All aboard, climb inside! Back of the van! Get back, Loretta! Only 1500 miles to the promised land! Farm jobs, construction, cleaning, meatpacking, don’t bleed when you’re cut or you go right back! Need papers? Housing? A lawyer? A clue? My cousin, he’ll hook you up. Fenrir. We grew up together. Wolf, coyote, closer than brothers. I smuggle. He eats. My claws to his jaws. Hey, they’re happy here! Good jobs. Good money bringing ’em in. Hell of a trick, huh? Back of the van, there’s a good-looking trick. She’ll get work right off. Or worked. Good money, for someone. It’s all good.
Canis lupus, Canis latrans, no daylight between us bedlam boys. I’m littler, but I’m wiry. Better with people. A wolf’s shy. He’s a sensitive guy. Us coyotes, though, we know folks. We adapt. Mythic tricksters. I was born in a hole. Grew up street. Grew up sharp. I do what I gotta, just like my country cousin, my shy blood, my Fenrir. We ain’t big and bad. We’re just getting by. Just like you! The big bosses, the pigs, they’re the ones who’ll eat you up. I ain’t no pig, you got no beef with me. None.
Hey! Cargo! Y’all hear me back there, back of the van? Ever hear of Fenrir? My crazy-ass cousin? Well, you should, ’cause he fought The Law. He took the bastard’s hand. Law-Man tracks him down to the border, they’re wrastlin’, Law’s whistling Dixie and Miranda and then, snap! aieee! and ol’ Fenrir’s running back north like a white-assed deer, pig knuckles clenched hard in his teeth. Stumped that bastard up to the wrist. Like being bacon, pig? Like gettin’ et? Don’t complain about us, cargo. Ever. Whatever we do, The Law does worse. You cross a big boss? The box they’ll stick you in? Next to that, this van’s a big beautiful manse.
Big, beautiful desert we’re passing through. Beautiful. A little heat never killed nobody. Mesas. Rock striations. Goldenrod, burnt sienna, dirty tangerine. Fat streaks in good bacon, stretch marks on the big tanned pregnant parched belly of Mother Jord. Picture it, cargo! Keep your eyes on the prize! On the mop, on the mower, on the blade.
Fenrir, my blood, he fights the big bosses, but then he runs away. Me, though, I stick around. I crash their banquets. I tell ’em what’s what. Got blitzed as hell, last night, and really laid it out. You, boss-man, you’re a goddamned coward. You, trophy wife, you give it up for pocket change. You too, honey. You too, babe. Women, huh? You, buddy, you might as well be one—oh, I’m a faggot? Me? Your kid talked like that too, before I popped him between the eyes. A little kiss under the mistletoe! Good luck getting to rise the third day. You, you’re such a freak you let girls piss in your mouth. Don’t play innocent. Their madam’s got pictures. And you, The Law who screws the whole wide world—my cuz got your hand! Snapped it clean off! Threaten me. Go on. He’ll fix you good, he’ll swallow your biggest boss-man whole—
So hung over. Where the hell am I? Dark here. Stifling. Dead engine. Deep ditch. Got run off the road. There was a mass of razor wire, just up ahead—they ran me right off the damn road. Stuck on the border. Never getting across. Never going back. Overturned in a ditch, hanging upside down. Belted in. For safety. Can’t move. Can’t see. Won’t look.
There’s a dripping, drabbling, on my face. It hits my eyes, and I scream. Viscous. Corrosive. Gas droplets, pungent, oily. Drippings from a giant’s feast. Foul putrefaction. It sticks. Like napalm. Burns.
You! Pretty trick, back of the van! I need water, baby. Come on! ¡Agua! Wash it away!
There was something in the road. Blew a tire. The bosses know my routes. They made plans. God, I swear, when I get out of here—when I—
Anyone still back there? Anyone?
Coyote. Wolf. You can’t tell our cubs apart. Wolf in white van. Beware the wolf in white van. White van flying across the lonesome crowded west, fevered streak of reckless greed, striating wound on the belly of the earth. Aleppo, Otranto, Sinaloa, Arizona, carrying the dregs, parasites, fresh-meat nothings who service this, that, them, you—oh, you gonna do it yourself now? Gonna do it yourself? Pick lettuce, flip burgers, pour concrete, clean toilets, mow lawn after lawn after lawn? Show me. Show me! Yeah. You can’t show me shit. You’d starve without me and my cargo. Starve!
Can’t breathe. Impaled on the wreckage. The cargo hold buckled, broke open, a rusty god-knife splitting my guts stem to stern. When it’s sealed up, the hold, heat rises. And rises. Convection oven of stench, drippings, heat. Every living thing inside a suckling pig.
Splashing in my eyes again, sticking, burning like napalm. Nobody alive to wash it away. And thirsty now. So thirsty. Get me out of here. Goddammit! ¡Vamos!
I know what I did. For you, too good to clean your own crapper. It was all for you!
I’m not deaf. I got wolf ears. Dog ears. I catch all the high sounds. Moans. Shaky wails. Screams. The low sounds, banging, thumping, hands slamming walls, fists pounding, nails scratching, heat rising higher and higher in the hold, my cargo crying let us out, please, let us out. They pulled out a taillight, to get air, get heard. Didn’t hear ’em. This old engine, you can’t hear shit doing eighty down Interstate 19. Wolf country, coyote nation, cross at your own risk! Can’t stand the heat? They’re farmhands, dammit! Sixteen hours a day in full Oaxaca sun! They’re used to it! How the hell could they die? I didn’t know, okay? I didn’t know!
They’re gone. All my cargo. Crossed over without me. Dropping, dying, in the desert—it’s not my fault. I don’t make the system. We all gotta make a living.
I’m never getting out of here. Never ever. Not ’til the end of the world. The hour of the wolf. It’s coming. The end of everything. But the world, see, it keeps ending, then it keeps coming back. It never changes. Coyote tricks pigs, wolf swallows sun, wolf retches infernos of fire and blood. And then? And then? There’s always another me. Coyote puts muzzle to the wind, grabs the meat, ducks the Law, finds the old perpetual famine-truth. My cargo’s gone. Flew away. But there’ll always be more. Thanks to the big bosses, the biggest bosses, they’ve got nowhere else to go. No getting rid of them. No getting rid of me. They can’t do without me. They can’t!
What’s a guy gotta do to get a drink around here!
Daddy, Daddy, said a bitty baby monkey, parched with heat and thirst and terror. I’m dying. Him, I heard. Back of my van. One little voice over the banging, pounding, screaming. He’s still here. The end’s coming and he’s the only one left. I’m dying, Daddy—no. He’ll live. He’ll climb out of white van, after the end of the world, him and that pretty dead trick. Reborn, with monkey bodies and coyote teeth. Sever any hands trying to feed off their flesh. Monkey, dog, coyote, wolf, all their children, children’s children, starting over again, and again, and again. Mad rotating wheel of eternity, like a tire-spin, like eternal eighty down Interstate 19. And I’ll ride that road forever. I’m your ride-or-die man. I’m indispensable. Me! Those wheels don’t turn without me! No regrets, coyote. They should thank me. Thank me.
A drink! One goddamned drink! To thank me—
A mass of razor wire, just up ahead.
Part of The Learned Pig’s Wolf Crossing editorial season, spring/summer 2017.
Image credit: jbdodane via Flickr