In the Margins
Rich gringos need their lawns taken care of and that’s exactly what we do. We mow yards, do trimming and mulching, repair sprinkler systems, fix broken fences, clean chimneys and replace blown shingles off the roofs. We’re a full-service company called Green Yard. I started this business three years ago and worked hard and long hours by myself to get where I am. And now, I run a successful business with two trucks and a total of five employees, four of them are cousins and one my fourteen years old nephew.
With two of my cousins I share a mobile home in a trailer park, the cheapest location in this city and closest to nice neighborhoods. The rent is seven hundred and fifty dollars a month plus utilities. The rent is high but not if it’s divided by three. I’m the only one in the company who speaks English so I’m the one who answers the clients’ calls.
We manage more than thirty yards a day in summer. Most of my customers are from subdivisions close to where we live so we don’t have a long drive from one customer to the next otherwise with high gas prices it’d be difficult to keep the business running. In summer I can clear about two thousand dollars a month; $500 goes to my family in Veracruz. The winter however, it’s difficult to make ends meet. Grass does not grow so cousins go to Mexico to have fun with senoritas. There’re lots of chicas here in town but they cost too much to enjoy; America has spoiled them especially the ones who speak a little English; they’re high maintenance just like my yards. In the winter I do five to six yards per day by myself and pay the full rent. I can’t save money that way but manage to pay the bills. My major expense after rent is food. I don’t do my grocery shopping in my own neighborhood; Grocery stores here are filled with whites who don’t seem to be happy seeing Mexicans anywhere else but in their yards or on their roofs.
Every other Sunday I go to Fiesta grocery store south of downtown to fill up my pantry and refrigerator. At Fiesta I can get five avocados for one dollar while here at Tom Thumb they sell them for 60 cents each. Onions, tomatoes and jalapenos are a lot more expensive here than in the mercado. Although gas is expensive these days, my total grocery savings justifies the high cost of gas for the trip, I just can’t afford being wasteful in this economy.
Yesterday I had no yards scheduled to mow so I slept in and when I woke it was ten. At 10 o’clock I decided to go shopping. I drove 25 minutes on freeway to get to downtown. Normally when I reach under the gigantic Mixmaster freeway, I make a U-turn and take the service road to get to the Fiesta.
I must have been daydreaming as I was listening to Vicente Fernandez on the radio because I missed to turn into the dedicated U-turn lane so I drove to the intersection to make the left turn under the bridge and come back to the north-bound service road. Under three layers of highways I stopped at red light and waited for almost five minutes and the damn light didn’t change. I bet this light was programmed to stay red for ever to punish me for my negligence. No other car shared my fate, I was the only one. I waited another five minutes and nothing happened, the red light was not going to turn green on my account.
Anxiously I waited a little longer checking to see if there were cameras installed on the traffic light poles. There wasn’t any in sight. I didn’t want to break the law not because I was a good citizen but because I wasn’t one! Undocumented aliens and the law don’t mix well.
One night I was stopped by a cop because I didn’t have the license plate on front bumper. The officer said it was the law and he was right. After that night I paid attention to so many cars on streets without the license plate on their front bumpers. Laws on the book are there only for convenience; and most of the laws are enforced on people like me. The smartest thing is to keep a low profile and play it safe.
Yesterday under that damn bridge I didn’t know what else to do but to break the law. I could not keep waiting the entire day behind a faulty red light so I turned off the loud radio and cautiously made the left turn hoping my felony had gone unnoticed. This traffic violation would’ve cost me a minimum of 150 dollars if I was caught. God knows I can’t even make that kind of money in two days especially in winter.
As soon as the traffic violation was committed; I looked in the rearview mirror and saw no flashing lights of a police car behind me. I sighed in relief and turned the radio back. On the service road right before the ramp into the freeway, I noticed a few police cars blocking the road. About ten other cars ahead of me stopped bumper to bumper waiting to be ordered to take the alternate route. It took another ten minutes to slowly drive up closer and see what was going on. A huge SUV was overturned on the road, two police cars blocked the road and one cop stood in the middle of the road ordering incoming traffic to turn into the only ramp adjacent to the service road. A fire truck with its lights flashing was parked on the side of the road and a few firemen were doing their duties. One was sweeping the shattered windshield off the road and the other guiding a huge tow truck to park close to the capsized vehicle. The accident didn’t seem to be a serious one though, I didn’t see any corpse.
It was now my turn to turn. I had no idea where this detour would lead to but I had no choice but to obey the officer. As a well-versed illegal alien, I lowered my gaze to avoid eye contact with the officer gazing onto my truck still missing the front bumper license plate and slowly made the turn into the ramp leading to a guarded HOV lane. Another traffic violation was committed but at least this time I had a good excuse for breaking the law. I know well if I was stopped, I would’ve had a lot of explaining to do; the cop wouldn’t even listen to my story; would’ve given me a ticket and advised me to go to court and explain it to the judge. It would’ve meant one day of skipping work and explaining why the violation was not my fault in a broken English to a white judge.
As I was driving in the HOV lane I kept looking for a way to get off freeway and head back to my original destination. The damn lane was completely barricaded for protection and to expedite the traffic flow. I ended up driving all the way back to my own neighborhood before I could exit the HOV lane. I was forced to drive 25 miles all the way back to my own town wasting at least five dollars worth of gas and two hours of my only day off for nothing. I still had to do my grocery shopping, this time on empty stomach.
As furious as I was about my entire damn morning, the events of the day so far seemed weirdly funny. I was hungry yet too frustrated to drive back to downtown to do my grocery and it was pointless returning home to an empty refrigerator. As I was debating on what to do next while driving in the neighborhood close to my mobile home park; I noticed a Salvation Army store and turned into the parking lot on a whim and parked the truck. Why would they build such a store in this town? Rich people don’t need salvation, they have money, no wonder the parking lot was empty. I walked inside to browse for a few minutes as I had no money to spend on clothing or furniture. Prices were too high for a store built to cater to low income customers like myself. I walked out of the store hungrier than before fantasizing about enchiladas and beer.
As I was walking toward my truck; I noticed a stocky bald man across the street behind the gas station forcing a little boy into his truck. I was flustered not knowing what to do. The little boy was still screaming when the man hurriedly drove off and disappeared. I could not believe what I’d just witnessed. His truck was the same year and model as mine, an old white Ford F-150. That was not good. What if someone saw the kidnapping of the little boy and identified my truck?
The smartest thing was to get away from there, oh my God; I could not be seen in the area. I could be arrested for such a serious crime. I jumped into my truck and rushed back home and forgot all about the damn grocery shopping.
This morning I turned on the television and watched the local new.
“The first 24 hours after kidnapping is the most crucial time to recover the missing child. Police is urging citizens who have any information about this crime to contact the law enforcement authorities or FBI immediately.”
Hum, I hope no one reported the description of my truck to the cops. I can be in a lot of trouble if one of these days cops knock on my door asking question about the missing boy.