In today’s New Voices, we are excited to present “Fire Season” by Vincent Chavez, an honorable mention for our 2020 Flash Fiction Contest. Written in the second person, “Fire Season” comes to us as “California is on fire again.” Dive into Vincent Chavez’s magnificent flash below:
As a child, your mother walked into kindergarten on her first day of school, pigtailed with no backpack, and a blonde barbie in hand. Her skin was browner than yours. Her name was browner than yours. Her older sister didn’t tell her that the teachers would force her to change her own name. How her heart would still race twenty years later when she considered what name she’d use to introduce herself, seconds before interviewing to teach at the same school.
The scorch is the first thing you look for on the drive home after the long flight across the country. It’s Thanksgiving break. It’s fire season in California. Phone calls and satellite images can never articulate the damage that’s been done. Last fall, a national newscaster described your neighborhood and the explosion of mustard scattered across the hills rolling behind it as fuel.
In the backseat of your father’s F-150, you lay your head on your mother’s shoulder. Dostoevsky and Faulkner are buried deep within your luggage. A composition book filled with poems and waspy reading glasses with plastic lenses are tucked within a blazer next to them. Somehow, your mother’s shoulder is bonier yet softer. You smell a cheap lavender detergent. The faded yellow huipil she’s insisted on wearing to every graduation ever since your fifth grade promotion is starchy as it rubs against the prickly whiskers sprouting from your chin. She wore it when you first flew away. She’s worn it every time you’ve promised you’d return home again.
No, I think it’s pronounced jacondra, your mother says to you on Thanksgiving Day. She is sitting across from you at the dinner table. The usual suspects are gathered round. Your father sits next to you and dives face first into a tower of turkey, mashed potatoes, and gravy. He has a heart condition and his arm is in a sling, but he continues on with his third serving. It’s because he’s Mexican. He’s a man. Your father cooked the turkey. So he will eat the turkey. Your father prides himself upon being the second oldest roughneck at his drill site. He is incapable of doing the math.