Author's note: I'm posting something that I actually think is good. This is a piece about my childhood. Something that you might need to understand is we didn't live in Mojave, we just have a cabin that we went up to about once every other weekend for a couple years. This is about those times. It's all true. Enjoy.

Mojave wind

It comes to this area in late August. The wind.

I'm taking out the trash when it comes. Stuffing the bag into the can, fastening the lid so I can take it to the curb, when I look over at the pool…and feel it.

With it comes memories. Of happier times. At our humble cabin in Mojave, with my dad and mom. Climbing the large boulder. Looking at the small desert bushes. Joshua trees. Watching my dad shoot tin cans with his rifle. Playing "Burger Time" on the circa-1980 video game system. Watching Robert Schuler's "Hour of Power" on the TV that's nearly as old as my parents. Sleeping on the thin mattress that sat on my cot.

Happier times. Times before everything.

Before arguments with my dad and mom were a daily occurrence. Before the hard financial times. Before my Uncle Brad was diagnosed with cancer. Before I became clinically depressed. Before I grew up.

With the wind comes the happenings of ten years before. The faint desert dust it carries reminds me of my past.

The sand in Mojave was so soft. I was four years old, sitting right on the ground in my light pink overalls, not caring if they got dirty. I sat with my plastic bucket and shovel, digging.

Look, I cried to Uncle Brad. I was about two inches down into the sand. The sand was damp down there. Look, it's wet. There's water down there!

No, he said, maybe not water. Maybe oil.

Oil? I had seen the Porky Pig cartoon where he'd struck oil and become rich.

Will we get lots of money, Uncle Brad?

No, it belongs to the government, he said.

I kept digging anyway. Maybe I could find it.

I look out toward the sunset over the house on the next street. The sun has turned the sky deep pink, fading to navy, stars showing themselves once more behind me. I inhale again and feel the wind flow through my veins.

I collected rocks. I decided I should have a rock collection, just like how Bart on Sesame Street had a bottle-cap collection.

I went and collected different rocks. One was a broken red roof tile off Uncle Brad's cabin a mile away, but it was pretty. The rocks were covered dust and soon I was covered in dust and the chair I set them on was covered in dust when we got back, but I didn't care. The rocks were pretty. I put them into a paper bag and pulled with all of my four-year-old strength and finally got them into the car. When I got home I lined the bottom of the walls in my room with them.

I look down at my hands, so different from the time I remember. Larger, large for a girl's hands. Tanned, not the milky white they once were. Slightly callused from my colorguard sabre. The pencil point permanently buried in the center of my left palm. Highlighter ink on one of my fingers. Different.

At Uncle Brad's cabin. We'd just finished painting the address on the side of the corrugated steel garage in large white letters. I stood on the flattened dirt driveway and looked down at the large red ants marching in and out of a small hole in the ground.
Look, daddy, I said. Ants.

They didn't hurt me. I just squatted by their hole, watching them.

Uncle Brad, what are they doing?

They looked so busy, marching in and out of their hole for seemingly no reason.

They're gathering food for the winter, he said. They put it deep in the hole and eat it when there's no more food to get.

I went into the small cabin that was Uncle Brad's. The large stained windows. The microwave that barely worked. Blinds from his old house that the grownups couldn't affix to the windows. The small brown table. The bag of tortilla chips that were on the small brown table.

I picked up the bag of tortilla chips. Daddy, can I feed the ants?


I want to help them. Please?

Oh, okay.

I took a few chips out and set one down. The ants marched over it but didn't do anything.

Uncle Brad?

Yes, sweetie?

I'm giving them food, but they're not taking it. They don't like it?

It's too big, honey. Break it so they can carry it and they'll take it.

I took the chip and I broke it into smaller pieces. And I took others and broke them, too.

The ants crawled over the chips. They picked them up. And, with a struggle, carried them into their hole.

I was overjoyed to see that. I was going to give them enough food for the winter, I decided. I took out many more chips and broke them up for the ant colony.

These ants were my friends. I didn't get too close to them and they didn't get too close to me, but I gave them food and they took it. It was a simple understanding. They were my friends.

Bye bye, ants, I waved as we left. The sun was setting, turning the cumulus-dotted azure sky pink, purple, red behind the mountain silhouette. We drove down the dirt road as a sandstorm started. Sand and dust buffeted our already beaten Mercury. The windshield was filled with light brown swirling particles highlighted by the headlights of the car. The sides of the car were abused, sounds of the objects hitting the car reverberating throughout the metal.

I saw the stiffness in my parents necks from the back seat. Why were my parents worried? This was fun! I looked out of the window at the tan void with affixed interest until the sandstorm died down a few minutes later.

I close my eyes and inhale the wind. So many memories…

I look up again at the sunset, turning slowly crimson past the pool. I close my eyes and inhale once more, watching the memories replay on the screen of my eyelids. I breathe deeply, and try to lose my soul to the wind. To fly with the wind back to the Mojave desert, to the land of my childhood.

I finally exhale and open my eyes.

I am no longer in Mojave. Our cabin was robbed. The windows broken, everything of value taken except the video game system, because it was so old, and the TV set, because it was so large and heavy. Boxes were dug into and the Playboy magazines from my dad's teenage years left open to the centerfold on my cot. My grandmother's white gold watch stolen. Books ripped through. The doors left open by the malevolent burglars, and the cabin invaded by endangered kangaroo rats and other vermin.
Uncle Brad's cabin ransacked. The garage and its contents stolen. The garage itself was actually stolen, the roof, corrugated steel walls, even the studs taken in cycles by unknown men.

The police do nothing. They aren't allowed to leave the paved road. The area is uninhibited. No one to watch or stop the criminals. Dealing drugs, prostituting, stripping cabins, trapping and selling endangered desert tortoises on the black market. The land of my childhood has been destroyed.

My father wants to go back. To take his gun and defend what is his. Repair the damage. Live there in his retirement.

I fear for him. Because he would give his life defending the land that his parents passed down to him, that they so sacrificed to pay for.

I cannot go back.

The wind comes from Mojave. With it goes my memories. I cannot dwell on them.
But the wind empowers me. Reminds me of better times that have come and gone. And of the times that will come and go again.

I pick up the trash can and open the gate. I cannot go back to Mojave.

But when I left, a little bit of the Mojave came with me.

"I want to be what I was when I wanted to be what I am now."
- Ray Prince