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Authors: David Cole

Falling Down

BOOK: Falling Down
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David Cole
Falling Down

Mary Emich, my muse
Dympna Callaghan, my mentor

“I do love thee!
and when I love thee not,
chaos is come again.”

—Othello to Desdemona, in Shakespeare,



Bob Gates followed me up the narrow bricked stairway to…


Nine in the morning, floating naked in the pool.


I never used to dream.


All righty then, I thought next morning. Let's look at…


“So what's wrong?” Sandy said.


“They came in front and back,” Renteria said.


“Oh, dear,” the old woman said. “These aren't the desert…


“Did you know?” I shouted into my cell.


“I love this part of the park,” Mary said.




The monsoons came early that summer.


My cell rang, an insistence, a startling intrusion.


What wouldn't I want to see in my own home…


“Violence,” I said. “Drug smugglers and violence.”


“I thought I'd seen it all,” Alex said.


My cell rang at four in the morning. Thickened with…


“Bodies,” I said to myself. “More bodies.”


Chuy's. A lower-end Mexican food restaurant chain. I'd never been…


Following Mary's directions to her office, I bypassed the main…


“Captain?” Kligerman asked. “You want to start off?”


Swimming my way through my anger and confusion and depression…


Sixty or seventy high school boys and girls clustered around…


“Mom,” Spider said.


Beyond Tucson, heading north, I-10 stretches past Marana and what…


The middle of nowhere, completely off-road in the desert. Promoter…




Pomelo Road lies just north of Orange Grove, between Oracle…




And we waited. And we all waited. One day, two…


On the fifth day, a commotion in the driveway, two…


“I need to tell you something,” I said.


The four of them huddled around one end of a…


I flipped open a brand-new cell phone, called Alex.


Late morning. Late morning. Beside the pool, Ana Luisa playing…


But Kyle had been suspended from active duty, pending…pending something…


A huge, sprawling million-dollar home in Ventana Canyon, sitting on…




“Hey, honey bunny,” Ken said. “Who's paying for all this?…

When you read this, please know that you became what you are today, you became my daughter, just eleven months ago.

On a typical monsoon afternoon in August, your pickup truck barreled past me at exactly two minutes before five o'clock, I know this time exactly because the Border Patrol nearly ran me off the road, they didn't swerve over, like your driver, a small courtesy at eighty miles an hour, the monsoon blowing heavily and rain clouding all my mirrors until the pickup roared past me, a Ford 250 diesel,
of a blown muffler? an automatic weapon? an old diesel engine backfiring? when the driver tried to downshift, that's what I thought, but your driver gave up giving me room because of his speed.

Anyway, the backfires or weapon or muffler noise saving my life, snapping me from the meditative state I brought with me from my Reiki attunement in Arivaca along this two-lane road, one of the busiest smuggling back roads in all of Arizona, the road so busy the Border Patrol finally set up a permanent checkpoint.

My foot drifting off the accelerator and moving to the brake pedal. Stunned by the crowd beside you in the pickup long bed. So many people sitting up high, others crouching, two even standing as you all disappeared inside the heavy monsoon rain squall just as the first Bor
der Patrol Jeep tailgated my Subaru Baja, cherry and turquoise lights flickering, heavy electronic siren bleating as the Jeep's grill flooded my mirrors and
the Jeep's front crash bumpers nudged my smaller car ahead. I couldn't brake, just steered over the small dirt berm at the shoulder and headed off into a tangle of creosote bushes as three Border Patrol Jeeps sped past.

Angry, furious, frightened but
ious, I punched the accelerator and used the car's momentum to get back on Arivaca Road. I came up on a hill, I could see half a mile in front of me, the monsoon swept across and behind me, wind pushing aside the rain so I could clearly see the first Border Patrol Jeep overtake and pass your truck, the Jeep passenger throwing something on the road and your pickup running across the object
both right tires blowing and your pickup launched off the top of a small rise, glanced off a thick mesquite tree, still airborne, crashing against other trees until coming to earth exactly at the three-wire cattle fence, crunching and tilting onto the driver's side, that horrible metallic crinkle
of metal buckling, you and all the people screaming as the pickup started rolling over and over, bodies flying out of the truck, it just wouldn't stop rolling.

