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Beneath the Grass This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


   That morning the rain had danced on the tin roof ofEliah's home in the marshy fields of southern Georgia. He lived with his youngerbrother, sister and mother, who kept her sister and two children as well. Theother children weren't up when he woke that morning, but they didn't have to workthe fields like the older boys and men.

He was glad to be alone, with noscreaming kids running around driving everyone within a ten-mile radius to thedrink. He also didn't have to endure the sight of his mother's old stiff bodytrying to keep up with all the work. He felt tortured seeing her with anunbearable workload when she should be kicking her bare feet up on the porch witha cool drink. Well, he had his dad to thank for that.

As he ate biscuitsfrom last night's dinner, he listened. The pattering was beginning to subside andthe crickets and birds played their part in the symphony. Later it would be thecicadas' turn to shine, and when dusk had shrouded the country, the owls wouldbegin their song.

He left the house and breathed the moist, heavy air. Allaround him fields and trees glistened in the hazy sunlight. He always loved tothink of the small things, like the tiny bugs that hid from the night's rain nextto fence posts. When he saw them they sometimes skittered away, afraid, thoughother times they might go about their business paying him no mind atall.

"Where you all going, buggies?" he questioned. What didthey have to do? They looked like they had a purpose. They were always movingforward, except the occasional confused ant that traveled in drunken circles.

He continued on the hard-packed road to the plantation, absently scanningthe ground for more creatures, finding none. He didn't have to walk to the fieldsevery day; there was a cart the men took drawn by an elderly man with tired eyesand a gaping, toothless mouth. But he liked the walk; it cleared hismind.

He checked in when he reached the fields; the mules were alreadybeing harnessed into their straps and leathers. He shouldered his burlapgathering bag, and felt its familiar chaffing strap over his shoulder. His shirtwas worn thin where the strap lay and provided little comfort, but he didn'tgripe. Besides, no one would listen. The sun was rising and the humid air weighedon him, trying to smother his wiry frame, but he was used to this. The feelingwas vague now, and he almost didn't notice.

The sprawling field of cottonalready challenged his endurance, but he bent to the plants and began. Eachhandful had to be efficiently cleaned of nettles and thorns, and his handsreflected the work. They moved nimbly despite their armor of calluses. Deep linesspanned his palms and marked the joints on his fingers. He dug two particularlyrough fingers in, burrowing for the bit of nettle deep in the forgiving cotton,retrieved it and threw it back to the earth. The small bit of cotton he carefullyput in his bag where it would accumulate and pay his wages. When he exhausted thefirst plant, he moved to the next and repeated the task, seemingly unaware of theother workers in the field or the owners riding horses about checking up on theircheap labor.

As he worked he thought of each plant and looked forinteresting insects. He didn't let his thoughts stray far, though. He needed themoney. He took it home each day and put it in an old cigar box under his bed. Thefriendly old general store owner who passed away a couple years back gave the boxto him when he was a boy. When the money accumulated like the cotton in his bag,so would his chances for change. They were only possibilities, but imagining whathe could do, where he could go, he often caught himself fantasizing about a homeof his own and a happy family to give it life. The cotton before him was histicket to change. He wanted to conquer it and move on. Even that, though, wasunlikely at the amount he was making, but all the same, it kept him going. Healways worked hard and rested little. He could just barely see his life beforehim leaving the field. However slim the chance was, he knew it was there, hidingbeneath the grass.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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