“I already made the deposit,” Daehyun tells his father over the phone, trying to keep his voice from rising. They’ve been at it for over an hour, going back and forth debating the pros and cons of Daehyun staying the summer in the city to take a few classes and get ahead on credit with the possibility of graduating early. The battery on his phone beeps a warning as he glances around to see if there is anyone staring at the boy shouting in the library. “We can’t get that back, you know.”
“I just wish you would talk to me about these things before jumping in head first,” his dad says. “You’re always doing this. I was hoping you would be back to help with the shop. You know your mother isn’t doing well, and your brother works full-time. Besides, where are you going to stay? Is there housing over the summer?”
“Youngjae said I could room with him for a bit while I look for a sublet.”
“Please don’t tell me you’re doing this so you can spend your summer with Youngjae.”
“Dad! No, I’m not. I just really think this is a good idea. I can get done with my degree earlier and build up my resume. And I think it’s more cost-effective.”
“I hadn’t budgeted for this…”
“I know. I’ll get a job.”
“And take your summer classes? Are you sure?”
His phone beeps again, this time louder and more insistent. “Yeah, I’ll be fine. I have some money saved up and I’ll just look for something where I can, like, study at the same time. Don’t worry.”
Dad sighs. “I worry. You haven’t come home in a while. I worry about you.”
“I’m fine,” Daehyun insists, as his phone gives him his final warning. “I’m sorry, my phone’s running low. I don’t think I can stay on. I’ll give you another--”
The battery dies. Daehyun brings his phone down from his ear and stares at it, taking his charger out and looking around surreptitiously for an outlet. It’s just a couple of minutes to his next class, though, so when he finds one in the wall adjacent to the cluster of desk cubbies where he is sitting, he doesn’t think it’s worth it.
Whatever. He talked to his dad. Now, to start on the job search.
The job search goes horribly. For three weeks, no matter how many feelers he puts out, there’s nothing. The term will end soon, and after a week of break, the summer semester will start up again. Daehyun needs money for books, rent, food...everything. He wonders if there’s something wrong with him. Why won’t anyone give him a call back? An email? Anything?
Youngjae tells him he needs to get his butt moving on the job front (not like he hasn’t been trying) because even if they’re best friends and he’s more than willing to help Daehyun when it comes to providing shelter, if this continues then the sublet situation is also looking dire, and he’s going to have to ask him to help out with rent.
“Expand your circle,” Youngjae advises him over poorly made instant coffee one morning after Daehyun stayed over because they tried to study and then ended up playing shooters until three in the morning. “Look on Craigslist, or in the newspaper. Someone must want to give you a job.”
Daehyun makes a face at him and then really makes a face at the bitter coffee. Gross.
This is how he finds himself perusing the classifieds in the back section of the library-subscribed newspaper. He doubts he’ll have any luck -- any job worth checking out nowadays will have a post online in multiple places -- but he decides to humor Youngjae just so he can tell him his plan was no help, later.
Most of the ads are normal -- ads for a housekeeper, petwalker, personal assistants. None are particularly appealing. Some of the ads are really...weird. Ads asking for girls who want to be pampered, boys who like fancy cars. “Must love collars,” one of them reads.
Finally, his eyes skim over something promising:
Babysitter needed for two boys, 5 and 6. Hours flexible, at least 20 hrs/wk. Must have previous experience. Mandatory background check and fingerprinting. Competitive pay.
A number follows the ad. Daehyun reads over the blurb again. Could be worth a shot. He loves kids, and he’s good with them. The fact that he’s studying Elementary Education in school should definitely help his chances. He snaps a picture of the ad with his phone so that he can call the number after classes.
Daehyun pinches his phone between his shoulder and ear and listens for the dial tone, laptop perched on his thighs as he sits against the headboard of his bed. His roommate is out for the evening so he’s got the dorm room to himself.
The line picks up after three rings.
“Kim,” the man at the other end says, clipped.
“Ah, hello? Hi, I’m calling about the ad? Your ad in the paper. For the babysitting position?” Daehyun nearly drops the phone, fumbling with the sentences coming out of his mouth.
“How old are you?”
“Are you not sure? Why did that sound like a question.”
“I’m 21,” Daehyun says with a pout, even though the other can’t see.
“Good. Name? Previous experience?” The other man’s voice is faintly gravelly, like a smoker’s.
“Jung Daehyun. Um, I’m studying to become an elementary teacher and also, uh, my mom ran a daycare out of our house growing up, so I have a lot of experience with kids. Particularly young kids. I guess I should also mention I've done a rotation as an assistant teacher in a classroom for school, so there's--”
“How soon can you start?”
“Hold on -- can I -- can I ask what your name is first?”
The other man exhales, annoyed. “Kim Himchan. I’m head of external relations at a major firm. How soon can you start?”
“Well, classes end soon,” Daehyun answers quickly, spurred on by Mr. Kim’s urgency. “So I can start right after. I’m finalizing my summer class schedule but I can pretty much work within whatever times you need.”
“Come by on Friday for a two-hour trial run. If it goes well and you pass the background check, I’ll hire you for the summer. What are your pay requirements?”
Daehyun thought about it earlier but the logic flies right out of his head at Mr. Kim’s rapid questioning. What had he wanted to ask for? 30…? Maybe 35…?
Mr. Kim exhales again. “I’ll pay 45,000 won an hour. How does that sound?”
Daehyun’s head just about explodes. 45,000 won an hour for at least 20 hours a week...he’d have no problem at all paying Youngjae his portion of rent, if it comes down to it.
“Is that enough?” Mr. Kim asks him roughly when he’s silent for too long.
“Yeah, yes. Oh, yes, that’s good. Um, so--”
“Give me your email. I’ll have my assistant send over some documents for you to fill out for the background check. You’ll need to get fingerprinted yourself. My assistant will also send the address where you should be on Friday at 3:30pm. Bring all your paperwork and ID. Got all that?”
He can hear the older man smirking over the phone, like he thinks Daehyun can’t keep up.
“Yup,” Daehyun says, swallowing his spite. He gives Mr. Kim his email address.
“Good,” Mr. Kim says. “None of the other candidates worked out, so we’ll see if you fare any better.” He hangs up.
Daehyun listens to the dial tone in disbelief, wondering what he’s just gotten himself into.