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"Side A: Violent Femmes" by Sabrina Hicks

We sat in our rooms with the new Violent Femmes cassette tape, rewinding the part where Gordon Gano sings about why he can’t get just one screw and we act like our middle school selves are facing the same struggle. We stop, rewind, lay back into the shag carpet that holds the cigarette smoke of a generation before us, inhaling the second-hand rage and tar as it finds its way deep into our lungs, lifting our voices. We grab an old doll, sing into the top of her blond, matted hair, shouting the lyrics of appetites we have yet to discover, leaning into the ache and sickness of Gano’s voice, the permission of becoming.

At camp, we have a counselor who won’t stop listening to “Blister in the Sun.” She plays it on her guitar until it feels like a song she wrote. We sneak a listen when she’s out of range but she catches us one day at the beach, lured by the whisper and rise of the drums and the confession of staining sheets. You little shits have no idea of what that means, she says, trying to assert her ownership. She is four years older, an eternity for us girls in cabins still named after woodland animals, stealing clove cigarettes from the confiscation box; girls who braid each other’s hair, practice open mouth kissing on our hands, stringing summers together like the friendship bracelets we’d make on cots with springs grinding into our hips, our flat chests. At night we make our way to the ocean where the moon unravels and waves ripple at our feet and we talk about boys and bases, our parents’ divorce, our messed-up siblings, the injustice of not being seen. The air is salted and we feel we’re on the precipice of something bigger than our bodies can handle, trying to decode the world in the quiet safety of darkness. Together we form a picture, vowing to remember each moment, each other, even as the tide recedes and the light silences us into morning.

At the eighth grade dance we sweat in groups telling each other to kiss off into the sun before counting—take one, one, one; take two, two, two—taking note of the ways we think we’ve been wronged until it’s everything, everything, everything, and we feel it rise in our chest, this noose of adulthood coming for us, and we fall down on each other until the teachers pull us apart and tell us to behave and stop listening to music telling us there are no tomorrows not understanding we’d just had our first shelter in place drill, caught scenes of The Day After, watched the Space Shuttle Challenger blow up on live TV, and spent our mornings staring at the ghost children on milk cartons as we ate our Homecombs. They’re coming for our music, we suspect, and we bury our suitcase of cassettes deep in our closets. When the coast is clear, we wrap headphones around our ears, memorizing the lyrics, trying to understand everything, everything before Side B.

Sabrina Hicks lives in Arizona with her family. Her work has appeared in both Best Small Fictions and Best Micro Fiction anthologies, Wigleaf’s Top 50, as well as numerous journals, both online and in print. More of her stories can be found at   


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