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Dump Miner Chapter Four
leO and mariA meet.


The facility guards drag leO from of the Bishop’s mansion and hurl him down the front steps. A dazed leO picks himself from the ground as the guards advance toward him, with all his might he tries to fend-off the facility guards’ vicious attacks, but it is no relief from the nonstop blows of the guards batons. Finally submitting, leO falls limp and lifeless to the ground, the guards continue pummeling him with their batons even after he has lost all of his fight. As leO lays on the ground beaten, the guards continue with their assigned task; stripping him of any Church property. The guards strip leO of his clothing, leaving him naked, bloody, and dazed.

The guards then each grab one of leO’s hands and drag the overwhelmed man to the facility tram station that will take him to the dump mines where he will now spend the rest of his days. The guards push the crushed but still defiant man onto one of the tramcars, the doors shut and it quickly speeds leO away. Badly beaten and alone, leO falls into a seat and stares out a window as the as the tram follows the tunnels deep into the heart of the dumps. leO sits motionless staring at the propaganda images that decorating the tunnel walls, larger-than-life images of a seemingly content men and a women dressed as dump miners waving signs that read “For the Glory of Americo”, depictions of old weighing scales balancing an infant on one plate and food and medical vouchers on the other, still in shock from what has happened.

As the tram whizzes down the tracks the reality of what is happening engulfs leO like a thick fog and he breaks down weeping. The tram speeds leO deeper into the heart of the dumps. leO gazes blankly at the illusions of life on the walls of the tram tunnel as blood slowly drips down a wound on his head. Staring lifelessly, leO wonders what has just happened, is there no way out of this mess, is this a test from God, and if so why? leO closes his eyes, thinks to himself, and speaks aloud.

leO:
There is no hope for me now.

As the tram slows to a stop, another guard reaches in the car and grabs the exposed leO by the arm, ripping him from the tram and thrusting him into the heart of the facility. leO stumbles and lands face down on the tram’s receiving platform that leads to the mines. Looking towards the sky, he raises his fist and starts to scream. Passing dump miners and guards just ignore him except one, mariA.

A dump miner since birth, mariA, has accepted her responsibility within Americo and does not question it. She has never tried to be anything but a dump miner and knows no other life. She has never had any reason to believe she is special or that she would be anything more than what she is, a dump miner. She is known throughout the camp as a kind and considerate soul, blessed with a rare beauty that could be seen even through the layers of filth and stain that have accumulated on her body and clothing from her daily work in the mines.

mariA wears of Americo-issued garments and rags that she has found in the dump mines that could not be recycled. To protect herself from the sun’s scorching rays, mariA wears a long stained sheet over her head as a veil. This also serves to ward of insects and other pests. Having come out of the mines after a full days’ work, she is still dressed in her greasy and grimy yellow plastic coveralls that’s three sizes larger, the matching yellow hat tucked but sticking out of the side pocket.

mariA runs to leO after witnessing the heartless brutality inflicted by the facility guards. Seeing her approach from the corner of his eye, and disquieted by the way that she looks, leO cringes into a defensive posture on the ground trying to protect himself from what may be another assault.

mariA:
Are you all right?

leO:
Don’t touch me!

mariA:
I just thought you needed some help.

leO looks up at mariA and realizes that she is not a threat to his wellbeing. Trying to regain his composure, he takes a large breath, and looks up at her.

leO:
Forgive me my child; yes I do need some help.

mariA offers her hand to leO and helps the battered man to his feet. Taking off the stained sheet she wears as a veil, she offers it to him to cover his exposed body. leO does not hesitate; grabbing the veil promptly from her, he wraps it around his waist to cover his shame.

mariA:
You are new here? You certainly do not look like the others. What is your name? Why don’t you have any clothing?

leO, still shaken from the beating, thinks to himself, who was he now? Everything he has known or believed in has just exploded in his face. His entire life’s work destroyed by one malevolent man. He looks at mariA and speaks with reserve.

leO:
Fath… Uh, no, I am only leO.

mariA:
leO, I am mariA. Come with me, let’s get you something to wear and something to put on treat those bruises.

mariA offers her hand to leO, her kindness overcomes and puzzles him at the same time. He is not accustomed to such random acts of compassion. He gently takes mariA’s hand and unsteadily stands to his feet.

leO:
Thank you my child, thank you, thank you.

