Short Story – A Smoky Lesson

Hello everyone! Today I’m back with another short story, this time an older one that I wrote last summer. Now, I need to give some background to this story before I post it…

The Circle C Adventures series by Susan K. Marlow have been one of those series that is just an integral part of my childhood. Though actually, I didn’t get into them until I was about 10, so perhaps they’re more part of my adolescence. 😀 I read the ‘Adventures‘ series first, then read the ‘Beginnings‘ (even though I was much above the target age range for them :D) In the recent years I’ve really enjoyed the ‘Milestones‘ series, buying them as soon as they’ve been published. The series chronicle the adventures of a girl named Andi Carter, who grows up on a Californian ranch in the late 1800s. They tell her story from the age of six up until she get’s married. I’d totally recommend checking them out, they’re wonderful books!

My love for historical fiction was deepened through reading these books, and my love for writing was partly sparked by them. Yes, I wrote some before I encountered them, but the fan-fiction contests that Mrs M held for her readers pushed me to start writing more. I actually won honourable mention in 2015/16 yearly writing contest. (I might post that story on here one day! ;))

So anyways, now that I’ve got all that explained, you’ll better understand where this story is coming from. It was written for a small writing contest Mrs Marlow held last summer. Though it didn’t place, I thoroughly enjoyed writing it! Perhaps because it’s based on a true life story. 😀 So without further ado, here’s the story! I hope you enjoy! 🙂

~

A Smoky Lesson

Six year old Andi breathed a deep shuddering sob that turned into a cough as she breathed in the acrid smoke. Mitch and Peter were frantically rushing around the kitchen, opening windows and trying to fan the choking smoke out. But Andi just stood there, staring at the charred and smouldering pot on the stove, sobbing.

My surprise for Mother is ruined! How could this have all gone so wrong? She took another shuddering breath, and let her mind go back over the events of the afternoon….

*

As Mother had left the house just before noon that day, she’d lined up Mitch, his best friend Peter, and Andi on the front porch.

“Mitch, I expect you to take good care of Andi. And Andi, listen to your brother. He’s in charge.”

“Yes Mother, don’t worry we’ll be fine.” Mitch had airily assured Mother.

“We’ll take care of Andi, don’t worry.” Peter had added.

“Good. Now have fun and be safe! I’ll be back in time for dinner.” Mother had smiled and then climbed into the buggy. As it headed away, she’d called back. “And don’t burn the house down!” Mitch looked at Peter and laughed.

“Come on, let’s go down to the corral where all the mustangs are!”

“Can I come?” Andi asked.

“No, they’re too wild now. Too dangerous for a little girl like you.”

“Please?” Andi begged.

“No, go in the house and play, we’ll be back in a few minutes.” The two boys had headed off, leaving Andi standing disconsolately on the porch. If Mother hadn’t cautioned her to obey Mitch, she would have ignored him and followed along.

But I’d better listen to him this time, I guess. She wandered aimlessly into the house, searching for something to do. It was the servants’ day off, and there was no one around in the house or yard. None of her toys looked inviting, compared to the lure of forbidden mustangs.

Maybe I’ll get a snack. Andi eventually thought, heading for the kitchen. A few minutes later, mouth full of cookie, she slumped on a chair. Mitch is no fair! He should have stayed with me instead of going off with Peter and leaving me all alone. As she slowly munched her cookie, Andi’s eyes lighted upon a large crate of rosy apples in the corner of the kitchen. Those must be the apples Mother asked Luisa to make into applesauce. Andi mused. Hmmmmm… A light bulb clicked on in her brain. I know! I’ll make applesauce to surprise Mother!

*

A little while later, the apples were peeled, cut, put into a large pot, and already sending up warm, sweet smells above the hot kitchen stove. Since she knew Mother’s warnings about using knives, Andi had enlisted the boys’ help for the surprise she had concocted, and amazingly they had gone along with it with nary a murmur. Andi’s mouth and hands were sticky with all the apple peelings she had eaten while picking up after the boys, who had raced to see how many apples they each could peel and cut.

