by James Claffey


There is a stumbling that takes place, an unsettled movement by foot, from the southernmost corner of the orchard where the destroyed well rusts in the hot sun, to the northern portion where the clapboard house is situated. Everything worthwhile has gone now, nothing left but the flakes of memory that make up the stain on the antimacassar.

The dead of night is when he feels it most. The broken veins in his cheeks stop start, stop start, an almost invisible pulsing. It takes quite some time to settle into the valley in the center of the mattress. Even though she’s been long dead the rocker remains the same, the soft roll created by years of marriage cemented by cold nights and a lack of central heating.

Worthwhile work takes place in the orchard, stumping the trees, grafting the new, young limbs carefully into place, set into the raw grooves cut by penknife. Rosy. The finch’s beak is a bright color, its tiny claws gripping the fallen branch. The boots hurt his feet, even though he soaked them in water and stuffed each foot with a month of the local newspaper.

He enjoys the keeping of secrets; the way the whiskey bottle hangs in the well by a twist of steel wire, the pallor of the skin under her breasts when he touched her cold that morning she died, the leaving of money in the pages of library books for strangers to find. She never did enjoy his getting drunk, and occasioned to tell him so on a frequent basis.

Troubles evaporate quicker than expected and the weight of the work pains his lower back. Old age has set its stall out on his body, the ripening of organs, the groaning of bones, the street seller’s cries to market. Against the roughness of the tree trunk he decides to undermine any remaining hope. He recalls how she bought lemons at market and ignored their own.

James Claffey hails from County Westmeath, Ireland, and lives on an avocado ranch in Carpinteria, CA, with his wife, the writer and artist, Maureen Foley, their daughter, Maisie, and Australian cattle-dog, Rua. His work appears in many places, including Metazen, Elimae, Necessary Fiction, fwriction : review, Connotation Press, and Word Riot. His website is at




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