In the Margin

    Rich gringos need their lawns taken care of and we take care of
rich gringo yards. We do weekly mowing, 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 my business three years ago and worked hard and long
hours by myself to get where I am. Now I run a successful business
with two trucks and total of five employees, four of them cousins
and one is my fourteen year 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
customers’ 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 and send $500 to my
family in Vera Cruse.  But in winter it’s more difficult to make ends
meet. Grass does not grow and cousins in Mexico having fun with
senoritas. There’re lots of Mexican chicas here too but they cost
too much.  America has spoiled them especially the ones who
speak a little English as gringos say they’re high maintenance like
some of my yards.  In winter I do five to six yards a day by myself
and pay the full rent. I can’t save money that way but I manage to
pay the bills. My major expense after rent is food. I don’t do my
grocery shopping in my own neighborhood; 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 my pantry and my refrigerator with beer of course.
In Fiesta I can get five avocados for one dollar when here in Tom
Thumb they sell them for 60 cents each. Onions, tomatoes and
jalapenos are three times more expensive here than in Mexican
Mercado.  Although gas is expensive these days, my total grocery
savings justifies the high cost of gas, I just can’t afford being
wasteful especially in this economy.

    Yesterday I had no yards scheduled to mow so I woke up late
and around ten o’clock and decided to go shopping. I drove twenty
five minutes on highway to get to downtown.  When I reach under
the gigantic mix master close to down town I normally make a U-turn
and take the service road to the Mexican stores and then I go to the
Fiesta.

    Vicente Fernandez was singing on the radio and I must have
been daydreaming 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 was the only one
needlessly waiting for green and monitoring the U-turn lane
ushering cars to the same road I was trying to get to. I felt like this
light was programmed to stay red for ever to punish me for my
negligence. No other car shared my fate, I was alone. I waited
another five minutes and nothing happened, the red light was not
going to turn green. Something was wrong with the damn light.
Impatiently 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 cops don’t mix
well.

    One night I was stopped by a cop because I didn’t have the
license plate on front bumper. I never had one and was never
pulled over for that reason but that night I was. 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. There are so many laws on the book not enforced waiting
to be imposed on people like me. The smartest thing is to keep a
low profile and avoid unnecessary brush with the law.

    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 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 one hundred and fifty dollars if I was
caught. God knows in winter time, I can’t even make that kind of
money in two days.  

    As soon as the traffic violation was committed I looked in the
rear view mirror and saw no cameras on traffic poles or flashing
lights of a police car following me, I sighed in relief; turned the radio
back on and made another right turn after a couple of miles to get
on the service road. There I noticed a few police cars blocking the
service road. About ten other cars were 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. An 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 glass off the road and the
other was guiding a huge tow truck to park close to the capsized
vehicle.  The accident didn’t seem to be a serious though, I didn’t
see dead bodies.

    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. So I lowered my
gaze to avoid eye contact with the officer in front as my truck was
still missing the front bumper license plate and slowly made the turn
into the ramp. Then I noticed it was clearly marked for high
occupancy vehicles only, a huge diamond was painted on the
road.  I was the single occupant of the truck. I’d just broken another
traffic rule by obeying the lawman on foot.

    At least this time I had a good excuse for breaking the law. But if
a cop had stopped me I had a lot of explaining to do. I knew if I was
caught, the cope wouldn’t even listen to my story; gave 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 my broken English to a white judge.

    As I was driving in 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 kept looking for an exit lane with no luck. I ended up driving
all the way back to my own neighborhood before I could exit the
HOV lane and finally took the exit ramp. I was forced to drive twenty
miles back to my home 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.

    As angry as I was about my entire morning, the event of today
seemed weirdly funny. I was hungry yet too frustrated to drive back
to downtown to do my grocery and it seemed senseless to go back
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 went inside just to browse for a
few minutes as I had no money to spend on clothing or furniture I
didn’t need. Prices were all high for a store designed to sell used
merchandise to low income customers like myself. I walked out of
the store hungrier than before wondering what to do next.  

    Before I got to my truck I saw a man across the street behind a
gas station forced a little boy into his truck and hurriedly drove off
and disappeared. I could not believe what I saw.  His truck was the
same year and model as mine, an old white Ford F-150. That was
not good. What if someone saw him kidnapping the little boy and
gave the description of my truck to police?

The smartest thing was to get away from there before I was
arrested for such serious crime. So 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 twenty four 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.