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Because my group was among the last boarded, my seat on the plane is close to the front. It’s been three years since I’ve taken to skies from a state you can find outside of my dreams. For me that’s a long time, but for my neighbor it’s a drop in the bucket.
He’s the guy that’s friendly in face. I take note of the fact he’s not quite there, despite his entirety physically sitting. The smile he sports is charming my spirits, but his knowledge of the plane is somewhat disturbing.
By every appearance he’s innocent in nature: diligent in friend and discreet in discardment — never in prison has he been cited for trouble. When his call sign is used in front of the newbies, one can practically swim through the fog of mystique: Nothing distracts in the way of intrigue like a wish of good morning to Mr. Machete.
For purposes befitting his name has been changed. He usually responds to Machete Bob. But one time I heard him speak in third person, and learned he fancies himself as Bobby Machete. He’s twenty years a pilot, flying the walls of Wrong Asylum: The least we can do is pronoun him his preference. Especially considering his birth name is Jon.
I find a reason to match Bobby’s enthusiasm and bipolar at a mention of Pañera Bread for lunch. “Ooooh, this sounds exotic,” as twonce was a man of good taste. An officer of rank will be our server. Call him by Harper, he says, lifting our spirits.
Harper’s securing the plane as Head GEO merc, and isn’t half as bad as the captors we left. With the potential to meet our deaths deescalated, instructions are issued in our language demographics — save for one lonely, singular Thai.
The instructor entertains us with a joke at his expense: “Ding dong ching chang chong chong: Was that anywhere close?” It’s pretty racist, but know they’re not alone, and coming from a Mexican it’s allowed to be funny.
Harper’s now answering questions about the facility we’re going to while his comrades assist others with bathroom requests. I can see over my neighbor the snow on Utah’s mountains. Flying over small and seasonal towns, I think I can make out the frequents. I wonder if they’re the same ones I see on TV.
The quality meal makes its rounds, further lulling us into a false of sense of security.
I do my best with the shackles to enjoy fine dining: The sandwich with lettuce, tomato, mustard and mayo, plus some chips and a cookie are quite exquisite in texture and taste.
I hear tale there’s a cookie too rich to be finished: From across the aisle, two rows back, my future amigo can’t eat the whole on his own. A friendly introduction as the guy in the tux and I’m half a cookie richer with my dopamines on hijack: I’m flying on a plane, out of state, with Pañerá Bréad and an extra half of a cookie…Have I made it to Heaven’s prison?
We hover above the clouds for a few more hours. I’m as close as I’ll get to the sunshine.
We land in San Antonio and shuffle onto a bus, where two hours die while waiting for Higgins. At least this bus has a place to hold waste. But with shackle restraints, that equals a mess.
Water is provided and the bottles are similar in size to that which comes with travel shampoo. February in Texas is already hot. “What are we suppose to with this?”
We excite as a unit, beginning to move: We’re now en route to a roadside adventure.
The scenery passes and we guess our direction while wondering how much time we’ve spent on the road. The city appears to go on for miles and we’re all uncertain where the suburbs begin.
Occasionally the names will change on a business, but not much is different with what’s open and running.
I lose count of barbecues and taco stops, jealous, famished, drooling.
It’s not suppose to be too long of a drive, but it’s been a long morning: Time’s slowly dragging.
I’ve never seen a brown golf course before: I blame the number of them for the shortage in water.
Our two-lane highway has been merging with others, in and out of towns for a couple of hours. The abrupt turn indicates our arrival.
We’re collectively curious in the lot of a building of what looks like a big box-store, maybe a warehouse: Cars in the lot, doors for receiving, large air conditioning units on the roof, security fencing, people coming and going–it’s even fairly modern.
All are prepared to dismount the bus when the driver explains that this isn’t our building: “We’re just regrouping with the rest of our caravan. This is an immigration hold for families.Your stop is over there.”
We look over there: At the crude little shithole next door.
Closer to the roadside sits a misfit shanty that appears to have snuck across the border. “Check it out: Border Patrol and Customs missed an entire building!”
We guess at how many semis it took transport the facility from whatever auction it came. “Wasn’t there a manual or set of instructions?” I pity the land, a sure victim of illegal dumping.
With the pictures they showed us clearly a catfish, we assume in the Páñérá Bréád they slipped us a mickey.
Our only hope with these exterior shambles is that all the attention has been focused inside, perhaps on the amazing library Higgins was selling.
The three large rec yards look like a 7-11 parking lot with a volleyball net tied across broken pumps. An uneven pair of parallel bars sit waist high, waiting to destroy our rotator cuffs. The basketball hoop — clearly not regulation — is missing its net but assists with a lean. Lucky for us there’s a pull-up bar, right above the man whose hands bleed profusely. And we can throw asphalt at the oil rig while it services the grass side of the fence.
Fortunately, Southerners are famous for their hospitality and IDOC assures us everything is up-and-up.
They’ve even committed Higgins with us a few days out of the week. And one has to wonder: Why else would they do that but to indicate their resolve? It’s not like they’re trying to wish him good riddance, as well.