“But, Cello, you’re right.” Chitkin mouthed at me. “We’re going to have to figure out how to get away from here.”
But that was not so easy, oh no! When one of the girls, Amari, tried to escape, she was quickly caught. The Mandis dragged her into a clearing under the trees so that we all could see what happened when you tried to escape.
The Mandis took turns stinging her, and beating her and snapping their horrid mandibles at her. Gratch! Gratch! We all jumped then held and stroked each other, shaking so badly that leaves trembled at our feet. It was horrible…and terrifying!
The Mandis left Amari where she was, sobbing and bleeding on the ground. “No one, NO ONE! leaves without permission from one of the Mandis. OR ELSE! Gratch!”
We really didn’t know how long we had been at the coco farm but we knew it had been a long time. Every day we were forced to get going before the sun had a chance to warm us up and allow us to move normally. Everybody knew you couldn’t do much until you were warm. What colony did these Mandis come from?!
We slaved away swinging and cutting, and getting cut. There were cries of pain and the scent of fear every where. There was no relief and, even worse than that, there was no hope. No hope of getting away, no hope of a break, nor being able to go to school, read or play. Oh no, no fun.
At night we dragged ourselves back to our cell and were thrown the tiniest pieces of what they called food. There wasn’t any sugar-lerp here. We were all crammed in, very hot, tired and aching all over. We certainly weren’t getting any pay for all of this brutal work, even though that had been the promise. But one thing we had in our cell was Chitkin’s memory. And what a life-saver it was.
You see, Chitkin could remember every word she’d ever been told and she could imitate pretty well anyone. We couldn’t just go to sleep but we had no strength left to argue about whose legs were where.
One night, Chitkin decided to help out the best way she knew how.
“I’ll tell you about sugar-lerp”, said Chitkin, but not in her own voice but in a voice I’d never forget: it was Gramma Feebly’s voice!
Everyone stopped chattering, stunned that this voice, old and crackling, though easy to understand, was coming from Chitkin. No surprise to me, but I was happy to hear the voice of an old friend. Ooo! I felt even more homesick than ever at that moment.
“You young ones are going through a terrible time, I know”, said Gramma Feebly. “But, you can’t just think about how horrible this is all the time. Now that the brush and dirt clods have us barricaded in, and now that the dust has settled - Yes, I know, Mandisa, all over us! - so, now that the dust has settled, lets listen to a story from another place so that we can forget about this place, for a while.”
“The food - yes, I know, I know. The food that we get here is not great. But at least it’s food. Now when I was your age, we used to have a really good arrangement with the Aphids: we would protect them from anybody trying to hurt them and they would offer us sugar-lerp. Oh, you don’t know about sugar-lerp? Well, lemme tell you, it’s one of the best treats you’ll ever taste!”,continued Gramma Feebly.
“I dunno exactly how they make it, but one day I was told by my Gramma to come along with her for a special treat. That sounded just fine to me, so, off we went up to where the Aphids lived and worked, not too far from our home.
We had to do a lot of climbing - but you know how good we all are at climbing! - and soon we were being checked-out by our sisters and then allowed to stand in line for the treat.
When it was finally our turn, I couldn’t believe what the Aphids had brought us. There, glistening in the sun, was a perfect, mouth-sized, amber-coloured drop.
My Gramma moved closer and showed me how to take the whole drop and swallow it in one go! Wow! My Gramma smiled and kept on smiling as she pulled me closer for my turn.
Sugar-lerp was way beyond anything I’d ever had. You know what dinner’s like: kinda the same stuff almost all the time. Yes, especially here, Lehana, I know. Well, the taste of sugar-lerp is like sitting under a water fall that is made of the sweetest sugar, with a hint of bitter taste skipping through the background, like a stone across the water, and all of it bursting like a bubble of giddiness, making everybody who tastes it smile from twitcher to twitcher.”, Gramma Feebly ended.
“Now, get some sleep and dream of eating sugar-lerp.”
“No talking! No noise!” Gratch!