1932, November 13
We huddled around Ma, praying for the baby. Ma’s face clenched with pain. My twin brother, David, spoke gently to Ma, “That’s right, Ma, push!” I groaned. He’s always the teacher’s’ pet, always Ma’s favorite.The star. Always. I’m the impatient one, an hour early. The red-hot temper, me. I do have a few good traits, I’m pretty smart, and can be passed off as pretty. I looked at Ma. Her cheeks were wet with tears of pain. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine a field of lavender, all beautiful and pretty. That really helps me when I get too sad. A scream pierced my thoughts. I opened my eyes quickly, and joined in with the screaming. In front of Ma lay a motionless baby, red and hopeless.
I have made a huge decision today. I’m leaving. Going to California. Me and Lucy, my best friend, have got it all figured out. We’ll travel on 66, and work any job we can find along the way, and hopefully have enough money for a train for the end part of the journey. I grabbed a backpack and tiptoed down to the kitchen. I threw in a few flasks of water, lots of dried meat, some cornflakes, a few whole oranges from Ma’s tree, and ran back up. I stuffed in a wad of dollars then another. I eyed my violin and set it next to my backpack. I threw in all my clothes and on second thought, a few extra snacks from my desk and took a deep breath. I’m taking this diary. I need to stop shaking. I was the one who drilled this idea into Lucy’s head. I think the only reason she is coming is because her older brother died of dust pneumonia. But, me, I need to go. I can’t stay here cooped up in this desert. I need to show myself, who I really am.
Thank god! We found a job in a little restaurant along the road. It was all because of a dust storm. We were walking on the road dodging creaky Model Ts’. A dark cloud at the horizon caught my eye. I screamed and pointed. Me and Lucy ran for our lives, probably kickin’ up a dust storm with our legs. The nearest indoor place was this restaurant. We ran inside, closing the door tightly. The owner was reading a magazine. “Customers?” he asked eagerly. We shook our heads and pointed outside. “Oh,” he said,”Oh!” He jumped up, put towels under the door, handed us wet cloths, and rushed us to a back room at the very edge of the shop. We put our head in our hands and Lucy started crying. I think it reminded her of home. I must admit I miss it too. I feel really bad leaving Ma, David, and my little brothers, James and Sam. But it’s for the best. We’ve got to get to California.
After trudging a few miles in the heat, we found a small shop that sold things like cigarettes and candy. We went in just for the air conditioning. But we got so much more than that. Another job! The owner is very rich and asks so much of us. He doesn’t want a single speck of dust on the shelves. This is becoming increasingly harder to do, as we have a dust storm every other day. Our days our mostly spent scrubbing the shelves and practicing violin. We’ve come up with this amazing duet that we composed in our free time. We have a lot of free time. There are almost no customers. Five a day if we’re lucky. Lucy is very happy here. I don’t know if she really wants to move on to California. But we absolutely need to. Well, I do. But I can’t go without Lucy.
I am so happy! This morning, I woke up to the pitter-patter of rain. I guess it’s not as uncommon here in New Mexico as it is is Oklahoma, but I’m still so surprised! I guess it’s turning out well for us. We’ve saved enough money for a one way trip to California on the train! I was wrong about Lucy. She wants to go as much as I do. We were planning to leave in about an hour or so. We thanked the owner profusely and packed our bags. I put in my carefully folded clothes, the leftover money from our salary, a lot of food, and a few bottles of water. Lucy put in about the same thing. We walked to the train station, quiet and solemn. The train station was completely empty except for one thin man at the ticket counter. We bought our tickets and huddled in the corner, our hearts racing with excitement and hope. Suddenly, Lucy crashed into me. I grabbed her by the elbows. A dark figure entered my view. I screamed, “It’s a dog!” It was the cutest dog I had ever seen. With a chocolate brown coat and wide green eyes. I looked at Lucy. She nodded. We all looked at the man in the ticket booth. He was staring in the other direction. We scooped up the puppy and Lucy stuffed it in her bag. She zipped up the bag, leaving some space unzipped so the puppy could breathe. A loud whistle echoed through the air, bouncing of walls into our ears. I reached for Lucy’s hand and squeezed it. “This is it,” I whispered. We stepped onto the train, our hands trembling. The deafening whistle sounded, and I turned around and watched the mesas’ getting bigger and bigger, like sparks of hope.
1945, March 8
Oh, I haven’t opened this diary in so many years. I better start writing in it now. Ma is outside, gathering oranges from her tree. I keep telling her no, she’s too old, I’ll do it instead. But she refuses. I remember when I was ten, running away from home. I’m so glad I did that. If I hadn’t, we would always be there, maybe we would be dead, like my sister. I know Ma is still sad about it. Me and Lucy cheer her up with our composed songs. She goes to everyone of my movies, even though I’ve done over seventy now. Lucy and me are playing the lead roles in a new movie called The Dust Bowl: A Tragedy. We lived in migrant camps until we could find proper jobs, all those years ago. Even though my professional profession is an actress, while her’s is a composer, I still perform, and she sometimes has little acting jobs. She is right next to me, fingering her own green diary that she had when we escaped. We performed at Carnegie Hall several times. David is married now, and my little brothers (not so little anymore!) are both 18 and 17, respectively. Lucy has changed a lot, and I think I have too. I’m so much more knowledgeable, not that naive girl I used to be. Lucy has become stronger now, regularly participating in Public Speaking Contests and usually winning. I have acquired a new hobby, too. I’m a designer. My designs are presented in fashion shows, and are quite famous, if I say so myself. I guess it comes with being an actress. What a long way I have come! A little girl, who had no idea of the hardships that would come. Now, a leading actress who performs violin at Carnegie Hall with a best friend who is equally talented and famous, if not more.
The Dust Bowl: In the midwest of USA, from 1930-1936, there was a huge drought caused by over farming. Dust was everywhere, and dust storms were regular. People living in that area led bad lives, and some of them wanted to get out, while others held on. The journey to the west for a better life was hard and bitter. There weren’t many jobs in the west, and many people lived in migrant camps built by the government.