AGGROUP WEST The crowd was surrounding the Aggroup building, windowless and unmarked, the only building

of its kind in Xwang Ching, sheet metal with a flat roof and no windows. Chang joined the back of the crowd. He had walked there straight from the bus, he felt wakeful and ready, he had slept most of the night on the bus from his home village, he had eaten the last of the cold rice and meat his mother had sent. His father was a party member and learned of this opportunity through the party. Jostling to the front of the building was like a game. There were policemen near the front who were dragging anyone to the back of the mass who was being disorderly. Chang was doing well in the crowd, it had lifted him off his feet once, by the time he was able to touch the door he had already seen two busses come and go from the rear of the building. Someone near him said the busses go to the airport and to Zhing city. Idiot, some else yelled Pang Pah, they dig mud for the dam. The local train goes to Zhing. You don’t know, Chang himself said. It was a wonder of the modern world, three voices and three different accents. One thing his father told him, do not listen to rumors, If you have questions go to a party official. The door opened once more and the policemen quickly allowed ten more in. The crowd shifted with excitement every time a door opened, many like Chang were new to this . When the door opened again Chang turned sideways and pushed like a fish fighting the current. He was the second number ten to get in. The door almost clipped his heal as big men on the inside closed it again. Inside was calm, quiet and everyone froze as soon as they found their number painted on the floor. Be still, a big fellow facing the group of ten yelled. You will get your number then go in line. He pointed to the center, stay in order. If you are not in order or if your number …Where are the jobs? Someone asked. Silence. If you talk, or if you get out of line or lose your number, OUT! You will be called. Chang followed the boy in front of him. Put out your hand. With a thick red pen the number 4379 was written on Chang’s hand. Stand there in line until it is your turn, if you rub off your number, out! Everyone in the center with numbers on their hands looked very happy. The numbers looked almost the same. Big men walked around the line, Move, move, they would say and everyone would move. Each time they said it the mood got more excited. Finally a man held up Chang’s hand to read the number. There he said. Chang went to one of the small surrounding tables. Name, age, Where were you born? Chang told them everything they wanted to know. Two of them wrote the information while a round eye sat nearby watching. Chang tried not to stare. The round eye who said nothing did not seem to mind being stared at. Looking at the other tables he saw a few more roundies. Sign your name. Chang did. Write your address. Chang looked up, smiling for his embarrassment. He handed the tablet and the pencil back. He told him the name of his village. Chang feared now he would be sent back home. The round eye spoke but Chang did not understand. Go there the other man said handing a paper, and a copy of the paper with Chang’s signature over to Chang. Chang forced himself to remain calm. A work bus and a home bus, he thought. What’s going on? He asked on his new line. This, he was told, is the non reading line. They are going to send us to school. Here, someone passed him a damp rag, it was mostly red. Your hand. Some talked about where they were from but most talked about where they thought they are going. The door he came through opened and Chang could see full daylight outside. He worried about his ducks, he knew that one was not well, He tried to see in his mind if it was dead yet, it had a goiter so the family, now only his mother and father, would not eat it, it would go to the pigs. It seemed a moment later that the back door opened. Be still! The voice of authority was already familiar to him, Walk! Do not run! Do not push! The seats in the bus were hard, unseen, some in back complained. There was a crackling all around the bus. On came a female voice as the bus

began to move. A cheer went up but it was quelled. The voice continued If you are quiet and respectful you will learn much and rise to a responsible position with Aggroup West Company, a world known brand. Aggroup West requires, good health, cleanliness and intelligence. By listening quietly you will learn and in learning you will grow in responsibility and with responsibility you will make your family proud. “Responsibility means money.” Chang could not see who the joker was but those around him pointed him out and the goon in front who had been facing them all the time asked for the young man’s paper. The bus slowly stopped, the joker was begging for pity. He was sorry but had to follow the goon who now had his papers. A quiet chant, “Get off the bus,” rose up. As the bus started moving the busy street already was swallowing the man with torn yellow papers at his feet. The seductive, emphatic voice resumed, “Aggroup West is the number one food supplier worldwide.” Chang comforted himself thinking of his pigs, feeding them the scraps, watching the sows nurse little ones. All he knew about Akroup was it means job, money and luxuries for the family and then Chang will return home to marry … some girl. The woman’s voice spouted on about Mexico, Canada, the U.S.A. She could have been talking about the moon. The bus hit a bump as the gravel road became concrete. “An airplane” like a breath it circulated through the bus, the goon surrounded by cigarette smoke was looking out the front window. Between the bus and the airplane was a white building exactly like the other one except no crowd was pressing against it. Exiting the bus this group of young men were already transformed as each one fidgeting or with fists clenched fought urges to rush the door. It was a new world on the other side of the door with something for everyone -depending on respect. Chang did not like having to take his clothes off but he had never been seen by a doctor before only nurses stuck needles into him as a school boy. At the end he was told he could put his pants back on and rejoined the others. Chang was directed to a table and received his first gifts as an Aggroup West worker. Inside a crinkly clear plastic, the very look and feel made him happy like a child on his birthday, it was a gift of clothes, he was told to put them on, the company uniform. Now Chang was part of an army of soldiers in blue. He received a kit that felt like leather full of gifts for his mouth, face, body and at last a red can with a ring on top. Someone showed how to pull the ring. Soda! Sweet cola. The uniformed young men practiced respectful titles on each other, Comrade, Honor, Sir, Madam, Majesty, Chairman. Sweet cola seemed to get them very excited. At all times they stayed a respectful distance from the roundies who stood in groups of two and three. Attention, these new men faced the man speaking at the center of the room, this is your new friend. He indicated a green open top barrel. When you finish drinking your soda you will place the can in your new friend. The first sign of respect is where ever you are scraps, remains, dirty paper all goes to your new friend. “To feed the pigs.” Chang whispered to no one in particular. Others mumbled around him. This was not so different. The speaker concluded, “Now is time to finish your soda, give the can to your new friend, and hold onto your company gifts.” Of the many fantastic thing happening this morning no one expected to climb a ladder into the hanging belly of a huge four engine airplane. The dark wood floor was clean and everyone was bunched up inside and then they were told to be seated by the pilot who closed the door behind himself. A rumble that had to be the engines. There was paralysis, desperate voices and fear as in everyone’s bellies the momentum could be felt. Then the otherworldly, floating sensation of wheels up. People seemed to pass out as the plane nosed up and banked into the sky. The few windows became searchlights. Chang got on his knees to see the clouds outside. Now he was very far from home indeed. We are in the clouds. I have to pee.

They got bathroom breaks and had meals, they practiced the new language of respect. If an airplane could fly them to heaven they surely had been put on it. From the belly of the plane they got into a new bus. The city stood on every side, not one star could be seen in the sky. From the bus they crossed the concrete to a jet plane that could have swallowed the small plane they had flown. Chang got a window seat on the jet to see the tiny people outside and the propeller plane they had arrived on looking like toys. Now they were seeing more and different kinds of roundies. Dark ones who smiled and spoke the language of respect. Chang received a second meal, slept in his seat. Later with his seatmates they practiced the phrases they were told to understand, Venga conmigo, pala, rastrillo, escoba, and the most important, ir al trabajo, - 去工作 Go to work.