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PW #323: Young Adult Near-Historical: CHILDREN OF THE DUST

Friday, 4 November 2016  |  Posted by Nikki Roberti

Manuscript Status: Finished

Mentor: Karen Fortunati
Mentee: Shawn Barnes
Category: Young Adult
Genre: Near-Historical
Word Count: 86,000


Seventeen-year-old Matt Hayes is many things: student; fast food worker; caregiver to his disabled, adopted Vietnamese sisters; trapped. A college scholarship offers the escape he craves, but when his mother’s health deteriorates, Matt must choose between continuing as his sisters’ caregiver or repeating the sins of his father, a Vietnam vet who abandoned their family.


The night before I learned of my mother’s diagnosis, when she’d gone to work and left me to parent the kids as usual, I confessed to Pete that I could control my dreams. Not perfectly, but with enough skill to inspire a Senior English essay, due in eight hours.

“It’s called lucid dreaming,” I said. “Buddhist monks do it.”

“Freaky,” Pete said. “Might wanna leave yourself out of the essay though. Your teacher will think you’re on drugs.”

“Good point.” I fired up my bong and held the smoke deep in my lungs. It burned cool, mellow. I exhaled, watched the white swirling cloud bump against the stained ceiling tiles of my basement bedroom, and grinned. This is good shit.

“So, what’s it like?” Pete asked.

“What’s what like?”

“Dream control.”

Not as awesome as it sounded. That afternoon I’d dreamed I was driving to McDonald’s when another car’s horn blasted. Startled, I wondered how I’d pissed off the driver. Then I realized I was dreaming, that it wasn’t real. I chose to ignore the dream-honking and kept cruising.

That was the cool part. I could choose a course of action. But I had zero control over the subject matter. Who wants to dream about driving to McDonald’s? Were I truly in control I’d dream of going to college in the fall on the scholarship I’d been busting my ass to earn, finally free to live my own life.

And I’d dream of Teresa.

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