As they reached the other bank, another man pointed each family or group of individuals in a slightly different direction so that they didn’t leave one clear trail. As they dispersed into the night, the people disappeared from view.
Lois was glad to at least have her lower body washed clean of baby pee as, holding Jose’s hand to keep up with him, she sloshed through sparse brush in wet loafers. Burrs caught on her pants, stinging her leg but, with Jose pulling, she couldn’t stop to remove or even avoid them.
“Hey, took it easy, will ya,” she ordered, feeling like throwing up. He ignored her request but she really had to stop. All that beer was backing up on her.
After heaving, Lois still felt sick and insisted on resting. The hell with it, she thought, snapping a picture of a nearby tree. Now I don’t have to worry. She could go home and sleep, then come back later when she felt better.
Lois wiped her mouth with her sleeve and was starting to tell Jose about leaving, when several men appeared out of the gloomy night. One of them was their guide.
“Here they are, Jesus,” one of them called toward the others. “Hey buddy, you got more gold? You give it to us and we’ll leave, all right?” He spoke in Spanish as Lois continued standing and retching, stomach feeling queasy and not knowing what was going on.
She heard them talking, more concerned with her dizzy feeling than what was happening around her. Lois did finally notice when one pulled a gun and pointed it at Jose.
The girl was too sick to be fancy. She quickly increased mass until her body took on a grayish sheen, even as it hardened to a metal-like density.
The first man, armed only with a knife, laughed as the little teenager staggered at him. He stepped back, amused by the drunken woman and began flipping his blade from hand to hand, showing off to her and the others. Even the man with the gun stopped to watch, briefly ignoring Jose.
A quick, almost unseen, lunge with her hand and she held the knife by the blade. Lois forced a smile and squeezed her fingers together. When she opened them, the long blade had been transformed into a formless blob of metal.
The three men looked at her, then at each other. Two of them took off, running toward the river. The one with the gun, their former guide, stood for a moment. He looked back and forth, trying to decide whether he should join his friends or try again for the gold. Deciding on the side of caution, he slowly put the weapon back in his pocket, raised his hands in supplication and backed up.
“Hold it, man,” Jose ordered, pointing to the man’s sagging left-front pocket and holding out his other hand.
The coyote reached in and handed Jose his statue back, then turned around and ran after his friends.
Lois and Jose continued to walk away from the river. She’d finally made it to the United States — and was too sick to appreciate it.
Joe Jefferson was wheeling his rig northwest on Interstate #20 when he saw a couple on the edge of the road. A man had his thumb out, trying for a ride. Although against company policy, it was a long boring trip, so Joe occasionally picked up hitchers, especially females. He could always let them out again if they weren’t interesting. If threatening? Hell, he was a war vet and had a .38 revolver hidden under the dashboard in front of him.
Still undecided, Joe eased his foot on the brakes, figuring that at least he could slow down and look them over. The hiss of escaping air from his brakes followed him as the big rig slowed.
When he saw one of them was a young woman, he made his decision. Joe was a bachelor and prided himself on road conquests. Many a runaway girl had fallen by the wayside, then out of that passenger door when he was through. And as for her companion? He could ride in back with the hogs.
“Can we get a ride?” the obviously Hispanic man asked. Joe could see a more delicately-featured female face behind him.
“I’m goin’ ta’ Dallas, if you wanna go there.” He tried to look over the spic’s shoulder. Damn, looks like a gook, he thought — reminding him of when he’d been stationed in Korea. He could speak a little a that gook crap.
“Suits us, sir,” the man answered.
“Okay. You get in’a back, buddy. Safety regulations, ya know? Only two in’a front seat at a time,” he lied, grinning at the girl. “Might interfere with shifting, ya’ know? Your friend can ride in front.” Hot shit, he thought, watching the small — barely five-foot — woman pull herself up into the cab.
“Better get comfortable,” he yelled out the passenger door at Jose. “It’s a long trip. It’ll take all night an day at least. I try ta stop fer awhile every two or three hours though, ta stretch an’a squeeze a wiener,” he said, giving a side-wise look at Lois in order to gauge her reaction.
“Yep, it’s a long ways ta Dallas, lady.” Joe revved his engine, giving Jose time to get into the trailer.
Jose supposed Lois could take care of herself. He found a door on the side of the trailer and a simple latch let him inside. They were lucky to get a ride so soon and a long one away from the border, he thought.
