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Enrique c. Varela


is the son of immigrant parents and is from Oxnard, California. He has a BA in Spanish and a writing minor from The University of California Santa Barbara. His short stories have appeared in Chiriću Journal & The Acentos Review. His debut memoir twisted: Tales from a Crip(ple) is slated for release from Between the Line Publishing in 2023.  

Chicano Janus

    "Hay buey!" howled Javier to the setting sun. "That chile is crazy hot. I feel high I'm so enchilado.” Javier’s noggin bobbed up and down like a bobblehead on a dash of an off-road vehicle does. The heat rose from his mouth and turned his ears red. He puckered his lips. Sweat beaded on his forehead. He let the chip caressing the chile like a corn hammock slip from his fingers. In a futile attempt in extinguishing the spiciness searing his tongue, he drew in air like an industrial vacuum in a fit. He thought the cool evening air would smother the fire, but instead it only fanned it with fresh oxygen and brought the evil beast to life.  

     The truth was that he welcomed the fire; that vicious and clawing and burning pain that set his mouth and esophagus ablaze. He was addicted to the chile high. He had accepted the hot Chinese ramen challenges on YouTube and took them to heart. Conquered them with Genghis Kahn ease. But that wasn't what he was searching for. It didn't get him chile-high enough. Enchilado to el cielo. Burning hot to where his vision clouded, and his perspective sparkled like diamonds. To where he couldn’t keep his appendages still. He had only experienced this psychedelic high once before. He had bought an asada taco, from an old, hunched man, that was blanketed with a red chile that was magical. Though ingesting the chile seemed like a blur, he remembered the flashes of light and uplifting feeling of awareness before he blacked out. He knew this because his cousin told him he was talking in tongues before he broke his fall. And so, it was decided in his mind that if he saw lights and floated and blacked out it must have been a hell of a high. And he craved it.  

     He had scoured the lands high and low as an eagle does for rodents for months. He was in search of the elusive chile high. He couldn't find anything in the states hot enough to please his burning desires. In a glass bottle. In a plastic container at the grocery store or the local international market. Neither something fresh and crunchy that came green or red or orange from the grocer at the swap meet. Something so hot that would make him forget about the chile high he experienced in the highlands of Jalisco. This new memory of his would overtake the old one like a Sunday driver in his lane, he thought.  

     He had no money to travel to the green sierras Jaliscienses, so he bought a cheap fare on a cheap bus line and headed for Tijuana. He figured he’d make his version of the chile from the various peppers grown in Mexican soil he found at El Mercado Hidalgo. He hoped it would have the desired effect. He found some interesting chiles that vendors inside the concrete cocoon assured were the hottest. He headed back home on the smoking old bus. It was only an hour's trip home from la garita de Otay after all.  

     The bus got to the depot, and he skipped to his mom’s pad with the bag of chiles crinkling against his thigh. When he got home, he cut the crooked stems and tops off of the chiles. Threw them on a smoking comal and roasted them. Then he dumped the charred and puffy-skin chiles into a molcajete. He ground them up into a chunky paste with a black rock that came with the volcanic bowl. He tossed in roasted tomatoes and onions for good measure. Added a pinch of salt like a seasoned chef. Leaves of cilantro. The result was a chile de molcajete to reach the highest of highs. He never thought in his craziest of dreams a side effect of ingesting so much killer chile, besides the hot flashes and the feeling of floating and blacking out and heartburn creeping up the throat like lava, would be being able to see the future.  

     Javier sat rocking his thick body on his mom’s kitchen table chair, pinched eyebrows like an upset parent at their child. He kept slapping his thighs with his palms attempting to conquer the blaze in his mouth. The chile began launching his endorphins into overdrive. He combed his slicked black hair back with his hand. His body couldn't stop quivering; spasming like crazy. He was in the midst of a blissful chilegasm. Body, mind, and spirit.  

