At first, it buried itself inside the woman’s chest like a palpitation, like too much coffee, and she could chase it away with a beer, no problem. But some days, the tiny vibrations, the tightening of chest, became seismic. Her entire frame blurred.
I’ll just go out and lie down, she told her young son.
Can you play with me? he said. She thought, ground, ground, ground.
For a minute, she said.
It was a bad-guy game. Two squirrels in a pet store. He would be squirrel number one. She, number two. Be the bad guy, too, her son said.
She thought, ground, ground, ground.
I don’t know how, she said.
Yes, you do, he said.
She thought, ground ground ground.
Minutes up, she said, and bribed him with a show about a family and new toys. Just a family filming themselves opening and playing with toys.
She went into the yard and lay on a brown, burnt circle—leftover from the blowup pool—ground, ground, ground—and closed her eyes and let the vibration take over without judgement, like the man said in a book she loved, just feel it, what does it feel like? No judgement. Like humming, she thought. Humming bird. Her grandmother’s wind chimes in the evening. Except flipped—everything guts-side out. Splintered bones and pink organs. The vibrations pulled her down, past the fungi and the clover and the grass, their delicate roots, the earwigs and pill bugs, down into the softness of the crust, the mantle, the core.
When she opened her eyes, there was the sky and the grave her body had dug and a little hand, too far away to reach.
Come, mama, the hand waved. Come, mama, come.
Anna Gates Ha is a writer and part-time English instructor in Northern California. She earned her MFA in fiction at Saint Mary’s College of California, and her writing, nominated for the Pushcart Prize, has appeared in Harpur Palate, The Citron Review, Milk Candy Review, and Watershed Review, among others. You can find her at www.annagatesha.com and, sometimes, on Twitter @annagatesha.