Manito
Allison Lee
It was a scorching day similar to the other days. The sun was shining brightly, and the friendly sounds of the insects were making a harmony. Finish eating breakfast; Erica was preparing to go to school. She swiftly packed her bag, and wore her summer school uniform. It was the first time wearing it, since the summer uniform was allowed wearing from today until August. She wore her shoes and told to her parents with a bright voice that she was going to school. She walked to school with composure, enjoying watching the landscape of this small village. This small village, called Cheongsol, was quite different from the other places in Korea. Although the other places were quite urbanized, the Cheongsol village had kept its own style and traditions. It was hard to find concrete roads or high buildings; there were only old things such as farms, hills, and small houses. Erica had to transfer from Seoul to here because of her dad’s job. At first she had a hard time of adapting in it, but later she became used to it and liked here.
In eight o’ clock, class started. Today, she had algebra, chemistry, world history, and music. Because she had one month left for her finals, she concentrated in class. While she took notes and read the textbook, the class was almost being to over. Same as the other classes, the time had gone fast. After chemistry class had ended, she had a homeroom time because it was Friday. She chatted with her friends until the teacher came. As the students heard the sound of opening the door, the class went into silence. With a smiling face, she opened her mouth and said,
“We will be doing an activity called ‘manito’ until the end of this year.”
Soon as after the announcement had came out, the noise spread through the class. Assuring that the students didn’t know what it meant, she included a short explanation of the game. Manito is an Italian word meaning ‘secret friend.’ Every person gets a slip that a name of one of the classmates is written, and the person has to secretly help or give small presents to the friend. After the event is over, people get to know who their manito was and they become closer. Many students, including Erica, became excited about who will be their manito. The teacher walked around the class, holding a box with a bunch of slips. Erica observed her friends’ expressions; some seemed to be happy about it while some people were nervous. As the teacher came in front of her, she realized it was her turn to pick. She carefully picked a lot and opened it, with half concern and half excitement. However, as she checked the name written on it, her face changed to be angry and disappointment. Erica’s manito –who made her depress- was a boy called Daniel. He was alienated in the class, and had no friends. He couldn’t have any friends because he had a harelip. Since when he was born, he had that handicap, and couldn’t get surgery because there weren’t any medical treatment developed. The strange look and the prejudice about the handicapped people made his friends to avoid him. Erica also heard many rumors and abuses about him. She didn’t want to be related to him, so she decided to forget the manito activity and ignore him. In her mind, she thought why she had to be his manito. She was expecting the activity to be fun, but the one fact made her to be filled with despair.
After several days pasted, she thought she would have a normal daily life as the other days; however, it didn’t went well as she thought. For these few days, she realized that Daniel was fallowing her continuously. She tried to consider him as invisible, but her plan failed. During school time, he kept looking at her and followed every single time. Her anger kept rose, but she didn’t admonish him because of the abomination. Summer break gradually came while she anguished of it for several days.
One day, she woke up early, which was unusual to her. It was the day that she planned to go to the mountains and pick cherries. During the meantime, she had nothing to do. Unlike from the other cities, the Cheongsol village was not much related to technology and electronics. She was unable to do fun things such as watching TV, doing the Internet, or playing games. The only solution to it was to play with the nature. In the beginning it seemed to be boring and wasting time, but as she become used to it, she learned that it was not that bad and helpful. She was able to know more about the nature and made her healthier. So during the free time, she often played outside. Since she finished her assignment early, she decided to go to the mountains and pick some fruits.
While she was walking with delight, she heard someone calling her. As she turned her head, she saw Daniel and his father. He asked,
“Where are you going?”
Although she was not willing to answer, she responded,
“I’m going to the mountains to pick fruits.”
“Oh, well. Can you go with Daniel? It would be quite fun.”
With an astonishing mood, she agreed to it. She couldn’t reject it because his father was requesting it. Filled with despair, she walked droopingly, ignoring the warning from his father, ‘be aware of the snakes in the mountains.’
Spending about ten minutes, they just arrived to the mountains, using the short cut. The cherries were grown abundant and looked delicious. She once realized she came to the appropriate time. They both started to pick cherries and put them in the basket. By looking at the basket that was filling with cherries, she felt proud. While Erica was concentrating on it, Daniel was resting for few minutes. Suddenly, he felt consciousness from her. He looked around, and feel relieved that it was just a presage. However, he realized something was sneaking to her, and quickly looked her again. A snake was going towards to her. It was quite dangerous; snakes in the mountains all had poisons. He opened his mouth and tried to speak, but his handicap didn’t let him to speak easily. When he was almost to speak to her, he saw the scene – she accidentally stepped the snake and then the snake bite her. She fall down and suffered from pain. It was an imminent situation, which there was no way to contact with someone else. He determined to do the first-aid treatment to her with his knowledge as best as he can. First, he laid down Erica and tried to remove the poison from her leg by his mouth. Obviously, it was difficult him to do it. His strength was quickly exhausting, but still he didn’t give up. After three minutes, he ran out of strength and was going to faint. However luckily, a person was passing by and found the two, and called the ambulance.
As Erica woke up, she first saw a white wall. Then she slowly turned her head, seeing a ringer that was inserted in her arm. Bringing back her mind, she realized she was in the hospital, after being bitten by the snake. She saw the left side; Daniel was sitting on the bed, reading a book. Reflecting her past imprudent behaviors, she regretted and felt guilty conscience. With a careful attempt, she said,
“Thank you for saving me.”
“Your welcome. I just did what I should do.”
“Why did you save me and be kind to me? I always afflicted and disdained you. Still, why did you did like that?”
After a moment, he answered,
“Because – I am your manito.”
As she heard the phrase, the past events passed through her mind. The questions linked together and made a conclusion. She realized that he was a truly ‘manito.’ As I once looked up him again, he had a light smile on his face. With a clear summer breeze, his smile was shining than anything else.