When the pig smell hit him, the boy instantly changed his mind. The stink was almost palpable as he found a pile of empty pig-feed sacks in a front corner. The trailer was filled with live hogs, what seemed to be a thousand beady eyes looking at him. At least they were behind a wooden partition, Jose noticed, settling down on the sacks. As the truck got up to speed, holes between slats in the sides of the structure let in a steady breeze, making the smell bearable.
Jose was a back-country boy. He was nineteen-years-old and had never been more than fifty-miles from home in his life. Even with his old car, the roads weren’t the type you took long trips on. He’d only driven back and forth to town and work. Although he put up a big front for Lois, he wasn’t really very world-wise. Only the gold and the thought of eventually bedding the girl kept up his pretense. And all that back and forth to China shit was driving him nuts.
Sure, he liked the people there, especially Peter, but the thought of going around the world like snapping your fingers still made him dizzy.
How could he ever explain to his parents? “Where I been, Mama? Well, I went to China for breakfast, then shopping in the US and came home to Mexico for dinner.” Ha, that would be the day.
He had a lot of time to think during the trip and decided to ask Peter about trying that damned school out. Bet I could really impress my buddies with that fancy fighting stuff, he thought.
While the big-rig wheeled down an open road toward Dallas, Jose spent time trying to remember Lois’s every move as she’d kicked ass in that bar, finally drifting off to sleep in the trailer, the hogs ignoring him.
Lois also had time to stop and think. After a little smalltalk in the cab of the truck with Joe, she pretended to sleep. The guy was already making small overtures and she knew she would have to eventually put him in his place. Better to be thought sleeping, at least until we get farther from the border, she thought, since he might throw us out when I reject him.
While watching, through her window, the miles go by, she was thinking of her experiences during the past few days. Big buildings and large open spaces didn’t bother her, since she’d seen plenty of that in China, especially the buildings in Shanghai. And, at least here — unlike in Mexico — she could speak the language, although with an accent — as Jose had reminded her. She couldn’t read it all that well and you could forget about her writing a book — maybe a short note or something — but she could get by.
But, Lois realized, she now faced an entirely different culture. She had to learn how to think and act. If she didn’t, everyone she met would know she wasn’t born here and that would cause trouble. She didn’t miss her home in China, since she could snap back whenever she wanted.
Jose could also become a problem. She didn’t want to have him around forever. He’d made things a lot easier in Mexico and helped her get to the US but she would have to get rid of him soon. Either that or sleep with the guy and she didn’t think she wanted to go that far.
Lois wasn’t a virgin and he was nice and good-looking but she didn’t want to start anything so soon. There would be time enough for a boyfriend, once she was settled down and had some kind of a job in this new country.
Lois was lost in thought, slanted eyes turned to her side window and idly studying the passing countryside. The girl didn’t notice a simulated spider crawling across the open space between Joe and her leg. It left the gearshift lever, scurried halfway across the seat and paused — one finger raised — seemingly studying the lay of the land.
Extending a digit, the hand — indeed it was a hand — crawled forward and inched closer to the girl’s thigh. Pausing momentarily at a cloth barrier, it seemed to consider its options before hopping quickly and firmly up the steep slope of her leg.
Joe screamed as he pulled back his hand, the entire truck jerking back and forth across the wide expanse of a six-lane highway. While holding a broken finger to his mouth to salve the pain, he turned to see an angry face beside him. Lois’s eyes blazed for a moment, before softening.
“You shouldn’t have done that, Joe,” Lois admonished him. “It was a reflex. You’re lucky, whether you know it or not.” She patted him at the same place he’d patted her, causing him to flinch away in fear. “You better let me bandage that finger for you. You can’t do it yourself,” she offered.
After a moment’s reflection, Joe pulled the truck over to the shoulder of the road, keeping to the far edge of his seat.
“Th –There’s a first-aid kit in’a glove compartment.” Joe stretched his hand stiffly toward her, ready to pull back and maybe hit the door handle to jump out as she bandaged his hand. He was quiet for the next few hours, gradually slowing down to a normal speed when he saw her sitting placidly on the seat. He was losing his fear along with those erotic thoughts.
In the back, Jose smiled as he noticed the sudden jerking of the truck. He knew she could take care of herself but it made him think. He’d better watch himself, too and wait for her to make the first move. He figured she would, sooner or later. All the girls did.