The Bitter Side of Sweet

ᙴ Free Read  Format Kindle [ The Bitter Side of Sweet ] ⚱ Kindle Author Tara Sullivan ⚺ ᙴ Free Read Format Kindle [ The Bitter Side of Sweet ] ⚱ Kindle Author Tara Sullivan ⚺ This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof Copyright 2016 Tara Sullivan1.I count the things that matter. Chop, twist, toss, check Chop, twist, toss, check.Two pods make twenty five total.Neither Seydou nor I have eaten anything since breakfast, but Moussa is working too close for us to be able to sneak one of the cacaopods out of the sack I take a moment to wipe the sweat off my forehead Youd think it would be cooler up here, but some days there isnt a breeze even halfway up a tree.I scrub at my face with my wrist and look out over our work area Moussa is collecting pods off to our right, though hell leave in a second to make another sweep to be sure everyones still here The other boys on crew with us today are just smudges of noise through the green Directly below me, Seydou scrambles around as quickly as he can, picking up the pods Ive cut and putting them in our sacks Theyre lying worryingly flat right now.Only twenty five pods Our sacks need to be full, at least forty or forty five each, so I can get Seydou out of a beating Reallyfull if I want to get out of one too The bosses usually look the other way when I give Seydou lighter work since hes only eight, but that kindness only goes so far We still need to bring in about the same as the other boys.I slide to the ground and push the sack onto my shoulder The bunched bag digs in, pressing through the bruises there, but I dont let Seydou carry things that are too heavy if I can avoid it Instead, he carries the machetes.Moussa Were finding new trees I call out. Aw he shouts, looking to see which direction were going In a few minutes hell wander over to check on us I try not to let it bother me.Seydou and I walk past tree after tree They taunt us with their clustered pods, all the wrong size, none of them ripe enough to cut I dont count how many trees we pass because I dont count the things that dont matter.I dont count unripe pods I dont count how many times Ive been hit for being under quota I dont count how many days its been since Ive given up hope of going home.In the next grove I heave the sack onto the ground and shake out my arms Seydou stumbles a little as he shuffles up behind me His thin shoulders slump I can see how tired he is and it makes me mad, because I cant do anything about it More than seventy pods to go and its already late morning.Give me my machete.He scowls at my tone, his thin eyebrows scrunching down in his round face, making him look like a cranky old man, but he hands it to me even so Then he heads straight to the nearest tree with low pods and gets to work, a frown line still between his eyes.I clench my machete between my teeth and pull myself up a smooth trunk with my bare feet and hands, counting the shiny pods that are the right size for cutting When I get high enough to reach some purple red ones, I knot my legs around the trunk, grab one in my left hand, and hack at the tough stem that holds it to the tree.One strong chop and with a twist it comes off, surprisingly light in my hand for its size Twenty six.I turn to toss it to the ground and check on Seydou I notice that hes still trying to saw through the stem of his first pod His skinny little body is sagging from exhaustion and his blade keeps slipping I want to scream at him to be careful In stead, I slip down the tree and dont add the pod to my sack.Come on, I say, walking to him Lets take a quick break before Moussa gets too close again Then well get to work How does that sound I can keep working He straightens and glares at me as ifIve just called him a baby in front of the whole camp.I grind my teeth in frustration but keep my face smooth Tremors of exhaustion are making his blade wave slightly in the air as he argues with me.I need a break, I lie, and sit deliberately in front of him Balancing the pod I just cut in one hand, I aim the machete and swing One, two hits, and it cracks I wedge the pod open with the blade until the whole thing splits in two Inside the thick rind, the seeds are packed together in a tube, each in a squishy skin I drop my machete, scoop the seed mess out with my fingers, and shove some of it in my mouth Then I hold out the other half to Seydou.Eat.Okay, he says, and slides down beside me, resting against the tree.While I chew on the slimy, crunchy cacaoseeds, I look for a place where the leaf litter is deep, to hide the empty husk Theres no way I want Moussa catching us eating the crop, but all of us boys do it when we can We dont get fed much and chewing the seeds makes you feel better and gives you enough energy to keep working.Seydou chews his handful, a little at a time Ill let him finish it before I make him get to work again, but I get up I need a new twenty sixth pod and the day is only getting shorter.Im halfway up the next tree, my hand already wrapped around it, when the unusual sound of a motor surprises me Giving in to curiosity, I climb higher until I can see out over the treetops The growing groves and the wild bush beyond them stretch like a green sea in every direction There are little pock marks of brown in itthe clearing where the bosses have their house, the clearing where we husk the pods, ferment and dry the seeds, eat and sleepand a long tan colored scar pulling across it the track that the pisteursuse to come here and collect the seeds weve harvested.And along that track, a plume of dust announces that a car is coming to the camp.I slide down the tree as quickly as I can Seydou looks up in alarm, his hand halfway to his mouth with the last few seeds.What is it A car Theres someone coming.Seydou finishes and wipes his hands on his pants He wrinkles his nose, thinking Its too early for the pisteursyet, he says I thought Moussa said theyre not coming until next week.Thats what I had been thinking too More boys I shrug.Not many people come all the way out here to the middle of nowhere, Ivory Coast There are the pisteurs, and every now and again someone else, someone delivering fertilizer or insecticide or food for the