A dewy dawn swept by, quietly floating westward, changing the world from desert night to day, from shadows and dark pools to valleys of light. He found a rutted dirt road going north or thereabouts. He stopped, listening, drank some water from his canteen but did so sparingly. The water and the dark tasted good, the desert air was clean, fresh: he knew its smell.”
He walked on for about another fifteen minutes. It grew lighter --
What was that? Over there? Birds? Crows cawing and taking flight. And? In the light of early morning the road ended in a pile of what? Garbage? Plastic bags?
As he neared, it was the smell that defined what he saw. Oh god --
There was furtive movement to his right. He ducked down behind an outcropping of rock. But, it was just coyotes. There were two, maybe, three of the critters. They were skinny runts but smart and hungry. He picked up a couple of good throwing rocks.
He moved off the road taking a parallel course to his target. He edged closer to the garbage piles, eventually to look down on the sight from a slight scrub-covered rise.
The dead people were piled in a heap. Maybe they’d been pushed from a truck, dumped? There were plastic bags, too. Some were torn open. Clothing?
Shit, wetbacks by description, by the fact that they were dead in the desert -- in a pile. There were no cars or trucks in sight --
Just the dead people.
And the coyotes.
And the circling carrion birds.
He ripped open a plastic bag with clothes showing and immediately found a good coat that fit. It was better than what he had. It smelled better too.
He took the coat. ‘Thank you,’ he said, softly to the dead people. He said this very slowly but did not look them.
His curiosity compelled, he looked more closely: there were six or seven Mexicans.
There were fat winter flies on mouths and eyes and noses and ears. The little girl was a toddler in almost-new clothing. He could see her small dark eyes, sunken, with no life in them. She looked sad, weary, broken-hearted --
They’d been dumped in the desert --
Got to go --
Marshall stood with his new coat clutched in one hand --
It wasn’t stealing.
It was a trade.
He put the new coat on -- it fit -- he looked around:
The coyotes were just over a knoll and watching, waiting patiently. Marshall heard a bird shriek, not a crow, something else. A vulture? Out of sight there was a flapping of huge wings. He flinched, crouched instinctively, felt vulnerable.
He studied the human beings on the ground, again:
The bodies with nobody in them.
There was no blood that he could see. Maybe the people had smothered in the heat, died in the back of a truck, maybe a U-Haul or something? He’d heard of such things. Then, the human coyotes, the men that brought them across the border dumped them -- got rid of the evidence.
Maybe that was it?
God: the risks the wetbacks took to cross the border.
To get to America.
To get to California. - from The Desert by Kevin O'Kendley
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