“Well, what do we do now?” Peter questioned to nobody in particular. “This applesauce won’t be done for a while, and there’s no use just sitting here watching it.”

“Let’s go for a ride.” Mitch suggested.

“Oh yes! Can I come?” Andi exclaimed.

“Sure.” Said Peter generously. “Let’s go!” As the three headed out for the barn, all thoughts of applesauce were swept from their minds.

*

An hour and a bit later, the three ambled slowly back towards the ranch on their horses. The two boys were farther back, letting their mounts cool off after a heated race. Andi on Cocoa was in front, considering a particularly interesting dispute Peter and Mitch had had over who’d won the race. As they neared the house, she looked up, and to her immediate horror, saw black smoke billowing out of a window in the house!

“Mitch, Peter!” She screamed. “The house is on fire!!!”

*

Now as Andi stood surveying the charred pot that was still belching out putrid smoke, and the blackened stove underneath it, she wasn’t sure what to do or think. The boys had immediately jumped into action, opening all the windows in the kitchen, and throwing a bucket of water on the stove, where it had hissed fiercely. Andi had taken one look at her ruined surprise, and started to sob.

My wonderful surprise has turned into a horrible mess! As the smoke slowly disappeared, leaving the stench of charred apples, Mitch left the kitchen to open all the windows around the house, hoping to dispel just some of the smell that had permeated the whole house. Peter seeing Andi’s distress, kneeled down and gave her a gentle hug.

“Hey, it’s ok now.” He comforted, awkwardly trying to wipe away her tears. “There’s no fire, and everything will be jim-dandy once we clean up.” Peter assured her.

Mitch came back into the kitchen, and said “We’d better try and scrub out that pot. Mother will have a fit if she sees that mess in it.” He hauled the pot to the table and began to scrub it. Peter began to wipe off the blackened stove, and Andi slowly began to pick up stray apple peels off the floor.

“I guess… I guess we shouldn’t have left it.” She tentatively said.

“Yeah, it was my fault for suggesting to go for a ride.” Mitch answered.

“And it was my fault for agreeing!” Peter added.

“And it was my fault for…”

Andi was cut off by Mitch. “It wasn’t your fault at all! Don’t you worry over it, I’ll explain everything to Mother.” He flashed her a cheery grin.

*

As it turned out, Mother was so grateful that nothing worse had happened, that she really didn’t mind about the awful smoky smell or the scorched pot.

“Thank God that you came back when you did! It could have been so much worse!”

“Yeah, I’m sorry Mother, I should have thought.” Mitch apologized.

“I’m sorry my surprise for you was ruined Mother.” Andi said, hugging her Mother tightly.

“Oh darling, it was the thought that counted.” Andi grinned up at her Mother, and then straightened up.

“You know what?” Andi looked around at everyone. “I’ve learned a very important lesson: Don’t ever leave the house when you are cooking!” Everyone erupted into laughter.

“You got that right, Andi!” Peter chortled. “You sure got that right!”

*Dedicated to my dear, long-suffering Mother, who recently did come home to find her best pot ruined by my surprise that had literally gone up in smoke. Thanks for forgiving me again, Mum! 😀

~

As you can see from the dedication, this story was really based on a true life story. Like Andi, I decided to make applesauce for a surprise for my Mum, and also like Andi, I totally forgot about it and ruined it and the pot it was in. I wasn’t able to laugh about it as quickly as Andi did, but looking back now I can! 😀

That’s all for today! But before you go, I want to let you know about a new blog that has just been launched. I am part of a course called the Young Writer’s Workshop that was launched by Brett Harris and Jaquelle Crowe early this year. It has been an invaluable tool to help me grow in my writing, and is part of the reason why I started this blog! As a part of this course, there is a community where we can interact with all the other young writers on the course. I’ve met so many wonderful writers, it’s been amazing! And one of my fellow writers, Bethany, is launching her blog today! You can find her at Behind the Pen, where she’ll be posting behind the scenes of her writing, story snippets, writing tips, book reviews and the occasional fun/off-topic post. I know she’d love it if you could check her out! 🙂

I hope you all have a wonderful week (celebrating Thanksgiving if you’re in America, enjoying the lovely, rainy weather if you’re in England, and just plain enjoying life if you’re somewhere else :D) and I’ll see you back here next Saturday!