bosses But usually, when a car comes by in the middle of the day, its because theyre delivering boys to work.Over two years ago it was Seydou and I who were part of that batch, leaving Moke and Auntie, thinking wed be home after a season of work Seydou and I who were about to get dumped at the cacaocamp and learn that we now had to work all day, week after week, season after season, never getting paid I rub my bruises and wonder what poor boys are currently peer ing out the bug spattered windshield for their first glimpse of their new work site.Well find out soon enough, I say But Seydou darts past me and shimmies up the tree I was just in to see for himself I wait for him at the bottom, considering.I wish we could see them His whine filters through the leaves to me.Wishing doesnt make it so, I remind him, moving to the next tree Moke used to say that to us all the time when we complained at home And hes right Ive wished for a lot of things first, to make my family proud by earning a lot of money then, that my family would come find us finally, simply that my family would know what had happened to us before we died here Wishing doesnt make it so, I mumble to myself again, and start up the tree.Im cutting through the next stem when the shrill double blast of a whistle makes me jump Moussa wants us For a moment I sit there, straddling the branch, cradling my new twenty sixth pod against my chest A distraction is the last thing I need. No,I correct myself The last thing you need is to get Moussa angry.I drop the pod to the ground and slither down the trunk until Im standing at the base I shove the pod into my sack When I hear the swishof Seydous bare feet on the tree, I grab the sacks, and we trot to where Moussa is waiting for us.Were the first ones there Curious, I walk to where Moussa is standing Tall and broad, Moussa is the oldest of the three brothers who run the farm His face is handsome, though he has deep lines on his forehead from worrying At fifteen, Im one of the oldest boys in the camp Even so, I have to tilt my head to look him in the eye.Seydou tucks himself behind me a bit as we stand there waiting for the other boys to join us He wont talk to the bosses if he can avoid it Seydou is the youngest at the camp by far I grimace as the old guilt twists in my stomach Its a number that matters, but in all the wrong ways.I turn my attention back to Moussa I look at his face carefully, gauging whether he might be angry His stance is relaxed there are no muscles bunched at the corners of his jaw his hands hang loosely by his sides I take a chance I didnt know we were expecting new boys, I say.Moussas eyes cut to me I try not to flinch Then he looks away and shrugs.Neither did I He pulls a whistle from inside his shirt and blows it again Help me get my things.Seydou scrambles to get Moussas tools and I put the rest of his pods in his sack Yussuf, Abdraman, and Konat arrive just as we hear a blaring sound from the direction of the clearing, like someone is leaning on a horn, then two quick honks.Moussa grabs his sack from me and leads the way.I fall into line with Seydou and the other boys and follow Moussa Its not like he would trust us to work in the field alone while he took care of business I grind my teeth in frustration at the thought of daylight slipping away. Aw ka kene says a voice beside us.Oh, were fine, Seydou answers But, Yussuf We think there might be some new boys from Mali coming to the camp What do you think My crazy cricket of a brother is bouncing on the balls of his feet as he walks, excited to be able to share a secret.Yussuf smiles indulgently at Seydou, his thick eyebrows almost comical on his thin face Ive never been too friendly with the other boys It just hurts too much to care, and all of my caring is used up with Seydou If I had to, though, I would trust Yussuf above the others He smiles a lot like he means it In a place like this, thats rare. Aw, Yussuf whispers Youre probably right More mouths at the stew pot, hmm We all go back to walking in silence How little food we get is never something to laugh about.When we get to the edge of the clearing where we live, Moussa walks straight to the Jeep to talk to the driver, a bulky man in khaki pants and a sweat stained shirt The five of us dont really know what to do with ourselves, so we stop a little ways away Always glad for a break, we sink to the ground and wait to be told what to do Seydou stands on his tiptoes trying to see in the windshield, but theres a glare With a huff of frustration, he settles beside me.Only a few moments behind us, the other two bosses and their crews trickle in, one after another from the areas they were harvesting, until pretty much everyone is here The three bosses, Moussa, Ismail, and Salif, stand in a loose ring, talking with the man from the Jeep The boys float over to join our crew.Im contemplating whether or not this would be a good chance to sneak in a nap, when the driver pulls a struggling kid out of the Jeep Instantly, the thought of napping, along with all others, is jolted out of my head I hear a low whistle of astonishment from Yussuf.Is that a girl whispers Seydou.I nod, still trying to wrap my head around this First of all, girls never come to the farm Second, Ive never seen or heard of one kid being brought alone, ever Seydou and I had to wait a while in the halfway house in Mali before we crossed the border because it was just too expensive to move us until the drivers had enough kids to make the trip worth it for them What on earth are they doing, bringing only one kid, and a girl at that None of the girls at the Sikasso halfway house came with us to the farms They were all driven somewhere else.I watch, fascinated You can tell the kid is a girl because of the plain blue cotton dress she wears, but the thing that the big man pulls out of the Jeep is like a wild animal than any girl Ive ever met She whips around in his hands, thrashing her head from side to side Her arms are tied behind her, so when he drags her out, she hits the hard packed ground with a thud In a heartbeat, shes on her feet and running for the trees.Biting off a curse, the big man in khakis is after her He catches her by her wrist