Dust Bowl Dystopia (Short-Story Part 2)

Hunting is relaxing for me, I have to be fully aware and watchful so there is less room for anything else to weigh down my mood or thoughts.

I am just like the feral cats that roam and stalk their small prey.

Totally focused… usually.
Today I’m hoping for a snake, I want to catch it coming in or out of its den.

So I sit in the dust and wait.
Not the most exciting hunt, but it would be great to have the protein. I pull Harry’s gift from my pocket and gently turn a page. The title is : North American Survival.

I continue to read and discover that it’s a manual for finding food, building shelters, hunting, and in general keeping safe in the wild.

There are pictures and descriptions of strange animals and more types of plants than I could ever imagine existed. It says there are poisonous plants, medicinal plants and some that are both, but I’m mostly interested in learning about the plants you can just pick and eat.

I fight a sudden urge to explore the world much farther than I have ever dared before. Quickly, I smash it down, realizing that if I was to go on an adventure, it would mean that Mom was gone.

No. I would stay in one place forever if Mom would only stay alive. I will never leave her on her own and I could never wish her gone.

I slip the book into my pack and concentrate on our next meal.
The snake finally comes back to it’s den as the sun is beginning to go down. I swiftly take off its head, clean it and stuff the three foot rattler into my pack.

I never flaunt my hunt successes, I don’t want people following me to my favorite areas or begging me for the small amounts I’m able to find for us.

———————-

I’ve spent every day for a month the same way. Fetch the water, hunt and study the book, then come home and spend time with Mom. She’s been on me lately about “fun”. I tell her that hunting is fun and she shakes her head, then drops the subject.

Today, I followed a flock of birds, that thanks to the book I can now recognize as Grackles. Stupidly, I went way too far out and spent most of the afternoon walking back. Only a handful of bugs as my reward.

I’m near Hellone again and notice a figure standing in the dusky light on the outskirts of town. They’re searching the horizon, obviously looking for someone.

It’s when I realize that they might be looking for me, that my heart clenches up with anxiety and I start jogging towards the figure.

I get close enough to see that it’s Sue. A fact that does nothing to quiet my fear.
“Sue!” I yell. “Sue, I’m here!” She sees me and begins running in my direction also. Out of breath from even a short distance, Sue manages to wheeze out, “Your Mom…”.
I drop my pack and leave her standing there with it, on the outskirts of town. Sprinting faster than I ever have, I make it home in minutes that feel like eternity. I stop for no one, but when I reach the door, I hesitate.

I don’t know what lay beyond it, how my life might be changed already and it terrifies me.

It’s the man’s voice coming from inside our home that spurs me to open the door with a long slow creak.

Mayor Goset is in the front room, directing his goons as they search through our bare cupboards and Mom’s clothes dresser. He is in the antique suit he likes to wear when he does his ‘official business’.

I look to Mom’s bed and there is a sheet pulled over her head. My chest clenches tight.
I have to see, I have to make sure she isn’t just sleeping. Sometimes when she’s sleeping it seems like she’s not breathing but she is.

I have to check and make sure.

The men in the room stop to see my reaction. I’m not sure what they are expecting me to react to first; my mother’s death or the fact that they are obviously ruffling through her belongings while she goes cold in her bed across the tiny room.

I choose to ignore them. I have to check.
Reaching a shakey hand out I pull back the sheet and let out a despaired, “No..”
I can tell she is gone. It’s like someone has stolen her glow. Even at her sickest she’s had a glow. I feel my cheeks being washed in tears but I feel calm and emptier than I ever have. It feels so completely wrong.
I hug Mom, whisper, “I love you” and pull the sheet up to her chin.

Tucking her in one last time.
Looking over at the men in our home fingering through all of our things, dumping anything they don’t think has value onto the floor, I bite my cheek.

I can do nothing. It is the law in our town. When someone dies and has no family of age, the children are taken in by someone and that person’s belongings then become the towns.

I’m still techniquely a child, so they are taking what they want for ‘the town’, also known as Mayor Goset.
They find the heirloom gold earings and pearl necklace Mom had tucked inside her sock drawer for safekeeping.

Mayor Goset pockets them before saying, “So sorry for your loss, young man. Your neighbor Harry Goodwine has been so kind as to take you in until the time you are of age. This home and it’s contents now belong to the town, but you may take any… personal belongings, left behind.”

He looks around our home with disgust and strides from the room, followed by his security men.
It’s just Mom and I for a moment; so unnaturally quiet without her loud, labored breathing.

Harry comes in without a knock and kneels at her bedside, bowing his head in sorrow. I see his pain and am mad at his ability to feel a normal sorrow…

when mine is so confusing and jumbled.

I feel alone… broken… betrayed… guilty… so damn guilty. I should have been at home. I might have said goodbye, held her as she passed. Not out searching for insects while Mom died all alone. My face is dry now. The tears have gone without me realizing it. They didn’t help as I thought they might anyway.

Harry gives me a hug. I am glad to have him.

Damn..What will my life be now?

——————————

Art is mine..

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