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Story by Lane Osborne (Read author interview) August 24, 2021

Photograph by Eilas Domsch

Forget this place. Forget the shoreline, an oil-on-canvas landscape with broad brush strokes of beachgrass-tufted dunes, and gulls gliding above the blue-gray water. Forget the beachcomber sifting through sand; the couple—honeymooners, maybe—sloshing shin-deep in the spring tide; the boy trenching a moat around sand towers, turrets, and crenelated walls that crumble under the weight of water.

Forget your condo, the walk to clear your head. Forget how four right turns would’ve brought you back to where you began, and how you drifted onward, straying past vinyl-sided homes, vacant lots, and storefronts—a deli, a drugstore, a barbershop called Suitcase Ray’s where, maybe, you once got a shave and haircut. Where, maybe, you once talked sports, politics, women, and weather. Forget Suitcase Ray’s.

Forget how you reached here, the water’s edge, just past the stilted cottages that border this stretch of beach. Forget that all who wander are not lost. Forget whether it took you ten minutes or two hours to make the journey. Forget the tan line where your watch isn’t fastened, the empty pocket where you keep your keys, the note for your wife you didn’t leave.

Forget the people you passed, the ones you didn’t. Forget Ben, your best friend who hasn’t returned the book he borrowed. Or DVD? Forget the DVD. Forget the book. Forget your parents, long departed—your father’s honey-rich baritone, your mother in her flour-dusted apron. Forget your sister. No, sisters. Forget them both. Forget Mary, your wife.

Damn.

Margaret. Her name is Margaret, but you’ve always called her Mags. Forget Mags. How, after all these years, she still reaches for your hand on the front porch swing, interlacing her fingers with yours; how she closes her eyes, tilts her soft smile toward the sun; how she hums that melody—What’s that melody?—mournful as any lullaby.

Forget your sons—Michael and Mark? Yes, Michael and Mark. Forget them, their wives, their children—your grandchildren, brown-eyed and dimple-cheeked.

Forget yourself, the Ph.D., the professor, the mathematician—seventy and retired—who was at one point in his life (a) but now finds himself at another (b), and is unable to solve the problem due to time (t), or distance (d), or an unexpected variable (x).

Forget x.

Forget the doctor, the exam room—white tiled floor, white walls, white space.

Forget the questions: What did you have for lunch today? What did you do last weekend? The weekend before that? Forget the diagnosis: probably Alzheimer’s.

Probably? Forget probably.

Forget this: the more you try to forget, the more you’ll remember. So forget it all. Everything. Forget, even now, this place—the shadow of dunes lengthening across the landscape, the gulls gathering on the beach and nuzzling their beaks under wing, the sandcastle lost to the surf and the cold lick of sea foam against the shoreline, as you follow that perspective all the way to its vanishing point.

About the Author

Lane Osborne completed his MFA at Warren Wilson College and he teaches at Coastal Carolina University where he serves as the faculty nonfiction editor for the literary journal, Waccamaw. His work, which has previously been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, has appeared in various journals, including storySouth, Oxford Magazine, and The Citron Review, and is forthcoming in Chautauqua.

About the Artist

Elias Domsch is a student of marketing and communication.

This story appeared in Issue Seventy-Two of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Seventy-Two
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Important

The SmokeLong Quarterly Comedy Prize 2021!

This competition is no longer accepting entries. The long list has been published on the blog. The four winners of the competition will be featured in Issue 74 of SmokeLong Quarterly coming out near the end of December.