and yanks her sideways She loses her balance and falls, crying out The big man sinks a knee into her spine She lets loose a stream of curses that would curl a mans hair and doesnt even stop when he slaps the side of her head He hauls her to her feet and pushes her before the bosses.Moussa looks wary I agree This girls crazy.I notice Im standing and that Ive taken a few steps toward them without realizing it Moussa crosses his wiry arms, and the four of them begin a heated conversation.I try to think like the bosses Would I take her on Given her height, shes probably a little younger than me, maybe thirteen or fourteen, but shes not as skinny as most of the girls I knew at home Maybe the drought is over if people have food to spare on girls.I pull my thoughts away from home and pretend Im helping them decide to take her on or not She looks healthy and strong enough to work, but I wouldnt trust that wildcat.Yussuf and Seydou and the others are whispering among themselves, wondering where she came from, why the middlemen in Sikasso would be willing to transport only one kid, and what it might mean to have a girl in the camp Im just about to sit, joining the other boys, when the girls eyes snap off the ground and lock into mine I take a step away Wide and dark in her oval face, her eyes are asking for help But I have enough to worry about with Seydou and myself I have no help left to give And so I look away When I glance at her again, her eyes have turned hard.Theres nothing I could do anyway, I remind myself.As I sink into the rough circle weve formed, Im distracted by the pity in Yussuf s eyes I wonder whether he has sisters at home.The thought takes me by surprise After two years working with Yussuf, I have no idea who he left behind I dont usually wonder about peoples pasts Thinking about someone elses past only makes me remember mine, and thats too much to bear.I wish we could get back to work, I hear myself say Wishing doesnt make it so, Seydou parrots.Im annoyed to have him sass me like that in front of the other boys, but Yussuf laughs, so I let it drop.Until the bosses give the word, we cant do anything, so even though were all losing time on making quota, we sit together and wait.Wait while the men finish their deal.Wait while the big man in khakis drives his Jeep away Wait while the girl screams curses after it.Wait while Moussa and the other bosses beat her for the first time.Finally, Moussa comes over to where were sitting, dragging the girl with him.Okay, enough lazing around, he says, waving us all onto our feet The other bosses round up their teams too, and we all head back to where we were working earlier this morning.I trudge with my crew into the underbrush, sneaking glances sideways at the girl Up close, she doesnt look like a wildcat Her cheekbones are high and fine in her oval face, and the lashes ringing her eyes are spiky from crying Her hair is braided in slightly uneven lines and knotted at the base of her head She looks pretty, and kind of soft around the edges Shes clearly not a village kid like us Her cheeks are round and her skin is dark and shiny You can tell that shes been eating well for years Her family must have landed on hard times for a girl who could eat that well to be looking for work in a place like this.I tell myself that it doesnt matter where she came from shes here now Her full lips are split open and her blue dress has blood on the front of it Fresh bruises are swelling her almond eyes shut and her hands are tied in front of her I shake my head to get rid of all this useless thinking and set myself to the task of counting things that matter Shes not my problem Quota is.When we reach the area we were working before, Im the first one up a tree.Grab a hard red orange pod, smooth and ribbed and as long as my forearm.Chop with the machete raised, careful not to miss the stem, thin as my fingers.Pull the pod off the tree and toss it at the bag Twenty seven.Check on Seydou, make sure hes all right Begin again on the next pod. Chop, twist, toss, check.Twenty eight.2When Ive taken all the ripe pods off that tree, I drop to the ground, expecting Seydou to have collected them Instead, I find him harvesting his own pods in a way I told him never to do.I stalk up behind him, watching him swing his machete in wide arcs He knows better Seydou is young and clumsy When were harvesting, I make him hold the blunt side of the blade with two hands and saw it across the stem I dont let him use the machete any other way, and hes not allowed to climb trees with it.Seydou He turns and looks at me, his machete freezing in midair What do you think youre doing I see his grip tighten Im working, he says.You know better than to do it that way I point at his machete He lowers it, still glaring at me.Im trying to help us make quota he snaps Your way takes forever and we already lost an hour.I glance at the girl, whos sitting in front of a tree, arms crossed, silently glaring at me Shes no longer tied to Moussas waist It must have been too difficult for him to move around Instead, he tied her here The knots are tight, complex, and out of her reach Seydous right, of course We did just lose valuable work time, and because theyre machetes, not saws, it does take him a while But, even if it slows us down, I wont see him get hurt.This isnt a discussion, I say Do it properly Seydous face gets hard and flat Hes furious Im helping, he insists.I roll my eyes I dont care Pay attention, and do it right I turn away to collect the nine pods I got off the last tree and shove them in my sack.You never let me help Seydou yells at my back I can hear the tears clogging his voice Im sick of arguing with him, sick of telling him hes too young, too small Sick of it always having to be my job to keep him from getting hurt I grab my sack and look sideways at him.If I see you being reckless with your machete again just to impress a stupid girl, Ill beat you myself.Then, to make sure that Seydou doesnt follow me while Im still mad, I carry my sack to where Moussa is working, and climb the tree next to his I know Seydou wont get closer to the bosses even to have the satisfaction of yelling at me.As I hack at the next pod, I hear a low