FICTION: The Border by Eddie Matthews

 

Winter

Josué took a revolver to the border with four bullets in his fist: 9mm, 10mm, 22mm, 33mm. He tried to fit each bullet into the chamber, but only one slotted in, so he dropped the rest under the yellow palo verde tree. He spun the cylinder, raised the barrel to his head and cocked the hammer, as the sky changed from black to blue like an ageing bruise. An SUV braked across from him and sent a dust cloud drifting east. The man got out and addressed Josué from the open door.

‘What do you want?’

‘Let me cross.’

‘I can’t.’

Josué nodded. The gun barrel shook against his head. He pulled the trigger and the hammer clicked—but no shot rang out, so he walked away. He arrived in the same clothes the following day, sweat yellowing his t-shirt, and made the same demand and received the same response. So the cylinder spun. Barrel raised. Click—no bullet. He walked off and returned the next day.

‘Think this through, there are other ways.’

‘I’ve tried all the other ways.’ He spun the cylinder and breathed in the cold, indigo dawn, and raised the gun to his head, wanting to end his migraine as much as anything else.

Please—please don’t.

He pulled the trigger.

Afterward, Joshua drove to the yellow palo verde tree and sat beside the body, counting the freckles below where the bullet passed through.

 

Fall

Josué’s girlfriend stroked him through the gap in the wall as the crickets made the evening hum like a livewire.

‘You know my lease is up at the end of the month,’ she said.

‘You can move in with your uncle for a little while. We’ll make it work,’ Josué said.

‘He doesn’t have any space for me.’

‘Give me a little more time.’

‘I only have thirty days.’

A tall coyote was waiting for him the following night. He wrestled Josué to the ground and rifled through his clothes, snatching fifty dollars from the inside of his sock and beating him until they were both out of breath. He flipped through the small stack of bills and told him to bring five hundred next time. Josué lay there for hours, too weak to move, dried blood clogging his nose. He crawled to the yellow palo verde tree and spit out two teeth, then slept until morning.

 

Summer

Joshua bent over footprints, examining the slight shadow they made in the dirt, and followed them through the mouth of Devils Canyon. He walked beside the meandering stride until he found Josué barefoot, with a slain rattlesnake over his shoulder, mumbling lamentations in the heat. He’d collapsed under the shade of a boulder, beside vultures feasting on a torso. Joshua kicked at them and they vomited intestinal mush and hobbled away.

‘How was work?’ Joshua’s wife asked him over dinner.

‘Fine.’

She watched him get up, leaving his enchilada untouched, and walk to the bathroom—shutting the door behind him. Joshua sat on the floor and counted the specks on the linoleum tiles until the sun rose.

 

Spring

The air smelled of doughnuts near the IKEA where Josué greeted the regulars. The manager examined his fake papers and let him in the van that took him to a foreclosed home in town where he separated mementos from gravel and dirt, which he fed into a mixer that they followed to the border.

Joshua sang a country song he’d forgotten the name of, while he drove toward the construction site. He parked beside the mixer. Josué funnelled the new concrete into rebar as Joshua greeted the manager who told the crew to take lunch. Joshua saw Josué was lunch-less so he offered half his BLT and they ate together on the gate of his truck. Josué uncapped a bottle of seasoning he carried on a keychain and speckled his half and insisted Joshua try some. After they ate, Josué went back to setting rebar and Joshua drove west.

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Eddie Matthews

Eddie Matthews is a Ph.D. in Creative Writing candidate at Swansea University who writes stories about how borders of all types—material, relational, and imagined—change the identities of those who engage them.

If you enjoyed ‘The Border’ leave a comment and let Eddie know.

You can read more of Eddie’s fiction below:

Construction Literary Magazine

Cheval Anthology of Young Writers (Parthian Books)

Zero Hours on the Boulevard: Anthology of Short Fiction (Parthian Books)

You can find and follow Eddie at:

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