     He lusted for this and had finally reached the climax. His reality before his eyes began to shimmer and his brain floated in a river of endorphins. The chile was without restraint. It torpedoed his pituitary gland, shocked his nervous system like a toque, and swept him away like driftwood down the stream of conciseness. His eyes rolled white. His eyelids vibrated like the flicker of a candle captured by a gust, half- pulled down like a curtain.  

     Gustavo and Chava, Javier's buddies since high school, were keeping tabs on him. Strobes of white light burst into the room from the sides of the blinds and made them look like they moved in slow motion. Thunder cracked. The plastic covering the tabletop shimmered. They locked uneasy eyes.  

     "What are those flashes?" exclaimed Gustavo. Chava's tunnel-wide nostrils opened up and he sneezed. The odorous chunky unrefined mash laying in the molcajete in front of them spewing its venomous vapor stung his nose like a snake bite.  

      "What did he put in there!?" cried Chava, pointing with his chin to the black molcajete. The duo flickered in slow-moving flashes as if in a 1920's projector film every time they stirred. Chava was the little guy of the bunch but acted seven feet tall. At least tried to. His nostrils continued flaring at the smell of the chile gumbo torching the oxygen. A crinkled open bag of totopos lay nearby, ridiculing his lack of huevos to get a tortilla chip and try the chile a lo macho.     


     "I saw him put in all kinds of stuff,” Gustavo responded despondently. His big chest heaved, let a breath go. "Some chiles de arbol, green jalapeños and serrano's, orange-colored habaneros, chilhuacles negros, and red ones, chiltepines, and some orange ones the size of a pointy ping pong ball. Carolina Reapers, he said. And all with seeds. Así los aso and ground them." Gustavo was the size of an Aztec warrior. Big, brown, brash, bold. Like a 60’s luchador. And he tried to live up to the honor of skin tone and features because he had no other ambitions.  

     Javier groaned. His buddies looked at him. His eyes morphed from solid white to solid brown. They shone like brown headlights coning the chile crimson air. Suddenly, his head rotated like the girl in The Exorcist. It stopped spinning on a face of an older Javier. A wavy, unkempt white beard hugged his aged face and juxtaposed against his bronze skin. A webbing of wrinkles wrapped his face. Out of the back of his head popped out his opposite countenance. The face of a young baby-faced Javier. The years hadn't yet chiseled their experiences on him like a badge of honor.  

      "What the hell's in that chile!" bawled Chava accusing the chile of blasphemy. "Get the broom. Give him an escobazo!"  

   "We can't pop him like a spider,” countered Gustavo. “Let's drag him to the shower. A cold shower will set him straight. My uncle once got me tequila drunk, all pendejo, and careless 'n shit, and he threw me in the cold shower. The water hit like steel needles. It brought me back from the depths of the tequila bottle I dove into." He placed his palms on the table ready to get up and snatch Javier.  

   "No!" roared the elder Javier like a squall, reanimating to life. "You guys are going to want to hear this. It concerns your future," he bluntly told his high school friends. The strobe light sneaking in through the blinds ceased thumping like when the party is over. It morphed to a solid light that was soft silver.  

   Chava questioned the moonlight shining through the blinds. Gustavo was more freaked out about his friend's rotating head. They twisted back from staring at the white-bluish disk hanging in the dark skies between the blinds. Gustavo and Chava were stuck in the scuffed wood kitchen table chairs looking lost. Nervous. Their intentions of dragging Javier to the cold shower were interrupted by the prospects of discovering their futures. It was now in their mind germinating like green mold and wouldn't get purged until scraped off.  

     "You know our futures?" asked Chava curiously. He shimmied his butt on the chair and scooted it up until his belly spilled over onto the table. His eyes twinkled with curiosity. Gustavo was more apprehensive. He drilled Javier.  

     "Dude, you're tripping. We're taking you to the shower," Gustavo asserted growing ever angrier. He placed his fat palms on the table again.  

     "I know what that group of brown kids did to you when your family moved to the barrio. How they bullied you. How they pantsed you in front of the girl you liked because you spoke bad Spanish. Adelita? Was it?" the old man retorted.  

