#10 bench: floor; usage: On the horizontal bench1050 was the muck—black mounds of illegal coal, and several pie tins clustered in one corner. All them, underground savages, crawled down to depths of upto 4000ft. in the abandoned mine, northern panhandle, Western Meghalaya, through labyrinthine passages dug with basic mining implements—shovels, hammers, pickaxes, and chisels. Its black roof and ribs—dark dungeons really—dripped water, like milk from a bovine’s udder. A slip gets them an instant burial in a watery grave.

#9 fireboss: lead miner; usage: Billie, the fireboss, scruffy face, dirty diggers, age between sixty and sixty-five, led the muckers. Each day, he spit on his leathers, rubbed his palms, closed his eyes and invoked his exotic powers of orientation and depth. “Billie’s real clever. Need no fancy equipment for bearings. Hail the Lord for Billie’s powers,” said his men. Where he led, it always yielded—Easy money!

#8 drift: tunnel; usage: For twenty years, Billie’s powers been retrieving the muckers from dead ends, from collapsing drifts, ramps where waters gush in. Each day, the men resign themselves to Destiny and Billie.

#7 stoping: digging out a large portion of ore; usage: Just the other day, the men were stoping, their cap lamps spraying beams of light, when Billie barked, the words like a banshee through the tunnel, “Turn right. Outta here. Fast. I can smell water!” His thundering baritone commanded twelve pairs of hands to begin digging furiously for a vent on the face of the black earth. Minutes later, the men barely out, water gushed in from the adjacent stream inundating the passage they were in. Yet another close save from a watery grave. Hail the Lord! And Billie!

#6 tick hole: small hole or cavity in a rock; usage: “Is t’ing like that gon be the end of me, fellas,” said Michael as he stood about the tick hole, beginning to light up. Billie wasn’t in a mood to listen. “What y’think? Turn round and Outta here. Now!”

#5 work face: mining area; usage: Next day, workface had no Billie or the rest of them. The soup of grey in the sky was beginning to spill over when the men were standing at Billie’s doorstep. Billie’s ma’am shouted, “He’d lost it! He lost his way ou’home last night! Billie’s ain’t have any memory. He lost his powers. Y’ll be no safe. This what does happens you use your powers too much. Lord help us. The luck runs out. Be just glad you’re in one piece, eh?”

#4 mucker: one who removes ore; usage: Motley bunch of muckers, rag-tag, drooping shoulders, some sloshed, others swearing at one another, debated alternatives to restore his powers…from shock to voodoo…

#3 lick bag: lazy person; usage: Billie, never a lick bag, sat at the center of the agitated crowd; morose, the freckles of his face showing. Nobody seen the man this calm in decades. Out came a loud disapproving grunt, withheld for a long time, causing them to withdraw a little. ‘Ain’t y’pity? My man needs some sleep.” Ma’am took Billie to his bedroom.

#2 shoveler: laborer; usage: Loose cash, that’s what the shovelers used to. Long time scouring the rat-holes for coal. Back and forth arguments flew. Half the night gone on the dump outside his home on how to restore his powers.

Seen y’all, ominous apprehensions hanging like a haze? For a fortnight it did; while Billie was sighted moving adrift. Mumbling alone. Hitting a tree in broad daylight.

#1 addling: earnings/wages; usage: All hope was gone. This morning, lifting the awning of his home ever so slightly, Billie noticed the men, saplings peeping out of their wicker baskets, clearing a patch of the forest. Billie smiled to himself. “At last comes by,” he grunted, “a hefty addling. Not easy deaths in dark pits. Thru’ a tiny hoax!”


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