“Quiet! That’s what we want. You can talk when I tell you to!”, growled our Mandi.
That first night was just awful.
Chitkin and I were in with the other 18 in such a small space. If we moved our legs we accidentally kicked our neighbour, which started some trouble and some nasty words being hissed. However, there wasn’t enough room for fighting and we all had to realize that this was just the way it was until morning.
There was barely enough air to breathe. We were hot, not like our cool galleries at home. Even my tears were hot on my face and Chitkin felt one drop onto her because she gave me a little pat and whispered, “We girls are tuff enough, enough tuff.”
The morning was still too cold to move but that didn’t stop the Mandis from taking down the barricades that kept us locked in and yelling at us to get moving, with no sun!
We didn’t know what a coco pod was. We were told that these pods were the most important crop any where, and we were going to be watched every minute to make sure that we collected as many as we could.
Chitkin and I were given masheddies, which were so sharp they were sharper than the Mandis’ tongues. The masheddies were heavy and awkward. We had to climb a tree, swing the masheddies to cut off the pod, just at the right spot so that we wouldn’t damage the tree or the coco pod.
“Chitkin, look at that girl! She’s cut herself with the masheddy! Oh that poor..” I cried.
“Did I tell you you could speak?!” shrieked a Mandis. “No, I did not!” she growled. “Never mind her. Get back to work, now!” Gratch!
The sun and the humidity made all of us sag and slow down. We had almost no water, just a sip here and there, if you-know-who let us. Food was just a mash, of what we didn’t want to think. Still we had to swing and cut, swing and cut all day until we could hardly move our legs or hold on to the masheddies. That’s when most of the girls got hurt, and when the infections started.
Chitkin and I had finished swinging and cutting. The Mandi told us to climb back down. Oh, we were so relieved! A rest at last.
“What are you doing?! Resting is for later. We have to get these coco pods over to the Splitters, right now!”, came the order form the Mandi.
Then we had to pick up all of the coco pods and put them into sacks. They must have weighed a ton! When we started to try to drag the sacks the Mandi told us that was “way too slow!”
She told us to put the sacks on our backs and carry them over to the Splitters. Now Chitkin and I come from a family known far and wide as being some of the strongest in the world. Well, Africa, anyway. But this lifting was almost impossible because the sacks were about four times as heavy as we are.
“Don’t worry”, chuckled a Mandi, “everyone knows you can lift at least ten times your own weight. Now get a move on!” Gratch!
We could barely keep our legs going or our eyes open. We were almost feeling our way along. But we finally dragged ourselves and the coco-pod sacks up to the Splitters. They were just like we were, it seemed: barely able to use their masheddies to ‘carefully! carefully!’ cut around the coco pods, split them in half and then dump the coco beans into a bucket. There were buckets all over the place, some half full, some just about full.
“Chitkin, look at those poor girls. They’re cut all over from dropping the masheddies or cutting to deeply through the pods!” I whispered shakily.
“Chitkin”, I whispered, “we can’t keep doing this or we’ll end up sick and cut like so many others. I think we need to think of a way to get away from here.”
“Cello, you’ve got to relax about all this, but I agree, this is pretty terrible. You heard what the Mandi said, ‘Be quiet and keep working!’ So, we’ve got to mellow, Cello.”
“But,Cello, you’re right.” Chitkin mouthed at me. “We’re going to have to figure how to get away from here.”
END CHAPTER #2