     "What?" Gustavo's eyes were immediate softballs, the red veins the stitching. He relaxed his broad shoulders and pushed his pansa against the table too. "I've never told anybody about that. Who freaking told you! You talk to those illegals!" He got defensive. Pointed the barrel of his inculpating finger at Javier. His arm and finger reflected off the shiny tabletop like a tree limb caught in a gust. It's a secret he's held tight to his heart and the thought of someone knowing that embarrassing moment in his life pissed him off and gave him fret.  

     "I'm telling you. I know your future as well as your past." A grinding of gears like the sound of a strained transition when shifting from drive to reverse in a moving vehicle emanated from Javier’s ears. Brash yellow sunbeams replaced the soft silver moonlight. It warmed up the cold small kitchen. Javier's head rotated and stopped until the face of the young Javier was facing his friends.  
"It's in your best interest to listen to me. I'm your friend and want to help you reinvent yourselves," continued young Javier. Gustavo lowered his hot finger and his attitude.  

      "Hey, dude. Whatever. You just better tell me who told you.”  

      Javier's face gyrated back to the old man. The moon reappeared and bathed the kitchen in a natural cool fluorescent white.  

     "Shuss. I'm concentrating," the older Javier resonated like an Italian tenor. Shut them up quick. "I'm getting a vision. I see Chava," he says waving his arms in front of him clearing the fog from his mind and projecting this vision into clarity.  

     Gustavo immediately took offense to this. A worm-like vein dug out from his left temple looking to breach.  

     "Hey what the hell! I'm the one that didn't drag you to the shower," he roared angrily, restraining his Aztec warrior body.  

     "I said shs."  

      "I, I can see Chava. He's working at the courthouse."  

      "Really!" boomed Chava like he'd won the lottery.  

      "Yes. As a junior paralegal. But I also see darkness and trouble ahead,” Javier warned.  
After he let his happily ominous warning sink in, he continued, "The opposite vision tells me you're going to stand next to a light pole in a dark alley. Someone with a dark beanie riding low to the eyebrows will creep up from behind and spin you around from the shoulder. A pistol emerges from the shadows. It shimmers in the moonlight. Then I see you emerge from the dark and you stroll into a gas station convenience store. You point the gun at the frightened clerk. She hands you all the cash in the register and in her pockets. I see that when you reach for the cash, the safety goes off. I see red blood flow like an arroyo from her neck."  

    "No! I'd never do that!" cried Chava disturbingly. He slammed his fist on the table. The molcajete bounced. The thick chile seeping water waved.  

     "The clerk you shot was a law student. She was about to give her dissertation and become a lawyer. She wanted to defend the disadvantaged. Be a great Chicana lawyer like Zeta. I'm getting another vision. I see a steel door with bad tagging. Metal bunks. Metal toilets," depicts the old wise man.  

     "Oh well. This pendejo gets busted. He wanted to be a gangster all his life. That's what he gets," butts in Gustavo. "Tell me about me now! Come on! Tell me about my future!" His anxiety bubbles like lava in an anxious-to-erupt volcano.  

     "Okay, okay. Calm down. I'm seeing something now. Yes. I can see you now. I see a desert. A lone barren desert. Heatwaves dance hypnotically in the air. Some prickly pear cactuses and Saguaro cactuses, and dessert spoons litter the hot floor. Some jumping cholas. A high clear maroon sky. Empty plastic water jugs. An unfinished rusting metal wall. Migrants in drab clothing. Skinny. Kids dying of thirst. Zopilotes soar above in circles. A border patrol truck. Then I see the kids in a cold cell.”  

     “What’s a zopilote?” asked Gustavo with a tilt of the head and a wanderer’s stare. “Never mind. At least I rescued them. You hear that, Chava. I’m going to be working for the border patrol!” he bellowed excitedly, elbowing Chava in the ribs.  

     “No, you didn’t,” countered Javier. “You let those kids die in those cages.”  

