Episode 17 - "The Bush Knife"
by Camille LaGuire
It wasn't uncommon, when there was a variety of work to be done, for someone to leave a hoe or shovel behind. It usually earned a man a couple of whacks to be so careless. Jackie paid little attention to it, because they never gave him tools. They always had him hauling or lifting or some such.
Most of those who had no tools to turn in hurried ahead, but Jackie walked slowly, staying a bit behind them. Why bother to walk fast if they didn't make you, even if you were hungry? There would be enough food. Rocken made sure they had enough to work on, unless they were being punished. The evening was cooling, and it would have been pleasant in other circumstances. He looked at his hands, where the blisters were finally being replaced with roughness, and thought about freedom. Freedom of the mind. Freedom of the soul.
It seemed like a nice thing. Keeping your soul away from the trials of the body was a way to survive. Like the Prophet Kodil said. It was near to Kodil's Day, wasn't it? How did the little rhyme go? Kodil, Kodil, never coddle.... Something. He didn't remember.
It didn't matter. Kodil was as wrong as a fish in a robin's nest. It was all right for surviving, for enduring, but if you kept your soul all protected, it wasn't any use, was it? It divided you from your fellow men, and left you helpless. Helpless against those who didn't even have a soul....
"Hoy, Jack!" called Tim. Jack turned and waited. Tim had just turned in his shovel, and now joined him.
"Tim," said Jack. They paused a moment, letting the last speckles of sun fall on them. It wasn't as hot that day, so it was almost pleasant.
They started to turn and move on, but they heard Rocken let out a roar at someone. They turned to see the overseer hauling another young man, Denning, aside.
"Where the hell is that knife?" he asked. Denning look confused and then frightened.
"I dunno," he said, gesturing back to the woods. "I had to stop and bundle the brush. I must have left it...."
Rocken knocked him off his feet with a punch to the ear.
"Do you know what stealing a knife is? That's uprising! You're a dead man."
"No, I left it! I didn't steal it."
"It's here," said Cooper, hobbling up, holding the knife carefully by the blade so it didn't look like he was making a threat with it. Rocken took it from him. Denning looked up at him with terror.
"I didn't steal it."
Rocken stood for a long moment, looking at him through half-squinting eyes.
"I believe you," said the overseer at last. "But careless with a knife, careless with your life. Ever heard that?"
"You're a new man, so I'll take it easy on you. I'll tell Clement you were careless with your tools is all. I won't say which tool."
"Thank you, sir."
"All of you, get on with it!" called Rocken to the rest, and then he gestured for a guard to haul Denning back to the compound.
And Jackie thought; if they had a guard take him back to the compound, Rocken's idea of taking it easy wasn't to let him be.
Stay Tuned For Episode 18 - "Punishment"
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