Stepping outside, Tyshaun and Fousseny had a better
view of their surroundings than on the previous night. Both boys' clothes were still damp and clung
to their skins and their hair was matted.
They realized they were in the middle of a jungle. The rain had stopped and the sun was just
beginning to poke its moist rays through the thick canopy of trees. The room where Tyshaun
had spent the night was a one-room, mud-brick shack with a thatched roof. Nearby, he saw five other similar mud
shacks. In the middle of the shacks was
a cleared out, dirt yard. A ring of
rocks and black ash in the center of the yard formed a spot for a
campfire. It was full of ash mud. Several logs lying on their sides and placed
around the campfire served as seats.
A short distance away Tyshaun could see the brick farmhouse they had passed when
they had arrived.
Boys began to emerge from the
other mud shacks. There were nineteen in
all and they gathered around the dead campfire with a plate and cup in
hand. One by one, they sat on the logs
that surrounded it and stretched and rubbed their eyes. They filled their water cups from an old
barrel that caught rainwater.
A young girl suddenly appeared
with a large iron pot. She bustled
around serving the boys their breakfast, dishing out with a wooden spoon a corn
maize porridge-like substance onto their plates. She was a beautiful and petite girl, but
extremely nervous and twitchy. Tyshaun
thought she may have been the girl he had seen in the window the night before
because so far she was the only girl he had seen in this dreaded place. Also, because she had fresh
bruises on her cheeks. He
recalled the sharp slaps he had heard.
The girl was a few years older than he; perhaps thirteen or
fourteen. Her black hair was short, but she
kept it neat by dividing it into sections and braiding it close to the scalp,
much like cornrows. Her eyes were large,
but there was no sparkle. She possessed
a diminutive nose and her ears were pierced.
She handed Tyshaun
and Fousseny each a plate and cup. Her eyes met Tyshaun's
briefly and a cautious, but brief smile flickered across her gentle mouth. Tyshaun, being one
of the new arrivals, made him a curiosity.
She then quickly looked away and placed a spoonful of porridge on his
"Thank you," Tyshaun said to her.
Their eyes met again, but she
When all of the boys had been
served she took her pot and headed back to the brick farmhouse.
attempted to eat the bland-tasting porridge, he looked at each of the boys
around the dead campfire. The boys
ranged in ages from ten to sixteen. They
appeared tired and worn out. Their
clothing, mostly shorts and T-shirts, was ragged and holed. Most of them had scars somewhere on their
thin bodies. There were scars on their
faces, their arms and legs, and on their backs and chests. Some were injured, too. One boy was missing a finger. Another had part of an old shirt wrapped
around his left ankle and he limped. One
boy was sick and coughing. All had bare
feet, except for Tyshaun. Just like Tyshaun
and Fousseny, their shoes had been taken away. All of the boys looked like they were
veterans of a long war.
They heard footsteps coming
through the brush. One of the boys
whispered, "Souliman." Tyshaun and Fousseny looked to see who was approaching.
The portly man appeared. He carried a coiled whip in his right
hand. It was the same man who had struck
him and locked them up the night before.
His name was Souliman. Tyshaun noticed the
boys quickly gobbled up what little remained of their porridge.
barked something and the boys jumped up and took their plates and water cups to
their mud shacks. Tyshaun
did likewise. While inside, he removed
his dirty, wet socks to allow his feet to dry.
A moment later they all returned outside and Tyshaun
and Fousseny followed the boys to a wooden lean-to
nearby and watched as the boys each grabbed heavy tools. Souliman looked at Tyshaun and Fousseny and barked
something. He then gave a quick nod
toward the lean-to. The other boys
picked up their tools and held them up in front of the newcomers to show them
what to take. Souliman
came over, selected several tools, and tossed them to the newcomers' bare
feet. They consisted of a long-handled
knife, a machete, and a mallet. In
addition, they were required to take a basket