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The river water bubbles from my mouth, its dirty gray movement cascading over stones rough and smooth. I come to this place at the narrowing of the year, a hike through the slush-filled fields to clear my head and prepare for the empty page of the new year. In the stream, a discarded tin can, and inside the falling apart corpse of a small fish. Its scales rainbow in the winter light, its jaws wordlessly mouth for oxygen that no longer arrives.
From the top of the bluff the world unfolds, only the metal framework of a radio antenna disrupts the natural view. At its point a red bulb pulses energy into the dark air, catching the falling flakes in a dangerous light. Some creature plods hard soil far below, and not wanting to disturb its progress I stay silent, breath trapped inside my chest. The way its paw touches the space in front, the skill its surefootedness displays, brings all that hurts inside to the surface.
I stumble, smooth-soled shoes fail on frozen ground and it is my head that bangs the rock as the descent begins. I grit my teeth and the force splinters them into ice-shards. At the bottom of the bluff the discarded hardware from lost grocery stores rises up to greet me. The metal mesh of the shopping trolley imprints on my cheek as the lichen-covered rock tickles my cheek.
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 appears in the W.W. Norton Anthology, Flash Fiction International, and is forthcoming in Queensferry Press's anthology, Best Small Fictions of 2015.