THEY WHITTLE AWAY their afternoons at Walmart, bagging groceries for Gringos, begging in silence by piling their moneda in the corner of the conveyer belt for customers to notice. They are children. They are the fortunate ones. Better off than those forced by pregnant mothers to peddle handcrafted butterflies and painted whistles to tourists in marina restaurants or sleazy cantinas full of whores. These are the little fingers that place your bottles of white wine in that shopping cart. They do not go to school; instead learn about the good and bad, human nature and the dichotomy of differences between the cheap and the heartless.
"Gracias," they say.
After work they wait for the bus and watch the colonias get uglier: electricity wires hanging into the unnamed and unpaved streets, unpainted houses decaying in the dirt. Some of them get off, but most ride to the end of the route, where the old rusty school busses are covered in clouds of dust from vehicles that never slow and the mountains are blurry in the distance. The children disappear into the abyss, coins jiggling; they purchase groceries at the tienda at the end of their street: nothing more than a one-room hut with a few extra refrigerators missing light bulbs, containing frijoles and huevos, a plastic basket full of homemade corn tortillas covered in barrio dust. They watch the old woman bag their purchases.
"Gracias," they say.
They walk past rabid dogs that scavenge like wolves, humans who live like dogs. Drug dealers in fancy vehicles drop off substances at the tiendita down the road: where everything is sold on the cheap by boys young enough to not get arrested, fiends get damned, and the Policía are paid off. Wild kittens with fiery crimson eyes nip at their ankles as they push open the wooden gates to their humble abodes. They toss the groceries on the upside-down wheelbarrow used as a kitchen table, collapse onto miserable stained mattress, richer than their parents, forgotten by the tourists eating lavish lobster dinners beside the ocean, they focus on the fluorescent lizards licking the walls and the cucarachas hiding in the corners beneath the furniture that an American would never sit upon, waiting for the moment to scurry across the dirt.
"Qué onda, güey!" they say to each other on the bus the next morning.
The Gringos are snoring in their fancy resorts, faces lost in high thread counts; the bags are piled into a pyramid, and the children are headed to the superstore.