laugh from the greenery off to my right.Always on the lookout, arent you Hidden by the leaves, Moussas voice sounds oddly friendly For a moment I think about how nice it would be if he actually were But without being able to see what the rest of him is doing, I dont feel entirely safe. Aw, I mumble.Moussas low laugh rolls over me again and, with a pang, I wish for Moke My grandfather didnt laugh very often, but when he did, his laugh was like warm honey.In the early days here I used to think all the time How can I run away What is my family doing right now Is Moke worried about us Are they searching How much longer will we have to work before we pay off our debt and the bosses let us go home The questions would seethe through me, twisting on themselves in new shapes again and again like an injured snake I soon learned the price of thinking It slowed me down, and I didnt make quota Now I count instead of thinking and Im able to get through most of my waking hours in a daze Its better this way. Chop, twist, toss, check.Thirty seven.I dont say anything else to Moussa and I refuse to think of anything other than the rise and fall of my machete After a while, I manage to enter my empty place that strange state of mind I get to when Im working, where the burn in my muscles is the only way to track the passing of time Its like being half asleep or feverish I move without having to think about it Without having to think about anything.The sun has sunk about a hand lower in the sky when Im finally not angry with Seydou any and I decide to go back and try to talk to him again Numbly, Ive followed Moussa for the past few hours and weve wandered well away from where I last saw Seydou I heft my comfortably full sack sixty high on my shoulder to avoid the old bruises as I walk It hurts to carry, but its weight feels good Between what Ive got and whatever Seydou managed on his own, we might actually have a chance of making quota today, even with the delay the girl caused by her arrival.Im still a little ways off when I hear a soft sobbing filtering through the trees My heart pounds as I break into a run It was stupid to leave Seydou working alone just because I was mad If hes gotten hurt when I wasnt there to help him, Im never going to forgive myself.I break through the last bit of underbrush and rush to Seydou At first I cant tell whats wrong A quick glance around the nearby trees shows me a chest high ring of sloppily cut stems In the near flat sack at his feet there are maybe a dozen pods I cant see his machete, or any obvious injuries I drop my sack and grab his arms, turning him this way and that.Whats wrong I shout His eyes are terrified Set in his round face, they make him look very young and breakable.Sobbing, snot and tears running down his face, Seydou points behind me I turn, and for a brief second I dont really know what Im looking for Then I see the rope dangling from the tree, empty It feels like the world stops I face Seydou again, my eyes as wide as his.What did you do I manage, my voice barely a whisper II Seydou gasps.Im shaking my head because, no, no, this day did not just get worse We had the chance to make quota Everything was going to be all right Now theres no way were going to be okay If we helped a kid escape, Moussas going to destroy us.She asked me to cut her free as soon as you and Moussa were out of sight I said I said no but she she tricked me Seydou is beyond panic She asked me to come over when we were talking and then she knocked me to the ground and took my machete and she and she He trails off, pointing at a spot in the bush to his right where the branches are bent at odd angles, then starts sobbing again A A Amadou, Im sorry Im so, so sorry I wave my hand at him to shut him up so I can think Of course hes sorry Im always the one bailing him out when he makes mistakes I bet he knew, the minute this happened, that Id figure out a way to take care of this I try to think over the panic churning in my belly.I cant believe that she would put Seydou in this situation Already Im right the girls not worth the trouble shes causing That little snake Im so angry at her I feel Id like to kill her myself But my terror quickly overrides my anger Any minute now, Moussa is going to come here to check on all of us I look at Seydou, curled on his nearly empty sack, his breath wheezing in and out of his skinny little ribs as he sobs I imagine Moussas rage at losing the girl The kind of beating thats likely to follow this disaster could kill Seydou.Not every boy survives here Some have fallen sick and died of their diarrhea some have been bitten by poisonous snakes or spiders while they worked in the bush And one, a stringy boy named Yacouba, got beaten and went unconscious and never came out of it.I think of the scars that already crisscross Seydous back and I make up my mind I reach over and smack him hard across the face.He reels, surprise cutting off his crying I never hit Seydou You were an idiot to trust her, I snarl, low and fierce Now pull yourself together and shut up.Then I throw my machete at him, whirl on my heel, and race back the way Ive just come Moussa I yell at the top of my lungs Moussa I nearly ram into him I was right he was on his way to check on us.What he says, What is it I try to catch the breath my fear has knocked out of me The wildcat escaped, I manage. What he roars How My mind races.When I went to check on Seydou, she tricked me into coming over to her She knocked me off my feet and stole my machete She cut herself loose.She knocked you over A girl, a girl who was tied up, knocked youover and stole your machete Maybe that wasnt the best way to put it.Moussas meaty hand slams into the side of my head.You make me sick He grabs me by the ear and drags me to Seydou Since Im almost as tall as him, his grip on my ear makes me bend nearly double Head still spinning from being hit, I have a hard time keeping my footing But Im still here, still standing, and even if he believes an embarrassing story, at least he doesnt know the truth.When we burst through the bushes, Seydou jumps, holding my machete out in front of him Tears are streaming down his face and his lower lip is trembling, but hes stopped