Chapter 2

Willie picks up his binoculars and looks in the direction Shane is pointing. Another note to self; get some binoculars. “Yep, good eye Shane. I see about six of ‘em.”

“That’s what I counted. I’ll call it in.” Shane takes out his iPhone again. Wow! There’s cell coverage out here? Man, I gotta get a cell phone too. Why did that Minuteman recruiter-guy say all I needed was a hat, good boots, a bag lunch, and a big canteen? I guess I shoulda known he wasn’t very detail oriented when he didn’t question me about not having a driver’s license. Thank God Shane showed me the bandana under the baseball cap trick, or my neck would have been toast by now, even with my sweat-proof sunscreen. They shoulda been more specific about hats too. I’m lucky I even brought a bandana. I was going to just bring some Kleenex, but I didn’t think there would be any place to throw away the used ones. Thank God, my hay fever hasn’t acted up.

“Willie, they want to know if you see any guns?”

Guns?

“Nope. Hard to tell from this distance though.”

I look around for cover. If shooting starts, I’m gonna need some place to hide. The scrub around here is waist high at best, and loosely scattered. The ground is cracked and dry and it’s gotta be over a hundred and five degrees out here. How these small trees and bushes stay alive, I can’t even imagine. One thing is for sure: none of this stuff is going to stop a bullet.

“You see any packs, Willie?”

“Nope. Looks like a family.”

“They’re probably not armed. . . Roger that.” Shane slides his iPhone into one of the many pockets in his desert cammo shirt. “ETA twenty minutes.”

“Here we go kid, your first capture.” Willie looks like he’s having the time of his life, but all I can think about is: am I safe out here?

“You think they’ll send out a chopper?” I ask.

“They only send out the big guns for drugs,” Willie says,

“Why is that?”

“Smugglers carry AR-15’s and AK-47’s.”

“Keep chatter to a minimum,” Shane says, taking a brief moment to scowl at us.

I’ve heard of AK-47’s before, but I don’t know what an AR-15 is. I bet Shane knows how to take them both apart and put them back together again—blindfolded.

Maybe I should join the Army after I finish high school.

“Keep an eye out for Immigration, kid,” Shane whispers.

Willie holds out his arm and points. “You’ll see a cloud of dust coming from the west.”

I look where he’s pointing and notice the afternoon sun is finally falling. It should be cooling off soon.

Shane starts running, and Willie and I follow after him.

“Shouldn’t we wait for Immigration?”

“If we don’t get on the other side of these guys before they see the dust from the

Immigration truck, we may lose them,” Willie says.

After a few minutes I see a small dust cloud coming from the west. “I see them.”

Shane looks back to see for himself. “That’s Immigration all right.” He drops to one knee and looks through his binocular to monitor the illegals. Willie does the same. I drop to one knee and stay focused on the ever growing dust cloud. “If they were a patrol in Iraq, the enemy would be the last thing they’d ever see.” Shane looks at his watch. “He’ll be here in five. Spread out.” He gets to his feet and runs even faster.

“Keep me in sight, but stay fifty or so yards behind me,” Willie says. “We want to make a wide net so they don’t escape around us.” With that he’s off on a sprint too.

For a big guy, he can sure move. I have no problem letting him get ahead of me. This heat is draining me of energy. The only thing that really keeps me moving, is the thought of possibly getting separated and stuck out here all by myself.

Finally, Willie stops. He holds his hand out, telling me to stop too. The moment I stand still, I hear voices. They see the dust. Willie pulls out a pistol from his backpack. More guns. Great. I look around for a stick.

The sound of footsteps racing toward me makes me wonder what I do next. I heard on the news, about a week ago, a border patrol agent got shot out here. I have the overwhelming feeling I shouldn’t be here right now. My legs are shaking. What if I can’t do this?

To my right, the dust cloud grows larger, closer. I’m suddenly hit with a question that turns my stomach: what if it’s not a family? Lots of Mexicans are short. It could be a bunch of short Mexican drug runners. They could all have guns!

