It was still night when Thort woke up. The only part of him that didn’t hurt was Evanor, asleep beside him. He tried to move carefully not to disturb her. He recovered her with the quilted blanket. He wanted to bend down to kiss her but his back throbbed too painfully for that.
Thort went to the kitchen, relit the candle, put some wood in the stove, and kindled a fire in it. He splashed cold water on his bruised puffy face. He moved his tongue tentatively over the missing tooth.
Thort boiled a pot of coffee on the stove and cut half a loaf of yesterday’s bread for his breakfast. He put the rest of the loaf in a sack to take with him to the mine. He sat down at the table and gulped down coffee between munches of bread. He noticed Lem sitting silently across from him at the table. Thort was used to Lem’s quick and quiet ways. He winked at his son to show him he didn’t have to worry.
Thort kissed Lem on his forehead and went out the back door with the sack of bread in his left hand. He reached the mine just before the horn blew for the start of the shift. He pushed his way onto the elevator. The rancid odor of the men around him permeated Thort’s nostrils. He was in good company. Most of the other men on the platform, like him, had slept the previous night in the clothes they were wearing to work this morning, but Thort’s clothes were also stained with blood and mud.
Thort avoided contact with Javid and his co-workers. He worked at the other end of the shaft, striking the walls with his pick axe and shoveling the rocks and grit into the shuttle car behind him. He tried to keep pace with his buddies at the other end of the shaft but the pain of his wounds and the bandages slowed him down.
The assistant manager told Thort that if he did not shape up and work with his team, he could turn in his pick axe and shovel and look for another line of work. Thort tried to pick up the pace of his work but everyone could see that he was falling behind.
At the end of his shift Thort was told to come to the assistant manager’s office. He stood in front of the AM’s desk. He had been too proud to go back to work with the same men who had talked about his kid and worked him over the way they did. To hell with the job and the damned assistant manager!
The AM told Thort unceremoniously to take his last wages and get the hell out of his mine.