sobbing and I hope that Moussa will assume his distress is from being generally afraid and not from being responsible.Moussa lets go of my ear and examines the tree with its dangling rope Reaching up, he slices through it near the knot and winds it into loops My ear throbs but I know that I have to keep up my side of the story.She ran that way I point.Moussa scowls, looks at the afternoon sun, and lets loose a tight curse He takes a moment, fingers fisted in his hair, and then seems to come to a decision.You He points at Seydou Keep working Harvest as much as you can Were going to lose a lot of time chasing her and it will be your fault if we dont bring in enough Do you understand Seydou darts a glance to me, frightened, and I take a step forward, my mouth open to argue for him even though I dont know what Im going to say, but Moussa shoves an open hand in my direction, stopping me in my tracks.I said, do you understand he repeats, softly. Aw, says Seydou, hearing that softness for the danger it is Moussa looks at me and holds out the rope You, youre coming with me.My heart drops into my stomach Well never make quota now With one last look at Seydou, I take the rope from Moussa and follow him into the trees.Moussa wastes only a moment looking at the place where she disappeared and then hes off at a lope, following the direction the girl has gone I feel vulnerable running through the bush without a blade Not only is la brossefull of pythons, vipers, and poisonous spiders, there are also leopards, panthers, and vicious wild pigs that will rip you to pieces with their tusks as soon as look at you Even if no animal bothers us, Im sick of branches slapping me in the face But the wildcat took Seydous machete, and the only way to get it is to capture her.Also, I need to get back to Seydou A hundred terrible im ages flash through my mind What if he falls What if he cuts his thigh open and bleeds to death What if he steps on a snake I shake my head and run faster Whats likely is that hell sit on the ground crying, too scared to move, until we return And then, when neither of us make quota .I run faster still.Moussa doesnt break his pace, checking her trail as he runs As I jog after him, jumping over low plants and dodging be tween trees, I try to figure out what hes tracking in the ground that Im missing Its not an easy task and soon I find myself drawn in by the challenge Even when we were still at home, I never really went hunting I just set snares around Mokes fields for rabbits In front of me, Moussa takes a quick left and I slow What made him turn At first I see nothing Then, as Im passing the bush, I notice where a sandaled foot has pushed the leaves aside.I follow Moussa, eyes on the ground, scanning for telltale signs Little by little, it gets easier The ground tells a story feet trod here quickly, here slowly Shes getting tired look, a line from a dragged machete tip I have entered my empty place and the ground seems to shout its secrets Pretty much every time Moussa turns I know why a footprint in the soft loam, a smashed fern Abruptly, Moussa veers off to the left again, but I see a track to the right Im so wrapped up in the task that I dont even consider that he might not want my opinion, that he might not want my noise I blurt out, Moussa He turns around and glares, and his hand cuffs me on the ear.Shush he says in a heavy whisper Were getting close to her now, you idiot Do you want to go shouting where we are, helping her escape I I trail off, remembering what were tracking I had forgotten, for a few moments there, that its a person were after the difficult girl That this isnt just one job, one thing to count, but another kid The rest of the words come out shaky, unsure I think thats a false trail Look.For a moment Moussa is quiet as his eyes follow my pointing finger, taking in the slight scuffing of moss that shows careful steps leading away from the trail of broken branches A slow smile creeps across his face.Good work, he says, and rubs his hand on my head as we turn to follow the real trail Inside, my heart soars at the praise Its been so long since someone told me I did a good job at anything I always have to be the one in charge with Seydou, always the one telling him its all right, that he did well Id al most forgotten how nice it is to be the one to hear those words.Its not long before my new trail shows its worth We are turning around a tree when I see a glint in the bushes I act purely on instinct, calling Moussas name and pointing, and then the girl is exploding out of the bushes and sprinting away For a brief moment I think she might make it, but then Moussa is after her and I know that the chase is over.Very aware of the fact that I am still the only one without a machete, I hang back and let him catch her She lashes out wildly with the machete A cold, distant part of my mind criticizes her swing It wobbles with her exhaustion It is poorly aimed A few months working in the field would cure that,I think, and a small part of me smirks that thats exactly what shes about to get Another part of me is ashamed of the thought A third part of me, one that has slept dormant for months until this crazy girl showed up, wonders quietly how my work trained swing would do if I were the one trying to escape I brush the thought away like a bug near my ear, but a tiny echo of its buzz remains.Moussa leaps sideways, avoiding the blade, and then rushes forward He uses his machete to beat hers aside and then grabs her other arm with his free hand Hes shouting at her, shaking her, but I dont look, dont listen Instead, I walk around them to where Seydous machete has fallen into the undergrowth and pick it up Im glad to have it again But I cant help noticing, as I take the loop of rope off my shoulder and help Moussa bind the struggling girl, that the handle is still warm from her hand.3We arrive at the grove hot, tired, and cranky Ive worked all day and then chased a wildcat on nothing but the thin soup of breakfast and Im starting to feel weak I want to lapse into a deep, colorless sleep, but instead Moussa blows a double blast on his whistle and, one by one, Yussuf, Abdraman, and Konat join us with their bags.Seydou