by James Claffey

Say the moon tumbles through the open curtains of your aunt’s house and casts the crooked shadow limbs from the tree outside on the wall. Say the shadow looks like the bent outline of a crone, and say she’s the old lady from number twelve who died a week ago. Say the flit of owl’s wings on the wall makes it look as if she’s going to grab you by the neck. What then? Do you cry out in the dark and waken the house, or do you cringe beneath the tucked sheets and wiggle your toes inside the hot water bottle cover for courage?

You don’t want Da to think you’re what he calls a “namby-pamby gossoon,” do you? This is why you suffer the wetness of the bed when you feel the pee coming and you aren’t able to get out of the bed and make it to the toilet. Da calls you “piss the bed,” and tells Mam you should wash your own bloody bed sheets. You overheard Mam with Mrs. Standish, and how she whispered the words “delicate lad.”

This is why you bundle the sheets up in a ball and sleep under the bed. This is why twenty-eight years later your wife will start to sleep in a separate bedroom. Why she arranges for you to see the hypnotist, and then the acupuncturist, and then the psychic. When she asks why you started wetting the bed after ten years of marriage you haven’t an answer for her.

Say she knew the truth. Say she dragged her acrylic nail from your navel to your Adam’s apple and split you in two, letting the old hag out into the thin night air of the house on Pennington Street. What then? What could you possibly do to hide from the ghost who has lived inside your bladder for all these years?

Say she says, “If I’d known you were a bed-wetter I’d never have married you.”

Say you take your wet pajama pants off and creep into the corner beside the dresser with the picture of your Da and Mam in the silver frame you bought from the small antique store on Regina Street. What are you going to do for the rest of the night as the tree shadows climb the wall and the crone comes out of the wardrobe where she’s been biding her time? From twenty-eight years distance, Da’s voice mocks you as you huddle naked against the wall.


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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