The moonlight was their only light. Huffing and puffing were the only sounds. José walked in front. The trail was narrow. He didn’t want his wife to stumble. She carried the baby. He’d offered to do so, but she’d refused.
“He’s asleep,” she’d explained.
“Let him sleep,” he’d agreed.
So, they hurried, José in the lead, all their earthly possessions crammed in the backpack he’d purchased from the street vendor in San Salvador. That was weeks ago. How many trains since then? How many miles? How many cold nights?
He glanced over his shoulder. Her eyes caught his. Was that a smile he saw? She’s something, this woman, he said to himself. He turned his attention back to the trail. Mesquites on either side scraped against their jeans.
Behind them was a village. Within the village was a barn. Within that barn lay, even still, the gathered straw and abandoned feed trough that had served as a bassinet for their baby.
The child whimpered. José stopped.
“He is fine,” Maria assured before José had time to ask.
The trail emptied into a river that had long since emptied its water into a rancher’s pond. The wide, dry riverbed allowed them to walk abreast. No thorns. They moved faster. He hoisted the pack. She secured the child. A blacktop was near, they’d been told.
After a dozen steps they heard the shots.
José had been warned of the danger. Just that morning, as the men warmed their hands over the fire in the five-gallon drum, he heard them speak of the cartel. Take the baby and leave, they’d urged him. These men are violent.
He’d hurried back to the barn to tell Maria, but she was sound asleep. ...1
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