Claudia Smith

You once gave me an apple from off a tree, and I thought about its significance, and wondered if you meant something by that, or if you were just handing me an apple. We were walking my dog, that sweet old boy, and he was just a puppy. I bit right into the apple and you said, "Hey, shouldn't you wash that first?"

Last week, I took a boat on the Riverwalk with our son.  We floated past weddings, the free weddings they have every year on that day.  People were carrying yellow roses, and wearing red.  I asked him, "What is love?" He said, "Valentine's Day." I said, "What do you mean by that?" And he answered, "Happy Valentine's Day. A racecar valentine is better than a heart." He fell asleep with his head in my lap, as we floated under bridges, past fig trees and old buildings.

When I brought him home, after the boat ride, it was late. The light had burned out on our porch, and I stubbed my toe on the steps. I carried him to his bed, putting him down with his Ninja Turtle. I lay down beside him, and slept.

I came across some toads this morning, with our boy. We were walking in the alley. I know you will tell me that wasn't a good idea, but he wanted to see the recycling bin to make sure we had sorted it all properly. The toads were ugly and that made them cute, you know, cuter than any apple-green frog. Are toads solitary creatures? I guess I'll have to look it up on the Internet. I'd never seen so many, together like that. They were huddling. Maybe they were going to mate. Maybe it was a toad orgy.

You gave me a typewriter once. Remember that? I said I wanted to write and I didn't have a computer, and you had an old Brother Typewriter, and you said I could have it. We were sitting on the floor, because I had no furniture. And I started typing, typing about the cool computer that a boy just gave me. I kept typing and you were watching. You kept watching me type, and my hands were shaking. I said it was from all the coffee and I was waiting for you to kiss me. Instead we stayed up all night, talking, me waiting for you to kiss me or go home, until we fell asleep together on the floor, which was covered with some kind of cheap industrial carpet. I woke up with a crick in my neck and red marks from the scratchy carpet. Your hands were on your stomach and all your long dark hair was covering your face. I kissed you then, kissed your forehead. I did it suddenly and softly, startling myself. It was like touching the wings of a creature you couldn't see, but knew to be beautiful, simply from the feel of it. I stood up and walked out of the apartment, down the stairs, into the street. It was cold and I wasn't wearing a coat, but I kept walking anyway, thinking I couldn't go back there because you'd be gone.

Claudia Smith's stories have been published in many journals, including Sou'wester, Failbetter, Juked, elimae, Night Train, and Wigleaf. Her fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and her chapbook, The Sky Is A Well And Other Shorts, won the New England Bookbuilder's Award. More about Claudia and her work can be found at her site, claudiaweb.

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Photo detail on main page courtesy of Apfelherz.

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