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The shell

He always claimed that he remembered

everything, but there were many among us who

suspected that he seldom remembered anything

beyond himself; the depth of

the colours in the Karelian forest then

perhaps, or the unfamiliar note in her voice

when she took off her armour

of unfulfilled desires. Towards the end he did not

even remember that, but at the sound of the

whistling New Year’s rockets he would still

fall back down the black shaft

where he had seen so much be lost. Ever more often

he aimed blows at her in his sleep

and if one came to visit him one noticed that she

had tidied away all pictures of him

in uniform. Forgotten were all the chess matches and

the annually recurrent showing of

The Unknown Soldier at the Frontsmen’s Home in

December, but the gazes remained; how

they always looked at him without realizing

that what he was, was what he

kept a secret. Steadfastly he offered them

combat until reluctantly he let open

his shell behind which all those

years he had so successfully fused with his

surroundings, protected from other insects.

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