First I'd like to thank Nate over at Sometimes the Wheel Is On Fire for awarding me an Amazon gift certificate for a haiku I submitted for his contest. Nate's a writer, blogger, web designer, and all-round great guy with an awesome sense of humor and a penchant for footnotes. (Read a few of his posts to see what I mean.) Thanks so much, Nate!
Second, I need a project to kickstart my blogging over the summer. So I've decided to begin a serial set during the Dust Bowl, a period in American history which has always fascinated me. The title? Greetings From Toadsuck. I'll try and post at least one installment per week, probably on Fridays to tie in with Friday Flash. As always, feel free to critique if you wish.
Without further ado, here's the first installment.
Greetings From Toadsuck: Part 1
We were a family of miracles according to Ma, traveling through a country which prayed, no begged, for divine intervention but got a bellyfull of dust for its trouble. A miracle that the rusting 1927 Ford truck kept going in spite of throwing tires and hoses like a mule; that Momma hadn't lost her mind from trying to scratch up meals for four bellies out of nothing; that Pop hadn't got his fool head shot off for preaching hellfire to moonshiners; and that we'd sprung Bird from the Fichandler School For the Feebleminded without a hitch.
It isn't his real name, Bird. Pop had sealed him to God with holy water under the name Charles Barrymore Dunner, at which time baby Charles blessed Pop with pee. I started calling him Bird when he quit talking at three and cheeped or whistled instead. He plumb forgot every word he knew, except for Mamamama, amen, and Mm Mm Good from the Campbell's soup song. Couldn't walk a straight line, although he could climb like a squirrel; wouldn't learn his letters or numbers, even though he knew when I took one of his marbles. Bird clouted me a good one for that, and Pop said served me right for we reap what we sow. I said then how come our crop died in the field, and then Pop clouted me a good one too and reminded me never to question God or my elders, exceptin' old man Jones who didn't have the sense to come in out of the rain. Bird was six then and hadn't ever seen rain and I barely remembered it myself and so that made no sense either but I hushed up.
Now a brother who'll kick you sometimes just for looking at him, messes his pants when he feels like it, draws stares and mean words from strangers, and generally sucks up all the attention like a dry riverbed might seem hard to love. But sometimes when we wrestled I could feel his heart beat against my chest, echoing my own, and when he sat twirling a piece of string and looking at nothing for hours I was sure that he was listening to God. Then there was the fact that I was sure I'd brought on whatever was wrong with him. One night right about the time that Bird stopped talking, I sneaked a toad into our room and put it in his little bed with him, thinking that it would make a better plaything than his one-eyed stuffed rabbit. Dead of midnight he woke up screaming, having some sort of fit and it was all downhill from there. Maybe that toad had a curse on it or was poisonous or something. I was scared that I'd be found out and spend my life on a chain gang. Funny thing was, that might have been easier in the long run. It was a mighty big load of guilt that I carried after that, the worst secret that ever was, and so loving my brother became equal parts sharing blood and breaking rocks.
Author's note: In keeping with the time period, I may use terms such as "feebleminded", which while unacceptable today were in general use at the time.