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Only mid-March, but it was already seven months into the drought. The trees stood wilted, the shine gone out of their once succulent leaves. Beneath them, the earth had long hardened and ruptured, leaving large cracks in the ground. There hadn’t been much water that summer; most of the gullies were dried up and the river was too condensed, the water raw and putrid from the amphibious creatures that sought refuge in its belly. The day before, neighbors returned home from the standpipe with empty containers. They had stood by gazing powerlessly at the spigot as the lethargic stream of water barely yielded two buckets full before it heaved violently, coughed up a gust of froth, then like a car out of gas, rumbled to a halt. But today was another day, and hopeful Maxine decided to brave the heat and haze to beat the neighbors to the standpipe in the small town square. As she stepped outside with the large plastic pail in hand, she was startled by the loud yawn as the cracks widened and the thirsty earth opened up and started to suck her in. She screamed and thrust her hand upward, grasped futilely at the air as the earth inhaled harder and faster, and the last thing Maxine saw before the ground closed over her were her cries for help written in fluffy clouds across the dusty sky.
Opal Gayle grew up in rural Jamaica. She is the recipient of the 2019 St Botolph’s Club Foundation Emerging Artist Grant and a finalist in the 2021 Miami Book Fair Emerging Writers Fellowship. A member of Gallery of Readers, Valley Society, and Boston Writers of Color, she writes memoir, essays, short stories, and occasionally sticks her toe in the adult world of poetry. Her personal essays have appeared in the Write Angles Journal, WOW: Women on Writing, and Stargazing Stories. She lives in New England where she works a world language teacher. Follow her on social media: Instagram @opalgayle78 and her personal blog: Opalogoa.com.
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