“Fill the bucket up. This well won’t dig itself slave rat.”
“My name is Delfi.” I whisper, so they cannot hear me. My hands bleed under the nails. There’s no shovel. I dump dirt into the bucket. It’s full. My sweat drips onto the clumps inside it. A light shines into my hole.
“What’s taking so long rat?”
That’s when I see it. The light illuminates a rock in the bucket, washed by my sweat. It’s a milky clear stone. I’ve heard of these. I tug on the rope. The light moves. I grab at the loose dirt on top of the pile, grasping some rocks. Could they buy two boys out of the South Congo? Mati pulls up the bucket. He’s my brother. He’s sixteen and I am twelve. We were taken together.
I finger the rocks and toss the dirt. One at a time I quickly put each rock in my mouth and spit it back out to wash it off. The dirt is grainy. The rocks feel smooth and bumpy. I put the dirty diamonds in my pocket.
It hasn’t rained in months. The roof of my mouth and my tongue are one. I dig, pocketing the diamonds every day, well after well. Mati says we have enough to escape and buy a bicycle. It is the last day. Still there is no water. They beat me every day when I climb out of my hole. I’m afraid they will find my dirty diamonds. Tomorrow there will be no beating.
The campfire is dying. Daybreak is far away.
“Now Mati?” I ask.
“Now Delfi!” He has been watching the men sleep. The one with the stubby machine gun moves and says something. Mati puts his finger to his mouth. We sneak by.
We are on the path to town. The sun is rising. They will know we are gone. I trade eight diamonds for some money with a Congolese street trader. Mati buys the bicycle. We hop on the bike. I am on the handlebars, and Mati peddles.
We hear rapid fire. It’s a machine gun. We cover ourselves in the roadside brush. The slavers jeep creeps towards us.
A bus load of people, some chickens, a goat, and bundles of luggage piled on top, drives up. It stops.
“Why are we stopping Samuel?” Asks the white woman? We are close enough to hear every word.
“Don’t speak. Get off the bus and pray,” says the driver.
The white woman and twenty-two liberated slave children file off the bus. Their hands are in the air. They line up against the bus.
Mati and I plan. After the bus search, we’ll climb on top, and hide.
“Where do you go with the children?” Asks the man holding the gun?
“To the mission station,” says the bus driver.
The men take what they want from the bus. They stand in a circle laughing. The men will take the children they want now. Maybe they will take the bus. Our plan is bad.
The white woman says something to the one called Samuel.
“You forgot our most valued possessions,” says Samuel. “I’ll give them to you.”
My brother and I are terrified. Even a missionary will sell children. It is the darkest place on earth.
“Fools! They give us more.” The men laugh.
Samuel gets on the bus. He comes off with a box. “Arm yourselves with this.” He says.
I cannot speak. I am stunned. They give guns and children?
Samuel sets the box down and opens the lid. The men draw nearer.
“Keep them. It’s our gift. Come children,” says Samuel. They load onto the bus as the men gather around the box.
We watch the men flip through the books from the box, as we secure our hiding place among the bundles on the bus.
The bus pulls into a gated compound.
We are discovered.
We use our dirty diamonds to strike a bargain with the white missionary.
“Don’t sell us back to the well diggers. We’ll give you these.”
She does a thing I never dream can be done by another. She touches my hands, full of dirty diamonds, and closes my fingers around them.
She says, “Boys There’s a well that will keep your heart full and quenched all the days of your lives. Living water that comes from it will give you jewels in heaven far beyond these‘…Come, all you who are thirsty…come to the waters…’”*
*Isaiah 55:1a (NIV)
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