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!
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)