Fiction by Seth Clabough (seth clabough)
At least that’s what you’d say when things were bad — before the move to this distant peninsula, before the Havilland Twin Otter flight, before the sky emptied its blue lungs in fatal gusts.
But there’s nothing new in loss, or in the way morning in Santa Teresa awakens first in the tops of the old pochotes, breaks free from the tines of playa trees to press its fiery stamp on village & shore.
I watch it lift into the heart of another day, a day so dry it crumbles underfoot, & it reminds me only of our nights at Villa Serena with laundry lifting on the line, Halloween crabs foraging among dead leaves, the whine of the hammock, the warmth of your bare breasts against my ribs.
You said once the Nicoya Peninsula had such wet stars. You called them by name like old lovers. I thought of your freckles as stars, as entire constellations but never said it. I wish I had.
Years have passed and this morning is as far from you as night from day — like it’s the other side of it, like it’s forever. Our Ruby loved watching the iguanas emerge to mount fallen logs, to bathe in shafts of renegade light.
She named the red-faced male Gustavo, and the woman who swept our villa said he could open up a leg with the whip of his tail. We shouldn’t trust what we feel, Ruby, what we see and hear, how the yigüirro’s call squeezes our hearts through its fingers, how the leaves are agitated by the loss of it all.
And I don’t mourn either of them anymore. I know they’re among the stars that love them, that they press their lips to them, that they burn brighter with their embrace. But I’ll still find, on occasion,
one of Ruby’s toys along the corners of the property and that flick of memory will open up my guts in the sand. And sometimes, when the sodas are closed, after Hector and Angelicia have left with a bag of empty Imperials,
I’ll glimpse my wife disappearing into the fragrant night or find at daybreak, cursive messages from her writ in the swash lines and know she’s behind it all, that she’s speaking to me, that she’s saying, It won’t always be like this, but I hope that’s not true. I know their loss is a presence I can’t do without.
Besides, tomorrow the edges of the sky will be bruised purple, & Gustavo will come to sun himself in a little pool of light. Breezes will come & go. We move on or don’t, seeking those little spaces we need to survive.
On this remote peninsula, you can evade the threat of moving on. Here, lost voices never grow silent. Here, you can wait for the evening & then see, once more, constellations of wet stars, which were gone & always there.
The 2015 Luminaire Award for Best Prose
We are pleased to announce this piece as a finalist for the 2015 Luminaire Award for Best Prose, honoring the independent press’ best short stories and hybrid prose works of the year. The winners are selected by an external panel that judges all pieces blind and selects the full list of finalists. Alternating Current does not determine the final outcome for the judging; the external judges’ decisions are final.
SETH CLABOUGH (seth clabough) is the author of All Things Await, which has been nominated for the Library of Virginia Literary Award for Fiction. His work appears in such outlets as Smokelong Quarterly, Barely South, Magma Poetry, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Blackbird, Litro Magazine, New Writing, Women’s Studies, The Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education, The Atlantic (rpt), alongside Pulitzer Prize-winner Anthony Doerr in Hearing Voices, and in numerous other journals and magazines. Ploughshares Blog selected his work for their national “Best Short Story of the Week” column; other work has been editor-nominated for Best of the Net 2016, the Luminaire Award for Best Prose, storySouth’s Million Writer Award, and the Best Small Fictions Prize. He has a PhD in English from Aberystwyth University where he won the LBA Fiction Prize. He is the Executive Director of the Higgins Academic Center, Director of the Communication Center, and an English professor at Randolph-Macon College. Find him at sethclabough.com. [Note: Music autoplays at this link.]
Originally published on 11/5/15.