I just found a short story I’d written for 9th grade English. I think it was our first assignment. I have no memory of writing it, which makes it seem like it was written by a different person. In a sense, I guess it was. I’ve often wondered what was truly on my mind at fourteen. The answer is: the Dust Bowl. Apparently, the Dust Bowl was on my mind. When I was fourteen, before I had ever kissed a girl, I spent time thinking about the Dust Bowl.
So, here it is:
Sometimes…I thinks about jus’ pickin’ up an’ leavin’ this here place. I thinks about leavin’ the dustbowl, an’ livin’ somewhere that dust don’t control every aspect of my life. My whole world revolves around dirt. An’ if that ain’t sad I don’ know what is.
This mornin’ I went to take a shower, but all that came out of the faucet was thin mud…that don’t bother me though, not even eatin’ dust-caked food at every meal will bother me. What gives me a bother it that my four-year-old brother, Joey, is sick, he has worms—at least tha’s what Mr. McDuffie said. Mr. McDuffie ain’t a doctor but he is pretty darn close. Mr. McDuffie says that Joey probably got worms from falling down the hole in the out-house. I say he got them from sharing a water bowl with T-Bone, our sheepdog.
I on’y goes to school two times a week. My teacher is Mrs. Lesher, she don’t know that both of my parents is past away. Mrs. Lesher believes we’s is in for a big dust storm pretty soon. She is a real smart lady, Mrs. Lesher, and she is probably right, I don’t want to believe ‘er, even though I do. All this talk about a monster dust storm reminds me of what happened just over a year ago.
I remember the weatherman said it was gonna be big, the biggest. Pa said it was gonna be bad, the baddest. How is you supposed to prepare for something like this? That’s how we was thinkin’. Board up the door an’ all the windows? Well, we did, but that didn’t help any one bit. The entire town was supposed to go to the church for the dust storm, but we didn’t make it in time, an’ then we was afraid to go to the church ‘cause we thought we might get trapped in the storm while we was travellin’ to the church. So we ended up takin’ refuge in our tiny, creakin’ wooden cottage that we called home. The storm came in like a lion, an’ left like a…lion. The storm had the unearthly screech of fifty locomotives. The whole house moaned and whined while the dust tore at its sides. We was all scared, especially Joey, who didn’t quite know what was goin’ on. Then Pa stood up an’ he started to get on his coat.
“Where are you goin’ Dylan?” Mama asked.
“I’ve got to secure the cattle,” Pa said back.
“I’m gonna come with you,” said Mama.
“No, Marie, it’s not safe.”
“I know that. Tha’s why I gotta come,” insisted Mama.
I begged both of ‘em not to go. Before I knew it, though, they were both out the door, an’ I was covered by a wave o’ dirt. We waited, Joey and me, huddled in a corner for hours an’ hours on end for my parents to return… I think Joey might still be waitin’.