper taped on the wall at the end of the gym. Stephen Teacher hadn’t changed them yet. The letters C and A were still written in the white section. Hidden in the colored border was Song-e’s name.
“We did not finish the activity yesterday,” Stephen Teacher said. “Today, we will play the same game. The first three students in Purple Class,” he counted one, two, three, “please come here.”
“Elsa not play,” Jun-ho said in English. He crossed his arms. Stephen Teacher looked at the homeroom teachers. They nodded.
“Ok. Then Roa,” using Jun-Ho’s English name, “Elvis,” the crybaby’s English name, “and Sophia, come here.”
The crybaby looked sad to be leaving Song-e. A tiny tear formed on his eyelash.
“Sit down, please,” Stephen Teacher instructed them. They sat down. The crybaby sniffled. His eyes became watery.
Stephen Teacher called the first three students of the White Class. They sat down next to the Purple Class.
“Ok, everyone. Are you ready?”
“We’re ready!” the students responded.
“The word is,” Stephen Teacher paused, “ANT.”
Jun-ho leapt up. This time, the boy on the White Class jumped up without tripping. The two raced to the paper. The students cheered. Tears rolled down the crybaby’s cheeks. Without the lights in Song-e’s eyes, he must have been missing his mommy again.
Jun-ho wrote the letter A on the paper. He ran back neck and neck with the White Class boy. Jun-ho handed the marker to the crybaby. The crybaby rolled to his feet. Snot leaked down his upper lip. He stumbled towards the paper. The White Class girl was far ahead of him.
“Run faster, Kim Ji Hun!” the Purple Class called out in Korean.
“I’ll help him,” Eun-Yul said. This was her chance. She jumped to her feet.
“Sophia, wait!” Stephen Teacher said. She pretended not to hear him. She raced to Ji Hun and grabbed his hand. Then she pulled him to the paper. Now he was really crying.
“I miss my mommy!”
His voice was so loud that Eun-Yul struggled to hear the magic in the air. Her hand over his, she quickly wrote the letter N. Then she scribbled her name over Song-e’s and said, ‘Night to light, light to me, here let the rainbow end.’
Eun-Yul spun around at the sound of footsteps rushing towards her.
“Sophia,” she heard Stephen Teacher say with a laugh, ”you are very kind. But no helping Elvis.”
Eun-Yul smiled. “Stephen Teacher,” she said.
“Yes, Sophia,” he answered.
“Now I can’t see.”
“Oh, no!” Stephen Teacher exclaimed. The crybaby was still crying beside her. She heard more feet approaching her.
“Jong Eun-Yul.” That was Hye-Young Seonsaenim’s voice. “What did you do?” she asked in Korean. Eun-Yul fixed her face in complete innocence.
Stephen Teacher and the homeroom teachers spoke in English. A moment later, she felt his big hand on top of her head. “It’ll be okay, Sophia,” he reassured her. “I’ll get a wet towel for your eyes. I’ll be right back.”
She heard the doors open behind her. When they closed, the darkness of her vision shattered. The world exploded with light. Eun-Yul gasped. It was so beautiful!
Beside her, the crybaby abruptly stopped crying. “Wow,” he whispered.
The kids in the Purple Class and White Class crowded around her.
“Incredible!” They said.
“Song-e’s eyes are back to normal,” others added.
Eun-Yul looked around with her new sight. She saw Song-e. Now none of the boys were paying attention to her classmate. They shoved and pushed to stand next to her instead.
Jun-ho took her hand. “Your eyes are even brighter than Shi Song-e’s was,” he said. “Awesome!”
Eun-Yul’s smile grew bigger. Well, it was her spell, she thought. And this was what the magic was trying to lead her to. She looked at Jun-ho staring at her. She looked at all the other boys staring at her. She slid her hand out of his. Eun-Yul had a feeling that everyone was going to want to stand next to her in line now. She should wait to purpose to someone. She should wait to get married. Maybe six years old was too young to stand in line with only one person. Maybe Jun-ho had been right before.
All the time was a lot of the time.
Todd Sullivan has lived and taught ESL in South Korea for eight years. His fiction has appeared in numerous publications, including SciFan Magazine, Dark Luminous Wings Anthology, The Big Book of Bootleg Horror 2, Aurealis Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine, Scarlet Leaf Review, Expanded Horizons Magazine, Eastlit Journal, Tokyo Yakuza Anthology, and Tincture Journal. He is currently shopping around a novel that takes place in Korea titled NATURAL POLICE.