Spring 2022 Flash Fiction Contest
The prickly pear fruit stained everything red—fingers, our clothes, the air. Our stomachs louder than the thunderclap, that maw inside us, clawing like root sprawl until the sky broke. A year older than you, I was used to dropping to the desert floor, ear to sand, listening for the pulse of water. I saw you’d followed me into the dry wash only after I climbed the limbs of cottonwoods. You stood for a second—my slack-jawed baby brother, looking up at me just before a river raged between us. I remember that first rush of water, a scream inside me, filling my lungs where it would stay.
"You stood for a second—my slack-jawed baby brother, looking up at me just before a river raged between us."
Every night I went to the riverbed trying to make sense of where you were, swept away from the one thing we desired, the one thing this town prayed for. You and I would grab our rain sticks and dance in front of our ranch house with an audience of mountains and cattle, sagebrush and junipers, the desert floor slick with lavender berries we’d break open, inhaling gin. We’d stagger around, bury fistfuls in our pockets knowing Ma would curse us on laundry day. We’d fill hollowed-out wood with them, drive nails into the sides after Dad told us the sound of rain is mimicked when the beans fall through thorns.
When it rains, I hear your voice. I am back on the swollen riverbank, lying beside you, our bloated bellies sloshing as we shift side to side, our mother’s words ringing in our ears. Listen for the sky. Watch for each other. Come home. The thought of death kept us alive, but that aliveness is when death comes. No day arrives without night. Your bones were carried miles away, covered in juniper-blue—lupines and African daisies, surrounded by the signs of what would be our most generous spring.
Sabrina Hicks lives in Arizona with her family. Her work has appeared most recently in Pidgeonholes, Trampset, Monkeybicycle, Reckon Review, Brevity, Split Lip, Milk Candy Review, and Cheap Pop, with stories included in Best Small Fictions 2021 and Wigleaf's Top 50 (2020 and 2021). More of her work can be found at sabrinahicks.com.