July 7, 2016

Flash Fiction by Susan P. Blevins: "Crossing"

Susan P. Blevins was born in England, where she spent the first twenty years of her life, followed by twenty-six years in Italy recovering from the first twenty, and fourteen years in Taos, NM.   She had a weekly column on food for a Rome newspaper, and since living in the USA, has written for various garden magazines both here and in Europe.    She now lives in Houston and is writing and publishing stories based on her many life experiences.


She had taken the bus north to Ciudad Juarez and was determined to slip across the border into Texas.  She’d heard the stories, and she knew the risks, but she was determined.   She’d been raped by one of the gangs that controlled her village, and now she was pregnant.   She knew she wanted to give her child a better chance at life than she had had.   She was only nineteen, and not afraid of hard work.  

She started walking north, hoping to find a stretch of the border that was not patrolled.   She saw lights in the distance, traffic, sirens, so she knew she was getting close to the fence.   She’d brought some tortillas and water with her, but walking when she was so heavily pregnant was exhausting.  

The wind blew incessantly, tumbleweeds tried to grab her legs, but she kept walking, mechanically, numbed by her stubbornness.  She thought she saw the skulking form of a coyote, and picked up a stone, just in case.   

She reached the fence and walked along it until she found a hole that had gone unnoticed by the patrols, made no doubt by others also fleeing north.  She squeezed her swollen body through the cut strands of wire.

Finally she came to the outskirts of a small town and spotted a derelict building with a signboard swinging loose, its raucous squeaking the only noise other than the relentless wind.   Perhaps at one time it had been a motel.   She pushed open the door and found a place where she could shelter and rest for the night.   She laid out the cloth in which she had carried her few provisions, and lay down.   Then she felt the first stabs of labor pains.   This alarmed her because she thought she had two more weeks.   When her water broke, she knew she did not have much time.   She was not afraid of delivering her baby, for she had grown up around animals in Mexico and seen how they birthed.

In the cold, early light of a south Texas dawn she gave birth to a son.   She cut the umbilical cord with her teeth, and wiped the baby clean as best she could.   She felt enormous love in her heart for this helpless creature and knew she had made the right decision.   She rested for a while, holding the baby tenderly to her swollen breasts, then fashioned a sling for her son, and set out walking.    It was now mid-afternoon, and her water and tortillas were finished.   Her thirst was tormenting her and she was beginning to feel light-headed from dehydration and from giving birth.   The wind still blew, but resolutely she set out, seeing that she was following a little used road.   She saw the small town grow closer, saw some fields of corn and chiles, and her heart grew lighter and her step more hurried.

She was tiring rapidly though, not as strong as she thought she was, and she collapsed by the side of the road, holding her baby protectively to her, praying to the Virgin Mary to send an angel to protect them, trusting in God’s providence.

Headlights pierced the early evening as a rancher headed up the road towards home in his old truck.   He saw the figure lying by the road and stopped.   He hurried over to the motionless shape.   Then he heard the whimpering of the baby.   He leaned down and touched the young woman, shook her shoulder, but she did not respond.   He reached for the baby and picked it up.   He felt for the woman’s pulse, but she had none, and although her flesh was not stone cold yet, her life force had already seeped away.

His wife had given birth just two months earlier, to a girl, and she had plenty of milk.   He decided there and then to take this boy into his family and raise him as his own.   He needed a son to help on the land, and his wife’s fragile health could not support another pregnancy.

He put the baby in the cab of his truck and loaded the young woman’s body onto the flatbed.   He’d bury her on his land tomorrow and say a prayer over her grave.

Holding the baby in his arms, he drove home as night fell, sensing the young woman’s spirit hovering over them. 

~Susan P. Blevins

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