Across the Border

Across the border for an hour and I’m sitting in front of a little tienda, a green awning collapsing over me, barley undermining the dense heat. I am sipping strawberry soda from a straw and waiting for a phone call from my mother, telling me she’s coming to pick me up. There are several dusty cars planted in front of the store, looking in complete disrepair. But I hear the engine buzzing in one of them – a faded yellow van with a license plate that reads “11JERKY”.
Someone is sitting in the front seat. They begin to roll the window down at a torturous pace. A good solid minute of screeching passes before the window is down and a pink-faced man with light brown hair and a mustache so dark it looks fake, is staring at me.
“Aye, miss.”
He has a scratchy voice, confusingly accented, as if he’s trying to sound British to disguise something much more alarming – a stutter? That he’s Australian? That he’s a woman? I ignore him, obeying strict orders from my mother: “don’t talk to anyone. Do not speak to anyone!” I stare down at my soda and pretend not to hear him.
“Aye miss!” he calls, his voice cracking so the ‘miss’ part sounds unnatural, like an accident, as if he had used it in the verb sense rather than the noun sense – as in, “I miss you.”
My head stays down and he honks the horn. I can’t help but look up.
“Yeah?” I say. I regret it immediately. He is just staring at me, taking a drag off a huge, long-stemmed pipe. I’ve just opened up conversation with a harmful drug user, just the sort of delinquent my mother has been trying to keep me away from!
He blows out a thick plume of smoke and smiles.
“You’re gonna want to see this. You want to see something incredible, I got somethin’ that’ll make your jaw unlock and uhh…” he pauses for a moment. “…and I mean, it’ll make your brain just, fucking… explode!”
Oh god, here’s where this man exposes himself to me and I faint, and my mother tells me never to speak to another human being again, and in Mexico I become known as the girl who got visually violated by a lunatic (although something tells me I wouldn’t be the first). I don’t know what to say.
“Sir, thanks, but I’m fine, I think I’ll just stay right here.”
“Jesus!” he yells, “I just want to show you something you’ll never see, you’ve never seen this, I promise you! Jesus Christ, you fucking Americans don’t know when to stop!”
He goes on mumbling and opens the door to the van, stomps out, and slams it. A cloud of dust flies up to join the dust he’s already kicking up around his feet. He slides open the rear door to the van and I stand up, already aghast. The dust clears and I see a huge cage in the back of the van. He is clearly not exposing himself to me, not just yet.
“What is it?” I ask.
“This here, miss, is a miracle of science.”
The bird is completely hideous, it’s wrinkled face and neck actually remind me of the man’s own crimson face. I imagine the bird would look roughly the same in a mustache. It is silent for a moment as he gazes dreamily at the bird, then back at me, then at the bird again.
“No offense, but uh… I’ve seen a turkey vulture before.”
He gapes at me.
“Jesus Christ! Americans! I mean really, what did I say? What did I tell you? You’ve never seen this before!,” he is yelling, pounds his fist against the metal bars, “This here is a cloned turkey vulture!”
“How do I know it’s cloned?” I ask, “It looks exactly like… other turkey vultures.”
“Exactly! Exactly. That’s how you know! It looks just like a turkey vulture, but she wasn’t hatched from an egg, she was cloned! Can you believe it? I mean, can you believe your eyes? Aren’t they just popping out at this point?!”
In fact, the man’s eyes were bulging to such a point I thought they might fall out. His face was the epitome of exclamation, a condition probably resulting from whatever was in his pipe. The bird, oh my god, is just so ugly.
“Well how bout it?” he asks. His mustache is positively quivering with excitement, I’m scared it’s going to fall off.
“How bout what?”
“She’s yours for a grand, her name’s Judy.”
“Why would I want to buy a turkey vulture? What kind of pet is that?”
He rolls his huge eyes; His accent gets stranger when he’s angry:
“oh my fucking Jesus HELLfire! I am telling you, this is amazing, this is a miracle, this bird, honest to god, was cloned! Just look at her! I mean, really take a good look at her! You’ll never find another like her! She is not of this world, she isn’t God’s creature – she just became! She can become your creature!”
I stand baking in the heat, looking into Judy’s black eyes. Her giant talons grip the wood perch with violent determination; they are slightly embedded in the wood, as if it’s an arm.
“Well,” I say, “she does look exactly like a regular turkey vulture.”

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