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Poem – Broken

Hello everyone! It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve posted a poem, so I’m going to share another one today. 🙂 It’s another ‘pinterest-inspired’ piece, and it’s fully based on my imagination. It is not based off of any person I know or any experience I’ve had. Just pure writerly imagination.. 😀

This is the quote that sparked my imagination:

who were you?

 

And this is what I came up with:

Broken

 

Who were you

before they broke your heart?

What were you like

before they crushed your dreams?

I wonder

if I could’ve known you,

and come to love you

For who you once were?

I would’ve liked to see you dream,

to see your face light up with laughter,

and your eyes spark with happiness.

But

I will never know now

because

you and your broken heart

have broken mine.

You are a doubter

because you once were a dreamer

who had your dreams crushed.

You are a breaker of hearts

because you had your heart broken.

I will never know

who you once were,

you, the broken-hearted.

I will never share

in your dreams of life,

you, the doubter.

We will never know

each other

because of the wall.

The wall of brokenness

that separates us.

Oh you beautiful,

broken

doubter.

I will never know

who you were

before your heart was broken.

~

That’s it for today, thanks so much for reading! See you back here next week! 🙂

Top 5 Books – October 2015

Hi there! It’s time for another favourite books of the month post. I seem to do a lot of these, but that’s because time keeps marching on, and I keep reading lots of good books. 😀 I read a lot of good books in October, and I actually have 5 to review today! So without further ado, let’s get on to the reviews!

~

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Betsy and the Emperor – Staton Rabin 

A monster has descended upon Betsy Balcombe’s small island home. Her family are being forced to put him up in their house until his quarters are finished being constructed. So she’s got the terror of her childhood stories, the boogie man of her dreams, living in her house. Not only that, he is the terror of all Europe, the nightmare of all who get in his way. And what is this monster’s name? Napoleon Bonaparte.

But as the weeks wear on, this monster-man does not really live up to his reputation. Instead of the frightening killing machine that Betsy expected, she finds a short, eccentric man that misses his family. As she gets to know him, she finds that she has met her match in wit, daring, and spirit. And this discovery does not just have the potential to change her life and Napoleon’s life, but indeed, to change all of history.

‘Betsy and the Emperor’ painted a vivid picture of the last years of Napoleon’s life, as well as the lives of other characters that surrounded him. It was so fascinating to learn about another side of Napoleon than the one you normally hear in the history books – to learn about the man who loved children, who loved matching wits with opponents, and who loved certain people very deeply. The story was engaging, partly because of the fact that it was recounting a little known side to Napoleon’s character, and partly because of the new, vibrant characters it introduced. Betsy was a relatable and fascinating character, and I loved watching how she changed during the course of the book. Overall, this book was very informative, as well as engaging and funny! I learnt a lot through reading it, and feel that I have a much more rounded picture of Napoleon than I had beforehand. I’m giving this book 8* out of 10 (no higher because some of the things the characters did I did not agree with morally, and there were some adult topics covered in a slightly raunchy way) and recommending it for ages 12+.

~

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The Island at the End of Everything – Kiran Millwood Hargrave 

Amihan’s worst nightmare has come true. She has been torn away from her nanay, and taken to an orphanage. Why? Because her nanay is Touched. And Amihan is not. She is now separated from everything she’s ever known, surrounded by strange children, and kept captive by fear and the cruel Mr Zamora. It is only by the strength of love and new friendships that she is able to protect the flame of hope that burns inside her. She must get back to her nanay before it is too late and she will do everything in her power to do so. The island at the end of everything is waiting for her.

