Dan Holden's Creative Writing
By Dan Holden
Nothing was spared, nothing. Only thing left was a simmering kettle on the half-melted stove, a boiling black stew of ashes and burned potatoes.
Nowhere to go in that moonless night, so we sat still and waited for the dawn.
“If we live to see daylight,” my father said in a low voice, “we could live another day.”
“If God give us another day,” said my mother, “then we win, ’cause they done think they taken everything we had.”
“Why did the rich folk burn us out?” I asked. “We workin’ their land for them, ain’t we?”
“Don’t need us no more,” said my mother. “All got tractors and combines. We’re just takin’ up space.”
I thought about that for a minute.
“Is it like this everywhere?” I asked. My father looked at my mom, and then at the dimly breaking dawn.
“Yeah,” he said finally. “It’s like this everywhere. And you know, them rich folk ain’t satisfied to run us off neither. They want to make sure nobody helps us move on.”
“Well why?” I asked. “That don’t make no sense. It ain’t Christian.”
“Ain’t about bein’ Christian,” he said, rising to his feet. “It’s about keepin’ it all to themselves.”
He shuffled through the burned out remains of our cabin. Digging through the smoldering grey embers, he produced a small porcelean statue of Jesus, and after cleaning it against his worn jeans, put it in the pocket of his tattered brown sweater.
“No, nothin’ Christian about that, boy.”
“Humble Jesus,” said my mother, to herself. Way her shoulders moved, I could tell she was silently crying.
“What do we do now?” I asked, quietly, not really expecting an answer but hoping just the same, for some kind of direction.
My father straightened up, suddenly appearing resolute and magnificent, his tall frame reaching into the gold and silver light of dawn, which sparkled in his shiny black eyes. Something spiritual happened in that moment, I don’t know what. With nothing left to lose, he was suddenly more powerful than I had ever seen him.
“We harvest, now,” he said firmly. “We sell what we can, give away what we don’t need, and we move on. We call upon our family and if they are burned out too, we take them with us and we move on some more.
“Some day,” he said, as if a prophecy had landed on him like an angel’s wings, “someday we’re going to take this back, this land that is rightfully our’n. Someday we’re gonna seek our justice, with the law o’ God on our side.”
“Amen,” said my mother.
“They will try to turn us against each other, like they always do,” said my father, shaking his head. “They’ll try to confuse us with misdirection, blame an’ dumb ideas. They’ll take our doctors away, an’ your teachers and books, to keep us down and dyin’.”
He walked directly to me and stood there, looking down at me almost threateningly, but with intense sincerity in his eyes.
“Boy,” he said, “Never, ever forget this. I ain’t sayin’ be angry. I’m sayin’, don’t let them confuse you. Y’ain’t dumb. Y’ain’t worthless. You been wronged. But they ain’t gonna help you make it right. They ain’t.”
Author’s note: This is a short story I wrote to dramatize the parallels between our current economic woes and those of the sharecroppers in the South in the 1930s.