by T. M. Strong
West wind comes flowing up the valley and your little sister gives a shout, halfway between joy and disappointment because everyone knows it’s dangerous to stay outside when the dust starts swirling around your ankles.
Your papa locks the front door with the iron deadbolt once everyone is inside the hickory-brown, adobe house. You imagine the west wind pulling on tap shoes and tap-tap-tapping across the roof. A tumbleweed sails over the driveway.
Your sister tugs on your hand. “Maria? Tell me about my name.” Her legs are beginning to jiggle, and your mother’s face is becoming worried. She’s thinking about how your sister was born with the wind in her lungs and a need to dance, dance, dance with every gust.
You know the story of your sister’s name better than your own heart.
“The air was howling when you came to Mama and Papa and me. The midwife said you danced out of mama’s belly and she had to catch you. That’s why we named you Tierra,” you say. “We named you ‘earth’ because we don’t want you to dance away.”
Your sister’s eyes are harvest-moon-round and brown like October’s drying grass. “Mama is afraid I will be lost.”
“Yes,” you say, and draw her close, shutting your ears against the wind’s howling. Be still, you tell yourself. Solid. Rock-like. Be the opposites of tumbleweeds and tap shoes. The wind whispers freedom, freedom, freedom, and your chest aches with longing.
You blame the dust.