When the Cowboy Separates the Calves for Tomorrow’s Branding–


by Sabrina Hicks


                —the mothers will bawl in the pastures, their babies will huddle together in the pens, the cowboy will remember his mother leaving, his daddy whipping him for being inconsolable.
 
When the cowboy separates the calves for tomorrow’s branding, the cowboy’s wife knows he will drink too much whiskey, will cry out in his sleep, will wake to the bawling outside their window, pull a pillow over his head, say, I’m going to whip their hide.
 
When the cowboy separates the calves for tomorrow’s branding, the cowboy will learn he’ll become a father, later learn it’s a son, later learn his cries, later learn he himself is haunted.
 
But for now, babies by their sides, the cows are quiet and content, heads buried in the thick sweet-grass; and the cowboy and his wife wake to birdsong, wake in an embrace, wake with a sliver of sunlight stretching across their quilted bed.


Sabrina Hicks’ work has appeared Best Small Fictions 2021 and Wigleaf’s Top 50. A complete list of her work can be found at sabrinahicks.com.


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