Christine Lee Zilka‘s story, “Bile,” appeared in the Fall 2003 issue of ZYZZYVA. Written from the point of view of the youngest of two children living in Pasadena, the story examines the passing of bitterness from one generation to another, as a Korean father bred on battle forces his children to appreciate his harder life growing up through war. Zilka portrays through a first-generation American family how the culture of war —the “ancestral fear” that chases a new age — cannot be properly digested.
“Bile” is framed by the ritualistic tasting of a gall bladder, something the father procured from a trapped bear. The narrator witnesses her brother, Eugene, being forced to lick the bladder, saying, “I can only tell you the before and the after, because I did not watch them feed Eugene the bile.”