The Way Her Neck Angled

by James Claffey

In the tall grass at the perimeter of the field, a snail unglues itself from a stone and silvers its way toward a fencepost. My teeth chatter from the cold, the edge of my left eye twitches faster than my heartbeat, and there’s a hollow feeling in the roof of my mouth. It’s like I am about to float away, to attach myself to a group of helium balloons and take to the air forever. But, instead I am strolling towards the fire on the other side of the field, and my girlfriend is staying behind.

Had she not made a joke about my time in prison I might have let her go, but the laugh out of her, the snide remark about loneliness, what could I do? The way she pitched forward and struck her head against the root of the stumped tree, the gash turned white for the longest time, and then the blood welled like blotting paper soaking up ink. I knew she was dead the way her neck angled, the pale skin, her cigarettes on the ground beside her—Marlboro Lites—and me having told her over and over that smoking kills.

I know what my lawyer will say when he finds out about this one—twin to a left-handed simpleton—over his plate of tomato soup in the tony restaurant on Bleecker Street. Too bad, I think it’s my inability to sleep that causes me to react so sharply. If only I was able to get a good eight hours and awake refreshed, I’d be a new man, and no mistake. The sparks from the fire shoot crimson into the night sky and across the field her body temperature lowers for the last time.

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James slipped out of Ireland one night when the moon turned a lonely ball shade of blue. His compass points toward the future; his glass’s bottom points toward the sky; and his bluebird eyes are two wars poignant, flitting for an avocado branch.
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