arrives last, dragging both of our sacks He runs over and throws his arms around me He doesnt need to say anything I know he was scared Scared to work alone in la brossefull of animals, large and small, that could kill him Scared I wouldnt come back, and hed have to do this every day Its a terrible thing to be here It would be worse to be here alone I often think of what it would be like if I hadnt taken Seydous side and convinced Moke to let him come with me into the Ivory Coast I feel awful about it every day, but if Im honest with myself, I know that I wouldnt have made it this far if I didnt have him Without Seydou to protect, and to make me laugh, Id have given up a long time ago.I squeeze him gently.Lets go Moussas in no mood to be trifled with and sets a punishing pace, dragging the offending girl behind him We follow along, the others baffled as to the change in mood, and there is nothing I can do but put one foot in front of the other, and dread whats coming next.In the two years Ive been here, only a handful of boys have tried to run The punishments have always been terrible Unbidden, memories flood through me of my one and only attempt at escape I cringe away from them and try to count the steps it takes us to get back to camp, pretending its a number that matters.It doesnt work.We trundle into the clearing, Moussa and the girl in the lead Ahead of us is the long, low sleeping hut, with the water pump off to its side To our right is the large, clear area with the drying platforms for the seeds To our left are the toolshed and the storage lean to Because were all carrying bags that need to be stacked against it, we turn and walk there I feel damp and chilled across my neck and on my upper arms My skin prickles with waiting.When its my turn, I hand my sack to Ismail, the youngest of the brothers, who hefts it in his hands for a moment and scrunches up his long, skinny face, considering Ismail is the one who decides every day whether or not weve made quota He makes his decision based on how much he thinks the bag weighs and a quick look inside It really bothers me that he never counts the pods, because even on days I come in high, Im still never sure if Ill have enough. Ayi, he tells me, no Not a surprise since I handed him a near empty sack Im in trouble anyway and making quota wouldnt have helped me out of it, so I poured most of my sack into Seydous while we waited in line.I go to stand in the middle of the clearing near the fire pit with the one other boy who didnt reach quota today Everyone else begins to make dinner Moussa is talking with his brothers, still holding on to the tied girl My only comfort is seeing Seydou join the group of boys who made quota But knowing that I have to take his punishment for him, again, makes it a small victory, laced with resentment.How close were you asks a voice at my elbow.I turn in surprise, then shrug The other boy who didnt make quota is Modibo, a skinny boy with a big head but not nearly enough brains to fill it He hasnt been here very long, and hes not learning quickly enough what he has to do to sur vive Hes sloppy with a machete and reckless with pesticides He gets hit nearly every day, though hes too stupid to do anything big enough to get beaten very badly He needs to learn fast, though, or the bosses will get frustrated with him Then, who knows how much hell be hurt.Not close, I say in a tone that I hope ends the conversation Waiting for a beating is almost as bad as the beating itself Having to stand still and see it coming nearly drives me insane every time it happens I think the bosses do it on purpose Its twice the punishment and it gives all the other boys time to look at us sideways and decide to work harder tomorrow.The bosses finally finish talking Moussa hands the girl to Ismail, and picks up a large stick He walks toward us, holding it loosely in his hand Beside me, Modibo has started to whim per I dont let myself shrink away For all my bravery around Seydou, though, I hate to get beaten. Stay strong I tell myself But its no good Once he lays into me with the stick, and fear turns into pain, I lose my resolve Hes going out of his way to show the girl how bad it will be By the time hes finished Im sobbing and begging him to stop, cowering on the ground I hate that the others can hear me, can see me, but I cant help myself.Finally, hes done.Let that be a lesson to you, says Moussa, and he turns to deal with Modibo, hitting softly now that most of his frustration is out He leaves the girl till last When its her turn, she shrieks and lurches, but Ismail holds his end of the rope, and she cant get away.The beating she gets is bad, but not as bad as the one when we tried to escape I gingerly pull myself into a sitting position He must be going easy on her because shes a girl I wonder again how she ended up here Her family must have sold her against her will for her to be fighting this hard to get away so quickly But then my curiosity leaks out of me It hurts to think.I draw my knees to my chest and tuck my head, moving slowly, trying not to pull at the long, open welts across my back and shoulders I let myself cry because I cant help it Besides, tears are like pus in a wound either you get them out quickly or they fester and make you sick and weak My tears dribble across my bare knees, leaving tracks in the dirt that has caked on me from scrabbling on the ground. Let it out Tomorrow youll need to be strong again.I tell this to myself over and over, like a lullaby I give myself until Moussas finished with the others to be weak, then I make myself stop I lift my face and rub the wet off, then I gingerly brush the dirt off my clothes and hair Then, even though it hurts like dying, I straighten and look up.Im surprised to see that my team from today is coming over I wonder why Yussuf leads the way Abdraman and Konat look frightened, but they come anyway, and thats worth something Seydou is pale and shaking.Amadou, Im sorry So, so sorry Annoyance seeps into me through the pain Im sick of taking his beatings for him Tired of taking care of him all the time It hurts so much, and once, just once, Id like for someone to take care of me But thats never going to happen