The Island at the End of Everything is a really beautiful book. The themes of love and hope and of the strength of family and friends are very prevalent in this story. The writing was whimsical and imaginative, it fit the story perfectly (if that makes any sense :D). The story itself was very unique and captivating. I’ve never really come across anything like it, and that was a really positive quality about it! (I love unique-ness in books) I really, really enjoyed reading this book – it was beautiful both in the story and in the way it was written, and I loved seeing how it unfolded. I’m giving it a solid 8* out of 10, and recommending it for ages 12+.

~

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Where Dandelions Grow – Lydia Howe 

Destiny longs to mend the broken relationships within her family. But she needs to find out where her family went first. Her first step towards forgiveness and reconciliation with them is also step of hope when she moves back to the town where she grew up. Through some surprising friendships and a job at a whimsical coffee shop (btw, if I were to find this place actually existed I would go there in a heartbeat because it sounds AMAZING. Seriously, a bookshop combined coffee shop where you can write = pure happiness in my books :D), Destiny will soon find out that life is never quite how you imagined it, but that forgiveness and hope have surprising power.

‘Where Dandelions Grow’ was such a charming book. I bought it because I’ve had previous interaction with the author, Lydia Howe. I’ve followed her blog for years (and loved it! It’s such a great resource for writers and readers alike), and recently had the privilege of beta reading one of her books. I really like her writing, and this book was no exception! The setting, the characters, and the story all melded together into one really sweet book. I loved the character of Destiny – I related to her love for writing so much! The town of Swallow Ridge is described so wonderfully (I wouldn’t mind living there one day! :D), and, like I said before, this coffeebookshop called Noveltea sounds SO cool! ❤ 😀 I loved seeing how Destiny grew throughout the course of the story, and the themes of family and forgiveness were really beautiful and encouraging. I’m giving this book a solid 9* out of 10, and recommending it for ages 13+

~

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Johnny Tremain – Esther Forbes

Johnny Tremain has it all – the apprenticeship he’s been dreaming of, a position of authority among his peers, and a comfortable house to live in. He’s got his life stretched before him, full of possibilities and dreams. But then disaster strikes, and with the cracking of a crucible, everything shatters around him. Unable to continue his apprenticeship, pitied and bullied in turn by his peers, his position replaced in his house, life seems very dark. Alone, unemployed and crippled, Johnny is alone in the wide world, and the world isn’t a very comforting place to be at that moment. Boston in the early 1770s is a hotbed of political unrest, foreign soldiers, and whispers of rebellion. Not exactly the place you’d want to be with nowhere to go, and no one to turn to. But some surprising turning of events will soon give Jonny a role in Boston that he never could’ve dreamed of. His life will never be the same after he is swept away in the turning tide of the Revolution….

‘Johnny Tremain’ is an absolutely beautiful, fascinating book. Esther Forbes brings the world of Johnny to life in incredible detail. You can tell that there has been an immense amount of research and time put into making it as historically accurate as possible. And the story itself is stunning. It’s a coming of age story about a boy who has to find who he really is when his identity is stripped away in a tragic accident. It’s an adventure story about a boy who gets caught up in the very heart of the American Revolution. It’s a friendship story showing how relationships can spring out of unlikely places and grow into a bond that ties many hearts together despite differences, distance and death. It’s a historical story, detailing the exciting events that led up to the explosion of shots in Lexington that were heard around the world. It’s a story about perseverance, about healing, about hope, and about freedom. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even though it was my second time reading it. I’m giving it a very solid 9* out of 10 for the historical accuracy and beautifully touching storyline. I’m recommending it for ages 12+.

~

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Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus – Nabeel Qureshi 

A devout Muslim sets out to prove Christianity wrong, and has his life transformed by the person he least expected – Jesus.

