With a Glistening Rush
Five of us dodge the storm in Tammy DeLuca’s bedroom, even Kevin, who stays dressed. One at a time, we lie back, spread-legged and flustered, approximating grit. Here, Tammy directs a ray of light between Maggie’s legs, is the birth canal. We see only skin and the wand Tammy won from the county fair, its star-shaped tip poking and prodding. Torrents of rain pound the window while we each take turns with the flashlight, the wand, the spreading, the telling: Tammy’s mom ripped open; Sari’s was sewn up; Kiesha’s auntie died, her baby cousin, too; Maggie arrived under water; Kevin’s stepsister took classes, huffed hoos and hees like on TV with nurses counting centimeters, snapping, Push, push.
We’ll bleed, Tammy says. More than last week.
She’s talking about the bus stop, about her flitting imitation of Wonder Woman. How she leapt to deflect an invisible force and smacked into the curb, busting her knee so bad we could barely look. With a glistening rush of blood down her white shin, the five of us went from being ordinary kids on Pinewood Drive to an unnamed club, a coven, a gaggle, rapt. Tammy bragged that her mom had heated a needle and pointed to the sewing box. Choose a color, Mrs. DeLuca said. And Tammy chose three. We saw the brave proof: snarled red, white and blue spiking from the thin gash under her bandage. Little scabby knots we’d follow anywhere.
We stuff our shirts when the thunder quiets. Sari and Kevin with throw pillows. Tammy: rag doll. Keisha: beach towel. Maggie: knapsack. Hands on jutted bellies, we head to the construction site behind Keisha’s yard, to the basement-sized dirt hole that used to be forest. The digger’s yellow claw, still dripping rain, is big enough to cradle us one by one, but we’ve come for the shallow pond the deluge created, for the tadpole of a house—this not-yet place flooded brown. Tammy wades in first, reports the bottom spongy and flops down laughing. When her contractions start, she squats, her bandage gone, her stitches muddy over the water’s surface. She pants and grunts, toiling brilliantly. We splash in around her, invigorated. The silt between our toes cold as sky, clean as we will ever be, braced for what will come.
Ruth LeFaive’s stories and interviews appear in Best Small Fictions 2018, Little Fiction, Longreads, Split Lip Magazine, The Offing, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. Her work was recently selected as a winner in the 2020 CRAFT Flash Fiction Contest. She lives in Los Angeles where she is working on a collection of short stories. Find her online at ruthlefaive.com.
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