512 Words

The Coast is Clear

M. Stanley Bubien

Ramón cast off the blue tarp just as the sun peeked above the distant hills. The grassy knoll was soaked about him, but his tarp had kept his blankets mostly dry during the storm. He rose and inhaled. The air tasted clean with a salty tinge. A smile formed on his face. He loved mornings, always the clearest time of day, especially after a rain.

As other field workers arose about him, Ramón wandered to the top of the knoll. From there, the crisp morning revealed the western ocean. La Costa---the coast---that was the name of this place, a place as clear as... what?

His smile faded.

"La Costa está clara," he nodded to himself. Today, those words were true---though when he'd last spoken them, it was wholly different.

"Él dice, 'La Costa está clara---está vacía,'" Ramón had whispered through a thick, moonless night to Celín as they hid amidst Tijuana River Valley thistles.

"Que?" Celín replied in Spanish. "Coast?"

"It means no one is around," Ramón explained, and immediately thought, "You, older brother, are a farmer. The fields, always the fields. Never grasping other important things, like learning English. Everything for the fields---except this."

Ramón turned to Celín. "You never have explained why you wanted to cross."

"Same reason as you: a job, money."

"No. You fought for your farm. You would not leave for money."

Celín stared into Ramón's eyes. With a sigh, he shook his head. "I've come for salvation. I've come to feed a nation."

"I don't understand," Ramón frowned. "You fed a nation: ours. Why sacrifice that for," he nodded northward, "for a people that are not your own?"

"You know I fought alongside the Zapatistas for my rights as a farmer. It stained the soil with blood, yet in the end my crops never reached the mouths of my own people." He held up his hands, presented them palms forward. "God gave me these fingers to farm. This is my salvation---if my nation will not allow it, I will go to one that does. Is that clear?"

Ramón's response was interrupted by pounding footsteps. Both brothers ducked lower, and the Coyote they'd paid as guide charged past heading for the southern border fence.

"La Immigra!" he screamed and disappeared into the night. As one, Ramón and Celín jumped up and sprinted in the opposite direction as the Coyote.

"We are betrayed!" Celín gasped. "He's led them here to save himself."

"Alto!" A voice cried from behind. The brothers ran harder. But a sudden thud caused Ramón to glance sidelong to see Celín tackled by the Immigra agent. He skidded to a stop, but Celín cried, "Go!" as he struggled.

Ramón hesitated.

The agent pushed Celín's face into the dirt. Turning his chin aside, Celín spat soil and croaked one last time, "Go!"

"Está clara!" another worker exclaimed beside Ramón, bringing him from his reverie. Holding up his hands, superimposing them against the panorama of La Costa, Ramón saw his fingers stained with soil.

"Cómo salvación," he answered for his brother.

Copyright ©1998 M. Stanley Bubien. All Rights Reserved.

Please contact the editor for free text versions of this very short story formatted for e-mail, usenet news, or ftp.

Story Bytes


May, 1998
Issue #25

512 Words