One day, Saul and his classmates sneak away from school and make it to the bottom of the ridge on which the school is built. There, they arrive at a small creek. The sight of the creek, which is teeming with fish, is exhilarating. They proceed to catch some fish, but have no tools for cutting them up to cook. Instead, they throw the fish on the grass by the creek, and watch as the fish slowly die. Like the fish, Saul senses, Saul and his classmates are “fighting for air.”
Even though life at St. Jerome’s is terrible, the children find small ways of being happy. Yet even little adventures, like running to the creek, remind Saul and his friends of their tragic situation: torn away from their families and thrown into such a foreign and hostile environment, they are “suffocating” like fish out of water.
That night, Saul and his classmates sneak back to the school with the smell of fish still on their hands. They spend the night with their heads pressed to their hands, inhaling the smell. The priests and nuns assume the children are praying, and smile.
Saul has nothing but contempt for the priests and nuns at the school. He ridicules them for their foolishness at thinking he and the other children are really praying. At best, Saul suggests, the teachers are fools; but at worst, they’re sadists.