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Chapter 1

No one knows where it comes from, just where it settles. Job looked through the sunbeam of light at the window illuminating the dancing tan flakes wavering through the air. They would settle down eventually, in the corners of the window ledge, the tops of shelves, the end of their nose hairs and sometimes in between teeth barred during sleep. Grandma Hutto was humming from her chair by the stove. Job could see the flakes of dust swirl around her face, flowing in through her nose and circle the breath from her mouth as she exhaled.

Mama bent, curving her back unnaturally to fit under the hood of the stove, her arms like the wings of a protective hen over their breakfast of fried meal cakes. It was Sunday, the day of prayer. Job looked out the window once more. Other boys were probably gathering at Richard’s Rock to play king of the mountain. Job knew he wasn’t expected there. As dumb as he sometimes found his schoolmates they weren’t completely oblivious. His family was strange. Job was strange. Everyone, even idiots, knew that.

Just like everyone knew that dust would never leave. From the way his parents clucked and worried over its presence in their lives, they viewed it as recurring battle. It was a daily struggle, like pulling your feet out of bed in the morning. Yet, somehow, Grandma Hutto believed dust was temporary. Someday, she promised, the dust would dissipate, the dirt would sink back to the ground and the air would clear. Job wasn’t yet sure what to think. Or believe. It was clear however that his parents deferred to Grandma in this. They deferred to her in all matters regarding belief in fact.

For that was a word used often in the Hutto house. Belief was important Grandma said. It was a word he didn’t hear outside of home.

“Come to table” Mama called.

Father set down his computer. Grandma shifted expectantly from her seat. She didn’t eat at the table, but right next to the stove, for warmth and because her legs didn’t work. Job wondered sometimes, how it happened. Did her hip joints stop moving just like the wheels of her wheelchair? The hinges and screws made immobile by the fine filaments of dust that clouded their mechanisms. Grandma Hutto said she was made immobile by God’s wish. That it was a blessing, even if we couldn’t see how now.

Job didn’t know what he believed. Or didn’t. But every Sunday, since he could remember, since he was born, he assumed, he had sat down to prayer with his family. They prayed for many things. Health, love, sustenance, the continuation of God’s love, but most of all they prayed for the end. The end of dust.

In school Job was just beginning to learn about the start of The Dust Clouds. Teacher, Mrs. Newman, the retired foreman’s wife, taught them that it was born in on wind, or even a light breeze. Every time the air was disturbed a new cloud of dust rose up in equal measure to the air that was moved. She said this had to do with physics, which was something they would learn much later. Job wanted to know now.

That was the first time he had strayed. After 2 p.m. the elementary level students were supposed to walk home through the tunnels with their “tunnel buddy”. The kid whose parents lived closest to yours would join you, so you wouldn’t wander off. Though what an eight year old was to do when a peer disobeyed the rules, none seemed to know. So Job decided to test it out. At 2 p.m. he walked quietly alongside Daisy through their tunnel hole for the walk home.

Daisy had always seemed such a whimsical name to Job. There were no such things as daisy’s anymore, or any flowers for that matter. Right-handed turn off to their separate homes, Job turned left. Left was the other way, the way to the town public library kept open out of a combination of nostalgia for free-roaming times and the importance of all the information the past could contain.

Daisy called out to him.

“What are you doing, Job?”

Job, so stuck inside his own plan, shook his head in surprise. Was that mother calling him to Sunday morning prayer?

“I’m going to the library.” Job spoke the words, foreign to his young tongue.

“Not alone, though.”

Of course alone, Job thought. Who else would want to come with me there?

“Why not?”

“Because.” Daisy said it matter-of-factly. As if her very reason wavered in the tenor of her friendly voice.

“Okay.”

Job felt obfuscated in his plan. He had expected no resistance, but was powerless to overcome the changing winds. Like dust, he remembered thinking. It just is.

At the dinner table, Mama served hot breakfast.

“What are you doing, Job?”

“I’m…just thinking.”

“Well stop that now, and come join us for family prayer.”

Family prayer would not be over soon. Grandma Hutto chewed slowly. Almost as slowly as she moved, which was barely at all. Job acquiesced. At least while he ate he would have something to think about now.

“Are we almost there?”

Job heard his plaintive follower as he rounded the corner.

“Daisy?” He inquired politely as possible.

“Job? How much farther?

“I’ve never been there.” He confessed.

“Oh!” Surprise. As if she had never thought of that possibility. Of someone not knowing, but going forward anyway.

“I think it may be a bit further. Only a mile, maybe?”

He had looked it up before going. Mrs. Newman’s husband the former foreman had maps, plans for the town. He carried with him even though they seemed strange and superfluous like a person carrying a trophy or award wherever they went.

Job turned again. Right this time. Or was it supposed to be left. Suddenly he didn’t feel like he should be doing this, Daisy trudging along after him like a reminder of his foolishness. He didn’t think what could happen before he did it. They could get lost in the tunnels for the night, for a day and night, for days, for days upon days and he would get hungry and Daisy would be hungry and they would have to battle it out for who would eat the other out of claustrophobic madness! He started wheezing in panic.

Then just around the corner, Daisy appeared.
“Take a deep breath.”

Her calm demeanor surprised Job and following her advice, he took a big gulp of air. He felt better immediately.

“Let’s go this way.”

Job agreed to follow her advice once more. As they rounded the bend of the turn Daisy had chosen, he saw the sign, printed in a wall casing, for the Public Library. They smiled at each other.

“God bless this sustenance. God bless our family. God bless our tribulations. God bless the dust that fills our empty spaces. God bless.”

Grandma Hutto shakily recited their daily prayers. Job took a deep breath. Grandma Hutto would be reciting for a while yet.

One thought on “To Dust: A Novel

  1. Pingback: Dust | raw rambles

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