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Volume 4: Issue 2

Another Side of Light By Cathy Douglas

A clam shell is a functional work of art, much more than a simple purse to hold a living thing. From a point at the edge—a beak, it's called—a whole intricate structure fans out in waves. Near the beak, a hinge opens or closes the shell, and from there, a tooth-and-socket arrangement firmly secures the shell against predators. You have to look at both sides of the shell to see how all the parts fit together. Once the shell clamps down tight, the clam is safe from anything that would want to bother it. Very sensibly so, thought Paloma, tossing the shell back into the Tupperware container. The clam made her think of her favorite restaurant down the California coast at Half Moon Bay. She’d enjoyed a cup of clam chowder on her last visit there—probably the last time she’d gone anywhere. Two years ago? No, it was right after Christmas, must be more like two and a half years. That was the last thing she’d really wanted to do outside of her home: have a good cup of soup in a Portuguese restaurant, in a town where as a child she’d spent part of her summertime with relatives. Good soup, some yellow Portuguese bread, a little nostalgia—the best things you could find out there. But for the last two and a half years remembering those things had been enough. It was on a beach not far from Half Moon Bay where Genna had found that shell years ago. Paloma remembered her little daughter running on her tough bare feet, so excited to have found both halves of the clam shell lying next to each other. She brought it to her mother and proudly demonstrated how the two sides fit. But that shell wouldn’t do for the project at hand. Its back was too smooth, and what Paloma needed was sharp ridges. She had in mind to shine the bright bulb from her sewing lamp just so across the back of a clam shell, capture the texture in contrasting light with a digital photo, and after taking a long look at the results, use her new drawing program to play around with the image. The looking part, that was the part that too many people would forget. If you don’t

look carefully, you only see what you think you’re supposed to see, instead of what’s really there. She dug around some more. The Tupperware bin contained years and years worth of shells from up and down the California coast. This one, too small; even with her bifocals she would never be able to see the amount of detail she wanted. This one, too blotchy. This one… it would do. She set it aside and opened a new file, and titled it “CAML SHELL." That didn’t look quite right. Her letters couldn't seem to sort themselves into proper order since her stroke but trying to fix these things usually created further scrambles, so she left it and started fussing with the light. For Paloma this could take a very long time, but today that wouldn’t be a problem. Her husband and middle-aged son would be out all day. Today something seemed funny about the light. She stood back to assess it. Too… wavy? Jumpy? The bulb was almost new, so it couldn’t be that. It wasn't funny in a bad way, really. It almost looked as if it were alive. Strange. Time for a cigarette break. She went into the kitchen and picked up her pack of Camels and matches but couldn’t find the ash tray. No reason it should be outside the kitchen, so… ah, there, unaccountably on top of the refrigerator. “That there who put!” she grumbled to herself, followed by “Men!” She started to sit down at the kitchen table, but it was such a fine cool day she decided to go out on the patio instead. She noticed in passing that the outdoor light seemed different too. When she lit the match, her eyes went wide. The flame coming out of the match flared up in magenta, darkening to crimson and then cherry around the edge. Paloma had a trained eye for color, but honestly, anyone would know this was wrong. A little frightened, she shook the match, but it wouldn’t go out. She dropped it on the pavement and stepped on it. There. Hesitating, she lit another match. Its flame seemed to wave a little, but at least it was the proper yellow-orange, a bit of blue at the base. She lit the cigarette quickly, shook out the match, and sat back


Shadow Express: Summer Issue  

Shadows Express Volume 4: Issue 2 presents the work of both emerging and established writers for your enjoyment.