That Year, These Years: Stories of June Fourth

By Li Xuewen
Translated by Little Bluegill Original text here. That Year, I was twelve years old and in the fifth grade. The happiest part of my day: I would come home from school, turn on our battered black-and-white TV and listen to my older brother, who was a student at the local teacher’s college, passionately detail the day’s happenings in Beijing. Scenes of waving flags, young faces and screeching ambulances flashed across the screen, brimming with energy and a feeling of meaning and weight. That Year, the summer was especially hot. After school, my friends and I walked through the pockmarked roads of our village. We no longer goofed around like before. By that time, a few of us buddies had started to talk about the big affairs of the country. “Let’s write a letter to Zhao Ziyang,” I suggested.  My friends replied, “You write it. Your essays are very well written.” But I had no idea what I should write. I just had this vague notion that we should do something. My father came home from our county seat. He said that someone had tried to hand him a flyer as he was riding his bike down the street. He didn’t take it. It was not long before he had peddled away. Father was the principal of the village elementary school. In the past, he had never been admitted to the Party because of his poor family background. He cried loudly about this in the past. He was afraid. Later, the youthful energy on TV became a bloody scream. July was torrid. My older brother, who had graduated by then, hadn’t come home.  Father became worried and went to the school to look for him. As Father stepped off the bus, the head of my brother’s department was ...
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