Clayton kept his eyes closed until sure that the others in his filthy bunkroom slept.  When he heard their snores, he slipped out into the night and looked about to see if any of the guards were around.  Seeing none, he walked towards what he hoped would be freedom from the labor camp.  He’d been told that he couldn’t leave while he “owed money” to the boss, an obligation he knew he’d never incurred.

He kicked a beer can, which scuttled amongst the stones.  Clayton froze, then heard the barking of the boss’s pit bull shattering the stillness.  Shouts from the boss’s house galvanized Clayton to abandon the rutted lane and dash into the tobacco field.  The earth gave way with each step, making it impossible for Clayton to run well.  Within seconds, Clayton gasped for air.  He heard the barking and shouts grow closer, surrounding him.  He kneeled to catch his breath, then tried to run again too quickly.  Blood drained from his head and he toppled.

The boss stood over Clayton, holding a shotgun, then kicking him and pushing him over.   The dog bit him in the leg through his jeans.  “I warned you, man.  Nobody leaves camp owin’ me money.”  He spat on Clayton and kicked him again.  To a guard, he said “You know whatcha gotta do.  Do it quick.”  He pointed towards a nearby copse of trees, then handed the shotgun to the guard, leashed the dog, and marched off.

“Come on, asshole.”

Clayton thought about trying to run again, but knew that he couldn’t get away.  He’d given escape its best shot.  Clayton was pushed to his knees near the pines and felt the cold press of steel against the back of his neck.

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