“Did he say what I think he said?”
“You heard him. Better do it…now!”
I was crouching for takeoff when Bart flew up, awkwardly, beside me. I jumped as he descended and I heard his heavy boots clop down on the oak flooring. I crumpled on the floor beside him when I fell, gravity having its way with my heavy frame.
“I’m too old for this, Bart. The routine just gets more absurd every day. Yesterday it was crawling though a cornfield on our hands and knees. Now we’re jumping around like Jackrabbits. I’m done with it, I tell you. Nobody’s going to make a fool of me like this anymore. I’m done.”
Bart reached up and pushed down hard on my shoulder, but I pushed through the barrier. I stood up straight, as straight as I could anyway, and I knocked the dust from my thighs as I arose.
Bart uttered a hushed warning, “Don’t do it, Jimmy. It’s not worth it. Just be compliant. We’ll make it out of here. There’s no need in dying over a little humiliation. Now sit back down!”
He continued to crouch beside me like the rest of the prisoners. There were three hundred some odd of us surrounding the walls of the stale-smelling, dimly-lit old gymnasium. We were being watched over by four guards with semi-automatic machine guns. They had their backs to each other and formed a small diamond of demons in the center circle of the basketball court, turned prison. Their uniforms were clean and neatly pressed. The little light that streamed in from the band of narrow windows near the ceiling reflected from their scrubbed faces and gave an eerie luster to the diamond. The shine contrasted the dirty conditions we’d been in for going on six months now. None of us had bathed since we arrived and the air was filled with a human onion odor that had become normal somehow.
I hesitated for a moment, but the words came and kept coming…a veritable river of words…flowing like unstoppable whitewater to their destination…toward their focus…the small, diamond of men with machine guns.
“So, what gives you the right to treat us like dogs? Who are you? You are nothing, but men, same as us. You feel some power over us, but you have none other than what we give you. I’m done giving you any power over me.”
I heard the clink of metal and saw reflections shift from the shine of faces to the barrel of guns as they were aimed at me. My river of words continued to flow, but its banks now turned the words towards the prisoners.
“Have any of you noticed that three hundred of us are being held by four men? Stand up…stand up! What are they going to do? How many of us will they take before we take them?”
There was only silence. No one stood. The hammer fell only twice before I crumpled to the floor. I felt the warmth of my own blood running through my fingers. My cheek pressed hard into the grain of the oak. I looked toward the wall for Bart. He was gone. The floor rumbled in my ear. I heard two more shots…silence…cheers. The charade was over…for the guards and for me.
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