Fingerprints on Cold Metal

The evening sun slants towards the shipwreck. Faint traces of lost fingerprints on cold metal fade as the sky turns its blue inside out and the last vestiges of ordinariness are apprehended by this year’s ghosts. I promised myself I wouldn’t cry, not when the splinters entered the soft flesh of my padded foot, nor when the word for salt no longer worked. Instead, a metal table pitted silver with a red laminated top and the dishes arrayed for the breakfast’s arrival greeted my descent through the back window.

Once, ago, the room backlit by grated fire, I sat alone and listened for the thump of letters on frayed carpet. Was I so young, then? Or, in this failing time, was I grown and set in ways too rigid for the world I attempted to deny? Even in the bask of yellow light on green leaves I fail to answer this same question. Instead. Instead. Instead. Fragments of powdered sugar from Turkish Delight boxes and snapped cracker-pulls litter the room.

Outside, the gulls wheel and croak above the deck of the broken vessel. For nobody else, I mumble the words under my breath, “A cold time we had of it, / Just the worst time of the year / For a journey, and such a long journey; / The very dead of winter.” This world is now one of decay and loss of reason, of alien gods and death, and in the quiet time before sleep I’ll try to retrace the single, fragile thread of material, all the way back to the deck, where as in years past, the assembled sextet sit arrayed with instruments tuned and fingers poised.

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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