#49 – stay in line

“It will be dawn soon,” Jamie said. “Let’s see how many more diamonds we can find.”
“We’re not going to live to spend any of this. You want to die very rich, don’t you?”
“I don’t want to die at all.”
They resumed their search, mindlessly scooping up diamond after diamond, and it was as though a
madness had taken possession of them. Their piles of diamonds increased, until sixty diamonds worth a
king’s ransom lay in their torn shirts.
“Do you want me to carry these?” Banda asked.
“No. We can both—” And then Jamie realized what was on Banda’s mind. The one caught in actual
possession of the diamonds would die more slowly and painfully.
“I’ll take them,” Jamie said. He dumped the diamonds into the rag that was left of his shirt, and carefully tied
it in a knot. The horizon was light gray now, and the east was becoming stained with the colors of the rising
What next? That was the question I What was the answer? They could stand there and die, or they could
move inland toward the desert and die.
“Let’s move.”
Jamie and Banda slowly began walking away from the sea, side by side. “Where do the land mines start?”
“About a hundred yards up ahead.” In the far distance, they heard a dog bark. “I don’t think we’re going to
have to worry about the land mines. The dogs are heading this way. The morning shift is coming to work.”
“How soon before they reach us?” “Fifteen minutes. Maybe ten.”
It was almost full dawn now. What had been vague, shimmering patterns turned into small sand dunes and
distant mountains. There was no place to hide. “How many guards are on a shift?” Banda thought for a
moment. “About ten.” “Ten guards aren’t many for a beach this big.” “One guard is plenty. They’ve got guns
and dogs. The guards aren’t blind, and we’re not invisible.”
The sound of the barking was closer now. Jamie said, “Banda, I’m sorry. I should never have gotten you into
this.” “You didn’t.”
And Jamie understood what he meant. They could hear voices calling in the distance. Jamie and Banda
reached a small dune. “What if we buried ourselves in the sand?”
‘That has been tried. The dogs would find us and rip our throats out. I want my death to be quick. I’m going
to let them see me, then start running. That way they’ll shoot me. I—I don’t want the dogs to get me.”
Jamie gripped Banda’s arm. “We may die, but I’ll be damned
if we’re going to run to our deaths. Let’s make them work for it.”
They could begin to distinguish words in the distance. “Keep
moving, you lazy bastards,” a voice was yelling. “Follow me …
stay in line…. You’ve all had a good night’s sleep___Now let’s
get some work done….”


Copyright © 1982 by Sheldon Literary Trust

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