As they leave, leO looks back at the tram station realizing that this is now his life. With mariA’s hand in his, she escorts him towards her quarters. They walk towards what resembles a large makeshift barracks assembled out of cardboard, metal, and wood. Rust-covered pieces of corrugated steel in different sizes, patched haphazardly on top of each other form the roof of the structure and part of its siding. Large open cardboard boxes, with their flaps flopping in the wind, appear where windows are supposed to be, supported by old and odd-sized pieces of wood. This is mariA’s home, it is also the home for other dump miners who are part of the Americo welfare system. And now this will be home to leO as well.

mariA and leO enter the rickety structure through a low-slung wooden gate that serves as the main door; inside, it is dank and dark. The one cavernous space inside is divided into several housing and sleeping quarters. There is no coy prudishness here, as the quarters are separated only by more found items – old milk crates, an old blanket hung on a line, and dilapidated wooden shutters serve as makeshift room dividers.

mariA shows leO her sleeping quarters. She takes off the coveralls, revealing an equally dirty long-sleeved shirt and oily pair of pants underneath. She ties her long dark hair in a low bun with a piece of string she pulls out of her pants pocket. Years of working in the dump mines and living in the facility amid dirt and debris have taken a toll over mariA. Like the other dump miners, her skin is pallid and drab; her hands and feet are grimy. Her hair is somewhat tangled. leO looks at her dirty face and weak body dressed in rags then lowers his head in disgrace.

mariA:
Now, let’s get you in some clothing.

leO:
This is not right, I do not belong here.

mariA:
Why? Are you supposed to be in a different housing unit?

leO:
No my child, no, you misunderstand.

mariA walks to one corner of the barracks and pulls out a dirty cardboard box from underneath a pile of old blankets. Opening the box, she rummages through a disarray of worn-out shirts, pants, shoes, and work boots.

mariA:
Well, wherever you are supposed to be you will need to cover yourself. bettY had an Americo-issued jacket that might have fit you, but the guards burned all of bettY’s clothes. Let’s see what we have. There are some old pants and a shirt here that you can wear. I don’t think there are any extra shoes right now though. You will have to find or get an issued pair, but don’t hold your breath.

mariA tosses several different items of clothing to a still perplexed leO. He hides his disdain at the smell of the garments, anxiously gathers them, and puts some on.

mariA:
I’m thirsty. Can I get you some water, leO?

leO:
Yes, thank you.

mariA walks over to a rust-covered sink that is attached to a wall of the barracks. Inside the sink, a large plastic jar brims with brown-colored water trickling from the faucet above. She takes a dented tin cup from a makeshift wood shelf, fills the cup with water from the sink, and carries it back to leO who takes it with a shaking hand. The water is the color of deep rust. Trembling, leO lifts the glass slowly to his mouth but stops immediately when he is able to smell it and lowers the glass from his lips.

leO:
Thank you mariA, I am not thirsty right now.

leO hands the cup of water back to mariA who takes it with a puzzled look. She drinks the water, washes the cup, and puts it back on the shelf. Suddenly, the door to the barracks swings open. It is weaseL. He is a shifty-eyed man who looks far older than his years, but none the wiser. His body is deformed and bent from all the time he has spent in the deep recesses of the mines, causing him to walk with a limp. Covered with dirt and holding a dead rat, he walks up to leO and stares at him.

weaseL:
Who is this? Why is he here?

mariA:
Go away weaseL.

weaseL:
Why? Who is this?
leO temporarily forgets his new place in within the world of Americo and speaks from habit.

leO:
I am father leO.

mariA:
You are a census taker!?!

leO:
Ah, no, please wait, I am no longer with The Church. I was excommunicated. I am only leO now.

Several more dump miners enter the barracks from their day in the mines. Their bodies contorted from the life of labor that has been inflicted upon them for the good of themselves and Americo. One by one, each of dump miners notice that there is a new face in their barracks. Cautiously, the group gathers around mariA and leO.

jacK:
mariA, who is this?

weaseL:
He’s a Census Taker!

saraH:
mariA! You brought the devil into our home?

rogeR:
What’s he doing here?

saraH:
He doesn't look like a census taker.

leO:
I am no longer affiliated with The Church or the State.

weaseL:
Maybe he is a thief. He looks like a thief!

One of the dump miners walks to him slowly, squints, and gives leO a one-eyed stare.

rogeR:
Are you a thief? We have nothing.

weaseL looks at the rat in his hand, then back at leO, and quickly hides it behind his back.
weaseL:
Let’s take care of him! You’ll get nothing from us!

The worked up crowd starts to advance towards leO.

mariA:
No! What is wrong with all of you? This man is hurt. It doesn’t matter where he came from; he is one of us now for whatever reason. We must help our own, no one else does.

