H. Palmer Hall
A Day In the Life
Roger Alcutt walked down South Alamo Street. Not an uncommon occurrence in and of itself, but uncommon enough for Roger. Roger did not live in San Antonio, had never been in San Antonio and was not now in San Antonio. So, he was somewhat bewildered to find himself on a very dirty street filled with other people like him, people who really didn't belong there. Some of them asked others of them questions. How do I get to the Statue of Liberty? And other people, trying to look like natives, gave directions that would get them nowhere very quickly.
Roger stumbled on a crack in the old sidewalk just outside a teahouse called Espuma and said "excuse me!" when he stumbled into a young Chicana who had just come out of Chinoise/ Chicana, a trendy new restaurant nowhere near the East Village. The crack in the sidewalk said, “damned right,” and the young Chicana brushed on by. Roger looked down at the crack. "What did you say?" The crack stayed silent and the people around him began to edge slightly away.
“How do I get to Times Square?” a fat woman in a thong asked him.
“I’m a stranger here myself,” Roger murmured. “Sorry.”
The fat woman hit him with her purse and pedaled her bicycle across the street. She descended into the dark mouth of the station to catch the crosstown train. As Roger looked, the mouth closed and he heard crunching sounds.
Everyone on the street except Roger wore bright checked Bermuda shorts and Tommy Bahama shirts. They looked like bright flowers blooming on the mostly gray street and spoke in various languages. From time to time, one would vanish into the station. Roger never saw anyone coming out.
One of several taxis stopped next to him and asked if he needed transportation. He could not figure out why unless it was maybe the pin-striped suit he was wearing. “Hay demasiado coches,” he yelled. Immediately, seventy migras leaped out of the bushes and beat him senseless.
“No soy de Mexico!” he yelled. The biggest and fastest of los federales said, “No hablamos español, dickhead,” and kept beating him.
“No trabajo a Walmart,” he wept. “No quiero trabajar aquí!” But by then the San Antonio Chapter of the Republic of Texas Federales had poured him into the back of a blue and white.
Ricardo Arcuna (he had said that was not his name, but his green card told the truth) was strip-searched and left in a wire cage in the back lot of a trailer park. Lying in the hot dust of the central San Antonio desert, he cried, “Dios mio! No me llamo ‘Arcuna,’ me llamo ‘Alcutt.’”
Later that night, coyotes howling from the Davis Mountains, a bitter wind woke him. “Quien me ayuda?” He looked up at the cold moon. His hands gripped the wire of his cage and pulled two strands almost apart. He pushed one hand through and the rest of his body followed, seeped out of the cage and into the crowded streets of Nuevo Laredo.
Almost naked, wearing only ripped jeans, skinny, he whispered “gracias” when a man dropped a few pesos into his too large sombrero. He curled himself around the hat, head between his knees and dreamed of a life where he went to the office each day, had a beautiful blonde wife and children on the honor roll. Strange dreams in el centro.
He stood up, naked in the hot sun, and walked north.
When he got to the Rio Bravo, he dived in. Gasping for breath, he surfaced and, sputtering, saw bombs falling on Baghdad. “No sé,” he whispered and dived back into the dirty water, “no sé.”
“Get back in the ranks, troop!” a big man in a desert-camouflage uniform screamed at him. “You miserable prick, move it, move, move, move!” He looked out across the desert, blowing sand forcing him to squint, and saw rank after rank of Bedouins on horseback. Each of them pointed directly at him and launched Stinger missiles. “Madre de Dios!” he screamed. Ricardo closed his eyes and clicked his jungle boot heels together three times, but when he opened them, he was still somewhere near the Tigris River.
He felt hot, his uniform burning. Flames engulfed him and he sank into the Tigris, still burning even in the dirty water of the river. Burning. His clothes charred, turned to ashes, he sank naked into the water. When his boots touched bottom, he looked up and ascended, one slow inch at a time, until he saw the roof of the river, the bottom of the sky. A giant hand pushed down on his head. Then he saw nothing at all.