Tales from Normal Street

James Claffey


The Paper Bags escape and run wild in the geranium fields down by the salty egg whites. Little Soupspoon sees one of them snap at a doddery old flowerpot, and cries when the flowerpot topples over and cracks apart. As I ready for bed, the rustle of the Paper Bags outside on the street comes in the window. They’re on their way back from the salty egg whites, stiff and crinkly, some of them folded in two and moving slowly. One squats behind a piano stool and the ground puddles. Bored, I creep into bed and sleep. When I awaken, the window is covered in chalk dust and six or seven colored Chalk Sticks are on the sill. In the garden, a Loaf of Bread picks at a Chalk Stick. When I rap on the pane the Loaf flies off into the rising grapes of morning.


The credit cards are nestled behind the bottle of tequila in the fridge. They should be defrosting in the flower vase on the kitchen counter. This means no excessive spending on needless electronics like the fancy amp in the window of the stereo shop in the village. Maybe for dinner Cassette Tape will create a tequila-and-pastry version of steak-and-kidney pie, and later the Swingline Stapler will perform the annual oral sex event. Highly possible, especially if the pastry/tequila combination leans to the tequila side of things. The last time there’d been “oral” in the house they listened to string music and ate chocolate-covered banana slivers. Swingline Stapler doesn’t like getting the metal piece where the staples come out trapped in the dark brown ribbon that oozes from Cassette Tape’s lower parts. This is why, once a year, like it or not, they agree to perform oral sex on each other. As for Swingline Stapler’s preference? That falls on the side of a carefully inserted object right at the hole underneath the Stapler’s lower arm. Cassette Tape’s cool plastic tongue loves to lick the icky sticky pink butt plug as it wobbles in the Stapler’s arsehole.


Coffin Handle, arrives home one night and tells Ashtray the job at the plastic underwear factory has been taken away. Ashtray coughs a lot and doesn’t come out of the drain for a long time. Coffin Handle sets the table for tea and we all sit around drinking marmalade and eating dry tinfoil. Coffin Handle wanted to know about school. Rolling Pin says how after kicking the egg whisk in the handle, the punishment is a week with no port-a-potty so Rolling Pin goes upstairs to the floorboard and sulks all night. Coffin Handle opens a tin of paint and sits in front of the port-a-potty all evening without a word. Rolling Pin lolls on the floor twirling my tassels and gets up to read a flowerpot when it’s bored. Nobody is happy and when the grapes rise in the sky and the lemons come out we all depart for bed feeling sad.

About the Work

James Claffey

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.

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