Selected Stories

“Highway 1” - Excerpt

Inkwell, Fall 2008

My mom, she apologized it wasn’t enough money to make a man free. I proved her otherwise.

The border crossing at dawn, and I had only made it to downtown TJ by noon, even that only by hitching in the back of a truck. Arrived to a pack of thugs who thought they’d take candy from a baby, rob the loco blind man.

Unwashed skin, the stink of lime cologne, the hard, banty-rooster calf muscles that twitch as I bite through the denim of my attacker. A steeled-toe work boot hefts back and digs into soft mush of own chest. Ouuff!

Grit, dirt-packed nostrils, debridement, which means a cheese-grater across the cheeks and chin, forehead slick and cool with own blood. The dirt reeks of grass and diesel, the stomach-twisting mix of dog turds and grilling meat from the taquerías close by. But before the hunger can start there is him to deal with. Not even fighting half fair – kick the blind man, big deal.

“Get off him, you —” A long daisy chain of TJ expletives explodes from an angelic, young female throat. But in my incomprehension I can only bask in the sibilance of my high-school Spanish classes. Ivory soap and tan lotion and sea salt cut through the air as thug laughter fades away. “Hey, you okay?” she said.

I roll over, and everything hurts, but not with the white-hot pain of broken. “Can I buy you a cerveza?” A front tooth wobbles like it’s already had its share of drink.

Laughter like chimes, like pigeons. “Unbelievable.”