Desert Dunes

The desert, to many of the people who've grown up there, is a place full of life and beauty -- if you know how to see it. To the youngest boy in the Hayden Cobb clan, the desert is a barren waste of heat and sand.

He doesn't hate it, though. He finds it nice, and relaxing in a way he can't ever explain to his sisters. He doesn't know if it was the sort of thing he could have explained to his brothers -- they were all much older than he, already married or working and grown up and as such they didn't talk to him much. The only siblings he spent any time with was the girls, and being cosseted and pulled at and dragged one way and another by girls of a half a dozen ages wasn't conducive to encouraging him to trust them with serious conversation.

They'd have been shocked to discover their ten year old brother had thoughts relevant to a serious conversation.

He didn't mind, too much. It wasn't often he wanted to sit and talk with somebody about the things in his head. Normally he just stood still until they ran away in the shimmers of heat, melting into the pale dunes of sand until there was nothing there but the knowledge of what tasks he had to do that day, and which family members it was best to avoid until dinner.

But sometimes he'd find himself with nothing to do, no chores added on and no one screaming at him to get back here, and he'd wander off a little ways into the desert and he'd watch. He'd stand -- not safe to lie down, because while his boots would protect him from the insects his clothes wouldn't -- and he'd wait to see what he could see.

At the edge of town where they lived, there was almost no plant-life, and only a few tiny animals skittering across the sand in search of food. He'd search his pockets for crumbs, and try to lure the palm-sized, red Biters towards him. He'd lured one close enough to catch, once, and he'd taken it home in a piece of paper, and let it loose in his middle sisters' room. He'd been whipped but good for that one, but the way the little girls had avoided him for weeks after had made it worthwhile.

He hadn't been able to catch another Biter since that first time, but he used the excuse of trying again to justify his trips out here to the un-cultivated dunes. The quiet suited him, in contrast to the constant noise and motion of his grandfather's house. He wasn't old enough, or maybe just smart enough, to understand why it suited him, since he'd tell anyone who asked that he thought it was a huge empty patch of nothing, that went on forever. He figured that meant he was doomed to see nothing but it, for the rest of his life.

The trouble was, he didn't see that as a bad thing.