Hell on Wheels
A New Birth of Freedom

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Tippi Blevins: B- | Grade It Now!
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Worst Employee Ever

Back at the construction site, the men are hacking at the cut. Psalms works in his pants and suspenders, the scars from past whippings obvious on his back and arms. "The man says we gotta do our work and theirs," he says, driving his sledgehammer into the ground for emphasis. "But I ask you: Why ain't that Negro ass down here with us?" Other men working beside him bear similar scars. Psalms goes on about the "old days" which he feels in some ways were better, even with "master" nearly working him to the grave. "At least you knew your place," he says. Elam hears all this and walks over to peer down at him from the top of the trench. "Less talk, more work," he says to Psalms. Psalms responds by heaving his sledgehammer to the ground and taking a step back. "Bust me some stone, Negro," Elam says. Psalms comes back with: "How 'bout you bust me your head?" Elam drops down into the cut and the two stand chest to chest. Psalms accuses the lighter-skinned Elam for forgetting who he is. For a tense moment, it looks like they're going to come to blows, but Elam reaches down, picks up a sledgehammer and goes to work. "This ain't for them, this is for us," Elam says. "White man ain't gonna give you nothing, 'cause they want us to fall." As he gets into a rhythm hammering at the stone, the other men on either side of him do the same. Psalms, having lost the crowd, looks like he could spit. Eventually, he sucks it up, joins in and gets to work, too.

Back at the impromptu surgery site, Joseph has a little fire going. A cold gray drizzle has begun to fall. Cullen picks up Lily and lays her on a patch dead grass away from the mud. He looks down into her unconscious face for a long time, rain dripping off the brim of his hat, his breath coming out in misty bursts. He touches the back of his hand to her brow and looks worried. After a long while, he gets up and heads for his horse. Joseph is surprised he's leaving but Cullen says he's got somewhere he needs to be. Joseph thanks him for helping Lily. Cullen rides off for about a minute before he stops his horse. "Dammit," he whispers, and heads back. "You ain't thought this thing through, have you?" he asks Joseph. "Indian brings that woman back to town, Indian don't get out alive." Joseph is genuinely perplexed by this, saying, "But I live there, at the church." Cullen tells him about the bodies that were brought back to town, how everyone's seen how they died. "Why cut them up? What do your people get out of it?" Cullen asks. "Your people have done much worse," Joseph says. Cullen doesn't disagree with him, but the fact remains that Joseph is a dead man if he brings Lily back. Cullen says he'll take her in himself. Joseph scowls, but gets on his horse and rides away. Cullen sighs and looks sad because his plans for vengeance will have to be delayed now. Big pouty baby.

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Hell on Wheels

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