I picked this book up because I had been studying Islam in school and was interested in learning more detail. I literally read it in less than 24 hours, and goodness gracious, this book is amazing! Seriously, it’s one of the most informative, helpful and fascinating books I’ve read in a very long time. It chronicles the true story of the author on his journey from being a dedicated Muslim to a convinced Christian. Mr Qureshi writes in a very clear, readable manner, but he also manages to convey a very large amount of information within the 300 odd pages of the book. He provides a vivid picture of what it was like growing up in a devout Muslim family, as well as a window into the Islamic culture and beliefs. He gave a clear introduction to the basics of Islam, as well as answering many different questions of why Muslims do the things they do.

Not only that, but he tells the story of how he became a Christian in very intricate detail. His story begins with intense questioning of Christianity, leads to many doubts of Islam, and ends with finding truth in the person of Jesus Christ. He shared the arguments his Christian friend gave for Christianity and how he responded to them as a Muslim, and he gave the reasons why he began to doubt Islam, and the reasons why Christianity began to attract him. His testimony of how he eventually became a Christian is absolutely fascinating (hint: it involves some really amazing dreams!). I came away from this book really encouraged for two reasons:

  1. – This book really bolstered my own faith as I read how Christianity can stand up against intense questioning and is able to convince even the most antagonistic to it. God is at work, and it was so wonderful to read the testimony of how he transformed Mr Qureshi’s life!
  2.  I found that I had a much more rounded picture of Islam and had learnt ways to relate to Muslims more. In this day and age it’s very easy to vilify Muslims without learning the facts about them and what they believe, and I found it really helpful to learn about Islam from someone who had been there himself.

I would really recommend that everyone read this book. For people that know Muslims personally, for people who want to learn more about how Islam relates to Christianity, for people that are searching for the truth themselves, this book is a powerful and educative tool. I’m giving it a very solid 10 out of 10*, and recommending it for anyone and everyone above the ages of about 14. If you go out and buy any book after reading my reviews, this is the one for you to buy!

~

There we are – my top 5 books I read in October! Let’s chat! Have you read any of these books? What were some of your favourite books you read last month?

 

Short Story – Praying for Rain

Welcome back! Today I’m sharing part 2 of the story I began to share last week.

And I also promised a reveal of the title because I couldn’t think of one last week . So, without further ado, let me introduce ‘Praying for Rain’ (part 2)! The title is short and simple, and, I think, suitably captures what this is story about. I hope you enjoy the conclusion! 🙂

~

Another week passes, then another. The horizon remains empty, and the house grows quieter. Everything takes on a dreamlike quality, as if we are moving through a sea of molasses. It takes ten times as long to do my chores. It’s just too hot.

The sky stretches above the fields, tight and blue.

The sun mocks us.

Dust covers everything.

I walk with Papa to the fields. Everything is the same. The plants droop, the ground beneath is cracked.

The corn is dying.

Papa caresses a leaf as he always does, tender in his devotion to his crops. But this time, the leaf doesn’t whisper in his palm. It gives a small broken crackle, and falls apart. Papa stares at the leaf in his hand. I watch, heart aching. Then slowly, he balls his fist around the leave, squeezing until his knuckles turn white. When he opens his hand, dust falls like rain to the dry ground at his feet.

He turns and walks away.

I am left alone, surrounded by acres of corn that has given up hope. My heart aches fiercely behind my faded calico apron. It beats until I feel as if it will choke me. My throat tightens, and tears well over.

“Why?” I whisper. I turn in an aimless circle, trying to comprehend the loss of hope as the cornfields blur in a haze of hot tears.

“Why?” I say it louder, as the tears fall faster.

“God, don’t you hear me?” I shake my fist at the unrelenting sky.

“We need rain. Can’t you see? Just look!” I gesture angrily at the fields around me.

“We need rain.” I cry harder, tears rolling down my cheeks. They create shining tracks on the film of dust that covers me.

