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SmokeLong Quarterly

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Mere Oblivion

Story by Jane Sales (Read author interview) March 15, 2004

Late in June of 1914 I threw myself down in the heavy grass of an English field. My bare arms were a-fire with the sun’s candent light. The warm ground pressed my whole body as I inhaled its living, green scent. In Sarajevo, Gavrilo Princip aimed a rifle at archduke Franz Ferdinand.

One night in Paris, in a cheap hotel in Montmartre, my lover ran his finger across my naked stomach. In the darkness, he drew a point of scintillating touch slowly, slowly down my waiting flesh. It was February 1933, and in Berlin, the Reichstag burnt.

In August 1945, I celebrated my birthday in a Berlin bar with three American airmen. There was a happy warmth in my stomach from the ersatz whisky, and the bitter taste of cheap cigarette smoke in my mouth. One of the airmen stroked my hair; his evanescent touch keeping slow time with the music. Half a world away, Enola Gay opened its bomb bay doors.

On the southern shore of Lake Akan, in Japan’s northern island, the womb-waters of the onsen blanket-wrapped my limbs while I watched the sun rise over the white ice of the lake. My face, exposed to the freezing air, was shocked with a pleasant pain. It was November 1963, the dawning of John F. Kennedy’s last day.

I was born in the last century, and I hope to die with its passing. It is March 2000. I sit hunched in a shabby armchair in a shabby old people’s home in Eastbourne. My body aches; my joints are stiff and creak. I drink my tea, and relish the clear sharp refreshment as I swallow. “There,” says the nurse, a child in woman’s uniform. “Was that a nice cuppa? There’s “Richard and Judy” on telly soon, that’s something to look forward to, isn’t it?”

About the Author

Jane Sales has recently followed her husband to the Côte d’Azur, and is trying to become a writer. She lived in Japan for 2 years.

This story appeared in Issue Three of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Three
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