Yeyo torques his clutched hand at the base of the greens, where the beet root peeks out of the ground almost tauntingly, but he can't grab hold. His small fingers keep slipping. After a few tries he switches from a twist to more of a pull, then a rattle. The bulbous root shakes, the soil around it trembles, but just barely. Eventually the greens snap off. Yeyo has to dig once again, jam muck into his already grubby fingernails. The dirt in them has solidified. Scraping the grime with the sharp end of branch or a fork no longer works. The tips of his fingers are permanently brown.
During his three-week stay at the youth labor camp in Güira de Melena, Yeyo has picked tomatoes, gathered cucumbers, and planted garlic. Nothing has been as exasperating as the beets. They're obstinate and cling to him. The arch between his thumbs and index fingers has turned purple from the constant friction. Mutant claws, he calls them. He's scrubbed his hands tirelessly, but the stains won't come off. They're like dried ink on paper.
Yeyo finally yanks the stubborn root, plunks it into a burlap sack, and takes a glimpse at… Read more »