I hear some yelling and some guns cocking. A Mexican kid suddenly pops up, running full speed, right at me, fear in his eyes, desperation on his face. He’s a couple of years younger than me, and doesn’t appear to have a gun. This is it: the moment I’ve been waiting for. The chance to stop these freeloaders before they get into my country, drain our economy, make us take care of them, educate their children and not pay a dime in taxes, not to mention get our women pregnant before running out on them and leaving them to fend for themselves while they go back to Mexico, and come back with new names and identities, ready to do it all over again. I can stop them right now before they have a chance to turn my country into the crappy one they’re trying to escape.

I leap at him with all the hate and fury I possess, from years worth of anger, disappointment, and rejection; all the materials that a life without possibility of satisfaction can accumulate. We fall to the ground, but he pulls himself free. If I lose him, I’ll lose the respect of Shane and Willie. I’ll have blown my chance to help keep these free-loaders out of my country. A thousand possible failures flood my brain, none of which I can possibly live with. I get to my knees and hit him hard on the chin. He rolls over a bit and before he can get away, I crawl over to him and hit him again, and again, and again. He’s stopped resisting, but my adrenaline is pumping wildly, and my breathing is quick and deep, like I just finished the hundred yard dash. I hit him in the stomach a few times to stop him from struggling, just like the jocks do to me at school when they have an audience, or when just making fun of my name has lost it’s magic for them.

I keep hitting him again and again, then I hear someone shout my name. I look up—it’s Shane. I stand up and pull my prisoner to his feet. He is crying and saying something in Spanish, but my breathing is too loud for me to understand what he’s saying. I grab ahold of his arm and lead him in the direction Shane is pointing. Everyone is gathered in an open area, just on the other side of some short, bushy trees. This is a family. Looks like I got the older son. There is also a teenage girl, elementary school age boy, a thirty-something mother, and a thirty-something father. My prisoner runs to his mom, while Dad tries to give me a dirty look without Shane or Willie seeing it too.

Thank God! This could have turned out much worse. What if it had been drug runners? I don’t have a gun. Do I need a gun? Did the recruiter even know what goes on out here?

Shane and Willie look over my prisoner, and then look at me with big, proud smiles. I’m one of them now.

A modified tan pickup truck with a white camper shell with the words U.S. Border Patrol stenciled on the sides pulls up next to us. “How did the border patrol know right where to find us?” I ask, trying to keep my voice from cracking with excitement.

“He’s got an app for that too.” Willie says, recovering his comic nature.

“You all call for a taxi?” the Border Patrol agent asks.

Willie laughs, but he’s the only one. Shane and I spend a moment taking in our handiwork.

Defeat rises out of the group in a sad, angry surrender. The mother hides her sadness from us behind her husbands back, the father’s eyes go from his son to me and back again, stopping briefly in between to calculate the wasted expense and effort.

“No Coyote?” The Border Patrol agent asks, sizing up the group in front of us.

“He tore out of here like he had jalapenos in his pants,” Willie says.

The officer says something to them in Spanish, and they all put their hands on

their heads. He starts with the father and works his way down, tying their hands behind their backs with plastic zip-tie handcuff things. The older son and I stare at each other for a minute. We are almost the same age.

After they’re all handcuffed and frisked, the border patrol agent makes them all get in the back of the truck. They sit on metal benches and have to watch their heads so as not to bump them against the low ceiling. The despair in their eyes is priceless. Soon they’ll be on their way back to where they came from. This is so much better than watching the news.

“I’d give you guys a lift, but . . .” The immigration officer nods towards the collection of backpacks, jackets, hats, bags, water bottles, and other miscellaneous belongings on the front seat of his truck.

“That’s okay,” Shane says, “We walked here, we can walk back,”

“Thanks for making this one so easy.”

“Just doing what our country doesn’t have the balls to do,” replies Willie, winking at me.

