Gillian Walker ~ Community

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.