It was hot, dreadfully hot, and the only recourse for middle-class wage earners like us was a trip to the beach.
So I piled the family into our 1998 Subaru Forester, thankful that the intrusive government no longer forced me to buckle in the kids, and drove off. After an inauspicious beginning—I was almost smashed into by a coal-delivery truck (they seem to be everywhere since our new president declared coal to be clean energy and suggested we use “huge” amounts)—we left the city. It was almost noon. It would take an hour.
About halfway there we found ourselves in a traffic jam. Accident, my wife said. Construction, I said. Our youngest laughed. “Can’t be,” he said. “The president has banned infrastructure repair until the wall is built.”
True. The line ahead stretched to the “crack of doom.” That’s a quote from Macbeth. I read that once in public school—when we had public schools.
“Undocumented check,” the middle child said. She keeps up with any activities involved in making America great again. “Traffic stops need to be random, otherwise the liberals call it racial profiling—and that’s legal in only forty-seven states.
“And the District of Columbia,” I added. I try to keep up.
“Three to go.”
She pulled a sombrero from out of the back compartment. “Dad, can I wear this for the traffic stop?”
My wife glared at her. “Don’t tease the INS agents,” she said. “Most of them are untrained and ignorant. The only real ones left are guarding the borders—they say some of the best are in Minnesota. So be nice.”
The girl pouted for a moment, then donned her red vintage campaign hat from 2016, brim facing backward. According to the most recent Supreme Court decision, this was an allowable sacrilege. Still, I was uncomfortable with it.
The car inched along. There was no traffic in the opposite direction either. It was 1:30.
“That wall,” I said, hoping my daughter would respond. “When is the new completion date?”
“April 2031, she said, barring bad weather.”
“Hoping for eleven years of good weather might be a bit of a stretch.”
“That’s what the president says. And he thinks we can keep it under fifty billion dollars so that’s good. Of course deaths and injuries are slowing it down, not to mention lawsuits about water usage.”
“Mexico is suing us?
“We’re suing them,” she said. “Parts of Texas get water from the Rio Grande and it would cost billions for the Mexican government to reroute it.”
“Mexico doesn’t have billions.”
“That’s the joke of it,” she said. “They didn’t pay for the wall and now they’re watching us go broke. Even if we win the suit, we won’t get anything. Hey, we’re almost there.”
We weren’t. Not at the beach. Not at the end of the traffic. We had arrived at the five-mile marker in the undocumented immigrant spot check line. There were food carts and bathrooms and a guard with an automatic rifle (like they now sell at CVS) on top of a truck labeled Potable Water.”
I yelled up at him. “How many have you caught today?”
“None so far,” he said. “But it’s only 1:30.”
“We were on our way to the beach, but I guess…”
“Two hours to the check point,” he said. He raised his weapon a bit higher.
“No complaints,” I said.
The oldest boy had been silent, sequestered in the world of earbuds. I thought he’d been listening to music, but apparently I was wrong. He clambered out of the car and stood near me.
“Dad,” he said. “What’s a police state?”
Before any shots could be fired I yelled “Russia,” then winked at the guard on the truck. He didn’t wink back but he didn’t shoot anybody. I took my son’s arm and led him and the rest of us to get some food. We saw a taco truck. Sometimes the INS has a neat sense of humor, but I remembered the guard on the truck.
“Next cart,” I said.
The hot dogs were dry and the buns were stale. Someone had torn open every mustard packet.
It was 2:30. It was dreadfully hot. We were on our way to the beach.