By Alexandra Kernerman Vogelhut Word Count: 729
The sun beat down. Warmth without comfort. Slowly moving forward towards the end. Each man given a chip.
Take the chip, sir, you need it for your food. None argued. This world is not one where you leave chips alone.
Boots shuffle in the sand. It’s grainy and bristling on foot soles. Black leather drifts on the breeze. The man up front gets his chip.
To look up was to go blind. Blind with nothing to see. Nothing but the chip and the hole in your insides. How many days was it? How many days in the hot-sand-leather-skin world?
Eric sensed the chips more than he saw them. They were there, resting in the sun by the Deputy. The chips didn’t mind the sun. After all, they weren’t the ones with leather skin.
Swallowing; necessary and uncomfortable. Nothing to swallow with. Eric couldn’t smell the water yet but he knew it was there. Just beyond the men, just beyond the bend. After the chips.
He looked at his hands. Hands were always safe, as long as they were yours. His hands didn’t have whips, wouldn’t feel whips. Chips, just chips. Please, Good Man, just chips. He bent his head, saying the same wish and prayer as always.
Crack, went the whip. Three men up. Another man with no chip, just a whip. Eric had been that man. He couldn’t think about that man. No, the key to the chip was that you were not the other men.
Screams at the left. Another man feels the whip. But not Eric. The scorpions were out again; he had seen them hiding in the sand. So many men had shuffled into a scorpion without enough leather to protect. Eric knew that the key to good skin was leather. Tan your hide in the sun.
Still, his hands. The scorpions weren’t there, they didn’t exist. Just the chips. Chips and whips. The man got his chip and continued his shuffle.
“Name?” Asked the Deputy.
“Eric Code Blue 57.”
The deputy looked at Eric looking at his hands. He turned to the gent on his left.
“Think you this man’s a Blue?” He posed, he teased.
Eric reminded himself not to swallow. No scorpions, no sun. Just leather.
The gent got the joke and grinned. “He might look Blue… but he could be Yellow or Green all the same.”
Hands. Hands. Chips not whips. No scorpions. Leather skin.
The Deputy leaned forward and gave another look at Eric looking at his hands. “Aye, Code Blue 57 it is. Man gets his chip.”
Eric turned slowly and continued his shuffle. The blue chip slid into his hand by the gent. It burned hot like the sun. He held on. Chips not whips. He knew the chip was blue. It felt blue but glared like the sun. Yellow sun. Couldn’t go back to Yellow.
The shuffle continued. It was close, close now. Almost done with the chip. Almost done with the chips not whips. Almost back to the scorpions.
A bottle on the right. Water. Eric picked it up. Thank the Good Man for Code Blue. More shuffles. Leather on sand. The plate: corn, beans, and fried egg. Handing over the blue chip. The food would be lukewarm, like the water. Almost cool compared to the sand and the sun. Compared to the scorpions.
It was all Eric could do not to drain the bottle and empty the plate, but a memory held his hand. The same memory that always held him. Jared, getting his juice and tearing open the bottle, spilling it down his body as he hurriedly tried to get every drop.
Jared, feeling the bite of the whip. Jared, crawling with scorpions as they caught the scent of the yellow juice.
Jared, his brother feeling the gents’ whips. The Deputy’s whip. Eric, held in place by fear as the whips knocked the chips from his brother.
Jared, moving to Code Red. Whips, not chips. Jared, shuffling slowly to Code Black. The Deputy took his chip. Jared, finally getting the leather he needed. Now, not needing it because of the leather.
The other memories were gone, they just brought pain. Thoughts of the world before was no good. Now it was chips not whips. Only the memory of chips not whips.
Thank the Good Man for Code Blue.