Cara has graciously offered to give away a copy of the book (US ONLY). To enter, click on the Rafflecopter link at the bottom of this post. (Contest ends June 30, 2017.) If you are the randomly chosen winner, I'll contact you and pass on your information. Good luck!
The wind stopped. The house grew quiet. Lillian kicked the oil rag out of the way and eased the kitchen door open to listen, to see if it was safe.
A single drop of rain splashed down on the rickety porch, and for a brief second Lillian could remember what the wood once looked like. But too soon the drop remembered where it was, that it had no place in the Oklahoma Panhandle, and it rolled, following a parched crack in the ever-present layer of dirt. And then it disappeared into the ground.
Lillian took a step out of the house and stretched her bare toes against the hot, soft dust. The screen door no longer hung in the way, and with a diminished need for the protective layer, no one felt the urge to retrieve it. The frail door had made it through the first summer. But the second summer, when the drought refused to loosen its hold, the winds had ripped it from its hinges, stretched the frail metal spring to the breaking point, and set the door down against the fence. There it rested, with one board broken and a ripped screen, leaning on a fence post that once marked the entrance to the garden. Now the fence marked nothing. An entrance to nowhere.
When the dust settled, she could see for miles from her kitchen door. Miles that once cradled golden fields of wheat, dew-covered footpaths, acres of grasses, and the occasional neighbor walking through to visit. Lillian took another hesitant step, careful not to stir the persistent cloud of soot that coated everything. In years past, the dirt—the rich topsoil of the Oklahoma territories—had been the source of life. Now that hope, the black wealth the old settlers had risked their lives for, smothered the city. It seeped into every crevice, into every building, into their lungs and ears. Their most valuable asset, once under their feet, now smothered their tiny town.
Lillian reached up to shade her eyes from the sun, looking for the stray cloud that had mistakenly dropped its burden.
Another drop fell. And then, another.
Lillian shuffled out of the shadow of the small farmhouse and up the side to what had been their front yard. Now dominated by rippling drifts of fine dirt, there wasn’t much left of the grass that used to dampen the toes of her shoes or her flowers with their heavy velvet petals.
But a neighbor still lived across the street.
Her listless children, long since worn free of the desire to run and carry on with sticks and games, stood in the yard looking up. They’d seen it too.
The sun burned against Lillian’s blonde hair. At least, it used to be blonde. The layer of dust covered everything, including people, and where there had once been defining characteristics, now there was likeness. The Negro man on the old shanty claim just outside of town was the same color as the horde of white children across the street. The dirt made sure of that. It was, if nothing else, an equalizer.
Lillian watched the shoeless children. There were five, and no one left in town thought it strange that they traipsed down the street without shoes. Shoes filled up with the soot. Add to it the summer heat, and the ensuing paste meant the freedom of bare feet outweighed the humiliation of it. At least for the children.
Lillian looked up at the lumbering brown cloud overhead.
“Here, over here!” A young boy jumped up at the sky, waving his arms and stamping around as if performing some kind of rain dance. The others joined in, hooting and calling to the meandering cloud.
Another drop fell, and then another, and for a brief second they watched each other from across the street while the rain crashed against the dirt in impossibly huge drops and a cloud of dust rose and fell from the miniature impacts.
Rivulets of water ran down Lillian’s arms, streaking through the dust. She glanced across the street where the mother of the children stood in the middle of their undignified splashing dance. Lillian lifted up to her tiptoes and waved to the woman.
And then, her arm still in the air, the rain stopped.
The cloud moved on, almost as if it had been a mistake. Where it had blocked the sun, suddenly it didn’t, and it took only a matter of seconds for the hot rays to undo the rain’s damage. Lillian looked down at the unchanged earth and then back up to Mrs. Owen and her children, but she had already retreated into the house.
Award-winning author Cara Luecht lives in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin with her husband David and their children. In addition to freelance writing and marketing, Cara and and works as an English instructor for local college. Cara graduated summa cum laude with a. B.A. in English Literature from the University of Wisconsin and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Farleigh Dickinson University. Currently, Cara is studying for a Masters of Divinity at Fuller Theological Seminary.
Cara has four published novels: Soul Painter, Soul's Prisoner, Gathered Waters, and Devil in the Dust. Soul Painter and Soul's Prisoner will be joined by a third novel in the series, Soul's Cry, in 2017.
You can find her online at the following: