221 - real rubber
oot and dust stuck to the sweat on Arnold's face as the train of diesel trucks rolled by. He carelessly swatted at a few flies that buzzed around his face. Somewhere above, the sky was a brilliant blue. Try as he might, though, Arnold couldn't see anything beyond the tan-brown cloud he found himself inside.
He stood at the side of the road until opportunity presented itself: a vacant spot on the back of one of the trucks. Arnold carefully hopped onto the vehicle, which was moving at a rather swift pace. Somehow, his hands and feet grabbed ahold. The haulers were not designed to carry passengers as such, but the workers found a way to hang on regardless.
Arnold watched the brown dirt now gliding by under him, nothing more than a blur. The company only unofficially allowed them to ride to the fields in this manner. Officially, they were supposed to walk the miles that the haulers quickly traversed. This stance was to ensure that the company remained free of liability when a laborer was injured or killed by one of the trucks. Such an event happened without fail once or twice a month.
The company could easily provide safe transportation for the laborers. Arnold tried not to dwell too much on all the things that he experienced which proved just how little his life was valued.
They weren't even treated this way because the company was extremely cheap and hellbent on pinching every last penny in the sake of profit. Rather, it was because they were seen as domesticated, disposable beasts of burden. Going even slightly out of their way to ensure their laborers' safety was as ludicrous to the company as pampering the oxen.
Arnold also tried not to dwell too much on how easily he could be killed, either. If not from losing grip of the hauler and being crushed under the next one, then from falling into a thrasher and having his body torn to shreds. Or perhaps getting cremated alive if the wind changed direction while they were burning a field.
All things he had witnessed.
Certainly better to be killed, though, than seriously injured. Lord have mercy on the workers who survived brushes with death only to be left maimed or otherwise lame. Little support could they expect from the company. Arnold shuddered, thinking of a few such specimens he'd known, now left to slowly decompose in the village.
The train of haulers slowed, approaching the field they were currently harvesting. Like fleas having suckled upon a beast with poisonous blood, Arnold saw his fellow workers beginning to jump off the trucks. He waited for a clear spot, and then he too let go.
The blur below him quickly slowed down and resumed its role as solid ground as Arnold rolled to a stop upon it. His body ached, but he was young yet. The pain was only momentary. He rose to his feet, as did the others around him.
Moments like these could always be his last. Yet at the end of each work day so far, Arnold somehow still found himself alive. No worse for the wear, except for scrapes, cuts, and bruises. So he continued to push his luck. What else was there to do?
He felt a sense of progress, lost. He, and everyone around him, had regressed somehow. He shook it off. The manager would be angry at him if he arrived late.