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The dust has made its home with us for seven years. I know this because for every year that the dust has blown, crushed, and swept through our Valley I’ve given birth. Times have been more than ruthless to my family. James, my husband, has yet to grow enough crops to satisfy the hunger of the banks. My children have not had new clothes in four years and my youngest, Keladry, has now developed a dry cough. Luke, my brother, and his family left the Valley to seek out a job and money. He sent a letter recently stating that he’s made his way to California and found a job picking and selling fruit; he also said the papers lie and even though there’s no dust, California is like a sack of overflowing potatoes squashing the runts at the bottom. My home is barely a shelter.
The rough shingles have started to peel away and the four rooms we have are coated with at least a layer of dust. All the windows are sealed with cloths and sticky paste to keep out the hard-biting particles; and my flower garden is withered and wilted becoming one with the dust. My daughter Patricine once asked, “Mama, where are the colors? Da told me a story of a beautiful rainbow that crossed the sky and a great flood that filled the land with water. Why is everything dark and dry like rock?” I told her that God saw that the earth was once again crowded with wicked people; God was sorry that he made man and punished his once beloved children with the dust that blows out of Hell.
“But why us? Why our family? You and da aren’t wicked. Anders, Inness, Demodina, Adalia, Oranie, and Keladry aren’t bad.” I looked at my six-year-old daughter and saw hope in her eyes. “Patricine, you and your brother and sisters are certainly not wicked. And God knows it. One day he will huff and puff and blow all the dust away and across the great ocean onto another wicked land that needs justice. All we can do until then is pray.” My little daughter, barely knowing what’s right from wrong, kneeled down and spoke with the fiercest whisper that a six-year-old could muster, “Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name…”