Free Read: Ven al Norte
Ven al Norte
Ada Maria Soto
It was a small stone that sent Diego tumbling onto the rocky ground, rolling beneath the thin soles of his shoes. As he fell the empty jugs made a dull thudding noise across his back. Overhead the sun beat down. He curled into a ball. He couldn’t find his way when the sun was high anyway. He may as well be walking in circles. He may as well lie where he fell.
‘Come north,’ his cousin Richardo had written him. Come north and he would get him a job in the kitchen where he worked. They made Pan-Pacific fusion food. Diego wrote back that he couldn’t cook and didn’t know what Pan-Pacific fusion food was. It doesn’t matter, Richardo wrote. Cooking is just putting food on fire and doing what the chef tells you so come north.
He pulled his shirt over his head as much as he could. His hat was lost miles back.
After Richardo’s letter he kissed his mother and his sister and his abuelita. He went to church and took bread from the fingers of the old priest and wine from the cup the young priest, then he paid a man to take him north.
They drove for a long time, dozens of them packed between bales of hay. It was nearly impossible to breathe and no one spoke.
At some point the road changed, Diego could feel it. They kept driving for hours more, then the truck stopped. They were dragged from between the hay and each given a small bottle of water. Then a man pointed them towards endless desert and told them to walk.
Diego tried to sleep as the heat baked down on his back.
They had all walked slowly, the desert brush scraping at their skin. Not far from their feet they had heard the angry rattle of snakes. He’d slowly fallen to the rear of the group wishing more to turn back than move forward. Then there were shouts at the head of the group. Diego crouched down behind some brush as the first shots were followed by the first screams. Fools tried to run. Diego kept low and watched, the prickly brush scraping his face.
When the screaming stopped the men with the guns who had taken them north started walking again. In the distance Diego could see the dust of a truck. He didn’t move until night fall. He collected the water from the dead then looked up to the constant star and taking his cousin’s advice began to move north.
Diego didn’t know how many days he’d been walking just that the water was gone, the sun was hot, and he wanted to sleep.
He moved north when the sun began to set and followed the stars as it turned cold.
In the dark he though he heard the flap of wings. Owls on the hunt, angels to protect him.
His abuelita had told him angels were soldiers of God who fought the devil in great battles. He drew a picture of men in green like the ones who went by their home in large trucks. He told his mother they were angels. She cried and sent him to the priest who told him to draw pretty ladies with white wings to keep his mother happy.
The clear night ripped the heat from the desert stones. He wished for the warmth of day just as he had wish for the cool of night. He tripped and fell again but this time stood. The full, bright moon hadn’t washed out the North Star. There was a breeze that rustled the scrub grass. He tried to listen beyond it for the sound of water in a stream, the warbling clack of fence wire, the flutter of angel wings.
He was sure he should be north by now. He should have run into a wall or river but he’d heard the wall was sporadic at best and the rivers were often dry long before they reached the sea. He could have stumbled across empty banks and never known.
He looked down hoping to see the smooth sheen of rounded river stones. He looked up. There was a whisper of wings and a quick blurring of the sky. Probably an owl gliding across the night but he wondered about angels. He sought out the twinkle of a particular star and pushed himself north.