Flash fiction by Tisha Marie Reichle-Aguilera
We have chicken pox. Our spring breaks were the same week for the first time in never. But last Wednesday, Maribel came home from school with a few spots and a fever. Tía said flea bites, gave her a couple of aspirin, and rubbed vaporu into each one.
The next morning, there were more bumps, all over, even on her nalgas.
Tía called her sisters and said get over here. Plans for the week cancelled. No Disneyland. No beach. No Knotts.
Brothers were sent to Blythe for break so they can’t bother us.
Now here we are, five itchy, bumpy chicas covered in calamine lotion. For the first time, we don’t have to do dishes or clean the baby’s butt. We don’t want to get our pox on him.
Tías bring us avena for breakfast, caldo for lunch, and when we beg, pizza for dinner. We don’t have pox inside our stomachs. Except Delia. She isn’t hardly hungry. Just sips 7Up and ignores our jokes.
Chicken you pockets. I think your joke’s in there.
Delia groans. The rest of us laugh and roll around on the living room rug because that’s how we can scratch without Tías yelling at us to stop.
Joanna gets a marker and draws lines between Elisa’s spots while she sleeps. It smears by morning, and we’re mad we didn’t get a picture.
After three days, Tías say we stink and it’s time for baths.
Delia moans more. Her fever won’t stay gone. She gets to shower solo in the back bathroom.
The rest of us strip and share the big tub with cool water and baking soda. We are polka-dotted skin too tender for scrubbing.
When Maribel rubs the soapy washcloth down her arm, her blisters burst and she screams.
“Did it hurt?” we ask.
Maribel shakes her head. “It freaked me out.”
We think this bursting blisters will make them go away faster, but Tías stop us before we can make ourselves a mess.
Thank God we’re at Maribel’s house. She has cable TV. We can stay bundled up in our sleeping bags and watch whatever we want all day long. We are sick, so Tías can’t say no.
We try to play jacks and Old Maid but sitting up so long and moving our arms so much makes us tired.
Since Delia still feels the worst, we let her have the bed alone. The rest of us lay on the floor around her, sing songs, and tell more jokes.
How do you keep a chica with pox in suspense?
I’ll tell you later.
On the fourth day, our scabs are extra itchy. We pour the rest of the calamine on ourselves but don’t l
eave enough for Larissa. She screeches and reaches out to wipe it off the rest of us. When she grabs for Elisa, she gets slapped. “I don’t want scars.”
Larissa sits on the toilet and cries. “We didn’t save any for Delia either!”
Tías send Tío to Thrifty for more bottles.
“And ice cream!” Maribel yells.
Two scoops of rocky road and mint chip for everyone. Even Delia sits up for a while to lick hers until it melts too much and falls off the cone. We strip the soiled sheet and put it in the washer.
That night, we stay up late and watch Grease for the millionth time on HBO. We imagine our high school carnival will look just like the one Sandy and the Pink Ladies go to and sing along to “We go together” until Tías shush us to sleep.
By the end of the week, we are mostly healed. Some scabs remain. Joanna will have some scars on her neck where she picked the pox in her sleep. Larissa’s pale belly has some red dots, but they won’t show when she gets a tan. We return to school with no spring break adventures to share.
Chicana Feminist and former Rodeo Queen, Tisha Marie Reichle-Aguilera (she/her) writes so the desert landscape of her childhood can be heard as loudly as the urban chaos of her adulthood. She is obsessed with food. A former high school teacher, she earned an MFA at Antioch University Los Angeles and is an Annenberg Fellow at the University of Southern California. She was an editor at Border Senses, VIDA Review, and Ricochet Editions. She is a Macondista and works for literary equity through Women Who Submit. You can read her work at tishareichle.com.
Image by Foad Roshan