The thin line between reality and imagination is a very thin line, unless a life depends on it; and a starving child's life does. Ignorance is bliss, or, is it? What you don't know, won't hurt you; or will it?
A CHILD TOO NEAR
The first time Kurt Wachter left the United States, he drove into Northern Mexico. Once he cleared border customs and passed the last bent street light, it was hours before he saw traces of another living soul. The emptiness went on mile after mile; the edges of the poorly paved, single lane asphalt road were a continuous ash dump. Its contamination so lush it only permitted an occasional clump of drooping weeds. The countryside's complexion resembled an old, unshaven man.
Then suddenly, in what seemed the most inhospitable area of the Sonora Desert, groups of women and children began appearing beside the two lane almost empty road. Just like the struggling colonies of weeds and grasses, they sat in scattered bunches. They were totally female but of varying ages, with complexions exactly the same as the piles of fading abandoned plastic bags.
The first group surprised him but after he passed two or three more, he started wondering where they lived. Even his shallow interest level started him searching the screen of cactus and dry brush which began appearing just before he spied the first bunch. There were no ruined buildings, but suddenly there were women and children on both sides of the road.The Ruined living on top of ruins, Kurt thought. His second silent question followed instantly.Why are they out here in this heat?
Wachter half decided that perhaps they were all waiting for buses or trucks to take them to towns. It had been at least two full hours since he sped through a cluster of sagging adobe single story buildings.There had been only a few dirt tracks joining the sticky black ribbon in almost that same length of time since he had passed through what resembled a settlement.Even the dirt tracks showed little signs of recent traffic.
For over half an hour he passed group after group, traveling at a steady seventy miles an hour.Ethnocentric fears and general ignorance prevented him from stopping. Kurt could not imagine doing that, even if he stayed in his magic chariot and let them come to him. That was when he began to notice the small shelters made from twigs and dead limbs. They were back off the road. Some were almost out of view. Most had no roofs but the ones that did were covered with torn and faded plastic sheets; plastic, which seemed to him a fragile shield from the fierce and uncompromising heat.Each group simply sat among the weeds or tallest cactus. As soon as they saw his car, a child, always the smallest and always a girl, raced to the edge of the road waving a small box or cage, at his car.
Wachter always increased his speed when one of them ran toward him, until he realized he was going more than eighty miles an hour. It seemed totally unreasonable that he could travel that fast, still keep the car on the uneven road, and at the same time take in so much detail. For a time he thought they were just another mirage, the same as the retreating lakes he drove toward with relentless determination. However, the women and children did not vanish as he reached them, or taunt him by running just ahead of his hood ornament. Then he passed a single child standing too near the road.
"Jesus Christ! She'll get sucked right into the slip-stream!" He shouted.As the car roared by, her frail reflection instantly appeared in his rear view mirror. She was rocking slightly, but she was safe. Then Kurt saw her fall to the asphalt surface, and even though that image disappeared from his viewing area, he did not slow down.
For the conclusion of this story as well as other stories included in B. B. Riefner's collection of short stories Mind Travels, see Redgate Publishing Co. on line, Amazon.com or Kindle.
<a rel="license" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/"><img alt="Creative Commons License" style="border-width:0" src="http://i.creativecommons.org/l/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/88x31.png" /></a><br /><span xmlns:dc="http://purl.org/dc/elements/1.1/" href="http://purl.org/dc/dcmitype/Text" property="dc:title" rel="dc:type">A Child Too Near</span> by <a xmlns:cc="http://creativecommons.org/ns#" href="www.bbriefner.com" property="cc:attributionName" rel="cc:attributionURL">B. B. Riefner</a> is licensed under a <a rel="license" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/">Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States