MariA’s statement stops the advancing mob in their tracks.

rogeR:
That is true, we must work to help each other or we are no better than the dogs that keep us here.

leO watches with bewilderment as the crowd gently disperses. mariA approaches leO and offers her hand. leO looks up in her to mariA’s eyes and instinctively takes her hand without thinking. Beneath the filth and grunge and all the despair, leO senses that there is something pure about her. She is a rare flower.

mariA:
You are home now; there is an open bed next to mine. Please come and get some rest.

She and leO walk across the barracks to a row of old cots lined up against a far wall. Each cot is covered with old ragged sheets, stained over the years by urine, filth, and neglect. mariA leads leO to a dirty bunk and he sits unenthusiastically on a small corner.

mariA:
Do you have your PM? You are going to need to take it soon.

leO:
No, I do not have a PM, I have never needed a PM.

mariA:
You have never needed a PM? How do you sleep at night?

leO:
I never had a need for them.

mariA:
I do not know anyone who does not take AM's and PM's here, but you will need to take them if you are planning on staying here. The toxicity in the facility is too high to work without them.

mariA lifts up the pillow on her bunk and produces a balled-up soiled paper napkin. She carefully opens the napkin to display several pills, some red, some white. She reaches into the napkin, takes one red pill from the bunch, and offers it to leO.

mariA:
I do have some of bettY’s that she left behind. Take this, it will help.

leO:
Who is betty? Won’t she need them?

weaseL sees mariA retrieve the drugs and is drawn to them like child to candy. He barges into the conversation, while never taking his eyes off the drugs in mariA’s hand.

weaseL:
bettY doesn’t need anything anymore; she’s got out easy.

weaseL reaches out and attempts to grab a few pills from mariA’s hand but she quickly turns her back and swats at him with her free hand, trying to shoo him away like an annoying mosquito.

leO:
I don’t understand?

mariA:
bettY passed two days ago. That is why you have a place to rest. On Saturday, we are going to have a wake for her.

weaseL:
Ya, if you take a bunch of AM/PM’s together they make you forget about this place for just a while and lucky for us, bettY just got a refill before she kicked.

leO looks up at mariA and the pills in her hand, then to a very excited weaseL.

leO:
Shouldn’t those have been turned into the Bishop or a guard to be redistributed?

leO’s words echo throughout the barracks and the room becomes very quiet. Everyone in the small divided rooms turn their attention on leO again, he can feel the tension build that he inadvertently triggered.

mariA:
We told the guard that they where destroyed when they burned her clothing. You are not going to inform on us, are you?

weaseL:
He is going to turn us in! I told you he was trouble, he has only been here a couple of minutes and already he is going to turn us in for stealing.

This again stirs the sentiment of the small crowd and they begin to chatter amongst themselves about the potential problems that would surely be caused by being turned in to the Bishop for stealing.

leO:
No, no, I am not going to say anything.

weaseL:
He is lying; he is going to turn us in for a reward!

leO:
What!?!

The crowd becomes more and more frantic with each word; a whirl of heated emotions start to take over the room.

jacK:
Are you going to turn us in?

saraH:
Is this true?

rogeR:
Someone could be made to swear on the B.I.B.L.E. for this! That would surely mean death!

leO looks at the crowd of miners how are progressively getting overly agitated and worked-up, some starting to cry, some hitting themselves on the head with their on hands. They should not be getting so upset for something as trivial as turning in a prescription to the Bishop for redistribution. Bishop Lamb is truly worse than leO could have ever imagined.

mariA:
leO, are you going to turn us in for stealing?

leO stands up and addresses the frantic miners, trying to calm their fears.

leO:
Everyone, please, I am not going to turn anyone in. I am no friend of Americo. I am no longer obligated by any codes or commandments. I am not a thief, a snitch, or a representative of Americo.

leO pauses and looks to the floor.
leO:
I am… only leO.

leO’s words reassure the tattered group and they slowly melt into a sad calmness, little by little dispersing to different sections of the barracks. When leO becomes conscious that he is out of danger by attack from the crowd, he turns his attention back to mariA remembering what she said.

leO:
mariA, so why did the guards burn bettY’s clothes?

mariA:
She had bugs. You should try to get some rest now.

mariA approaches leO and has him sit on the side of his cot. She gently cleans the wounds on his forehead with a towel she wrung with water from the sink. She then leaves leO and goes back to her cot.

leO looks at the dirty sheets on the cot, not knowing what to think or do. But gradually overcome by exhaustion and the pain inflicted by the guard’s beatings, he lowers himself on the cot, pulls the sheets, and drifts off to sleep

 

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