Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: PHONE (11/10/16)
TITLE: In This Dust
By Hannah Gaudette
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“Happy birthday.” Darrell's smile greets me with the warmth of his words as my eyes open.
My brain catches up while I roll into his arms with a smaller smile. “Thank you.” I feel so weary. What did I do yesterday for this night's rest to fail me so?
Oh. I fought side-by-side with Darrell in the battle to save our barn from the flames that sought to destroy our livelihood. My muscles ache as though they still labor to haul half-full barrels from the decrepit well. My eyes still burn from the smoke that pained them yesterday. Behind closed eyelids, I still see flames – they burn a hole in my heart.
How can Darrell smile when we've lost so much?
His arms squeeze my body once before he slides away. The bed shifts as his weight is removed from it. A pang stabs my chest. Another day in this dust. Another day to wipe the dirt from the mantle with such care, such love, such futility.
“I'll be waiting downstairs.” Darrell's voice, as cheered as ever, hovers near the door. “Your gift is in the kitchen.”
My eyes pop open fully now.
He's already gone. My stomach sinks low. We have no money for frivolities. I insisted that this birthday be ignored. Darrell . . . He wouldn't have purchased anything on credit, would he? He knows how dangerous that is. This crop is wasted, and if we don't make something on the sheep, there's nothing to get us through the winter.
My curiosity pulls me from my slumbering state. When was the last time I had no motivation to even rise from my bed?
Dressed in yesterday's smoke- and dust-covered garb, I make my way downstairs. I hardly feel the harsh interaction of my body's dust with the grit of the clothing. I've lived with it for months.
Darrell stands in the kitchen, his smile nearly as wide as it was when we were wed. I'm taken aback.
“Close your eyes,” he orders, his voice strangely husky.
My heart plummets. “Darrell, we can't afford presents. I don't want . . .”
Now I see it, mounted upon the wall near the door.
“You were supposed to close your eyes.” Darrell gives me a one-sided grin. I'm convinced his eyes sparkle, but not with happiness alone. “Do you like it?”
It has been my dream ever since we married. Moving west, leaving Pa and Mama back east, I yearn for that connection. That link. Even now, I sometimes miss them so much it hurts. I ache to talk to Mama . . .
Darrell's hands grasp my shoulders, breaking me from my trance of wonder. “I know it isn't easy out here. I took some of next year's seed money to hook this up.” His calloused finger traces a warm line down my cheekbone. “Lilian, you sacrificed so much to follow me here. Thank you.”
My words fail me. Traitorous tears blur my vision, but not simply due to the telephone. I took some of next year's seed money . . . That means he thinks we won't need it. That this drought will carry on.
“Darrell . . .” What do I say? I'm lost in this fog. This cloud. This dust. “I love you.”
Darrell helps me put a call through to Mama in New York. We share joyous greetings, a few tears despite ourselves and updates on the family gossip.
“Lilian,” Mama says, her silky voice focused and direct, “we've been hearing terrible things about that drought.” She takes a breath and a pause. “No matter what you're going through out there, remember that the Lord sends trials to build up our perseverance. But He's going to get you through. He's good.”
My body trembles.
“Why don't you call us every day? We . . .” Her voice is breaking, but she holds it as stoically as she can. “We will support you.”
I will support you.
I am here.
I let the phone dangle a little as I gaze out to the flat, dirty farmland. The sun brings its calamity. Wind entangles dust in all in its path.
But I can see God.
“God's here, Mama.” I rest my head against the framework.
“I love you, Lilian.”
I love you, too.
He is here . . .
. . . in this dust.
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