James Claffey – Family fortunes

bio2James 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 occasionally, his son, Simon. James’ writing has appeared in numerous journals, magazines and anthologies. His fiction collection, Blood a Cold Blue is published by Press 53, and he is working on a novel based on his childhood in Ireland. His website is at http://www.jamesclaffey.com


Family fortunes

The adder on the ground grips a fritillary in its mouth. I cannot decide if it’s consuming the butterfly or giving birth. My mother delivered my sibling in a drug-induced haze, without the ability to recognize the costumed creature that sprang from her legs in the forceps grip. She tells the story at my aunt’s eightieth birthday party, nurse at one elbow, I.V. stand rocking precipitously at the other. Mother’s not been well, and I had to bribe the home to let her attend.
“Spinster,” she says. The word marches across the grass to where my aunt, from her wheelchair, welcomes the visitors. Mother is agitated and the nurse strokes her shoulder through the light cardigan. But there’s no calming Mother as she takes a perverse satisfaction in her sister’s discomfort.
My aunt accuses her of lying and explains the reason she never chose to marry was related to a family history of gigantism. It appears a distant cousin from another state had a whole half of his face that slowly outgrew the other half, the eye bulging like a cyclop, the ear a flowering trumpet of pinkness. My aunt scratches the bulging varicose vein and blows bubbles into the glass of sherry in her hand.
“Liar. Liar.” Mother’s siren song poisons the air. As I leave the table to go to her side, she begins to choke.The machine hooked to her arm flashes as my aunt wags a finger in her direction. The adder consumes the last of the fritillary, and all that’s left on the ground is a light dusting of wing. Mother scolds the nurse and settles into a deck chair with the I.V. standing guard.


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