Susan Stars lived alone. She was 41, white, and corpulent. Susan worked Monday through Friday at Vincent’s Hardware, spent Saturdays keeping her yard trim, and Sundays in worship. Susan was predictable, though the word she preferred was ‘dependable.’ She loved yard statues, collected them, and secretly thought her yard should win the local gardening awards. Susan was proud of who she was and where she came from.
Susan lived near the edge of town; and so, she rightly worried about her security. Susan owned a gun, knew how to operate it, and was not afraid to use it. She left her fence well-maintained to keep the critters and other unsavory creatures out.
Susan was still dressed in her church clothes when she went out to water her petunias. They didn’t grow naturally in New Mexico and so she had to keep them well wetted. As she lugged the watering can from one plant pot to another she noticed a small figure shuffling up her road.
A young boy labored toward town beneath the hot New Mexican sun. He carried nothing with him. His face was dirty and his figure laden with dust. His long sleeve shirt was torn, as were his baggy jeans. The boy looked as though he were in a daze. He was missing one shoe and seemed to be leaving a strange track where his bare foot touched the road.
Susan stared until he saw her, and then pretended she hadn’t noticed him. The boy continued on his way up the street. Susan hoped that nothing befell the boy. She also hoped that he would keep moving. Susan kept her back to the road and watered her plants.
When Susan was sure that the boy was gone she turned around. He stood at her gate, supporting himself on the pickets. Susan started and turned toward her door. She marched up walkway and over the steps.
“Agua?” The boy said from the gate.
Susan turned around but did not respond.
“Me puede traer un vaso de agua, favore?”
“I’m sorry I can’t help you.”
The boy did not move.
Susan shaded her eyes with her hand, “There is a place where you can find some food and shelter up the road. There’s a station where you can get help.”
Susan’s face burned and her throat was dry—it was hot.
Susan fanned herself with her hand. The boy didn’t move. “We aren’t allowed to give help to illegal immigrants, it only encourages them,” she volleyed across the well-watered yard
“Go up the road a little ways, I’m sorry.”
Susan turned towards her house and entered into the shade. She faced the road once again and yelled through her screen door, “We have enough problems as it is.” Hopefully the boy would understand.
The boy still stood at the gate. Susan shut the door and went to sit in her chair. She opened a book and tried to read until she was absolutely certain that the boy was gone.
When she lifted the lace curtain to see if the boy was there, he had gone. She hoped everything worked out for him. He had looked rather tragic in the hot sun, and all alone. What sort of irresponsible parent or relative would send a boy like that alone through the desert? No one dependable, that’s for certain.
Stepping away from the window Susan was appalled to see that her church dress had a tear, right along the seam. She would have to mend it.
The next day Susan stood behind the counter at Vincent’s in her purple apron. A man left his truck idling in the street and entered.
“Hello,” Susan said, “How can I help you?”
“Just a paper and a Coke,” the man said.
Susan pulled a coke from the cooler and handed him the paper. The headline caught her eye. As soon as the man left she grabbed one for herself.
The paper read, “Young Boy Dies From Exposure and Dehydration—Coroner says he suffered Heat Stroke.”
Susan tutted, and set the paper down. “What a pity,” she said, “He didn’t make it to the aid station after all.”