The Air, Fair Crackling

James Claffey

She was fleshy, a beauty of indeterminate weight, my first love. Those days I was a bit of an eejit, my small flat in Sandymount a central collection point for empty beer bottles and take-a-way boxes. In the bedroom, the mirror edged with a layer of dust, the SuperSer gas heater leaked fumes and warmth. The back garden, a wild tangle of bushes and brambles, lost foxes peering from the nighttime, eyes bright from the sheen cast by the moonlight. Bashful, she was, a painted beauty better placed as the figurehead of a ship. Her cheeks rouged and ruddy, the dark curls of her hair falling over two most expressive eyes. The night we’d met at “Break for the Border,” she’d wiggled to Willie Nelson crooning destroyed love and bourbon bottles. More of a pop man myself—Pet Shop Boys and Adam and the Ants—I let go my biases and took her onto the lit dance floor. In the taxi from the city center we kissed in a bashful way; the driver’s eyebrow raised in the mirror, checking our progress. Back in my flat, she called him a nasty one as she de-pelted on the rug in front of the heater. From a bottle of everlasting wine we drank deep and made the kind of love that bordered on the obscene. In the aftermath of our passion she painted her toes eggshell blue and let me brush her curled tresses as glass after glass of Chianti were spirited away. She pushed me onto my back and painted my own toenails one-by-one, casing each in a glossy coat and blowing softly with her rounded mouth as the fury rose in me and we went at it again with a verve I now realize was the patina of first love and a younger life of little responsibility. These days, she resides in a facility in the north of the city, her once-curly hair now shorn gray on her dappled skull. I like to think she sometimes gazes into her bathroom mirror and thinks of happier times, happier places, and me, her first love, blue-toenailed and torn to pieces on the thick-pile wool rug by the blocked-up fireplace, wineglasses on the floor; the air, fair crackling with passion’s lost arias.


Writer James Claffey hails from County Westmeath, Ireland, and lives on an avocado ranch in Carpinteria, CA. He is fiction editor at Literary Orphans, and the author of the short fiction collection, “Blood a Cold Blue.” His work is forthcoming in the W.W. Norton Anthology, “Flash Fiction International.”

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