Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Outbreak (04/07/11)
TITLE: Searching for Rain
By Joanna Stricker
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Dreams were a thing of the past—even for children. Papa would rise early searching the skies for a sign, any sign, of rain. The screen door opening and bumping behind my broom-wielding Mama usually woke the baby. Grandma would get the baby. I would lay there listening to Mama’s broom swishing, not rising until I heard the dirt pile being pushed off the porch.
On that day in ’38, I caught myself looking toward the rocking chair as I entered the kitchen. Grandpa had been gone for six months, but I missed him. Every time I looked at that chair expecting him, the hard knot in my chest twisted.
Grandma would look up from feeding the baby and greet me. Her face stays unchanged in my memory—lined with wrinkles, a slight smile, and strong, peace-filled eyes.
Mama’s eyes were usually worried, less so after she got religion, but still worried. Not like she used to—back when we lost our farm to the locusts. That was a bad year. Little Annie died—she’d reached her first birthday, barely.
The next year we moved to my grandparent’s farm, and the baby came. Things were better. Grandpa took me fishing, and Grandma planted a dogwood by the front porch in Annie’s memory. Watering had been my chore. It survived the winter of ’37, but now was a shriveled up twig—prey to the same hot dry winds that tormented our family’s days and nights.
When Mama’s eyes got overly-worried, she’d leave and come back looking more like Grandma, peaceful-like. I’d know she’d been talkin’ to Jesus a bit. Papa used to give her a hard-time, saying religion was for the weak, but then he went to a revival meeting.
He told me that he’d planned to teach that preacher a “hardship-lesson”. The meeting had begun so he waited at the back. Then—he got choked-up telling this part—he felt someone watching him. He looked around. No one was lookin’. He suddenly knew there weren’t anyone watchin’ him…except God. He figured that if God were interested enough to watch him, he’d better show some interest in return. Him and God had a talk. He came home changed.
I was skeptical of his God-talk, but couldn’t deny that I’d seen a difference. Figured God wasn’t much interested in me. Who’d He been watchin’ while I lost my home, sister, and Grandpa?
After lunch, I walked the farm beside Pa. He talked. Wouldn’t be long, the fishin’ crick was dried up.
Back home, Ma had grim news. The well was pert-near dry.
Supper was meager and silent, but for the baby’s coos.
At midnight, I gave up on sleep and headed for the porch. The family was already there.
The baby dozed on Grandma’s lap. Mama’s lips moved as she stitched. Pa sat on the bottom step—his head down, propped by one hand, elbow on knee.
Past-observing said they were praying. I leaned on the rail. All was still, even crickets. Dry, smothering heat—large, white moon.
I felt something needed to be said. If He had anything He wanted to say, it was time. Those moments were the one concession I would give—my heart was too hard.
I stared at that big ole moon and asked Him to do something. I didn’t know what—just do something.
I was unprepared for what happened next. The hard spot of loss in the middle of my chest began to move—like something was nudging it into motion. Don’t know how to describe it exactly. My feet moved into the dusty yard. My family stared in stunned surprise as I began to dance.
Slap, slap. My feet landed in the dirt, stirring it up. With each step, the pain-knot eased—until it let go and then I felt it—what Pa tried to tell me about. God was there. He heard. He knew.
Slap, slap, slap, my feet moved. My body moved. I raised my hands and tear-stained face skyward. Vaguely, I was aware of my family exclaiming, moving toward me, but all my attention was on Him, I felt His love.
We’ll never forget that day in ’38. The day God gave rain to our farm and our souls. To this day when it rains, I feel His love and remember what it felt like—to dance in the rain.
Plop, slosh, plop, sloosh.
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