We say We’re in between jobs since I walked out of serving retirees at Denny’s and he slipped some money from Pep Boy’s cash register at the end of his shift. Skipping out of Carpintaria is the best thing to do and we’ve got itchy soles and figure that Juneau does too, although she just started to walk. I can’t remember all the towns I’ve left, army bases and towns of stucco and integrated circuits, each place not where I’m supposed to be. He grew up in this narrow strip between sea and mountains; each year the town grows smaller. So we jump into the Subaru station wagon and the hula girl on the dashboard starts bobbing and Juneau sings to it. We head south along the coast, shooting through the border at midnight. You can tell when San Diego becomes Tijuana, big box stores and 7-11s ceding to downtown casinos and shanties clinging to hills. We drive south, past the beaches with skyscraper condominiums half-built and abandoned, past K-38 where he used to shoot fireworks off and surf as a teenager, through Rosarito and Ensenada. He says, There’s too many gringos there. We drive through the town with sidewalks paved with clamshells, the town where turkey vultures tear the guts of bloated cattle, the town of shrines to the dead, bristling with roadside crosses. This is our lesson: we must keep moving. The hula girl dances through the town known for its carnitas; we fly by women in men’s shoes waiting on customers at oil-clothed tables, until something starts knocking in the engine. Down a pitted road, where the mechanic lies in a ditch under our Subaru. Basuru, he says. But he fixes it. His daughter drives figure-eights on a Big Wheel she’s grown too big for and Juneau circles her. Juneau wants a Big Wheel too. We stay at a beach where whale-watching pangas cleave the lagoon that once boiled thick and hot with blood. For only a day, then we drive to the town gringos built; on art gallery walls hang self-portraits of American woman enamored by their mustaches. At a campsite on a beach covered with deflated puffer fish and devil’s horns, waves driven by a hurricane hundreds of miles away snap his surfboard in two. I want to drive north, find a home; he wants to take the ferry from La Paz to the mainland. The money he liberated, not much to begin with, is already mostly spent on gas, cacahuates con chile y limón, and Tecate. You’re never happy, he says. We raise our voices until Juneau cries, then she sleeps between us in the back of the Subaru. In the middle of the night, he turns to me and whispers, Let’s go north. His hand cups Juneau’s head. We drive through sunlight and moonlight, taking turns at the wheel. A white hawk surveys from the top of a saguaro. We drive off the highway down a washboard dirt road to an abandoned onyx quarry. A schoolhouse built of creamy onyx stands roofless. We leave Juneau sleeping in her booster seat with the hula girl in her arms. The wind whistles between us. We pick up pieces of stone striated like yellow layered cake. Theda Bara’s bathtub was carved from this marble. He calls out but the wind snatches his words away. He pantomimes taking a bite from a stone. Maybe I say, Don’t break your teeth. It doesn’t matter because he can’t hear me. The direction of the wind changes and I hear Juneau. She’s screaming, face red in the window of the station wagon. Mama Papa gone, she says. The hula girl abandoned on the upholstery. The wind blows and we are so still. Her tears wet my shoulder. I say, We would never leave you, never leave you.
Lori Sambol Brody lives in the mountains of Southern California. Her short fiction has been published in Tin House Flash Fridays, New Orleans Review, The Rumpus, Little Fiction, Necessary Fiction, Sundog Lit, and elsewhere. She can be found on Twitter at @LoriSambolBrody and her website is lorisambolbrody.wordpress.com.