Chapter 9

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Lunch was solemn, almost all of the boys were feeling the weight of what had happened to Sammy and the sick boy. Some boys went so far as to pass on what was being served that afternoon. After several full trays of food found their way into the trash the kitchen staff made an announcement that the food was not contaminated, that the morning's incident had been a result of an allergy. The news did little, but some boys found the courage to eat their food.

Miguel was sitting with Ricky and Dom at the end of a table at the edge of the tent. He stabbed his spork into the salad that was on his tray with resentment. He hated salad, but it was better than going hungry and he was determined to maintain his strength for an escape. The sandwich that accompanied the salad was low-grade lunch meat served on crusty bread that Miguel thought he might break his teeth on. He had to gulp down some water so that the bread wouldn't choke him, and when he finished his jaw ached. "Man, haven't they heard of putting some seasoning on food?"

"White people don't know how to season their food," Ricky snickered.

"That's because gringos think that mayonesa is spicy," said Dom as he eyed the salad with distrust. He opened the tube of dressing that was on his tray and emptied the whole thing out onto the rusty lettuce. He stuck some of the dressing-lathered salad with his spork and popped it into his mouth. After some thoughtful chewing he put his spork down and abandoned the mess he had created on his plate.

Ricky was gnawing on a piece of stale bread and dropped it on his tray. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and pointed behind Miguel. At the entrance of the tent was an older man dressed in a grey suit that matched the wisps of his hair. Miguel sat he could see that this man carried an air of importance with him based on how those around him reacted. All the kitchen staff looked less bored than they usually did, feigning interest in serving the boys and plastering smiles on their faces. The guards all stood at attention at their posts rather than sitting at an empty table and talking together.

The grey man pulled a handkerchief from his jacket and began to slowly clean his wire rimmed glasses. He examined the lenses in the light, and upon being satisfied with his work, slipped them back on to his face. All eyes in the tent were on him and he seemed to enjoy the attention; he hadn't said a word despite having a captive audience and his movements were slow and deliberate. His head turned as he examined the occupants of the tent, his gaze betraying no emotion and making every boy look away in discomfort. At last he spoke, his voice sounding low and muffled.

"Good morning, gentlemen. I'm Viktor Jones and I run this facility. I understand that there have been some difficulties and I want to assure you that these issues are being taken care of." He paused, examining his audience again, gauging their reactions; a soft smile crept onto his face at the sight of mounting discomfort. "The men and women that serve and protect you are of the utmost quality. I would also like to inform you that as our latest arrivals, you will report to the logistics tent after lunch. Mr. Pilsky," he waved a hand towards the guard, 'will escort you there. I understand this is not the most ideal situation but we will do our best to make the best of it." He bowed slightly and exited the tent, leaving a heavy silence in his wake.

There was a clatter from the kitchen that broke the spell as one of the cooks tossed her spatula into an empty egg tray. The boys were instructed to clear away their lunch and then they were taken out to the communications tent. Miguel wasn't sure where that was and he definitely didn't like the idea of Pilsky being the one to take them there. As they stood along the outside of the tent Pilsky walked down the line, casually examining each boy that he passed. Miguel found himself resisting the urge to put out a foot when the guard reached him.

"Something on your mind?" Pilsky said, stopping in front of Miguel. His breath stank of cigarettes and he tried to square up his shoulders but that only served to amplify his gauntness.

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