Jorin found the new guy kneeling in a field, staring at the waste of his wheat, his face dry but the expression on his face as heartbroken as if he’d been sobbing. Jorin stifled a sigh; he could remember when he’d been the new guy. This place was hard, harder than any other place Jorin had ever lived, and it wore on you.
“Hey.” He kept his voice mellow. “Hard luck. The whole field?”
“It was just barely holding on. The weeds here are nuts. But I’d just gotten a crop really going…! And then that damn fire.” He looked down at the cold, damp ash; the hard rain had doused the fire, but too late for the wheat.
Jorin knelt down next to him. “This place is hard.”
“That’s what it says in the brochure.” The guy’s voice cracked — bad joke or the start of more tears, Jorin couldn’t tell. “It’s hard. But you get to try. They didn’t tell us it would all go up in smoke.”
“They don’t. They don’t know, not really. Company wonks, that’s all. The people who plan this stuff.” Jorin’s brochure had said this is your second chance and he’d believed it. “But it’s what they’re willing to give us.”
“So what now?” New-guy ran his fingers through the dirt. “That was all I could afford, and it’s all gone.”
“Now you learn about this place.” Jorin ran his fingers through the dirt until he found one, a seedling just starting to crack. “See? This place is hard and the wheat is harder. But after a fire… the seeds sprout. Give it a week, and your field will be green again.”
New-Guy swallowed. “You’re serious?”
“It’s kind of like us. We got hit with something — all of us, we really did.” It was stupid and poetic, not Jorin’s usual bag. He said it anyway. “But you stick us here, hard cases all of us… sometimes we sprout.”
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