Holdemar Lopes’ boots sink several inches into heavy mud. His pick axe weighs on his shoulder, pushing him deeper until he marches along with the one thousand other Brazilian miners risking their freedom for some nuggets of gold.
“How long do you think we’ll be here before finding anything?” The miner to Holdemar’s right asks.
“I don’t know,” Holdemar answers while looking into a wrinkled photo of his eleven year old niece. “Hopefully before May fifth.”
Holdemar travels across the crater left behind by tons of dynamite. The heat dwindles the deeper he goes. Holdemar and a hundred others find themselves in the deepest caves before starting excavation. Gold is seen within the first few strikes, but all ofni goes to the rolling carts and trollies that rise to the surface to be processed by indistrialists. The absence of sky and sun makes it impossible for anyone to tell how much time has been spent digging through rock. Only the Dutch manager, Hans Drusseldorf, makes occasional stops every five hours and checks the miners’ pockets for any stolen goods.
Three weeks pass by with little sleep, Holdemar stuffs miniscule granules of gold in his pockets so a pile may grow until his holiday break on May first. He smiles brighter each day as his chance to buy as proper gift for his niece grows along with his gold.
On the night of April 30th, Holdemar finishes his final dig. His left pocket, now bulging with gold, drags the left side of his pants. He holds onto the elastic waist as he walks to his sleeping quarters where a several dozen miners are sharpening and loading small arms.
“A damn Maroon broke our equipment!” one Chinese miner shouts to the angered crowd. “Those beasts stole our food and spare clothing from the shops!” The crowd follows with boos. “And on top of all, Mr. Drusseldorf refuses to compensate or resupply for us! The only way we can survive here is if we take back our supplies from the Maroons!” Out of cheer and shared rage, the miners give Holdemar a loaded shotgun and drag him to a cleaning where the Maroon tribes are located. A dozen campfires light the empty lot. Each fire is surrounded by five or six tribesmen and women with spears and pistols of their own.
The miners hollered in their languages, mostly portuguese, to scare the tribes. The Maroons, however, stand against the miners and charge into the pathways of the shotguns. A Maroon woman standing over six feet tall prepares her gun towards the miners. Without a thought of protest or consciousness, Holdemar fires his shotgun to protect the gift for his niece. Like an amazon tree, the Maroon woman falls onto the ground and dies with no hopes of rising again. The miners push back the rest of the Maroons into their jungle settlements. Holdemar drops his weapon and sits on the dirt cleaning next to the woman he murdered. From the pocket of her supplies bag, the corner of a photograph pokes out. Holdemar takes the photo and sees the Maroon woman kissing her newborn son.