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CHAPTER 18 - A NEGOTIATED SOLUTION
CHAPTER 19 - THE HIGJACKING
CHAPTER 20 - THE LAST LAUGH
1. BITTER HARVEST
The two men sat on the veranda, sipping their root beer, as they often did after a
hard day in the fields. Both were secretly wondering how many more of these
evenings they would have together. Not that either of them did much labouring
these days, but they had a huge area of land to plant and harvest and supervise
between them, and a workforce of several hundred to organise.
The welfare of these people was crucial to the success of the farm, but the gang
bosses looked after all that on a day-to-day basis. They arranged the allocation of
work, and the transport of the workers between the village and the fields. They
recruited extra labour when there was extra work, at harvest time, or when the new
crops were being planted, and made sure they were all paid on time at the end of
the week, and had enough food and water during the long days in the fields.
But there were always problems of some sort to be dealt with, and those came to
the two men on the veranda to resolve. And now there were more problems than
ever before: problems which threatened the very future of the farm, the people who
worked there, the village - everything.
It was still hot, even though the sun was waning. The two men gently swatted at
the usual evening hatch of insects, mostly mosquitoes and flies, but a few other,
more exotic varieties. The crickets would soon start their evening chirruping. Then
the bullfrogs, down at the creek, where the boys swam and caught fish.
The boys had been down there most of the afternoon, playing their version of
Rugby in the dusty field beyond the garden. There were no written rules - how
could there be, for „one a side’? - yet somehow they each understood what was
allowed and what wasn’t. So did Tinker, the Jack Russell, who chased the old
leather ball as hard as anyone. Eventually, when the heat and dust got too much
for them, they would all hurl themselves into the creek, to clean up and cool off.
Tinker seemed to enjoy this best of all.
James Bartlett leant forward for his glass. The old rocking chair creaked, as it had
done in his father’s day. One day he’d fix it, but somehow it was as much a part of
life as the chair itself. For as long as James could remember, that chair had been on
the veranda, alongside the old wicker table, and it had always made that noise.