Dust and Roses
Unlike many in Depression-era Kansas, 23-year-old, single, Sara McGurk has a comfortable life, but a trip to the doctor reveals she is with child. The results are banishment from home and a violent argument with her lover that leaves her bleeding and abandoned in front of a forbidding limestone house.
A group of social outcasts takes her in. Now, Sara must face the future and protect her child while coping with her strange fellow residents. What will happen to her baby? Can she make peace with her father and escape her shame to find love and hope again?
From the north, hundreds—maybe thousands—of birds approached. They filled the darkening sky, making no calls as they flew. The flapping of countless wings sent shivers down Sara’s spine. Geese, songbirds, bats, hawks, and a pair of eagles soared past, trying to escape the coming maelstrom.
Sara pointed ahead. “Run home. I’ll be right behind you.”
Bea shook her head, motioning back and forth. We stay together.
Sara nodded. “Come on. In three minutes, we’ll be there.”
They were nearing Carriage Road, but the black curtain covered more than half the sky, rising higher by the second. The race would be close.
An ominous calm settled around them. But not silence. There was a tremor, more felt than heard. Like a train coming. Icy fingers stroked Sara’s back. A horde of creatures approached, pounding down the center of the road.
She gasped. It’s not fair! We’re so close. We could have made it.
Deer, coyotes, fox and other wildlife fled as Sara and Bea crept along the ditch. Like the birds, they made little noise, but the fear in the air was palpable. One coyote carried a pup in its mouth. Several raccoon kits clutched the back of their mother. No creature paid them any attention. All concentrated on fleeing from the rolling black cloud.
This was no cyclone.
Sara pointed a trembling finger before grabbing Bea’s hand. “Run! It’s a dust storm!”
They took off. She gritted her teeth against the flaring pain. But the idea—drowning in dirt—made the sting almost laughable. Get to safety. The earth trembled as the granddaddy of all freight trains was coming at full speed, carrying a sky full of dirt. At the base of the black wall was a tumbling wave, like a long cyclone flipped on its side and rolling on the ground. Cold dread replaced the stitch in her side.
What if they didn’t make it?
A large deer hurtled toward Beatrice, striking her in the shoulder and knocking her into the ditch. Sara ran to the still figure. Please, Dear God. Don’t let her be hurt. She bent and assisted the dazed woman to her feet. Bea grimaced with pain as Sara helped her onto the road. Blood ran from her shoulder and down her left arm. Sara stepped back, biting her lip to keep from screaming. Bea needed help, and shelter was less than two hundred feet away.
“Lean on me. We can make it.” She hoped it was true.
A distant horn blew, its blast rising in pitch. A farm truck bore down on them, the young driver motioning frantically for them to move aside. Sara and Bea leaped for the ditch as the huge truck roared past. Behind the vehicle swirled a fantail of fine powder, a faint imitation of what was to come.
Sara climbed onto the road on hands and knees, pushed to her feet, and helped Bea up. The air thundered. Darkness drew around them like an enveloping cloak.
Bea took a step and collapsed. Sara heaved her up, wrapping her arm around her waist. “Come on! I’ll help you. The driveway is just ahead!” She yelled to be heard.
They set off with Bea leaning on Sara’s shoulder, pacing in sequence like runners joined in a three-legged race. With time all but gone, they left the road, entering the curving driveway. The wind shrieked. The steps were just around the curve. But even as they neared the porch, the storm rushed upon them.
A black wave surged around the tenant house and obliterated it from existence. Before Sara could scream, a blast of cold air gave her goose bumps, and dirt pelted her like buckshot.
The darkness swallowed them.
Sara and Beatrice were trapped in the belly of the storm.