  “Forget them. They entered illegally. Damn wet backs,” argued Gustavo with the notional Mexican jury casting stones his way from the kitchen for betraying his Raza.  

     "Shh. I'm getting a new vision. I see you sitting on the edge of the bed with your face buried in your hands. You have insomnia. You talk to yourself. A priest in a purple robe listens to your confessions. I see you kneeling and praying to La Virgencita, begging her to cleanse the sins from your soul. Candles burn and spew billowing black soot in the air. You dip your fingers in the holy water and it burns like acid. But you still see demons. So, you try to drown them in a botella.”  

     "What! I don't want to die a sad guiñito. A freaking drunk!" Gustavo vibrates and shouts in a rage attempting to scare away his bleak future with the expunging vibrations. Javier's face rotates like an ancient contraption from the time of Julius Cesar. Golden sun rays like gold bars penetrate through the apertures and sides of the blinds, painting the small kitchen in twenty-four karat gold. His young face speaks and stares into the frightened eyes of his friends.  

     "There is a choice though. A new beginning. A choice to transition into something better. To enter the world of the awakened. I wanted to warn you guys because you're my homies. I don't want to see you guys go down the unrighteous loveless path. I want to see you guys elevated.”

     “For you Chava," directing his sharp stare like a hunting knife at him, "I see law books and hugs and tears of joy. And for you Gustavo," Javier pauses, stares at the linoleum floor, and shakes his head. "It's hazy. I'm not getting anything. I know it's plausible you will continue on the same path because of that damn free will, every man is his capsule after all, but I want to act as a detour sign in hopes of steering you down the correct path when the fork in the road comes up," counseled their friend Javier turned pagan God.  

     The intense sunlight radiating from the window behind the blinds begins to dim and normalize to a soft orange. The shadow of a hanging fruit basket with overripe bananas and its zig-zagging small and black offspring project onto the floor and seem to melt away into the tile. The old man glancing backward, sticking out like a shark dorsal, sinks into the back of the young Javier. Young Javier's cranium and face revert back to his middle-aged frog-like face and head.  

      "Whoa! That was crazy!" uttered Javier returning from the world of the awakened and divine. He inserted his pinky in his ear and swiveled it. "That was the high I was looking for!" Javier raved with an onset of amnesia of his double heads.  

     Gustavo and Chava seem to share some unknown force between them and in unison dragged the heavy molcate toward them away from the reach of Javier's grips and the chip scoops.

     "Where's the chile at?"  


    Two weeks later Chava is standing under a streetlight. The yellow cone of light highlights his apprehension. He's fidgety. Chain-smoking frajo after frajo, not finishing it, flicking it away, and lighting another. He scoped out the scene and the streets were dead like his desire to go through with the robbery. But peer pressure was a bitch. He wanted to be known as a down vato from the neighborhood. He had no other aspirations. He ignored the knowledge acquired at the junior law college prodding his brain like a glowing fire iron. He wanted to be a known vato, not a respectable lawyer. So, there he was, ignoring the education and the voice of his mom dishing out advice.  

     A silhouette crept up from behind and startled him. The dark-clothed figure was illuminated when he exposed himself under the sandy luminosity of the streetlight. He looked around. Moths buzzed in circles above their heads. Chava's homie from the neighborhood, someone he shared the schoolyard playground with, handed him a revolver. Chava took it in his reluctant grasp and ran his thumb on the rubbed smooth wood grip. He thought it over for a moment but nonetheless, placed it in the pocket of his oversized black sweater.  

     A gas station across the street blanketed under quick passing grey clouds was the scene of the crime. A car hit the street when it was done pumping gas, lasering the dark with its headlights. A lone female can be seen through the window of the convenience store, her stare directed downward.  

     Chava walked slowly across the empty streets. Doubt in every heavy step. The chills though his thick sweater should have deterred it. His heart pumped like the percussions from a drum at the end of a drummer's sticks. The sliding doors opened. He awkwardly strolled in. A timbre went off and jolted him. The young college student unglued her eyes from the thick textbook on the counter and looked up. He gave her a nervous smirk. Chava headed for the chip and King Size candy bars aisle. He gave the girl his back, stared at his reflection in the glass of the freezer, and wrapped his fingers around the revolvers’ grip. He couldn't stop trembling.   

