A Border Tale
Crammed into the back of an old, rusty truck under a stifling fiberglass shell, Jose Luis fingers the worn picture of his wife and children. It will be two days before they reach the coyote, smuggler, in the Sonoran desert town of Hermosillo. The tattoo across his back of his baby daughter’s name is recent and raw. He tries to shift his weight off of the truck bed to alleviate the pain, but he and eleven other men are packed in like sardines. Jose Luis feels the lump of American money that his wife sewed into the lining of his fleece jacket and thinks about all their sacrifices. It took them years to save this for his safe passage into The United States. He would do anything to provide for his growing family. Jobs in the state of Oaxaca have all dried up for the Indian man.
After two grueling days of travel over harsh terrain, the exhausted men are herded into a barn on the edge of the desert. The Coyote takes their money then gives instructions, “Amigos, take only what you can carry. You will be given more food and water at the next checkpoint. Find shade during the day and walk at night. Never wander off alone.” Jose Luis looks around at the men, those same boys with whom he learned to ride horses and shoot .22 rifles. A sudden pride fills his chest so rapidly, he can hardly breathe. Gerardo, his oldest friend, catches his eye and, in unison, they kiss the rosaries around their necks.
They’ve lost count of the sunrises and sunsets since they journeyed from the barn. The coyote made them leave their cell phones behind. He said that the light and the sound attract La Migra, the border patrol. Jose Luis knows better. He saw the coyote exchanging money for the phones when he thought they were asleep the night before they left. Now, as the sun comes up over the eastern horizon, Jose Luis feels a cold chill run through his bones. He calls to Gerardo, “Pssst, are you awake?” Gerardo snakes his body on elbows and knees over to Jose Luis like an army commando on a mission. Jose Luis continues, “Where are the other men and the coyote?”
Gerardo looks around, “I don’t see them or hear them.”
Jose Luis suddenly pats at his jacket and pants pockets, and then dives into the sagebrush that surrounds him. His bag of sandwiches and quart water jug are gone. Gerardo frantically scurries back to his spot to find his provisions. Nothing. Gerardo and Jose Luis hug fiercely with the knowing that they are alone.
“Hey, sergeant, over here!” One of the Arizona border patrol officers kicks at a bundle of clothing and realizes it’s a body. The other officer runs up with a flashlight in one hand and rests his other hand on his holster. He spots another body under a tree. They both recoil from the smell of death and decay. As they carefully remove the clothing for any form of identification, the sergeant says, “Poor hombres. I bet their coyote took off with all their stuff and left them here to die.” The deputy uncovers one of the body’s dirt matted shirts; and, at once, the officers exchange glances. The fancy words tattooed in a heart across its back spell: “Mi Hija, Acacia.”