Dos Amigos y Una Bicicleta
2016 Barrett Winner
4th Place Marcus Olah
I sat on the bike. My legs were planted in a strong, wide stance. Rojelio exited the stranger’s car and sauntered towards me with a smug grin on his face. He had an especially cocky strut which annoyed me. He nodded at me which meant the deal had been a success and that we would both be feeling quite good shortly. He was perhaps my oldest friend in Los Angeles, but after this night we would never speak again.
―Vamos a tu casa, guey. He lofted the bag to me.
―We can’t smoke at my house ‘cause my mom will freak out. Ever since I landed on probation she’s been very strict with me. But look, I don’t want to walk all the way to your house either. We need to figure something out.
―What’chu mean walk, Pedro? We got a bike. He was referring to the Schwinn I had in my hands.
―No, man. I ain’t carrying you that whole way. I knew he was suggesting that he sit on the handlebars while I peddled, like we did as kids. I made it clear exactly why this wasn’t happening: He had grown much wider since we were in middle school. I shook my head.
<<I’m strong, but not that strong>>
―Don’t worry, Pedro. I’ll ride it. Get on the handle bars. It’s getting dark. We got to go. He took control of the bike and I hopped up between the handles.
―This is not comfortable. I said shifting.
We did not move quickly. Rojelio struggled to keep the Schwinn upright. The front wheel wobbled as he attempted to maintain balance. I was having a difficult time keeping my feet from getting bit by the spinning spokes.
―For this…this weed better be fire, guey. We came upon a decline.
―It is. La mota es bomb. We began rolling much faster, down the hill. There was an echoing burst. The bike, Rojelio, and I went flying. I slid across loose pieces of pavement that shredded my knees and sliced my palms.
―Did you hit something?
―Your fat ass blew the tire!
―We better just smoke this now. I decided and grabbed hold of my useless bike that was not easy to push with a busted tire.
―Let’s do it. Here. He raised his hand, ready to receive. I tossed him back the marijuana baggie. He was the better joint roller. Rojelio was far more skilled with his hands than I. No sooner than he caught it, though, police lights penetrated the darkness and stained a red, white, and blue glow across each of our terrified faces.
―Get rid of it! I panicked. Rojelio chucked the bag into a nearby ditch.
―Stop where you are! We heard amplified from the police cruiser.
Not only was I on probation, but Rojelio was an undocumented Mexican living in L.A. The thought crossed my mind to run, so I’m sure it occurred to him, but for some reason we stayed put. Two police officers stepped out of the vehicle. Both had military style haircuts. Both were gigantic. One grabbed me. One grabbed him. They searched our bodies aggressively. They weren’t gentle.
―Where ya headed? One demanded.
―To his house. I pointed at mi amigo, who nodded.
―I’m on probation. I blurted.
I looked down and turned red, realizing instantly that was not what he asked.
―Pedro Martinez. They then looked to Rojelio.
―Jeremy Church. He lied in the most exaggerated American accent I’d ever heard.
―We’re gonna need some identification. I could smell Rojelio’s sweat from a few feet away. I plunged into my pocket then handed the intimidating figure my driver’s license.
―I don’t have it. Rojelio hung his head knowing what was next. L.A. cops knew what a Mexican without an I.D. meant. I could feel Rojelio preparing for a swift trip over the border.
―Don’t have it? One asked while handing my card to the other to be run through their system.
―So what’s got you out here so late?
―We would have been home by now, but my bike broke. I gestured to the tire.
―We don’t mean any trouble. Honestly. The other cop returned.
―This one’s on felony probation. He told the other, beaming.
―What’d he do?
―Looks like he set a house on fire.
―That house was already burning! I interjected because I may have lit the firework that set the house up in flames, but I was also the one that put most of it out before the fire department even arrived. Yo era un héroe, but instead I was labeled a villain.
―It looks like you shouldn’t be out this late and I can only assume your buddy here is illegal, so your association with him won’t look too good to your probation officer. This isn’t your country, is it, Mr. Church?
―Yes. I am an American. I love the football with the helmets. And taxes. And the presidents. Rojelio frantically dug his own grave. The police chuckled and then whispered something to each other.
―Here’s the deal: You’re on probation and shouldn’t be out this late. You, on the other hand, are illegal and shouldn’t be here period. So we’re taking one of you in tonight. Either you, to jail. Or you, back to Meh-hee-koh. But we’re gonna let you two decide who we take.
―How fun! The other one laughed. I couldn’t believe it. These cops… My brain began to work a mile an hour. I needed a plan.
<<I’m not going to jail if I can help it>>
―Esto es lo que tenemos que hacer. I said turning to Rojelio.
―I don’t understand. English, please. What are you saying? Rojelio spoke keeping a nervous eye on the cops.
―Look. Being deported is not that bad. At least you get to be free when you go back. Jail sucks. The food is the worst.
―That’s insane, Pedro. I can’t go back! You go to jail, it’s not so bad, right?
―It’s terrible! We have to look at this logically.
―What logic? I don’t want to go to Mexico. That’s it! My family’s here.
―You won’t be there for long, ese. Dude, I’m telling you. I will save up the thousand bucks it’ll cost to send a coyote after you. I’ll sell my X-Box. I’ll do whatever I have to.
―No way, Pedro!
―I will get you back, even if I have to drive there myself.
―Yeah right! Like that time you said you’d pick me up from school, but went out for ice cream with that chick instead?
―It’s about that now? You’ve always been jealous of me, Rojelio.
―You just don’t understand. I’m willing to put up a thousand bucks, but you haven’t even offered to put money on my books if I go to jail. You’re selfish, ese.
―Selfish? You can promise all you want, but can you deliver? ¡Creo que no! Rojelio slipped into Spanish and blew his already flimsily secured cover.
The cops erupt into laughter.
―We’re just messing with you! Go! Get out of here. We stood soundlessly, our mouths agape. Rojelio and I looked at one another in bitter silence then went our separate ways.
About ten minutes down the road a stray dog shyly approached me. I stopped to admire it. A mangy mutt, white and spotted. It gazed up at me as if it were about to say something if it could. I broke the ice between us.
-Hola, perro. Then it pissed on my leg.