Twenty Seven Cents

Artwork by Johnny McDaniels @fiddlinpig

His footsteps made these slushy, crackling sounds as his weight compressed the light dusting of snow that had buried the dried underbrush. ‘He would have been useless as a hunter.’ he thought to himself. They had walked all night, single file along a stretch of poorly lit road. He had hung back, moving at a slower pace, and avoiding the carefree huddle that his fellow travelers seemed to enjoy. In the cold night air, illuminated only by the faintest of light from the half moon, wisps of frost danced above the heads of the group just ahead of him. He didn’t speak Spanish, his Cuban friends would occasionally engage him with their broken English, to offer a sip of whiskey or some Cuban coffee. He never refused the latter as he needed to be alert. Every few minutes he would allow the cold air to blast his face then wrap himself up again. Coffee and cold air would do more to keep him alert than Canadian Whiskey.

Roxham Road wasn’t at all what he had expected. Several times he would walk backwards, facing where he had come from, preferring to keep an eye at what may venture from behind. Each step away from Quebec, was a step towards the unknown. But he had been in this position before. Every day was an adventure into the unfamiliar. He had no name, and it was time to think of one. Identity was irrelevant when you had no existence, and no place to call your own. Immigration officials just assigned case numbers and sent you home or took bribes that allowed you to disappear back into the noise of society’s backdrop. The faceless, nameless multitude that did the thankless jobs, that was his worst-case scenario.

Ray, his best friend back home, had told him not to come to Canada to be a slave to the white man, they had life good in Trinidad. But he dreamed of so much more. Never having finished middle school, his life was one of grind and hustle, playing ball, smoking weed and getting drunk into the early morning. Night would roll into day and the monotony continued, a seamless non-existence. Ray was so wrong. There was more to life than repeating every yesterday. It would be difficult as an uneducated black man to achieve more unless he was willing to break the law. Being an illegal immigrant was as far as he was willing to go.

“Mira, Mira! Shhh” they all said it at the same time, a shaft of frost exploded into the air. The headlight did not belong to a border patrol vehicle. He had been scouting the small immigration post for three weeks. Border security existed, but they were lazy. They slept from midnight to sunrise. The more efficient security was the black bear, and the skittish deer that foraged the area. Twice that night he had seen one cross the road behind them. A glance at his Casio watch, purchased at a fair two days earlier, said the driver was on time as agreed. For safety they all scrambled deeper into the high grass that skirted Roxham Road. ‘It was a Volkswagen Type 2.’ He could tell the make of a vehicle at a busy traffic intersection just from the sound of the engine.

Click here if you would like to continue reading this story in its entirety.

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September 2021
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