“God! If you are there, if you can hear me, then answer me!” I scream up at the sky.

“Send us rain!”

Then I collapse in a dusty heap on the parched earth, my tears soaking into the ground as soon as they roll off my face.

~

Tomorrow arrives, then tomorrow, and another tomorrow. I am numb with despair.

Every morning I stay in bed until I am forced to get up by Mama’s call. I don’t look at the sky. I know what it holds, or rather, what it doesn’t hold.

Every night, I crawl into bed. I don’t pray. Instead I let the tears roll silently down into my ears until I fall into a restless sleep.

I dream of an angry God, holding back rain as a punishment on poor farmers.

I dream of the sky taunting us with the hope of thunder and lightning, but holding back the promise of rain.

And then worst of all, I dream of rain. Sweet, cool refreshing rain that soaks into the ground and brings life and hope once again.

But then I wake up and realize it was just a dream and that I am living in a nightmare.

Hope died with the dust that fell from Papa’s hand that morning.

The rain will never come.

~

I lie in bed, after living through a day that was the same as yesterday. I wonder briefly if tomorrow might break the pattern of dusty monotony, then decide that no, it will not. Tomorrow will be the same as today – hopeless and rainless.

I can hear the low murmur of Papa and Mama talking in the other room. They thought I hadn’t heard them talking earlier, but I had. They were murmuring about giving up the farm, of going to the East to live with Mama’s sister. Whispers that signalled the final end of everything we’d ever hoped, dreamed and lived for.

Tears come much easier now than they used to, and so I lie there, stifling in the darkness, stifling my sobs. Sleep eventually comes, long after their murmurs have stopped and the harvest moon has risen. I am restless, drifting in and out of nightmares that are too close to reality.

Then a noise cuts through my shadowy dreams, jerking me awake. I lie there, panting softly in the heat, straining my eyes in the darkness.

The noise comes again, a strange intermittent tapping that seems to be coming from the roof above me. The tapping grows in intensity and loudness, as if someone is throwing stones randomly from the sky. I cast about in my sleep-fogged brain, trying to identify the noise. It seems vaguely familiar, as if I had dreamt about it long ago.

Then the truth hits me with the force of a train. I leap out of bed, tripping over my discarded clothes in the darkness, crashing into the door. I tear it open, heedless of my elbows or the clothes or the hinges.

“Papa, Mama!” I scream.

Dashing through the kitchen, I pull open the front door.

It is as if heaven stands before me.

The smell of life comes flooding into the house, dispelling the smell of the dust that has filled our nostrils for so long. I look out through tear filled eyes at the rain that thuds onto the ground.

Somehow I find myself in the front yard, screaming for joy. My face is turned up to the sky that drops its long awaited gift upon the earth. I run and jump and skip, my heart singing for joy.

I turn and see Papa dancing with Mama in the puddles of water that have quickly accumulated on the ground. I can’t tell if they’re crying or laughing – I don’t know myself whether I’m crying or laughing. Rain pelts my head and runs heavy down my face, washing away the dust of despair.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” I cry over and over again, laughter bubbling up between sobs.

I run to Papa and Mama. I can see the joy dripping from their drenched clothes, feel it radiating from their gleaming smiles. Papa’s eyes flash with light, Mama stands straight and strong.

We join hands and dance together, as the rain pours from the sky.

 

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Short Story – …?

Hello everyone! Today I have the first part of a short story for you all to read. It was born on Monday after a brain wave and 2 hours of writing. 😀 And, just to up the tension a bit, I will be revealing its title with the second part next week. (That’s definitely not because I haven’t thought up of a good title yet, or anything. :P) I hope you all will enjoy it!

crops died

Every morning, I stare out over the horizon, longing to see the clouds that mean rain is coming. Every morning the horizon remains empty, curving downwards like a celestial frown of disapproval at my hope.