We watch the truck bounce off towards the highway, getting up to about twenty-five or thirty miles per hour, seemingly unaware there isn’t a road out here. Willie laughs, “That right there’s called ‘making margaritas.’”

I watch the truck take a few good bounces, imagine the family in the back, bouncing off the hard benches, metal truck bed and hard plastic camper shell and get what he means.

“There was a Coyote with these guys?” I ask.

“They’re always the first to run.” Shane says.

“They get hit hard when they get caught.” Willie shakes the dust from his hat.

“Prison time, fines, and I hear they get banned from the country for life.”

“He started running the same time you saw the dust,” Shane takes a few swigs from his canteen. “That’s why we had to run to get on the other side of them before this turned into an all-day chase.”

“You mean he just left his customers there all by themselves?”

Willie looks at me with an expression of disbelief. “You think Coyotes care about these people?”

“Hell, most of them rape the women they bring here, and the guys just let ‘em do it,” Shane adds.

“They don’t do anything to stop them?” I ask.

“Can’t. Without ‘em, they’d be dead.” Willie takes a long drink from his canteen and reminds me I’m pretty thirsty myself.

“They’re predators—animals.” Shane’s face hardens as he talks. His voice loses all emotion, and a gravelly monotone carries the words over the hot, dry Arizona desert air. “They get paid thousands of dollars whether their customers make it or not, and they take whatever pleasure they want from whoever they want.” His pale blue eyes stare out into the desert, like he can almost see where the Coyote is going, what he looks like, how he’s dressed, where he may be hiding.

“You wanna go after him?” I ask.

“Nah, those guys are like rabbits. By the time we’d catch up to him, the border patrol would be back at the station, and we’d be out of cell phone range.” He takes a swig of his canteen and wipes his chin with the back of his arm, then screws the top back on. “The sooner we bring the military out here and pick off the Coyotes before moving in to capture the others, the quicker this whole thing will be over. Nobody will want to be a Coyote if they’re paid with silver on that side of the border, and lead on this side.”

“Time to start heading back,” Willie says.

Shane takes one last look out over the desert, while I take a long cool drink from my canteen.

“Looks like they’re taking the bumpy way home.” Shane says with just the slightest hint of a grin. We watch the truck bob, and toss and turn and claw it’s way out of the desert. At times, rooster tails of dirt, and scrub shoot fifteen feet in the air. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think a couple of teenagers were out here four-wheeling and having fun. The truck suddenly leaps into the air, and lands, throwing up a huge wake of dust and scrub high above it. “Wa-hooo. Did you see that?” I ask.

“Yeah, that would be one of the perks of working out here,” says Willie. “Four wheelin’ on the job.”

As we walk back to Willie’s truck I notice my clothes are heavily stained with mud from sweat and dust. I’m going to look pretty strange walking home from Denny’s where we all piled into Willies truck before coming here.

“Hey, Frank, do they make you learn Spanish in school?” Willie asks.

“Nah. I heard that too, but they must have just started doing that, because I never had to. I do have to learn to speak it at work though.”

“Work? Damn, you just can’t escape it nowadays.”

“Yeah, not only do they come here to get a free education, free medical services, and free lunches, they don’t have the decency to learn the language of the land that’s giving everything to them.”

“We should just make them,” Shane says.

“How?”

“Just have everything in English. Period.” Shane shifts his rifle from his left hand to his right, and rests it against his shoulder. “I bet if they had to order food in English, they’d be pretty fluent in a month.”

“Or starve to death,” I add.

“Either way it, it’s fine with me.”

“This is the USA, and it needs to stay that way,” says Willie. “At the rate we’re going now, instead of this being North and South America, it’s going to be called North and South Latin America.”

We all stop and notice the dust storm appears again in the west. “Hey, what you think they’re coming back for?” asks Willie.

Shane shrugs and pulls up his binoculars with his free hand. “That’s not immigration—it’s them.”

“Who are them?”

“Cowboys.”

Mike J Quinn About Mike J Quinn
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