Poppa snaps off a wheat stalk, brittle and broken. He digs the toe of his boot through the octagon clumps of topsoil looking for life below the surface, a shred of moisture, a supple root. The plant upends, clinging to the soil in a fruitless effort to stay alive.
“If it rains, we’ll be able to save this crop.”
My lips are always chapped, and the area around my eyes not covered by cloth are blistered and cracked by the relentless blast of grit. The cloth over my mouth cakes up faster than I can shake it out, but Momma says I have to wear it. More than anything I hate the crunch in my mouth. No amount of water seems to rinse it out.
Poppa squats and scoops up a handful of soil. It filters through his fingers as dead as the light in his eyes. Neither contained hope, but he says the words for me.
“If it rains, we’ll be able to pull out of this next year.”
We eat the rabbits. There’re plenty of them. Our cows all died in the last black blizzard. Poppa says they couldn’t breathe, and it breaks my heart to think of sweet old Nelly dying in the darkness, her nose filled with mud. It’s probably for the best since there’s been no grain for weeks. My legs are ripped up good from trampling down the tumbleweeds for them to eat.
“If it rains, Lord willing, the bank will let it ride.”
Poppa fills baby June’s grave. She didn’t stand a chance against the cloud of sand filling her lungs. Seems like she went from a cough to a shoebox practically overnight. They call it dust pneumonia, and it hits the young ones the hardest.
I wait for Poppa to say his line, but the drought has taken away even his tears.
Thirty years ago Angela played with the idea of a book while looking out from an abandoned fire tower in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Since that time, she has stumbled her way through life. She obtained her Geological Engineering degree, but ditched that for an electrician’s license. She’s worked a variety of jobs but never found the one that fit. All that time, the skeleton of that story never left her. Today, she has two finished novels and a published collection of flash fiction, Sanity’s Threshold, Slivers of a Twisted Mind. Finding her calling has opened her imagination and a multitude of words have poured onto the page.
Author-in-hiding, Digital Artist-in-training, Student-in-perpetuum