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Together, we gather!

“Together, we gather!”

Wilko kicks the dust with his foot. “No.”

“Why not?”

Wilko squints, his forehead smeared with a streak of dirt. It’s an intentional smear, a smear of his impending rebellion. “It doesn’t mean anything.”

“It means everything. It’s what we do.”

“It’s all we do!”

His disappointment echoes my own, but I keep quiet. Three days on site, and still we’d found nothing. The old divers helmet Jinny had unravelled from a nest of old rope still lay at the foot of the dirt pile, offering none of its original promise.

“We meet, and we find clues. Together, we gather. Ben?”

A shrug would be enough from Ben, then Jinny would follow suit. Three to one. But Wilko was not giving in that easily. “Ben doesn’t like it either.”

A shrug. A shrug for Wilko. Not a shrug for me.

“So, what’s your big idea, then?”

Wilko grins, and suddenly I realise his whole day has been building up to this. The lateness in his arrival, his constant nit-picking, his refusal to dig. Slowly, he opens his fist and the sun flickers off a thin sliver of metal in his palm. He grabs Ben by the shoulder.

“Hold out your hand.”

“Don’t, Ben!”

“We engrave. Four lines.”

Jinny scrambles to her knees to watch as Wilko, cramping Ben’s arm tightly, gently strokes his finger menacingly across the edge of Ben’s upturned hand, once, twice, three times…

“That’s enough!”

Wilko lifts the blade in line with my eyes, his hand noticeably steadier than mine.

“Words mean nothing. This. This should be our bond, not some ‘gang motto.’ Are you in?”

I look at Ben, at Jinny, and see a faint smear of dirt across both their foreheads, and feel the burn of their eyes. I have no choice, and Wilko knows it. I offer my hand forward to receive the sharp, swift slice of the blade.

“I’m in.”

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