We pack into a mover, driven by men we never see. (It is always men.) We bump along the clouds, no windows, trusting in the dark. The mover groans and shakes before landing. It’s too soon. The door lifts, and we hear waves but see only greenhouses, sun blacks, scrub brush. A voice bawls: “Walk!” So we walk, wandering the maze of humming buildings. On a beach, they scan us as we board an aluminum and blue-glass skiff, population 32. This isn’t in the plan but there’s nothing to argue, nowhere to go.
My brother whispers: “Remember to say you’re my wife.”
As if it unlocks an unseen door. As if he could get a woman like me. But I nod.
On the deck, we choke on hydrenated diesel. Below the glass, it’s like sick in a kettle. A sense memory: my mother, drifting to an alcoholic sleep, repeating, I’m sorry, baby. A man watches me and I move seats, offering to hold a child on my lap, his pee filling my shoes. The pilot is locked behind a door, immune to our pounding. Four days, two deaths, and the baby starts kicking. A gunship appears, guiding us into a bay. Someone translates: “We can go back or go to detention.”
“No,” I tell my brother. “This time we stay.”
Joel Wayne is a writer and producer from Boise, Idaho. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The Chattahoochee Review, The Moth, and Salon, among other places. He has won the Silver Creek Writer’s Residency, the Lamar York Prize, and is a Pushcart nominee. Wayne produces the NPR-affiliate programs “Reader’s Corner” and “You Know The Place” for Boise State Public Radio, and serves as a judge for the annual Scholastic Writing Awards.