Paul D seems like a pretty calm man, but he's got a history of his own.
Warning: this is pretty graphic. And awful. We just wanted to give you a heads up.
Paul D's trembling. He's been trembling since he left the sightline of Mister, the rooster (remember him?). That means Paul D is out of the stocks.
In fact, it means more. Paul D's left Sweet Home; schoolteacher has tied him to a buckboard and sold him to Brandywine, a master way worse than schoolteacher if you can imagine it.
And if you can't, you will soon enough. In fact, Brandywine's so bad that Paul D tries to kill him.
He fails. And then he's sent to jail, but not just any jail.
This jail is more like a coffin, an open trench just large enough for his body and crawling with all sorts of critters. There are 45 more like the one he's in.That's where Brandywine locks all the black men at night.
In the morning, all 46 prisoners are chained together.
The guards, three white men, prod them with their rifle butts.
On Paul D's first day, the guard stands in front of the man next to Paul D and asks him if he'd like breakfast.The guard forces the guy to give him a blowjob.
This seems to happen regularly, and if the prisoners ever do anything to get back at the guards (like take a bit of foreskin), they're shot in the head.
Anyway, Paul D vomits when he sees the blowjob.
The chain gang follows the lead of Hi Man, who's at the front of the line. He starts each day with a "Hiiii" and ends each day with a "Hoooo": hence, his name. Paul D thinks the guards listen to Hi Man's signals because Hi Man alone knows what his brothers can and can't do.
The chain not only keeps the men together physically; it creates a brotherhood too. It kind of has to considering even one pull on the chain ends up affecting every guy.
Other things that keep them bonded? Hi Man and singing. Lots of singing, and not about anything nice either: their songs are about their life, i.e., a whole lot of misery. They get away with their lyrics by tricking out their words, making them hide their true meaning.
After 86 days, Paul D realizes that Life itself is dead. It's never coming back.
Then it starts to rain. They can't work, so the guards just leave them in the boxes, day and night.As the water rises around them, the 46 prisoners realize that the guards have left them in there to die.
They decide to make a break for it together.
If one of them goes down, they'll all die. After all, they're still connected by the chain.
Fortunately, they make it out of the prison and make their way across Georgia.
The group finally arrives at a Cherokee settlement. It's one of the last places where Cherokees still live; they've stayed because they're dying of smallpox. It just gets better and better, huh?
Paul D stays with them even after the other men have left.
Finally, they point him North and tell him to follow the blossoming of tree flowers.
He does.Paul D ends up in Delaware, where a weaver woman takes him in and to bed.
It takes Paul D a long time (and a long journey) to put Sweet Home and all his memories out of his mind.
He locks those memories into his tin-box heart. By the time he gets to 124, nothing can open the box.