After the first rollover, several wooden crates flew twenty feet into the air, slatted crates that disintegrated on hitting the ground,
and all these birds flew out,
bodies and birds commingling, flying through the air.

Later, a DPS accident-investigation team estimated that after hitting the spiked strip thrown down by the Border Patrol, after both tires blew out, your pickup rolled and bounced for more than three hundred yards.

I drove as close as I could to the scene. Pulled up, slammed my shift into park, and got out of the car. Deep within the monsoon, the rains so fierce they shrouded everything beyond ten or fifteen feet, so that as I ran through the rain my circle of visibility constantly shifted. I stumbled upon a mother spread-eagled against
a boulder, her back broken and a baby girl hugged to her stomach and crushed against the rock. I was feeling for the baby's pulse when a Border Patrolman grabbed my arm, yanked me roughly backward, and quickly pinned my arms behind me to slap on a plastic quick-flex.

They're dead,
I said.
Can't you see, they're dead. Let me go.
I tried to power myself up. He thrust me to the ground, put a boot on my neck, my face slammed into the dirt beside a dead bird. A chicken, no, I thought, face in the dirt, a rooster.

Are you insane?
I said.
What are you doing?

Stay put, asshole,
he said.

He ran toward the pickup while I staggered to my feet, lurching after him, cursing him, sobbing, passing more bodies, dead roosters but many more just stunned, flying and running, several dozen, I couldn't count them all, I couldn't decide what to do, should I gather the roosters, stop beside every person? See if they were injured but alive? I knelt beside a dead man, half scalped, the hair and blood partially covering a large tattoo on his forehead.
Mara 27.

The wind shifted, rolling the rain across the desert floor, a larger window of visibility suddenly appearing. I saw a man, his back to me, right arm extended with a pistol against the forehead of somebody lying on the ground. I saw the pistol recoil, but heard nothing as the rain swept in again to hide everything but the body at my feet. I looked closer at his forehead, saw an entry wound.

An execution.

I recoiled with astonishment, turned completely in a circle, turned again, saw nobody, and now terribly afraid.

An officer came toward me, looked me over quickly, saw I was in shock.

Were you in the truck?
he said.

No. No, what have you done?

Red car?
Slapped my face.

You ran me off the road,
I said.
You sonuvabitch, then you ran
off the road. You murdered those people.

he said.

Accident, hell!
I said.
That was murder.

They fired at us, we tried to stop them. What's your name?

Fired? What do you mean, fired?


You're saying you heard gunshots?

When they fired at us. Yes.

Those weren't gunshots,
I screamed.
The engine backfired.

he said, nodding to himself. Certain he was right.

Why did you stop me?

You were speeding,
he said.

On automatic, already in damage-control mode.

You rammed my car!

Go to Nogales,
he said.
File an accident complaint. But right now, get back in your car and stay there.

Smoldering with rage. Eyes clouded with tears. I lowered my head, tried to head-butt him. He caught me gently, held my arms tight, and I could see him closely, as frightened as me, both of us in shock as we stood there, frozen, his hands gripping my arms until I wiggled and he blinked, looked down, licked his lips, took out a knife, and cut the plastic quick-flex.

Just go away,
he said.
Please? Just leave?

I tried to dodge past him, his arms extending straight out, forming a barricade I couldn't cross. Kept thrusting against his arms, jumping sideways.

These people are smugglers,
he said.

These people are dead!
I screamed.

Smugglers. Weed, Afghani heroin, people, birds…these people smuggle anything. These are
They smuggle anything and everything.

Tried to run under his right arm, he caught me.

People die for roosters?
I said.

Fighting cocks. Top-quality. Please. Go back to your car,
he said.
We have three emergency ambulances and a chopper on the way. Please. Help us by not getting in the way.

Finally gave up, walked backward to my car.

And then I saw you.

And your brother, both arms around a dead rooster.

