Emer and the girls play hopscotch in the chalked grid on the footpath. Four and seven are rest squares and you can put both feet down before continuing. From the corner of my bedroom window I watch her in the evening sunlight. Her brown shoes are scuffed at the toes and there's a wrinkle in her burgundy school skirt. She goes to Loreto on the Green and gets the bus early in the mornings. Sometimes I walk with her as far as the traffic light and then I make my own way to my school, which is in the opposite direction.
She says it's okay if I want to take her to the flicks on Saturday morning. It's always a matinee in the Kenilworth and they're showing re-runs of Flash Gordon. The last time we went to the cinema I touched her face and it felt like the sand on the beach at Bettystown—all soft and warm. I was afraid to utter a word, and if we go this week I'm going to try and kiss her. Downstairs I can hear Mam rattling pots and pans for dinner. The Old Man is still away and we're having boiled chicken and cabbage tonight.
Emer tosses the Mansion Polish tin onto the grid and hope, splits, and hops again before stopping on the seven square. She's playing with Nettie Hanratty and she doesn't like me at all. Mam says her parents are left-footers and not to be trusted. The two girls talk as they play and the stones in the tin rattle as they throw it ahead of them. Emer's wrist is narrow as a twig and the sun catches her wristwatch and sends a stream of light toward the ground. There's a moment of silence in the bedroom as I linger at the window, imagining the kiss we'll share on Saturday morning in the darkness of the Kenilworth. Mam calls me for dinner and I let the muslin curtain trail through my fingers before going downstairs.
James 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 Australian cattle-dog, Rua. He is the winner of the Linnet’s Wings Audio Prose Competition. He received his MFA from Louisiana State University, where he was awarded the Kent Gramm Prize for Non-Fiction. His work appears in many places including The New Orleans Review, Connotation Press, A-Minor Magazine, Literary Orphans, and Gone Lawn. You can read him at www.jamesclaffey.com.