     "Do you need help finding something," the young clerk called out to him like a lost angel.   
He shook his head. Chava closed his eyes and ground his teeth. He gave himself a pep talk, pivoted on the waxed floors, his hands in his sweater pockets, and trudged towards the clerk. His hand began sweating from gripping the cold steel. He felt he was walking in slow motion towards the clueless clerk smiling happily at him unaware of how fast life paths can change. Chava was at a crossroads. His thoughts wouldn't let him think otherwise. He thought about what Javier had warned. He went up to the counter still debating what to do. The clerk, a young vivacious girl with big bright green eyes set her bible-thick law textbook to the side.  

     "Can I help you?" her eyes smiled, and her words sang.  

     Chava was tongue-tied, nervous. His eyes ping-ponged on the counter's glass top displaying past lotto winners. He looked up at her. Then the book.  

      “Oh. I know that book. It’s the same one I studied at school,” he began saying when the door buzzer buzzed. The homie that was waiting down the street with fiend intentions in his eyes burst in gun drawn. He pointed the gun sideways at the clerk. Pushed up the blue pañuelo sliding down the bump of his nose.  

     "Empty the cash register. Put the money in a bag. Some of those cigarettes too. Hurry up," he ordered the frightened young girl with the waving black automatic pistol like an orchestra conductor. He looked back at the front door while bouncing on his tippy toes.  

     "Hey, homie. Cálmala. She's scared with that quete bouncing around in her face. She's hurrying up" Chava told the homie attempting to calm his sizzling fuse and avoid a blow-up.  

      The homie swung the barrel of his bouncy gun in Chava's direction.  

     "Shut up ranker! You were lagging. I had to come in here and see what's up. Do it myself like a real gangster!" spitted the homie. Then he turned the hand cannon back to the clerk dumping cajetillas of cigarettes into a white crinkly plastic bag.   

      Something in Chava snapped. His black eyebrows pinched, his hazel eyes narrowed like slits, his brown fists quenched like boxing gloves. Chava swung like a lightning bolt and cracked the homie in the jaw with a solid left. Sure, it was a cheap shot, but his life was at stake. He lunged at the gun and gripped the greasy barrel. The homie, to Chava's surprise, took the punch like Rocky and jerked the gun back. They began pulling and jerking for possession of the hair-trigger dark hunk of steel that could kill so lazily. They were bent at the waist grinding their teeth and grunting and pulling with all their huevos. Chava finally thought f-this and took a shot hoping the homie wouldn't recover fast again. He blasted him with a Mike Tyson uppercut. The homie flew off his feet and landed on his back.  

      "Are you okay," Chava asked the clerk while catching his breath. She nodded her head. The clerk reminded him of his first girlfriend.   

       A cock of a gun. "Hey, ranker!" the voice vibrated the air with hate.  

    Chava turned around. The homie on the floor had his gun pointed at Chava. Sideways. Boom. The unexpected explosion knocked Chava back. He placed his hands on his chest, inspecting his palms for warm syrupy blood. A grey cloud of gun powder puffed in the air. The clerk lowered her hot pink revolver.  

      Red and blue lights bounced off the interior walls and skewed across the glass doors of the front door and fridges and shiny bags of chips. Cops rushed in, Glocks drawn, one behind another, led by the square shoulders they felt leading the way. They pointed their weapons at the homie on the floor suffering from a blown hand. Blood dribbled from his shredded fingers. A viscid and red puddle spread on the floor and saturated the back of the homie's sweater.  

      The cops slung him up by the arms. Slapped cuffs on him and took him away. They lowered their weapons and stopped sucking in their stomachs.  

      "What happened here? Is everyone ok?" the senior officer asked the fair-skinned clerk. He stood tall with his hands in his utility belt. She nodded.  

