D. SETH HORTON
Miguel Arviso answers an anonymous call about a lost pocho hanging around the church ruins out at Guerrero Viejo. Damn pochos, Miguel thinks. If he’d lived in the United States, life would’ve been so much easier. He would’ve made enough money to take his wife and children on vacation, to Tucson maybe, where they have family; they could’ve even travelled legally. He wouldn’t have to risk his life working as a police officer. He and his wife and children wouldn’t have to sleep with guns or be afraid of the Zetas.
Miguel smokes and drives past ranchitos on the dirt road, swerving to avoid potholes and goats. It’s a long sixteen kilometers out to Guerrero Viejo, a ghost town by the border that was abandoned in 1953 because the Mexican government flooded the area for irrigation. A recent drought caused the lake’s water to recede and now the colonial ruins bake under the sweltering sun. Tourists began flocking to the site, mostly by boat, until a guy from Laredo was shot in the head last September. A month later, the Mexican detective overseeing the investigation was beheaded. The last thing Miguel wants to deal with out here is another murder.
He parks next to the remains of a house, its sandstone foundation washed away. He tightens the straps on his bulletproof vest and walks quickly through the overgrown weeds of what used to be a plaza. Inside the church, the air is cool and powdery. A waterline divides the plaster on the wall. Miguel looks around and finds the pocho sitting in the shadows. He’s dazed and bleeding from cuts on his face. Hopefully, it was from a boating accident on the lake, Miguel thinks, and not just the Zetas toying with him.
“¿Cómo se llama?” Miguel asks.
“Are you with them?” the man asks, refusing to make eye contact.
“No,” Miguel says, but now he knows that they need to get back to the safety of his office as quickly as possible. “Levántese y vamos al pueblo.”
The man struggles to stand up. Miguel helps him to his feet and together they hurry across the stone floor to the arched doorway. Miguel checks his watch as they leave the church. It is 3:52 PM. He hopes to be home with his wife and children before dinner. Outside, temporarily blinded by the sunlight, he thinks again about taking them to Tucson someday, or maybe the great city of San Antonio, or anywhere else in the world where cartel hit men don’t wait outside churches, patiently taking aim.
On the border in Yuma, some babies were sleeping and dreaming. Some babies were awake and crying. Some of the awake and crying babies were picked up, hushed, and soothed. These babies had good parents. But some of the awake and crying babies were neither picked up, nor hushed, nor soothed. These babies had bad parents. Some of the bad parents were exhausted. Some of the bad parents were selfish. And some of the bad parents suffered from any number of problems. Some of the bad parents were surely someday going to lose their babies.
On the border in Yuma, my baby was sleeping and dreaming. And then my baby was awake and crying. I wanted to pick up my baby and hush and soothe her. I wanted to be a good parent. I did not want to be a bad parent, an exhausted parent, or a selfish parent. And I did not want to be the kind of parent who bought and sold heroine and sometimes forgot to take care of her baby. Nor did I want to be the kind of parent who often stared through the bedroom window out at the Palo Verde trees, sometimes for many hours. No, I wanted to be a good parent. I did not want to be the kind of parent who a judge deemed unfit to parent. Nor did I want to be the kind of parent who had to give her baby away to other parents. But I was not a good parent. And now I can only hope that my baby’s new parents will be good parents. Perhaps one day, they’ll tell her that I never meant to be such a very, very bad parent.
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