Another shortstory set during the Dust Bowl migrations. (incomplete)
| They finally came to a gas station twenty-seven miles from their—hopefully—final destination, 1900 some-odd miles from their old life, and about ten miles from their car. Their car had given up the drive through the mountains about two days too early. After trying to fix the damned contraption so many times Curt decided to leave it. It had been a waste of his family’s money to get such a cheap car. The odometer was broken, but had stopped at 87,893 ¾ miles; the main fan belt in the engine had been a number of different things, including a shoelace, a torn piece of fabric from his wife’s dress, and, regrettably, a few strings from Curt’s guitar (which lasted about three miles); it burned oil like a fire eats dry newspaper; and a number of other more expensive problems that aren’t worth mentioning without getting red with frustration. The only reason he decided to buy it over the others he was shown is that it was one of the cheapest—twenty bucks with a full tank of gas. And the dealer claimed it was in excellent condition for its age.
“Ex’lent condition my ass!” Curt had yelled as he kicked the front fender. “I can’t believe I fell fer that crap. Now lookit’ where we are!” Smoke poured out of the engine and mixed with the dust in the air. “We’re in the middle a nowhere, and from the looks a things”—he watched the strangely hued smoke rising with the heat—“we’re gonna be here for a while.” His gaze shifted to his young son Carl beside him and then down the dusty concrete road.
A skinny woman with frizzy black hair stepped out of the broken car and looked down from their wreck in the mountains across a desert valley. She carried a toddler in her arms. “How bad is it this time?” she asked as she faced her husband. Her voice was like torn silk.
“She’s dead,” answered Curt. “There ain’t nothing we can do anymore. We don’ have the money to do a damn thing anyways.” His eyes followed the road still to go, down the mountain and through the valley where they came to a stop on a small town.
“What’re we gonna do?” she asked. A hint of fear was heard underneath her calm voice.
“I guess…we oughta start walkin’.”
Carl looked up from the smoking engine. “Walk?” he incredulously asked.
Anne looked out across the valley again, and then down at the two-year-old in her arms. “I dunno, Curt. Cameron’s already sick from the heat and the girls are tired out. We all are.”
“Well what else are we gonna do! Sit here?” he snapped. Then his volume lowered while he held his tone, “We gotta get movin’.” He went to the back of the car and opened the trunk; he started taking their belongings out. Carl followed him to help.
His oldest daughter heard the commotion and got out of the car to investigate. “Pa, are we really gonna—” She jumped back in when her father yelled,
“Mae, git back in the—! Oh, wait,” he suddenly remembered his intent. Mae peered out the window at him with a hurt and confused look. “Never mind. Yeah, we are,” and he continued his work. The pile of their 'luggage' grew. “We’re gonna hafta leave most a the stuff here. Just take whatcha need: a few clothes, the food and water. Necessidies. We can do without.” The girls started to climb out of the back seat. “Hell, we’ve done ‘thout a good car!” and he kicked the rear fender, harder than he had the front; Mae tripped with the force of the blow, out of the car and onto the dusty concrete. A plume of dust engulfed her as she hit the road. Her little sister Joanna got out behind her and checked to see if she was okay; she helped Mae to her feet. Curt remained oblivious. “We can do ‘thout anything.”
The two girls went to stand with their mother. They watched their father climb on top of the car to untie the wheelbarrow from the roof. They got it a few days earlier when they had to bring some parts for the car back from a junkyard. They were supposed to bring it back once they got the car moving again, but they decided to keep it—steal it. Carl helped him take it down and they began to pile their stuff in it. “Mama,” asked the younger girl, “what’s gonna happen? Where’re we gonna go?”
“Well,” she thought, “I guess to that there town,” and she pointed down the mountain to where her husband had looked before. “From there, I dunno.” The girl looked down at her feet. They were wrapped in rags to protect against the hot desert road. Anne watched her daughter and then said to Curt, “We’re gonna need our shoes if we’re gonna be walkin’ fer so long. Be sure to leave ‘em out for us.”
“Yeah, okay. Girls, come git some clothes. Jus’ a pair ‘r two—we gotta travel light.”
"Be sure ta get yer Sunday dresses. We wanta look nice fer the California folks.”
The girls went to the old wooden chest in the trunk and searched for their last set of clothing. Anne looked down at Cameron. He had a rag on his head to keep his delicate skin out of the beating sun. He wore clothing that was long enough to serve the same purpose while being thin enough to keep him from overheating. He slept uneasily and was constantly shifting in her arms. Worry caught Anne’s throat and her breaths quickened. “God help us,” she said quietly, gently laying her head on the baby’s. Her calm composure began to fade…
[to be continued…]