Pete and Marg next door called emergency services because the bottom of their garden has fallen into the arroyo. “It’s all this heavy rain,” they say, over and over.
The lights and sirens arrive as I finish in the bathroom. I’ve passed the embryo, cleaned away the blood, secured double night time sanitary pads and put on clean clothes.
I’m all shored up.
From my second floor studio, I see paving stones dangling over the new end of the garden. The water is closer than before.
“You need to evacuate the house,” the fireman says when I answer the door. “We can take you to a motel.”
I show him through to the garden. “I don’t want to leave the house,” I say, walking with the minimum amount of movement. Meaning, I don’t want to leave my bathroom and clean clothes.
The firemen inspect what’s left of the patio and traipse mud into the kitchen. “You can’t stay.”
I’ll only need a doctor if the bleeding gets worse, or doesn’t stop. “We’ve only lost the end of the garden.” I can’t see a doctor without activating Matt’s health insurance, and I didn’t tell him about the pregnancy. “A lot of land needs to crumble before the house is affected.”
I call Matt. “The bottom of the garden’s fallen into the arroyo,” I say.
He asks me to repeat myself.
“It’s because of all the rain.”
Or because twenty years ago, when the community was built, a construction company removed a granite boulder supporting the bank of the arroyo, and it’s been slowly crumbling ever since.
I leave the house and walk to the Palo Verde trees in the community garden. My jacket is in the hall and it’s raining but I don’t go back. There’s a quern stone held in the roots of the trees, used by people hundreds of years ago to grind seeds into porridge. Hidden in the long grass is a round stone that exactly fits my hand.
I sit by the quern stone and run my fingers through the grass, trying to raise seeds to grind. There are none. I put my hand in my pocket for a tissue and ignore the blood flowing out of me. There’s a pain, like a hole in my womb and it spreads down my thighs, I’m too exhausted to stand and walk. In my pocket my fingers brush the stones I found the day I arrived in Arizona, arranged in a circle on the doorstep, left as a welcome or a curse. I grasp the largest rock and remember the butterfly-shaped turquoise seam.
I place a small green stone on the quern and start to grind. Green spirals mark the inside of the bowl. I grind more and there’s powder. The small green stone crumbles and the rain combines with the powder to create a paste that stains my fingers.
Brett and Angie from across the road walk over, cowering under waterproof coats.
“It felt like an earthquake,” they say, watching the emergency service vehicles. “What’s going on?” They don’t say anything about the green paste in the quern stone.
I should stand to talk to them, but I don’t. “The bottom of the garden has fallen into the arroyo,” I say. The rain falls endlessly, no stronger, no lighter. Water drips from my hair.
“Can we see?” Brett asks. Angie thumps his arm.
“The firemen are checking the damage,” I say. “I’ve got to go to a motel until they’re convinced the house is safe. Go in.” I wave towards the front door. “I’m sure they’ll show you around.”
Angie crouches down. I’ve only spoken to her once, or twice, in my months in Arizona. “Come and stay in our guest room,” she says, “until it’s safe to go back.” She holds out her hand. I take it and struggle to my feet.
Gillian Walker is a fiction writer based in the UK. Her work can be found in Ambit, Into the Void and Jellyfish Review. She was a finalist in the F[r]iction spring flash fiction competition 2017 and nominated for Vestal Review’s Best 17 stories. She is an associate editor for Vestal Review.