“Crossed” by Gus Morreno, Chicago

Revolt July 21, 2011 18:49

topic: REVOLT medium: Text

The border patrol guard knocks ash off his cigarette. “Close but no cigar-oh, muchachos.”

A ribbon of smoke billows from his gun.

A ribbon of smoke billows from his mouth.

Gravity pulls the cashed cigarette from his lips, the butt falling end over end, falling and bouncing off the ground, centimeters from the boy knelt beside his father, the old man cringing. The patrol guard stomps the butt dead, dirt wafting into the old man’s face.

The boy presses on his father’s stomach. Sweat drips down his flexed fingers, the night sky reflected in the arterial blood spilling over his hands. “Better luck next mañana.”

The guard holsters his gun. He looks out on the barren plains that stretch for miles. Flat and webbed with cracks. Along the horizon are mountains outlined by clusters of stars.

Light from the universe is reflected in the boy’s glossed-over stare, pupils polished with tears about to fall. He takes one hand and wipes hair out of his father’s face, smearing blood across his forehead.

The patrol guard looks down on them. He pulls another cigarette from behind his ear.

When the old man huffs, it’s the bitter fumes of beer that blow into the boy’s face. And when the boy begins to whimper, constricting his stomach, the beer his father commanded him to finish now carries into his nostrils, burning his eyes.

The patrol guard sucks on his cigarette. He turns away from the two captives. “What’s Mexican for, ‘You lose’?”

From his back, the father nods to the guard above him.

Fighting the urge to cry, the son shakes his head. No.

Clenching his jaw, the father nods. Yes.

You have to keep going.

You can’t be afraid.

The guard’s hand rests on the holstered gun. Over the dunes, two headlights beam straight into the sky and then fall back to Earth, onto the desert plains. He waves over the light, blowing on his whistle.

Father clenches his son’s wrist, and when they meet eyes he motions his son to look at the guard’s hip. He’s waving one hand, while at the same time running his other along the black grip of the sidearm, fingertips running along the leather holster, squeezing the tiny strip that runs over the handle to keep the gun in place, bringing the strap across the gun and fastening the button end to the holster.

And when the two ends clip together, its metallic fastening is like a revolver firing at the starting gate.

The old man rises to his feet and pulls the patrolman by his shoulders. They tumble against the cracks, a ball of dust and arms and legs kicking up more dirt and rocks. Grunts and the hard thud of fist to flesh.

The boy springs to his feet, and runs for his life. His eyes fixed on the horizon ahead. Never turning when gunshots spark lightning in the night sky. Never stopping when the headlights project his shadow hundreds of yards across the desert.

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