Only Bones
Miranda Abano

"Hey, Carl, I found some."

"Single or group?"

"I think it's a single, but it's kind of hard to tell. They're all scattered around."

"Coyotes do that. Just bag up what's left and write the location on the tag. I'll scout around to see if I can find the rest of him."

"Location? Uh, like what? Like how far from the highway?"

"Naw, just put Cabeza Prieta Refuge."

"Okay. Hey, Carl, look what I found next to them."

"What is that?"

"Some kind of little notebook."

"A notebook?"

"I can still read it. Most of it anyhow."

"So what? Throw it away and finish your job."

"But Carl, it looks like some kind of diary. Kind of hard to read, but it's in English. Mostly."

"Well, how 'bout that? A wetback that can write in English."

"Listen to this, Carl. He says he walked all the way from Penasco to get to the border."


"Don't you want to read it? I think it tells his whole story about how he got here."

"No, what I wanna do is find the rest of him and get the hell out of here. It's too damn hot."

"It says where he crossed, the desert was the same on the United States side as the Mexican side."

"Yeah, well, when the fence gets built out this far, it won't be so easy for 'em."

"Looks like after he was across, he stopped to read the Cabeza Prieta sign. Listen to this, Carl. He wrote down exactly what it says on the sign. Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge. Go to park headquarters. Acquire a free permit. Receive instructions about the refuge's multiple dangers, dangerous animals, dangerous snakes, dangerous cacti, and dangerous criminals in the form of illegal immigrants and drug smugglers."

"I know that sign. It's over on the El Camino del Diablo."

"The Devil's Highway."

"Right. That sign tells visitors they're supposed to go to park headquarters and sign a hold harmless disclaimer form before they're allowed in the Refuge. Don't suppose he did that."

"No. He writes that he wasn't afraid of animals or snakes or anything."

"That right? Sounds like a kid. Tryin' to act brave. You got a femur over there? Hold it up for me to see."

"Which one is the femur?"

"Top part of the leg."

"This one?"

"Yeah, that's it. Pretty small. Probably a kid. Or a girl."

"The writing doesn't sound like a girl. I bet it's a boy. He says he's a good runner. His plan was to run at night. Run until he got to a highway named 85."

"Well, he was close. Made it a lot farther than most of 'em do. Must of been carrin' a lot of water. See any water jugs around there?"

"One. Looks like a plastic milk jug. But it's falling apart."

"Yeah, the sun does that to plastic. Paper lasts out here, but thin plastic'll turn to little pieces over one summer."

"He says he couldn't run much at night. Too rocky, and his flashlight was giving out."

"Well, I'm not finding any more of him over here. Coyotes must have run off with some of him. Finish baggin' up what you got and let's go."

"Wait a minute, Carl. Listen to this. I think he's quoting you."

"Quoting me? What the hell do ya mean by that?"

"Don't you remember that wisecrack you told that nosy Tucson newspaper reporter? That we don't patrol the Cabeza Prieta National Refuge anymore because nobody can carry enough water in the summertime to get across it. You said we just go out in the winter and pick up their bones."

"Oh that. The notebook mentions that?"

"Yeah. He said they all talk about what you said and how it means the Cabeza Prieta Refuge must be the best place to cross because the border patrol doesn't go in there."

"Yeah, well what I said doesn't stop 'em from tryin', does it? Here we are, pickin' up the bones of another one that tried."

"Yeah. Feels kind of weird to read some kid writing in his diary about picking up bones, and here we are doing it."

"What else does he say?"

"There's only one more part, and then it just ends. He says he ran out of water, and then the sun came up. And listen to this, Carl. You'll be amazed at what he writes next. I think it's a note for us."

"For us? Whatta ya mean?"

"He says, 'When you find my bones, I want to tell you I was trying to get to a place called Glendale, Arizona where my father was going to get a job but he never came back.'"

"Lookin' for his old man, eh?"

"Yeah. It says his papa was supposed to send for his mama and him and the little ones soon as he found work."

"If he came through here, it could be that we bagged up the old man's bones a while back. Wouldn't that be somethin' if we're here today baggin' up the kid's bones, and we bagged up his old man's bones before?"

"He says if somebody finds his bones and finds this notebook . . . well, look at this, Carl, he wrote down his name and his mama's name and the town he came from."

"Throw it away."


"The notebook. Throw it away."

"Jesus, Carl. We can't just throw it away. Shouldn't we at least let his mama know where he died?"

"I'm ordering you to throw it away."

"But why?"

"You wanna spend the rest of the day doin' paperwork? Come on, let's get out of this damn sun. I'm ready to get back in the truck and turn the air-conditionin' up to high."

"Okay, I'm coming."

"Did you throw that notebook away?"

"Well, I . . . "

"Well, did ya or didn't ya?"

"Yeah. It's gone."

"Good. It's not our job to track down who they were or where they came from. It's the responsibility of the family members to go to the warehouse and try to identify 'em."

"But how can they do that if there's nothing left but bones?"


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