An Excerpt from "Death Sentence"
by Brian Stewart
He glanced nervously at the Pima Country Sheriff on the motorbike as he pulled
out of the WENDY'S RESTAURANT. 'It didn't matter even if they arrested him and
sent him back.' He thought. 'He would make the trip again and again. Nothing
would keep him from America the land of opportunity.'
The week he had left el Salvador had been an education he would never forget.
He had survived. He had left El Salvador almost a week earlier with the eight
hundred dollars his uncle in Denver had sent them and had earned a lifetime
degree in survival of the fittest. He had promised his girl Luchita he would
send for her. They would raise their family in America.
"Where are you going?" The ticket seller asked him at the small rural Greyhound
station in Bisbee.
"Phoenix." Was all he could say. He didn't understand many words of English but
he was confident he could get by with what little he knew. He slid over three
crumpled up ten-dollar bills and took the ticket. He'd trained himself to go
without food but he smelled the hot dogs cooking in the refreshment stand and
walked over to get one. A Vietnam vet wearing an old army jacket and sporting a
beard and dark shades bumped into him nearly knocking him over.
"Watch where you're going. " The vet said to him spitting out hatred like
venom. "Why don't you wetbacks stay in your own country?"
Paco didn't understand the accented words but sensed hatred and steered clear.
It was the first time he felt like an outsider and fear gripped him like a claw
wrapping itself around his intestines. He found himself staring at the hotdogs
roasting on the grill.
"Excuse me?" the lunch lady said. "Are you getting anything or just enjoying
Paco could feel the sarcasm in the tone of her voice. He pointed to a hotdog
and pulled out the few dollars he had left. He began to wonder if he ever
should have left home. He'd seen hate before when he was young and the soldiers
had come and killed an uncle and his grandfather. He thought America was going
to be different. The lunch lady looked at him like his money was diseased and
pushed the hot dog towards him. She said something else to him in English but
he didn't understand. He chewed on it and sat down by the passenger gate. He
stretched out every bite like it was to be his last.
The trip up to Phoenix was pretty uneventful. There were many people on the bus
who were speaking Spanish and Paco moved over by a young man and struck up a
"Where are you going?" Paco asked. "My name is Paco I'm from El Salvador.'
The young fellow studied him. Paco could see he had teardrop tattoos on the
sides of his eyes and letters tattooed on his knuckles.
"I'm going to Phoenix hermano. My name is Juan." He gave him a greeting that
Paco didn't recognize his thumb and small finger extended. "You must be new to
the States. I just got out of prison in Texas no way am I ever going back to
Texas. Three long years man no women, no drugs, no booze what a drag. I'm going
back to see some of my people in Phoenix and I'm going to get so high. What
about you what are you going to do?"
"I'm going to look for a job." Paco stated feeling a bit uncomfortable wishing
he'd kept to himself.
"You need a place to crash?" Juan asked. "We could probably put you up until
you get settled in with a job. What do you do?"
"I worked on a ranch some in El Salvador, farm work mostly. I'll do anything.
I'm goodwith my hands."
Juan's eyes lit up. "I think my friend can line up some work for you amigo.
He's got a demolition and repossession business. He's always looking for
somebody handy with tools."
In the pit of his stomach Paco felt something was wrong but he found himself
answering automatically. "Sure I'll work."
"Don't sweat it. It'll be easy."