“Were you afraid?” The reporter set his phone on the coffee table in front of me and pressed the Record button.
“Of course she was,” Ma Ma said, rocking faster in her chair.
I rubbed at a spot on my jeans. My grandparents did not like this story, and I didn’t want Ma Ma hearing the details again.
“Aiya,” she muttered.
My grandfather placed his hand on her knee, and her frantic rocking slowed. “Let Jen tell it,” he said calmly.
“She’s a strong, smart girl,” Ma Ma said to the reporter. “That’s all you need to know.”
“Yes, Mrs. Chiu,” agreed the reporter. “But I’d like to hear the account in Jen’s words. I’m writing a series about resourceful kids like her who have survived a life-threatening experience.”
He turned his gaze to me just as I was reaching for one of the mini cream puffs sitting in Mom’s fancy dish, the one that she uses only when guests are here. We don’t usually have sweets like this. I popped a pastry in my mouth.
The reporter leaned across the coffee table toward me. “Go on and tell me about what happened in the Chihuahuan Desert,” he said.
“It was so craz—” A piece of cream puff flew out of my mouth and landed on his phone.
“Aiya,” Ma Ma said.
I clamped a hand over my mouth as I swallowed. “I mean . . . it was intense. The air was so full of sand—it felt like a million bees stinging. The wind screamed around us. Grit got into my eyes, up my nose. We couldn’t see anything. I’ll never forget the roar just before—”
“Jen,” the reporter interrupted. “I’d really like to hear the whole story. Start from the beginning. It will help readers know what to do if something like this happens to them. So tell me.” His eyebrows rose. “How did you survive?”
I thought about that day. Brought my mind back to the endless desert in New Mexico. Back to the heat and the fear and the terrible thirst.
“It all started with the Snake Byte,” I began.