by Daniel DiPrinzio
“I can’t believe I listened to you,” Jenny says. “Why did I listen? It’s my own fault, I guess. And yours, of course. Yours more than mine.”
Zambone says nothing. Nobody is angrier than he. He’s still in a bit of shock. He can’t believe the murder-suicide didn’t work. When everyone had made a martyr out of the rancher killed by illegal Mexican immigrants, he figured a husband and wife slaying would get rid of all the illegal Mexican immigrants. And when they’d tie in the fact that he was out of work, replaced by some illegal Mexican immigrant who was working for half the wages, Mark “Zambone” Edwards would go down in history.
Jenny takes a drag of her cigarette, but it doesn’t get any smaller. She’d been smoking it for more than two hours.
This place looks familiar, even though Zambone knows he’s never been here. It’s sandy and hot, a scenery of rocks and mesas. He thinks he sees in the shimmering distance an outline of toll booths.
They are among many others who look and sound like illegal Mexican immigrants.
“Now what says the great martyr?” Jenny asks.
A boy of around 12—who, to Zambone, will no doubt grow up to be an illegal Mexican immigrant—pedals by on a bicycle, tossing newspapers. One lands at Zambone’s feet. The headline shouts at him:
Mexican Immigrant Framed for Murder-Suicide Seen as Hero
Framing reminiscent of Sacco and Vanzetti; helps further naturalization cause
Zambone picks it up, sees a picture of his old rancher, his 1979 Dodge Charger on the front lawn. Someone has sloppily spray-painted the Mexican flag on it. Enraged, he flings down the paper.
“Any interesting stories?” Jenny asks sarcastically.
Zambone looks around, tries to gather his bearings.
To his left is an urban setting, long sloped rooftops of varying tans and browns, Mexican women in flower-print wraps and kerchiefs washing clothes in washbuckets. Tricked-out jalopies drive by, blasting samba music.
To the right are fast food restaurants selling burritos, tacos, chimichangas, and other Mexican grub. He turns around; standing in the middle of the road, staring at Zambone like a gunslinger, is Speedy Gonzalez.
Zambone is angry, scared, frustrated, confused, aggressive, impotent, and a few other things he can’t put his finger on.
The two walk for what seems like a long time, though neither gets tired, hungry, thirsty, or hot. When Zambone squints and stands on his tip-tops, shielding his eyes from the sun, he swears he can see Tucson. When they finally reach the toll booth, a sign greets them:
Proof of citizenship necessary to cross border
Zambone reaches into his pocket, and realizes with dread that he doesn’t have his wallet.
“Proof of citizenship,” says the Mexican toll man.
“Uh, this is embarrassing, but I don’t have my wallet,” Zambone starts. “I wouldn’t be surprised if someone around here stole it.”
“I need proof of citizenship, Senor.”
“First off, my name is not Senor,” Zambone says. “It’s Mark Edwards. But everybody calls me Zambone.”
“Edwards, Edwards,” the illegal Mexican immigrant says. “Why do I know that name? Oh, right—you’re the guy who killed yourself and your wife, and tried to make it look like a murder-suicide to garner sympathy for the anti-immigration sentiment in Arizona. Guess it didn’t quite go as planned, huh?”
“How do you know all that?”
“Oh, these things have a way of getting around,” says the toll taker. “I also know why you were fired from your job.”
“Yeah, because it was cheaper for them to pay some illegal Mexican immigrant to drive the truck.”
“You were caught driving drunk three times.”
“First off, I wasn’t that drunk,” says Zambone. “B, there were never that many highway patrolmen out before all of the illegal Mexican immigrants came.”
People in line begin to yell. “Vaminos! Ondelay, ondelay!”
“I need proof of citizenship, Senor, or I’ll have to remove you from line.”
“So what are you saying?” Zambone asks, fear now pulling ahead in the race for primary emotion. “That I’m stuck here? And just where is here, anyway. Is it ….”
“Is it what?” asks the toll taker.
“You know … hell?” Zambone whispers the last word.
The toll taker laughs. “No, Senor, this is not hell. In fact, I find this place to be pretty pleasant. But I’m sure you are feeling the opposite, huh?”
“I mean, over there, just on the other side of this border, that’s where we should be,” Zambone says. “Can’t you just let us pass? You can tell I’m not a bad guy. I’ve never harmed anyone—besides, you know, the whole murder-suicide thing. Which I now realize wasn’t the greatest idea. What do you say, pal?”
“I can’t let anyone cross the border without proof of citizenship, Senor,” the toll taker says. “It is not up to me; only the president of the A.I.N.S. can make executive decisions for those without proof of citizenship.”
“A.I.N.S.?” Zambone asks.
“Afterlife Immigration Naturalization Services. Big Papi, and I don’t mean David Ortiz. He forgives a whole lot, but I’ve heard that suicide is something he doesn’t take lightly. If I were you, Senor, I’d try to make some friends, maybe find a job, and try your best to fit in. Because there’s no telling how long you’ll be here.”
The line behind gets even more restless.
“Please, Senor, step aside,” the toll taker says. “There are many people waiting to cross the border.”
Defeated, humiliated, embarrassed, and ashamed, Zambone slinks from the toll booth. He forgets all about Jenny until she speaks.
“I can’t believe I let you talk me into this,” she says.