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Bailing Twine by James Claffey

Before I go to sleep at night I make sure to tag my big toe in case I pass away before daybreak and the undertakers come for my corpse. The cardboard is attached with a loop of baling twine, and if I had more courage I’d staple the tag to my skin. She finds my quirks intriguing, the way I research which barber to have cut my hair on every third Monday of the month, and how I use a knitting needle to test the gnocchi to see if they’re done. 

When I came home from the barber’s shop with a bandage on my hand, she asked what had happened. I was embarrassed to admit I’d put a hand up to signify where to stop cutting, but the blind man had simply snipped on, my finger merely an obstacle to his scissors. But, her love for me trumps my oddness, her way of coming to me in silken garb, her skin drenched in sweat, the fine hairs on her upper lip moist. 

I wonder whether she walks in a circle around the bed at night, waiting for me to die, contemplating the tag, playing with the idea of erasing my name and replacing it with another to fool herself into keeping me alive. Perhaps I should play dead, lie motionless in the bed to gauge her response. Will she order plastic flowers, or fresh gardenias? Or, will she retire to the kitchen and pick at the fruit bowl, waiting for the men to arrive and heave my body out the window to the waiting hearse?

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.”