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New Life Out of the Dust

I stand in front of Pa’s beat-up car, squintin’ at our house through the dust. We’s in the dust bowl, my parents say. Dust bowl? More like the dust world! Anyway, all six of us was linin’ up to take a photo before we started off on “an adventure towards a better life,” as my Pa liked to call it. I hope he was telling the truth, because by gum, we need a better life right now. I’m standing next to Pa, him in his raggedy overalls and’ his cap that he always wears. Jesse’s standing next to me an’ Ma’s tryin’ to get little baby Celie to stand up straight an’ look at the camera, while Travis just stands there all blank-like. I take another look at my Pa. He seems agitated, anxious to be gettin’ a move on, an’ all. I ain’t surprised one bit, this place has too much bad mojo, as Pa always says.

It all started when the rain didn’t come near as naturally enough as it should have. It were the middle of springtime, y’know, when the flowers an’ the weeds an’ all that come in nice an’ green after the April showers? Well this time, there weren’t no April showers or May flowers. Instead, there was pale skies an’ little drip-drops of rain. Pa was worried ‘bout that part, ‘cos of coruse, plants need water, an’ the earth was as dry as can be. Weeds choked up big parts of the field, but even they stopped growin’ eventually. I think we could all (well, except for Celie) tell that there was somethin’ goin’ mighty wrong. Grasshoppers invaded the crop, eatin’ through it. Pa managed to salvage about a third of our harvest. That weren’t fortunate. I remember seeing him flip his barrow over in frustration one day, then fall down next to it. I think he was cryin’ but I don’t know. I never did ask, ‘cos it’s bad manners, y’know. Anyway, he just sat there for about 45 minutes or so, an’ then Ma went out an’ sat next to him for a spell, an’ they talked, only we couldn’t hear nothin’, ‘cos the wind was howling. Ma helped Pa up an’ they walked back inside together.

The whole darn grasshopper summer, whenever we wasn’t being schooled by Ma, Jesse, Travis an’ me would stand by the doors an’ windows an’ peep outside at the dust. The sky was all red, an’ the sun was a scary red color too. Ma said it was ‘cos of the dust, but I figured she was wrong, an’ that the color were the work of the Devil himself. Cyclones came often, an’ we’d “batten down the hatches,” open the trapdoor in the kitchen floor, an’ hide down under the house when they did come. It was a terrible thing.

Recently, Ma an’ Pa had been talking—long, quiet talks, so that we children wouldn’t overhear—an’ they had finally made a decision. Just the other day, they gathered us ‘round an’ told us how we was gonna to move to the city, how we was gonna stay with family, how we children was finally gonna go to proper school. That’s how we ended uphere, right now, in front of Pa’s beat-up car with all our worldly possessions in back, waitin’ to take a photo, so that we can begin our new journey.

Finally, we get in the car an’ Pa turns it on, an’ pretty soon we’re off, ridin’ down the bumpy, dusty highway, to an unknown place, an’ even though I know life’s probably gonna be hard there too, I still say Amen, because we’s finally leavin’ the dust bowl.




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