Thomas Berger (in: summer grass123)

A place of smile

A mango, a rice ball and a cold remedy - that was enough to finally give Shiho Tanaka, the seventy-nine year old, a feeling of security again. The woman, who has lived alone for many years, made a living on a small pension. Her husband, who died nineteen years ago, had treated her badly, although she had always submitted to the submissive and serving role expected by Japanese society. She had children, certainly, three, but they had long since left the village and worked in Nagoya, the country's fourth largest industrial center. She could not remember visiting the sons with her.
The loneliness weighed heavily on her. But the situation was not hopeless. All she had to do was shuffle and access the store. A mango, a rice ball, and a cold medicine disappeared into her coat. She knew from experience what pleasant consequences this had.
The wake-up call echoed through the hallways. The inmates got up, washed themselves, and put on their beige pajamas. Servants pushed a bowl of rice, miso soup, and tea through the cell slots. The warm drink was good for Shiho Tanaka; because in Tochigi, the largest women's prison in Japan, there was no heating. She was happy to be able to go to the factory after breakfast. There she was with others. Under the supervision of a law enforcement officer, the mostly old prisoners had to count sheets of paper. Of course that was a pretty pointless task. But she didn't mind. It was important to her that, unlike in her almost depopulated village, she received a certain amount of attention and that she lived in a community - as tough and austere as the conditions were.
In the afternoon she would play badminton in the sports hall, which she always enjoyed despite the ailments that plagued her.
Sometimes she lay awake on the iron bed for a long time. Then she had to
keep in mind that her punishment was soon over. It was the third time that she was in Tochigi. She had promised the director not to come back. She wanted to do that again this time. But it was just as clear to her that she didn't want to die lonely and unnoticed like so many Japanese women in old age. Encapsulated, she had lived long enough. And she would probably never see her children again, who were ashamed of her. No, the last phase of life should be pleasant for you. She would expect death at home. It didn't have to be a mango, a rice ball, or a cold medicine, she smiled.

in the sound of the bell
the song of longing
she packs the suitcase

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Year of publication: 2018

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