Three days home from the oil rig and the Old Man comes down the road swerving from side to side, the tell-tale burgundy cap of the Jameson’s' whiskey bottle wrapped in a brown bag sticking out of his pocket.
“There's no divorce in this bloody country, more's the pity,” Mam says, the cigarette on her lip about to fall to the ground. The Old Man is in the sitting room, curtains drawn and lights off. In the doghouse again.
The kitchen door rattles on its hinges and Mam stomps to the hall and changes from her apron into her Sunday overcoat, the one with the diamond pin shaped like a peacock's tail pinned to the collar. A slash of lipstick on her mouth and she hugs me to her, the coat scratching my chin. “I'm running off with a soldier,” she says, and pushes me toward the stairs. “Go to your room and play, like a good little boy.”
On the carpet I pick the blue Lego bricks out of the wooden crate and make a graveyard for the white bones I found in the back garden yesterday. I put one piece in my mouth and suck until it sticks to my tongue and I whisper, “I wish I was dead. I wish I was dead,” over and over.
Fighting cats scream from the lane and a narrow line of ice frosts the windowpane. Out the window in shadows by the back wall a white cat limps towards the neighbor's garage.
I decide to test the theory that there’s another world on the far side of the wardrobe, by putting on my anorak and tying the hood about my head. I climb in and push past the clothes and Auntie Martha's cello. I knock on the back panel. Nothing opens and the hooded anorak muffles my sobs.
James Claffey, born and raised in Ireland, 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. He received his MFA from Louisiana State University, where he was awarded the Kent Gramm Prize for Non-Fiction. His work appears in many places including The New Orleans Review, Connotation Press, the Drum Literary Magazine, and Gone Lawn. You can read him at www.jamesclaffey.com.