Rows of bricks covered the ground. Workers in constant motion added more to piles and took them away to fill orders. At the rear of the property those little more than slaves fired the kiln. The brickyard owner shouted at the indentured men mixing ingredients for a new batch: “Faster! What are you here for? Faster!”
Stuffing the advance payment for the new house in his pocket the contractor left the expectant customer and drove straight to the brickyard. The searing sun of northern Liberia beat down on the workers as the contractor and brickyard owner stood in the shade with cool drinks conducting business. Money again exchanged hands. After the contractor left, the owner singled out one of crew. “You will make a new batch.” He winked at him. “This is special. You know what to do.”
The man had little choice other than to do as told. Sold as a child by his parents to pay off debts, his wage of pennies a day would take many years to free him. He had seen those who disobeyed: their pay was withheld and their time in servitude extended. He made the bricks as ordered.
Day after day the contractor loaded bricks onto his truck and conveyed them to the work site. The foundation of the house was built. At that milestone he demanded the remainder of the money owed him to complete the work. The owner of the foundation complained, “This is not what we agreed.”
The contractor said, “The work has begun. You see that it’s good. To pay my men I must be given the remainder of what you owe.” Reluctantly the man gave what was asked.
After another week the building had risen to chest height. The contractor distributed the meager wages to his employees and dismissed them. Then he disappeared from the area.
The house stood only partially built. The owner searched in vain for the contractor. He filed a lawsuit. The government employees laughed when they heard his plight. He was one of hundreds who had been bilked.
The rainy season came. As always the torrential storms washed away everything beneath them. The pounding waters eroded the land. They opened potholes in the roads and stripped away the dirt, leaving the infrastructure a muddy rut. The rain ate at the bricks that had been made with excessive sand. They crumbled into powder and were lost in the miry stream flowing to the next plot of land where another house had likewise disintegrated.
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