It was hard being a flower swallow, but some things did get easier. I eventually learnt which houses were most likely to share. If there was kid laundry hanging outside, I didn’t bother, unless it was baby clothes and nothing else. What I found was brand-new mamas would feel sorry for me on account of them worrying their babies might grow up to be a flower swallow, and wouldn’t they want someone to do a kindness for them? But the mamas with bigger kids were worried enough about their own families starving — and when I say starving, I don’t mean being hungry so often you stop growing, I’m talking about the kind that gets you to fall asleep and then kills you while you’re dreaming — and so those mamas wouldn’t share nothing. Men typically weren’t that generous neither, so sometimes if a man opened the door, I didn’t even bother and just asked him if he seen my lost toy or stuff and nonsense like that.
The most helpful houses, aside from the ones I already told you with the new babies, were ones with ladies who weren’t so young they had children to worry over and weren’t so old they were too weak to cook or go out picking. I got most of my food from them kind, except I made another beginner’s mistake right off by going back to one of the houses that’d been particularly nice. That’s when I learnt it’s all right to ask for something once, but you shouldn’t go back unless it’s been two or three months or maybe even longer on account of them recognizing you and then getting mad. The best thing to do is pretend you don’t even know the area, ’cause if they think you’re a traveler they don’t always mind giving you a little something to carry you on your way. I made up this whole story about going to find my mama and papa in another town, and I used a name of a village I’d heard them mention at school before, and once I learnt that line I probably doubled my meal size. ’Course if you’re doing that, you hafta be even more careful not to go to the same house twice or you’ll get in even bigger trouble than if you’d just skipped a meal or two in the first place. And when I say meal, I’m not really talking about how you do it in America where you eat in the morning and again at noon and once more at dinner and then you likely have a snack after school on top of that. As soon as I became a flower swallow, a good day was if I ate once, and I even learnt there was a best time of day to eat it. To make your meal last proper-like, you have to eat it in that middle space between afternoon and evening. If you gobble it all up too early in the day, you may as well not have eaten at all, but if you wait too long, that makes you get colder at night. I couldn’t tell you why, and I even looked it up in the science book except it never told neither.
The "Twelve Days of Woong" series includes short snippets from my upcoming novel, Flower Swallow. Get your pre-publication copy NOW when you donate to Liberty in North Korea or read it free on Wattpad.