here I try to pretend that wish doesnt exist.Usually I tell him its okay But right now Im in too much real pain to care if Seydous feelings get hurt or not.Next time, dont be so stupid, I manage Seydou snivels, but Yussuf barks a laugh.Well, I see that another beating didnt improve your personality, he jokes Come on He slides his arm under mine and across my chest, where he grabs hands with Abdraman, who has come around on my other side Bracing off each other, careful not to touch my cuts, they help lift me to my feet and bring me to the circle of boys sitting around the fire.Im shocked by the help Usually no one helps, for fear of making the bosses angry My beating today really must have been worse than usual Then again, today Im being punished for two things, not only for coming in under quota.I guess I got my wish For once, others are looking out for me. I ni c, I murmur The thanks feel strange in my mouth Out of the corner of my eye I see Modibos team help him to the fire too The girl is still tied to Ismail, so no one goes near her When Ismail comes to sit at the fire, he drags her along with him She curls into a ball, her back to us Moussa drops his heavy stick by the water pump to wash off.Are you going to be okay Seydou asks That was bad I nod It was And I will be There is no other choice.That stupid Khadija Seydou mutters I cant believe I let her trick me Khadija Im doubly surprised First that this wild thing has a name and second that Seydou knows what it is How long had they been talking this morning before she betrayed him I start to shrug, then think better of it when my back screams from the tiny movement Moussa, finished washing up, joins the far edge of the circle The reflection of the flames dances in his cold stare I shudder and look away.When the soup is ready and the bosses have eaten, the boys surge in to grab bowls.No food for the three who got beaten tonight, Moussa says, as Seydou is about to hand me one.I try to hide my disappointment Eating always helps me forget, just for a moment, about everything else Plus, after a long day Im always really, really hungry.Water I ask.Moussa shakes his head.Seydou sits beside me, putting his soup to one side.I slant a glare at him I want him to suffer like Im having to suffer for his stupid mistake I want him to learn, want him to stop doing things that get me in trouble From beside me I hear his stomach whine.Eat, I order.He looks at me He shakes his head.No He sniffs Im not going to eat when you cant Eat.Finally, used to being the younger brother, he does as I tell him.I lean forward, trying to find an angle where everything doesnt hurt I dont find one I look at the ground between my feet and try to pretend I cant hear Seydou slurping guiltily beside me.When theyre finished, the bosses sit by the fire, talking and laughing together in low tones, and the boys clean up and pre pare everything for the morning I try to stand but, again, my work crew covers for me Sometimes the bosses let us help each other out, sometimes they dont Tonight no one tells them not to, so when Abdraman says, Weve got it, I sit.Its worse to sit than to work, really, because then I have nothing to take my mind off the things I dont want to think about How badly everything hurts The bosses relaxed and content across the fire The blue dressed back curled beside them The yawning black shadow of tomorrow and all the days after it stretching over me.Finally, its time to go to bed I let Seydou pull me to my feet, sucking in a breath when the movement causes a fresh wave of agony to wash through me I sway a little, and Seydou keeps me upright while I wait for it to pass I have no idea how Im going to work tomorrow Just the thought of climbing a tree makes me wince.Okay, lets go, I say to Seydou I hate that he has to help me instead of the other way around, but even leaning most of my weight on him I can barely walk, so I dont tell him to go away. Ayi.Seydou freezes Slowly I shuffle my feet around and faceMoussa.You sleep in there tonight He points at the toolshed.I shake my head wearily, not wanting to go Its common for them to put kids in there overnight for punishment its small and cramped, full of bad smelling chemicals, and there are ants that nest between the cracks of the wooden beams.Moussa walks over and takes my upper arm in his hand and pulls me away from Seydou My back screams at the jolt, but I dont pull away from him either.But manages Seydou, before hes silenced by a glare from Moussa.Get in the sleeping hut, Moussa says to Seydou, then he half drags me into the toolshed and lets go of my arm Without his support, I crumple to the ground with a groan, still not able to fully support my own weight I land next to something soft that yanks away from me with a hiss and I realize that theyve put the girl and Modibo in here too.Moussa stands there for a moment, framed in the doorway by the purpling light of evening, his face in shadow.You allowed her to escape today, he says, so youre being punished Since I dont think youll be able to keep harvesting tomorrow, Im putting you on shelling duty until youre better My brain struggles to process why this is a punishment Iknow the reason is there somewhere, but I cant quite find it Also, Moussa goes on, you wont be allowed in the sleeping hut with the other boys until youre on your work crew again Until then, you sleep here.Moussa waits He wants to make sure I really understand I force my sluggish brain to work Why is this all so bad Then it hits me If Im locked in here, I wont be able to look after Seydou I manage, trying desperately to force my brain to cobble together a sentence.Exactly, says Moussa, and locks the door behind him.Seydou In all the time weve been here, Ive rarely slept apart from him, never left him for than an hour or so as we worked Hell never survive a day without me I want to get up, want to pace and yell, but even the slightest movement hurts and I feel light headed from not eating.Gritting my teeth against the pain, I scoot until Im able to lean sideways against a wall A sigh of relief escapes me Thats better.At least now I dont have the impossible task of holding up my own head.Weak threads of moonlight struggle