      "Yeah. Everyone is okay. Thankfully my dad takes me to his self-defense classes, and I know how to shoot a gun. I saw the perp wake up and point his gun at him,” she nodded to Chava. “So, I reached into my pocket and pulled my revolver and shot him," she explained reenacting the incident. She looked at Chava and her eyes smiled with old school Sierra justice.  

     Chava felt a warmness run from his head to his untrimmed toes, like taking a shot of good tequila. That warm. He had arrived upon the correct life path and was knocking at the gates of awareness. At that moment, his soul transcended into a higher plane of love and being. He felt connected to everything around him. The minuscule gnat buzzing around aimlessly above the convenience store’s rotten bananas, the brave clerk, the cocky panzones cops, the blades of swaying dry grass, the sweet air perfumed with pastries and coffee, the regenerative soil, the silver disk hanging high in the soupy and puffy skies, the people of his land. The cops and the clerks' red and orange and indigo and violet aura smothering their souls, shielding them from harm like a divine force field, dumping into the collective consciousness like a paint drop into the water, validated that he made the right decision. Chava looked at his hands. He was glowing too. Encased in a bluish and gold hue that rose, smeared into the universe. He looked at the clerk. Then the law book. He knew now what to do.   

      Gustavo was working his lonely border patrol rounds in the Chihuahuan desert. The sun blared between the purple sierras as it set. It painted pink brushstrokes in the dimming blue skies. Cicadas looked for mates. Coyotes wailed. The position of border patrol agent was conflicting for his family, who came to the states illegally. But it paid relatively well. With benefits. And he was paid a little extra chump change because he was bilingual. Though he felt contradicted at times, like a trader to his kin, all he had to do was time travel. Go back in time to the school's playground and think about the dark bullies and Adelita’s shy grin. He didn’t feel bad for the people driven to walk the unforsaken dry foreign lands in search of a better life. It was a job he had to do, and he did it well and without empathy. 

     The sun was almost set. The roundish and white early 2000s suburban with a diagonal green stripe running down the back door trudged along the ripples and smooth boulders of a dry riverbed. It crunched an animal skull under its radials. Driving along at a steady pace, Gustavo suddenly had to slam on the brakes. The heavy truck came to a sliding stop on the arena. A raggedy-dressed kid stood in his truck's way. The truck's headlight shone on his caked with mud hair. The kid clasped his dirty hands and begged as if praying. Gustavo stepped into the earth of sand set on top of clay. As he neared the kid, four white eyes emerged from the darkness of a hollowed-out cactus like frightened owls. They hoofed out.  

     “Agua por favor agua,” a boy said while looking into Gustavo’s eyes and making a drinking motion with his small feeble hands. Gustavo looked around expecting an adult to pop out like a mole from the earth. But no.  

     “Y tus padres? ¿Están solos?” he asked the rag-tag bunch of kids looking like they had separated from their Little Rascals friends in the lone desert somewhere.  

     “Ala mejor muertos,” the machito of the group he first shinned his headlights on responded melancholy. A short chubby kid stared at the sandy beach between his toes and worn-out sandalias. He kicked a pebble with his right foot.  

      His identical twin continued, “Unos narcos querían robar a mis padres. Pero no tenían dinero que darles. Cuando no estaban viendo los narcos, nuestros padres nos dijeron que corriéramos hasta llegar donde hay muchas luces. Pero no hay luces y ya se nos terminó el agua y estamos cansados y tenemos miedo.”  

     Gustavo looked at them and contemplated. He thought they looked like the kids that had bullied him in his youth. Except for the chubby twins. He had a choice to make. Take them to the border patrol station and lock them up in cages like pajaritos. Or help the kids get to El Paso and drop them off at their tíos as they begged. Javier's warning was stored in the back of his mind like in a crammed hard drive destined to be downloaded when needed. And he thought about the forgotten file, and he needed it.  

     “Son todos? ¿No hay nadie más?” Gustavo asked looking around.  

