And so here I am.
Alan picked up his shovel and pulled his hat lower over his eyes, willing his lower lip to stop quivering. It wouldn't do to show them they'd won. They knew it already, though. He shrugged, trying to look nonchalant, stumbling over his own feet as he followed the dusty road back to camp. This was only his second day, his second hole, his first morning, and everything was still going wrong. He needed to be tough, if he was going to survive here. He didn't want to wimp out, as he knew others had - a quick rattlesnake bite, a splinter that gets infected, a twisted ankle - they would just prove to the others he couldn't handle it.
He made it back to camp in time to watch the sunset over the desert, and he dropped the shovel in the rather large pile of them before trying to remember where his tent was. 'D', he thought, for detention. 'D', for derailed. 'D', for desperate.
He barely had time to react when his stomach exploded with pain, his vision blurring as the tears from before slid easily over his face, down to his parched lips and dripping, accompanied only by a small gasp as he inhaled, onto the ground below.
Over the course of that week, Alan got better at reacting. He spent most of his nights lying awake, listening for the smallest noises to alert himself of the others. Eventually, the bags under his eyes deepened, the need for sleep lessened, and his body got used to flinching away from anyone coming near. Eventually, he could slide away from anyone approaching, earning himself the nickname 'Squid'. He could steal things just as quick as he could get away, too. It wasn't anything he was proud of, though.
Ricky tapped twice on the wooden table, mouthed the word 'boom' at X-Ray and winked easily at Squid, hair moving in any which direction. It was facinating, Squid thought, his eyes following the waves of lighter colour through the new boy's hair. He looked down again to realise Ricky was in the middle of another story, fingers tracing a crack in the table as he told it. The boys sat, spellbound, as he recounted the way it was easy enough to light a fire in the school, how easy it was not to get caught, and then how such a small detail - his bracelet, getting him caught.
"It twisted itself around the handle of the room as I was leaving, and in my frustration I pulled away, figuring the plastic would melt into nothing. I forgot, of course, that the only person in the school who had a green plastic bracelet everyday was me, and that was my downfall. They didn't need to even prove it, really, because I had such a history behind me. They hated me there."
"And we hate you here," X-Ray said happily, slapping a hand on Ricky's broad shoulders. "But it's better then back there, because we're all in the same position."
Dinner had faded into boring conversation again, and Squid didn't bother listening at all.
The next morning, when he got up just before the morning call, he looked over to see X-Ray and the others all up as well, staring at the new boy's bed. There he lay, too long to fit in the bed any which way, arms up as far as they could go and knees bent to create a crooked sort of 'Z'.
"It's like a zigzag or somethin'," Armpit said, pointing out the outline, the other boys agreeing. "Crazy Zigzag."