The lack of rain this season has hit us all hard but the land most of all. Without any moisture the ground has began to crack open and pull away like fighting friends.
I found a crevice yesterday morning large enough to fit three fingers within the crack sideways. Papa told me to keep my hands out of places they don’t belong. Mama says if rain does not grace us before long, I will be able to place my whole fist within the cracks of the earth. Worst case scenario, it goes on long enough for my entire feet to fall in. Calvin says I will never get the chance to fall down into the cracks, he says none of us will live that long. Mama done told him to quit speaking that way, but she never says otherwise. Papa believes there’s water to be found. He remembers an oasis from when he was a boy. His father promised him the area would always bring him good fortune but more importantly, water. Calvin says we’ll never find it, Mama says I’ll be the one to find it.
Mama reminds us that I was born in the driest season they had ever witnessed, until this year that is. She says my first cry called the rain. I brought a downpour and earned the name Oasis. Although everyone just calls me O. Mama only calls me Oasis when she is using my full name to scold me. Most of the time I don’t even deserve it, Calvin does.
“How much further Papa?” I ask for what feels like the thousandth time. I know I’m irritating him but I just can’t help it. The question slips out every couple of hours.
Papa doesn’t lecture me but instead answers, “Not much longer now. We will be there soon enough.”
Calvin mutters under his breath that Papa has got us lost. I don’t blame Cal for feeling this way. Papa has been giving that same answer for three days now. The first four days he only replied with the words ‘soon enough.’ It doesn’t feel soon enough to me.
Although I can’t keep myself from asking how much further, I am able to hold my tongue when I want to complain of being thirsty. I’m old enough now to realize I don’t have the right to complain about it, especially not when Papa has been giving me sips of his rations.
We only have around two gallons of water left. We used the majority of our water in the beginning. But on day 73 when everything dried up or was bottled up by others, and when the ground began to separate, Papa knew it was time to quit waiting on the rain. On day 83 he released the farm animals to let them try to find water on their own and packed us up for the trip.
Calvin wanted to ride the horses to the Oasis but Mama said that would be cruel. The distance is too far and we didn’t have enough water to keep them hydrated and us alive. Cal is mad that he’s going to die out here. He said he’d much rather die in the comfort of his own bed. I would just rather not die.
“I think,” Papa begins, “I think we’re almost there. It should be just over this hill.” I know it must be true because Papa gave an update without me having to ask.
“You think?” Cal complains in a nasty tone. Mama cuts him a look that has his mouth clamping shut and his eyes lowering to the ground. He may think he’s grown but not even my older brother is dumb enough to go against Mama.
I hope Papa is right and I have faith unlike Cal. I have to have faith because I can’t stand another day of tiny sips and these dirty clothes. I am tired of carrying the pack on my back and I want a bath desperately. I know I have to stink awfully by now because Calvin sure does.
We’ve only got a few more feet and we will be at the top of this hill. I fall in line behind Calvin who carries on behind Mama as she follows Papa in the lead. I know the moment Papa has made it to the top because I hear him say Mama’s name. A smile falls across my face and I hurry around Calvin with my second wind. The first thing I see is the larger than a wagon sized hole of water. There is lush green grass and vegetation surrounding it. The color is a drastic contrast to the barren brown earth we’ve been traveling across. The second thing I notice brings me to my knees.
“There won’t be enough to support us all or any of us for much longer,” Mama states because the green patch is surrounded by people. From where we stand atop the hill, we can see even more people traveling towards us on their way to the Oasis. To what was supposed to be our Oasis. It seems Papa wasn’t the only person told of its location.
We can’t stay here and we’ll never be able to make it back home. This was our last option. We will die out here. Mama. Papa. Cal. Me. And with the way the people are already fighting down below, these last few days won’t even be pleasant.
My eyes begin to burn and my chest feels too tight. It feels as if it is pulling apart like the cracked earth I kneel on. Cal was right, I won’t live long enough to fall between the cracks. Or worse, Papa will give me his water rations and I’ll live the longest. I am much smaller than the rest of my family, younger than them too. I could outlive them. They will give up their water for the chance that I could live long enough for the drought to end. That truly is worse. I will be alone. Tears begin to collect, daring to fall. I didn’t know I was still able to cry.
“Save your tears, water is too precious out here,” Papa instructs.
Helplessness seizes me like a hawk with its prey. It swoops down and takes up all the restraint I have left, crushing me. I take my hands and dry the tears that stream my face, not letting them fall any further. I curl my damp fingers in until my knuckles turn white. I raise my fists slamming them to the ground. The sound of connection with the dried earth is muffled though. Muffled by the thunder that claps like heavenly hands above us. Although I dried my cheeks, I can feel them dampen once more. But I am not crying, Papa told me to stop.
“O,” My mother says in a low awed voice. I open my eyes but I do not look up. Instead I am looking down. Down at the dried earth that has now become spotted. Down at the cracks where something is falling, slipping down between them.
“It’s raining,” Calvin whispers to himself. “It’s raining,” my brother says a little louder. “It’s raining,” he shouts leaping into the air with his arms raised above his head. “O, you called the rain.”
The people below us, at the bottom of the hill, have stopped fighting. They are now dancing and falling to their knees as well. I turn to my right in time to see Mama throw her arms around Papa. His lips meet hers and then he wraps her in a bone shattering hug. Calvin is still jumping but now with his head back and his tongue out.
I almost lost all of this. I could’ve spent the rest of my life alone. Now I won’t have to, at least not just yet. I look to the sky above that has been cloudless for weeks but now is filled. I whisper thanks and in all my gratitude I begin to weep the tears my Papa told me not to shed. I let loose a sob that is answered with an increase to the pitter patter. As I cry out, the downpour answers.