written while looking at a picture that's actually a cover of one of the editions of grapes of wrath, how i loathe that book... completely mde up in a period of about 5 minutes sometime last March.

The Dust in the Heart

His name is Al.

It could stand for Albert, or Alvin or Alexander, or any other sort of name, but it doesn't. He has always been just Al.

Al was a farmer in the good old days, growing wheat and sorghum and barley on his homestead in Oklahoma; but the Dust Bowl hit him hard. Unable to keep his farm, he is traveling to Chicago, to get away from the godforsaken dust, find his brother, and just maybe, find a job. His wife left him to return to her folks. Al didn't know she was leaving until she was already gone. Now he's hitching rides on freight trains with boys half his size with twice his age in their eyes.

Al doesn't smoke, doesn't drink, only gambles a little and never on Sundays. He is traveling alone. Sure, he shares the boxcar with a few other hobos who are, for the moment, headed where he's headed, but he has no companions. Since he left home almost three weeks ago, less than twenty words have passed his lips.

In his heart, Al is beginning to realize that he is free. Free from all bonds that ever held him; free to do whatever he wants. He knows it to his bones; the way he knows that he is lost. As lost as a man can be and still be alive.

And yet he looks forwards, to the north and east, waiting for the glimpse of the Chicago cityscape on the skyline.

Right now he has a burlap sack for a pillow, a dark corner free from the wind, if not the dust and the sun is setting in the west. It's time to sleep.

Tomorrow the train should reach Chicago, but if it doesn't, Al isn't worried. He'll bother with that when the sun comes up.