Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Beautiful (11/07/05)
TITLE: The Dust Storm
By Kate Wells
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Annie McKendrick stood at the kitchen window absentmindedly wiping her hands on her apron. She gazed through the one pane that Jim-bob had wiped for her. She had long since given up trying to keep the whole window clean. Now her one pane was beginning to gather dirt again.
"Want me to wipe it down for you, Ma?" Jim-bob asked.
"That would be right nice, Jimmy", she replied.
Annie looked at her fifteen year old son as if seeing him for the first time and realized that he was almost a man. Tall for his age, wheat colored hair past his eyebrows, straight nose...looked just like his daddy.
"I'll get you some eggs soon as Virginia gets back from the hen house".
Just then the back door opened and slammed against the wall with a thud, allowing gritty dirt to blow across Annie's kitchen floor.
"Ginny, close that door!" hollered Jim-bob as he strode towards her and quickly closed the door against the intruding dust.
"I'm tryin' to", replied his indignant nine year old sister as she spit and sputtered to get the grit out of her mouth.
"Virginia, don't spit", Annie corrected.
"I can't help it, mama, the dirt gets in my mouth everytime I breath!"
"I know, honey," Annie said as she brushed back the stray hair from her daughters braids, "but it's not ladylike to spit. Now go get the broom and help mama sweep up, ok?"
Annie took the eggs to the sink and looked out once more...at the blackened sky and at the tractored rows of dirt beyond the barn. She thought about her husband, Tom and wondered when he was coming home.
When they lost their crop to the drought, Tom knew he would have to find work out west. There was surely nothing to be had in Beautiful. He sent her letters home and wired what little money he could earn. But the letters had stopped coming weeks ago and she had heard stories of men being attacked and beaten just for entering a town in hopes finding a job. Jobs were scarce and men looked at outsiders as bandits trying to steal their livelihood.
"Ma, have you looked out front? Looks like we got a dirt blizzard comin' in from the North."
Annie walked with her son to the front of the house and opened the door. The bare boards of the front porch creaked under their weight. They looked at the sky with it's boiling black clouds of dirt and then at each other.
"Ma, that's close. Looks about twenty miles north of town. I think I better go tie things down and get Daisy in the barn. That new calf of hers'll be blinded for sure in this."
Annie shielded her eyes against the stinging grit with a cupped hand and agreed with her son.
They each began preparing for the storm. Even little Virginia gathered wet towels to place around the windows and the bottoms of the doors.
And then it came. Day turned to night at ten o'clock in the morning and the three of them sat in the light of the kerosene lamp while Annie held the family Bible in her lap and read various passages for comfort.
The wind was ferocious and the dirt could be heard pinging against the windows. Daisy was wailing out in the barn, and Annie began to wonder if the old house would hold against the wind.
Virginia leaned against her mother's arm and clung to it for security. But her clinging prevented Annie from being able to turn the pages of the Bible. So Jim-bob got up from Tom's chair, approached his mother, and held out his hands as if to receive something. She understood. And placed in his waiting hands, the family Bible.
As Jim-bob sat in his father's chair and began to read from the Psalms, the front door burst open.
Tom stood there filling the doorway and slapping the dust off his coat with his wide brimmed Stetson.
Virginia squealed with delight at her daddy's return. Jim-bob sighed with relief at not having to be that strong yet. And Annie stood back, waiting for her husband to take her in his arms.
The misery of the dust storm was still upon them. But Beautiful, Oklahoma was once again truly beautiful with their little family safely together again.
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