Both of you, huddled behind a clump of teddy-bear cholla. Blood all over your brother's head, covering your hands and your thin white dress with little red ribbons around the neck and sleeves. Without any hesitation, instinctually, put a finger across my lips.
Got to my car, opened my door, saw all the Border Patrolmen far away, each near a body except for one officer with a microphone to his mouth, shouting, I couldn't hear the words, and just then another swirl of rain blew over them, covering them from my sight.

And me from theirs.

Come on,
I said, jerking my head five times toward my open car doors until you ran to me and piled into the back seat, the blood on my seat cushions turning black as it soaked into the fabric but your brother's face covered with blood almost the same shade as my candy-apple-red Subaru Baja.

I turned around. Back to Arivaca. Stopped at the medical clinic. All the blood from your brother's head wound, we washed both of you, the first sting of grain alcohol on his gashes jolting him alert as another gurney rolled beside him, pressure packs on the man's legs and right arm, a huge tattoo on his face partially obscured by blood as the med tech tried to swab his face clean.

You blanched at that tattoo.

Your brother recoiled in fear, turning his body away from the wounded man, cuddling into a ball. He held a small card.

La Bruja,
he whispered. I thought it was a Tarot card.
La Bruja,
he said and said again and again while we bandaged his head.

Saint Magdalena de la maras.

I don't understand. Is this your mother?

Shook his head. Offered me the card. Heavy plastic, not a tarot card, but like a miniature of an old movie poster. Hands shaking on the card, eyes dulled by shock and terror, not looking at the woman's image. He suddenly retched, spewing blood and bits of rubber balloons onto the floor.

La Bruja. Saint Magdalena de la maras.

The Witch. Saint Magdalena of the…what were

We're going to lose him,
the nurse said. She folded her arms around the boy, her bent wire-frame glasses falling off her face as she held him tightly until his body stopped spasming and he died. After easing him back on the gurney, the nurse bent to the floor, swore to herself, crossed herself, ran to get a bottle of purgative, and started feeding it to you from a measuring spoon.

Hours later, you exhausted from purging, the nurse folded my hands around your head.
You must take her,
the nurse said.
To St. Mary's Hospital, in Tucson. Tell them, just say you believe the girl has swallowed heroin.


They're drug mules. They've been made to swallow balloons of heroin. Some burst inside the boy's stomach. The girl must be examined carefully. I've given her a laxative, but it will be some time before the balloons pass through her system. You must take her to Tucson.

No way,
I remember saying.
It's not my responsibility.

You initiated the responsibility,
she said,
when you rescued them. The girl will live. She will, if you get to her to the emergency ward.

I cannot take responsibility,
I said.

The nurse held up the boy's card.
You know what this is?
I shook my head.
La Bruja. The witch, Saint Magdalena of the Maras. And these words down here? In the small black letters?

no me jodas

This is a death card,
she said.
Death to witnesses, death to anybody who talks about being a drug smuggler, being a mule.

no me jodas

What does it mean?
I asked.

Literally, it means ‘Don't fuck with me.' Down here near the border, it's a warning. Like I said. It's a death card. I cannot jeopardize this clinic by keeping the boy and girl here. Get them to Tucson, get them to an emergency ward.

And I took you both.

Your brother dead.

And you lived.


I wrapped your hands around my Mother Teresa medal, I draped my rosary over your neck, and waited outside the St. Mary's emergency ward.

I prayed and prayed for three hours, that God would allow you to live. And you did. One bag of heroin ruptured inside your body and somehow damaged your central nervous system, screwed up the part of your brain that lets you talk. Neurologists say you may some day recover the ability for speech. I do not know, I only pray. Since you have never spoken of the accident to me, I never truly understood your brother's horror until this week.

I have seen the tattoo again.

So. I'm writing all this down, now that you've begun learning how to understand English and my Spanish is, well, improving. One day, I pray that in reading this, maybe you'll remember what happened on that day and so remember your life before we met.

I will protect you.

protect you.

—mary emich, 11 august 04 thru 29 june 05

BOOK: Falling Down
6.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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