Monday, June 28, 2010

Last Train for Home

She moved a little closer to the edge after sitting there for a while. The stomach ache gnawed at her now and then. She ignored it. The pain became easier to endure after some practice.

The locomotive in the distant dark cried a muffled woo-woo. She listened and remembered sitting in one a few months ago. How hopeful and bright-eyed she was.

Momma, wait for my letter--she had said to her mother. I will save every penny I make and send them to you. You will be able to buy meat and new fabrics for the family. We will have a much better life after I get there. They say everything is better at the factory. Money, meals, and new dorms. Oh, I can't wait to get there.

She remembered eating dry bread on the train. Her mother saved all she could to make the flat bread for her trip. She couldn't afford to buy anything during the trip. They spent all they had to get her the train ticket.

Momma, they took my ID card the first day I got here. I couldn't go home without it.

They took most of my wages, too. They said it was for security's sake. I soon realized it was for their security, not mine. It was the way to make sure we would stay there forever.

There was plenty of work. Too much work. And we weren't allowed to say no. It seemed the back-orders never stopped flooding in. The kids in "The Beautiful Country" are so lucky. These gadgets we make day and night couldn't fill their demand. They must have so much money.

We didn't have time to rest on days at a time. Often we didn't have time to eat. I had to swallow my rice so fast, soon my stomach started to ache. They wouldn't let me go to the hospital. They would deduct my wages for missing work, they said. So I pushed the pain away and worked.

At night my dorm-mates could hear my pain even though I tried to hide it. The dorms were big rooms with curtain dividers between rows of beds. Ah May was my neighbor. She was worried for me, but there was little she could do to help. She smuggled rice mush for me when she could--it helped ease my pain a bit. My line supervisor was not happy with me. He said I worked too slow. That meant deduction on my wages.

I'm so tired, momma. I feel dizzy. I hadn't slept for two days now. The orders must be filled, so nobody could rest until they were done. I complained to the head of the union once, and I learned not to do it again. The company's manager reprimanded me in front of all my dorm-mates for complaining. I was so naive. I didn't know the union leader reported to him.

We have fifteen minutes for dinner, then we have to go back to work. I snuck up here because it's quiet and peaceful. I'm tired and dizzy, but I'm not hungry. Momma, I really don't want to go back to the factory. I don't know how much longer I could endure the dreadful place and endless work. I don't care if they take my wages. I just want to sleep.

She moved again but wavered and lost her balance. The last thing she saw was the concrete-covered ground rushing up to meet her.

The woman a thousand miles away heard the soft whistle of a train passing by the village. She wondered when her daughter would be home again. Her last letter was more than a month ago. Is she alright? The low and sad whistle made her eyes watery.

She didn't know her daughter had already started her journey home.

(To the twelve workers committed suicide at Foxconn. 'The Beautiful Country' in Chinese means U.S.A.)

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  1. OH, so moving. You write beautifully.

  2. You tug at my heartstrings...I can't even imagine the wondering, and the attendant pain...

  3. Betty - thank you, and welcome!

    Melissa - you described it so nicely.

  4. Wanted to drop in and thank you for visiting. Now I need to tell you that your writing is fantastic!

  5. Ms.A - thank you for the visit and the wonderful comment.

  6. Sarah, I just don't know what to say. You pull us into the story as if we were right there, working beside her. You are sooo good at this, Sarah.

  7. It's so sad. Wow, I'm actually all teary..I think I need a kleenex. It's so easy to care for your characters, Sarah, so easy.

  8. Judie - thanks! It affected me so much I couldn't sleep afterwards.

    Sarah - I hate to tell you this, but it's pretty close to a true story. I couldn't stop crying when I saw it, and the girl didn't even die at the end.

  9. Interesting story, Sarah. I wasn't familiar with that event.

    There's an interesting memoir piece in The Paris Review about a burial (as opposed to cremation) in China and all the sneaking around that had to take place for it to happen. Worth a look if the opportunity presents itself...

  10. Hunter - thanks. Foxconn makes iPhone among other things. Do you remember what issue was the story on?

  11. It's the current issue. (Summer/193)

  12. Oh Sarah, this is so powerful. It is a very touching tribute. You have an amazing way of traveling to people's hearts and souls all over the world.

    PS I'm back and glad to catch up with you and your blog. Smiles.
    Be well.

  13. Robyn - thanks, and welcome back! You have to tell us all about it. I'm so envious at your getaway..

  14. A story that needs to be told, and told poignantly as you have done here. That's the great gift of the storyteller-to make us feel the pain, the lives, of others.

  15. np - thank you. This one was easy thanks to PBS that provided the inspiration.

  16. Sniff sniff. So moving! I have to agree with Hunter- i hadn't heard of this event either. But i know now- thanks to you. Written beautifully, as always, Sarah.


    Love this. I'm going to keep this page locked and read every single day.

    Thanks for all of your visits. I'll be coming regularly!!

  18. Lou - thanks. I'm a little surprised so many people hadn't heard of it.

    Coach - thanks for the comment. I love your inspirational blog. It's hard to imagine you with a John Mcenroe's temper though. :)

  19. Love your blog. The concept, everything!

    Good post. Keep it up!

    Best wishes from one blogger to another,


  20. Wonderful piece... always a joy to read and so moving. Thanks for sharing!

  21. Charlene - thanks. Good to see you as always.

  22. I want to cry. I seriously want to cry.



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