Chapter Four. If you retrieved the first three bottles, you know the urgency of our confinement and how to help us. If anything, we are more desperate now as the authorities close in on the operation and, despite the value of what we produce, it matters less with every shipment whether we workers are kept healthy. They will not need us for long. What precious hours of icy twilight are these when we have finished work and before the troubling dreams that are like working another shift. It’s good to walk across the gravel and glass. Sometimes music from the local bars paces our steps to the car yard. The tenderness we show one another would touch any heart not already numb. It was not always so. The early years were savage. Last night I woke before my watch in the dim light of the container car, not black as it was those very first nights but laced by ropes of moonlight through the holes we’ve pried along the seams, in time to see Rom hoist the sick boy to the ventilation grate for a little air. I should say the sickest boy. His simple bug would probably respond to remedies like those we make if there were anything in them. How does anyone sleep, I wonder. The world should be up all night. The children without parents were adopted early but not always well. Rom is good. He feeds the boy first. I helped him last night lower his boy to the floor in the penetrating cold. The wind drove ice and the yeasty smell of fresh rolls from the neighborhood bakery through the grate, awakening the rest of me. Train wheels clacked across the tracks. I put my latest pages in a bottle for tomorrow, for you.

Copyright © August 22, 2008 David Hodges

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