     “No más nosotros,” one of them answered in the darkness of the desert night. Something caught Gustavo’s eye. He noticed a blur run in the background of the lost kids dogging and darting between tall cacti.  

     “Que? ¿Qué paso?” one of the kids agonized. His detective eyes scoured behind him. The other brothers turned around and joined him in the game of Where’s Waldo.  

      “Ojalá que no sean los narcos,” one of the twins cried to the silent desert moon.  

      Then Gustavo heard the rustle of dry Sotol bushes and the chinking of pebbles. He twisted his neck in a flash and spotted a brief blotch pass to his flank.  

     “Mírenme,” he sternly dictated to the frightened pre-teens. “Hay un puma cazándonos. Hemos entrados a su territorio. Y ustedes son chapos y tiene hambre de milenio el gato. Quédense quietos,” he warned.  

     He treaded lightly to his Suburban. The driver’s side door he left open in his haste lit his hands. He reached under the driver's seat and pulled out a shotgun. The shotgun swayed in his hands like a divining rod seeking water as he rejoined the kids. Though this rod didn't seek water or life, it sought protection and death.  

     “Sílguenme a la camioneta. De quedito,” he whispered to them, leaning in close to where he could smell their cotton mouth breath. They stood up. The white disk in the sky reflected silver moonlight onto the shotgun and his brown eyes. A deep growl jolted them and awakened the sleeping night.  

     “Corren!” he yelled. “A la camioneta!” He pivoted, squared his shoulders, pumped the shotgun, and pointed it at the void. He heard rustling to his left. Then to his right. His shotgun whipped around like a steel pendulum. A growling from his rear jolted his heart and it percussed in his eardrum. He swung round on his boot’s heels.

     A puma, big, strong, stalked towards him with killer glowing yellow eyes. Its deadly fangs shred the air and show its dominance over this part of the dessert.  

      “Hey. Shoo, you mangy cat! Shoo, I said!” He waved the salivating cougar away and stepped backward never relinquishing sight of the big cat. The puma hounded him stride for stride like the tracking moon. Gustavo felt it was about to lunge at him. He raised the shotgun and readied for the kick.  

     “Get away I said! I’m going to shoot you!” As he’s concentrating on pointing the barrel between the eyes of the golden furred beast, he stepped on a smooth river rock. He slipped and stumbled to his back onto the dessert floor unleashing a plume of sand. The shotgun landed two arm lengths away. Gustavo suddenly resembled an injured desert animal to the hungry puma in the dim light.  
Gustavo instinctively covered his face with his wide hands anticipating the slash to his flesh. He said a quick prayer in his head. Instead, LED headlights sliced the night and broke the puma’s relishing slow stride toward him. The cougar went flying from the hit from the bumper it received at breakneck speed. It landed twisted next to Gustavo. A paw twitched and stopped. The Suburban rumbled and its bloody bumper was near Gustavo’s face. The teens rushed to him and helped him up.  

    “Estas bien?” one of the twins asked.  

    Gustavo dusted his green uniform.  

   “Si,” he responded emphatically. “Por ustedes.” His eyes shone with repentance about all the Raza he sent back to the border looking defeated. Sent to the cold as the dessert nights government cells to retell their sad journeys to other emigrants. Or worse. A cold desert breeze came to life, but it didn’t chill his bones. He felt the same warmness Chava had felt. It lifted his soul and raised his awareness of his true mission in life. He would help the struggling people and kids in the desert find water and shelter and the sueño Americano. As his parents had and gifted the sueño Americano to him.   

     "Mire, mom. Try this chile. It's my secret recipe I created," flaunted Javier proudly. He wanted to give her a taste of the chile he just aso and ground up into an unrefined paste. He pushed the molcajete with the red and black chunky pulp towards her. She placed her purse on the table and took a chip from the ripped open bag. She scooped up a wad of chile and tossed it into her mouth like popcorn. Suddenly, a primordial barro box with carefully designed geometrical compositions of bright colors materialized in her hands. She opened it and unknowingly released a swirl of evil onto the earth.




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