We were supposed to write horror in my Fiction Seminar class. I wrote the beginning of this story. Then we were supposed to write the same horror and make it sound hopeful. I wrote the rest of the story. It’s still not done though. There’s more to write about these kids.
“Shit,” she said.
Behind her sat her brother and their friend.
She felt the roughness of the bus seat under her exposed thighs. Outside the Migra had just stopped the bus they rode from Virginia to Florida.
“Puta madre,” said Carlos, her brother.
“Callate, you’ll give us away.” Milka said over her shoulder.
Next to Carlos, Oscar began to fidget.
“Cheel,” Carlos said as he elbowed Oscar.
All three of them were still only kids. Not one over 18 yet, Milka was the oldest at 17. They had moved to the states—well, moved is putting it decently—they had immigrated illegally two years earlier atop the train known as “La Bestia,”—the beast. They had watched as people tried to board the train but instead had their limbs cut off by the Bestia. On one occasion Carlos had gotten blood on his shoe from a man who was no longer a man when the Bestia was done with him—she had no mercy.
Carlos had scrubbed the blood off days later when they had finally made it safely across the border. All three were working now, as jornaleros and braceros. They were stopping at Florida looking for some construction work for the boys. The first few nights they’d sleep in the park until they found a safe place for all three of them. Twice on the Bestia did Oscar and Carlos have to protect Milka from the men around them, more so when Milka was on her period. Her blood worked on them like it would on sharks. It called to them—they knew she was a woman now and this enticed them more. They made sure Milka was never alone. They took turns sleeping and watching over her. “Sus perros de la mora,” –her dogs, everyone whispered.
Over the years nothing about this changed. Carlos and Oscar still watched over her even though they were both two years younger. But Milka was stronger now; she had grown with the labor. Whenever someone would have work for all three, she worked alongside the men. Sometimes people would ask where their parents were, and they would say their parents were back home; this was always met with pity sighs. But their parents were dead.
Their fathers had been matones, the narco’s handy men. Whenever someone needed to be taken care of their fathers were the one’s called for the job, until the narco decided that they were the ones who needed taking care of. Their families were all gone. They were the only ones left—Oscar had lost both his brothers. They had been lucky enough to be out when it all happened. They had been spared the sight of fresh blood.
Milka had been the one to clean up after, the boys unable to stomach the sight of the crusted brown blood on the walls and floors. She spent a day cleaning each house, while she cleaned she had thought about how it was she was going to get back at the man who had done this. She thought about how he had met her once and had taken great interest in her, and she knew this was what she was going to use against him.
She thought now, like she had thought then, she took in the men with their uniforms and the word ICE printed on their backs like beacons. She looked at their artillery each man had a gun and another pocket but she couldn’t make out what was inside. She looked for a space in the formation that would be big enough for three teenagers to slip through. One of the men boarded the bus; if this had been the train he would have been one of the unlucky ones, she thought. This man looked as Mexican as her father had been, all he was missing was the big belt buckle with a scorpion engraved in it.
“Este paisa es la migra,” said Carlos thinking the same thing, and next to him Oscar laughed.
“Callense,” she said to the boys. She was hoping that if they didn’t make a sound or movement the man wouldn’t see them. She held her breath as the man moved down the bus now. Looking into every row of seats. He stopped and smiled at Milka, she looked down at her legs holding her breath. The man grunted and kept walking ignoring the boys, Milka let herself breathe again. The man checked the bathroom finding nothing he turned back around and got off the bus, but still they did not move. She looked over at the boys and they were both pretending to be asleep. She smiled, they looked like kids and she grew sad realizing that they no longer thought of themselves as kids. They hadn’t for two years.
The man boarded the bus again, but he stopped to talk to the driver, he showed the driver a picture and spoke in hush tones. The driver shook his head; their English was too fast for Milka to understand. Having had some English lessons at a young age, they all managed to get by, but this English was being spoken too fast. After their exchange, the paisa turned to the passengers and apologized for the inconvenience. Ten minutes later they were back on the rode to Florida. Milka thought she would faint and was grateful that she was sitting. Behind her the boys resumed their conversation, something about saving some lana and going to Disneyland.
Fours hours later they got off the bus. Not really sure where to turn next, this place was like every other place they had been too. Foreign at first, then a little more familiar, but before they became too at home they would be on the move again. Milka looked for closest bodega and bought a newspaper. Orlando Sentinel.
“Orlando,” she said as she walked by to the boys. Oscar smiled at Carlos and he started looking around for signs that would lead to Disney. “Not so fast, Oscar,” She said, “we need to find a chamba first” –a job. Her stomach growled and she knew they would be hungry as well. They still had enough money, and could afford to put off looking for a job for two more days, but Milka didn’t like to cut it too close. “When do we eat?” Said Carlos, voicing what they were all thinking.
They walked down Orlando, careful to note the streets and intersections, looking for landmarks or anything that they would be able to use later if they got lost. After some soul searching and much discussion they decided that a burger was exactly what they all needed right now, they could always get tacos later.
After they ate, they walked some more, hoping to find the spot where the jornaleros met. It was still early enough in the day to find a job thought Milka. But soon their backpacks felt like they weighed double, their feet were sore, and their bodies aching from the last day of travel. But they kept going, they had to find a job, or at least a decent park to spend the night. They found the jornaleros sitting on their backpacks in front of a Dominoes. They sat with them, and quickly Oscar asked where Disney was, they laughed and told him he was still too far North, a good twenty miles North. Oscar sighed, but still he smiled looking in the direction that the men pointed.
Milka sat with them, aware that every now and then the men would look at her. She made sure to flash the pocketknife she now carried, and knew that word had gotten around. They waited for about three hours until a woman stopped by. The men all got up, instead of crowding around, this time they lined up they seemed to know the woman. Milka watched holding the boys back, cautious. From the back of her truck, a black RAM, the lady took out coolers full of food and drink. She noticed the kids then, and came up to them. She didn’t say anything to them just looked them up and down. She asked their names, and they responded compelled by politeness, she introduced herself as Señora Matilde. Behind her the men began to pass around the tortas the woman had.
“What are you esquincles doing out here?” the woman asked. “Looking for a job and place to stay,” said Carlos before Milka could answer. The woman nodded, “Sus padres?” Their parents, she asked, they always asked. “Back home, in Mexico,” said Milka. The woman nodded, turned around, walked back to her truck waving for them to follow. She gave them each a torta, and water. They ate and the woman asked them more questions. She offered them a place to stay, with her. Milka wanted to say yes, but knew they had jobs to find and the dangers of trusting someone they didn’t know. The woman promised to let them look for their jobs, but she just wanted them to be safe. After some pleading looks from the boys Milka accepted. They helped load the truck again, and climbed inside. All three of them smiled now as Señora Matilde drove towards a promised home.