Every evening, I kneel on the worn floorboards and pray for rain. Every evening I lie on my sagging bed in the stifling heat, wishing for the coolness of a storm. Every evening I drift off to sleep, dreaming of the elusive pattern of raindrops on the roof above me.

But every morning, I wake up. And it hasn’t rained.

~

Papa stares out at the horizon with me, every morning. Then he strides off to inspect the fields. Sometimes I tag along with him. The ground is hard and hot under my feet. Dust puffs up and coats my legs, my dress, and my mouth.

Our fields stretch out almost as far as we can see, up to the horizon. We walk among the rows of corn, planted with such hope and anticipation last spring. The plants droop, tired of the sun, tired of trying to grow. The corn is shrivelling on the cobs, the small kernels withering even smaller, unable to draw sustenance from the barren land. Papa caresses the limp leaves with his work worn hands as he passes through the field. I look up at his face, trying to read what he is thinking. But his thoughts are locked behind the sunburn, and his eyes are hard and sad. Just like the ground we walk over – they let nothing out and nothing in. He doesn’t smile much anymore.

Mama seems to shrivel a little more every day, just like the corn in the fields. The heat gets to her. It wearies her, she says. It wearies me too. It saps all of our energy, taking with it our hopes of a good harvest and another solid payment on the mortgage. Everything is showing signs of weariness. The limp, dust-stained dresses I wear. The shrinking portions of food that Mama serves up in the dusty kitchen. Everything is full of dust and is heavy with the burden of despair.

The days become a monotonous cycle. The same old chores, the same old food, the same old dust, the same old heat. And still, no rain.

I pray more now, hoping that perhaps God might answer if I keep up the petitions long and hard enough. Like that story of the persistent widow that Pastor Brown preached on last Sunday… I murmur prayers while I sweep the dust out of the house, while I feed the chickens, while I walk with Papa among the fields. “Please, send us rain.”

The prayer for rain rings in everyone’s hearts. When we go to town for Sunday church, we sit on the benches in the schoolhouse-turned-church and sing hymns, all the while praying for rain. We listen to Pastor preach about persistent widows, and Joseph’s coat of many colours, and how the Prophet Elijah held back rain as God’s punishment for Israel’s disobedience.

I wonder if perhaps God is punishing us for disobeying him. But it isn’t just us. It’s the whole town, the whole state, and maybe even the whole country. Words like ‘depression’ and ‘dust bowl’ and ‘heading North with the harvest’ are whispered between people as they file out of church after the sermon. No one stays long to talk. It’s too hot to be standing around in the glaring sun-filled schoolyard.

I walk home between Mama and Papa. We’re silent.

~

Summer slips by fast. The days all seem to melt into one hot nightmare. The corn shrivels even faster than Mama does. Papa grows quieter. And I pray even more.

One morning something cruel happens. Papa and I are standing together, looking at the horizon like we always do. It is hazy, but empty. We turn to go in, but I look back just once.

My heart stops.

There is a cloud.

I tug on Papa’s sleeve, calling for him to look. The cloud seems to grow bigger, and another one joins is. I look up at Papa, and for the first time all summer, I see a gleam in his eyes.

We watch all morning, sitting on the porch steps in the dust. The clouds grow bigger, blotting the horizon. The wind picks up, brushing my face with its cool fingers. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt the wind. The dust rises from the ground, choking us as it dances in the air.

But still we stay. Watching. Waiting. Hoping. “Please, send rain.” I whisper. The clouds grow bigger, and my heart leaps within my chest. Even Mama is watching, leaning out of the kitchen window.

But as we watch, the clouds turn away. Like a child moves his toys in play, they seem to be moved by an unseen hand up in the sky. They turn west, and then grow smaller. The wind dies down. The dust settles.

And then the clouds slip over the horizon.

My heart sinks like a stone, dragging my hope down with it. Mama shuts the window. I can hear dishes clattering like the tolling of funeral bells. I look at Papa. His eyes are blank once again.

~

Part 2 coming next week! 🙂

(Read Part 2 here)