through the tiny cracks around the door Even so, its almost completely dark in the toolshed As my eyes adjust, I become aware again of the other forms hunched against the wall Modibo and what did Seydou say her name was again Modibo Khadija I try aloud, to see if I was right in my guess than to really start a conversation.Modibo is sniffling, clearly not in a mood to talk.Go away, comes the retort from the girl Her voice slurs as she tries to talk through swollen lips.For a moment I feel a pangwere all locked in here, all hurt Then I remember that all of this is her fault and my pity turns to rage.Go away Go away I snarl Youve pretty much made that impossible, havent you I just got one of the worst beatings of my life and Im stuck in this stupid, stinking shed instead of being able to sleep comfortably with the other boys, all because of you Youwere certainly happy enough to go awaythis morning I choke out a bitter laugh at my joke Just trick a little kid and run, huh Did you even think about the price other people would have to pay for what you did Well, now you see what that gets you I hope youre happy.I want to say , but even that small rant has exhausted me I turn my face from both of them, each too stupid to see what theyve done wrong, and try to fall asleep.I jerk awake in the middle of the night, gasping My quick movement dislodges some of the ants that were crawling on me as I slept I brush off the rest of them, then swipe the ground in arcs, checking for snakes, spiders, or anything else that might be within reach of biting me, but theres nothing I settle back and wonder what it was that woke me.I lie there for what feels like a long time, on high alert without knowing why My noise and movement caused a sudden silence to fall around the toolshed Slowly the sounds of the bugs in the trees and the machine gun roaring of the tree frogs picks up where it left off I feel another ant crawl across my arm, but I ignore it, straining for the sound that woke me Then I hear it A faint scratching sound, too rhythmic to be natural I strain my ears to hear. Scritch Scritch Scritch Scritch.Praise for The Bitter Side of Sweet An ALA Notable Childrens Book 2017A gripping and painful portrait of modern day child slavery in the cacao plantations of the Ivory Coast The Wall Street Journal A tender, harrowing story of family, friendship, and the pursuit of freedom Kirkus Reviews, starred reviewIn crisp, accessible prose, Sullivan draws readers into a most compelling story of survival under unspeakable hardship, bravery, and teamwork Absorbing and important Booklist, starred review A heart wrenching survival tale Publishers Weekly, starred review An engaging story that will engender empathy in readers School Library Journal, starred review Curriculum connections abound and even reluctant readers will be drawn to the suspenseful plot and distinctive characters SLC, starred reviewFirst world readers will learn much about how their pleasures are underwritten by the labor of their third world peers The resolutionis an as good as it gets kind of compromise that leaves much room for the activism advocated for in the authors note that follows The Bulletin of the Center for Children s Books This beautiful story of love triumphing over cruelty and profit stands out as an excellent book discussion choice or classroom study VOYA Bitter Melon Tea Side Effects LIVESTRONG The fruit of the bitter melon plant resembles a small, bumpy cucumber and is used as food and, along with its seeds leaves, an herbal remedy Uses, Effects, Interactions, Learn about Bitter uses, effectiveness, possible side effects, interactions, dosage, user ratings products that contain Welcome to Films Anesthetics was very temporary comic strip Don played in off hours writing drawing Rejected Many years later, character Proeverij Bitterzoet Chocolade Proeverij Ondanks de hoge consumptie aan chocolade, weten we er eigenlijk maar weinig vanaf Daarom biedt proeverijen waarbij je alles leert orange Wikipedia orange, Seville sour bigarade or marmalade refers citrus tree Citrus aurantium It native The End End pub Cockermouth traditional English Pub restaurant beautiful Lake district Cumbria England Serving fine wines, real ales publishes poetry short fiction by well known poet authors,to little unknown poets writers Directions journal this archive targeting has been deleted Please update your configuration Definition Merriam Webster Adjective Cocoa beans have flavor medicine had aftertaste We were struck irony situation His betrayal made her Scrambled Eggs Wishful Chef Growing up, my parents grew our garden Pennsylvania, so they it lot dishes took me awhile getGilbert O Sullivan Levensloop werd geboren Ierland als Raymond Edward Ray Hij verhuisde naar Swindon, waar hij genteresseerd raakte muziek en o Sweet Tara author award winning critically acclaimed Golden Boy She born India spent childhood living Bangladesh, Ecuador Tara Reid Donna November , American actress for playing Vicky films Pie Road novel Maeve Binchy chosen Oprah s Book Club selection September Plot introduction story two women, one from Wikipdia est la fille et Tom Reid, tous deux d origine irlandaise Elle une ur prnomme Colleen dbute dans le mtier actrice trs tt Wyckoff, novembre un attrice, personaggio televisivo e produttrice cinematografica statunitense Wikipedia, wolna encyklopedia listopada w stan New Jersey ameryka ska aktorka, znana z filmw takich jak Pie, czyli dowCipna sprawa oraz Dr T i Leben wurde Tochter von und Wyckoff Beide Elternteile sind Lehrer besitzen zusammen einige Kindertagessttten enciclopedia libre Nueva Jersey, noviembre es una actriz cine estadounidense Comenz su carrera por televisin con varias apariciones Vikipedija eima gim Niud ersyje, JAV Turi jaunesnius dvynius brol Patrick ir seser bei dar vien Vaikyst lank Manheteno Animal Rights Alliance, Inc TARA Shuttle Shuttle About Great news now partnering shelters outside immediate area bring low cost spay neuter closer you Thanks generous grant The Bitter Side of Sweet

    • Format Kindle
    • The Bitter Side of Sweet
    • Tara Sullivan
    • Anglais
    • 27 August 2017
    • 316 pages

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