This is an excerpt from the larger story
Boxcar Blues. ~Pablo Cuzco
The Chinese apothecary shop on the corner of D Street and Second displays a sign, changed every morning, that quotes a Chinese proverb for each day of the week. Make the most of an unexpected opportunity, it read as I made my way out of town that night.
Hidden in a large wooden crate, I watched through the slats as two cargo handlers checked the load just across the state line in Arizona. “Why do ya think they didn’t shut this door?” the worker asked his companion.
Shrugging his shoulders, the other loader pulled a pack of cigarettes out of the pocket of his jeans. “I dunno. Maybe they just forgot t’ lock it. Opened by itself. I dunno.”
Moving boxes and crates around, making sure everything was secure, they seemed to share a sense of satisfaction in their work. Thinking back, it may have just been my contentment as I clung to the brand new duffel bag Makalani had packed. It was full of every necessity I would need for my journey. After leaving the jailhouse, while the lone dispatcher went for coffee, I found it stashed in the bushes. That girl, she knew just where I would hide, too. She had an uncanny sense that way.
In my dreams, a young man manipulates levers and belt drives that operate an escalator made of molybdenum-steel, raising and lowering people cut in half at the torso, only to become whole again at the end of the ride.
A middle-aged woman at a bus station reminds me that there are still details to work out, pieces to put together. Don’t despair, she winks while pouring used oil around fence posts. To preserve them, she says.
I woke up to the rhythmic rattle of the Southern Pacific rails against my back. I stood up, forced open the door of the boxcar, and watched the desert as it flew past.
In the few hours of daylight after the sun has set, the Arizona landscape comes to life in a soft purple contrast of shadows, turning the once desolate land into a masterpiece of color and light.
I watched as thousands of sun-squashed spheres of sagebrush swayed in the hot evening breeze, waving that yellow ball of fire into the horizon. Putting a part of my life behind me, the thought suddenly crossed my mind: Maybe Nick Dade will make California after all.