“How’d you find these ones?”
“Saw embers a couple miles away. Imagine sleepin’ at a fire right inside the border,” The border agent keeps talking as if the family he’d arrested isn’t right in front of him, “Go through all that trouble just to sleep soon as they cross over. Typical.”
Border Agent 2 snorts out a laugh. “Stop, what if they speak English?”
Agent 1 scoffs. “Fat chance. They didn’t say anything the whole way here. ‘Cept the mom,” He jerks his head at the woman kneeling in the cell, “Never stops mutterin’ that psycho babble under her breath. She lost it.”
“Maybe she’s prayin’?”
“To what God? Ain’t my Bible tellin’ ‘em to cross my border and get their whole lin-e-idge arrested.”
“I didn’t know you were religious.”
“I’m not, but I was born Catholic, so I know.”
After completing paperwork, the agents return to the cell. The Mother, laid out on a bench, tosses and turns in a fitful slumber. On the ground next to her, the Father holds head in hands, struggling to support the weight of what’s inside. And in the corner the Child rolls a rubber ball to and from wall, an item that Agent 1 would have confiscated had he found it during his search.
“It’s contraband.” He growls.
“It’s a toy.”
“It’S a TOy,” Agent 1 repeats mockingly before returning to his standard, harsh tone of voice, “They’re criminals. Obviously it’s not gonna do any harm; he’s still not allowed to have it. But hey, when a higher-up starts asking questions, I’ll just say you vouched for him.”
Agent 2 rolls his eyes, “Hey kid,” He whispers through the bars as he’s kneeling down, “Gimme the ball.”
The child brings the ball close to his chest. “Why?”
“You’ll wake your mom up.”
“I stopped bouncing to be more quiet.”
“Not working; see how she’s moving? It’s gotta be you ruining her sleep. Give it here and you’ll get it back later. I promise.”
Agent 2 hands the ball to Agent 1. “Happy?” Agent 1 shrugs and begins to play catch with himself, bouncing the ball off the floor. “The kid speaks English.”
“So a bet’s a bet. We ask him who’s right – or are you afraid you’re wrong?”
The Child’s eyes follow the ball up and down. “What?” Agent 2 sighs, and repeats the precarious state of their wager on the faith of the family.
“What are you? Catholic? Christian?”
“We go to Church – sometimes.” The Child says, confused.
“That’s closer to what I said.” Agent 1 declares victoriously, “Pay up.” Agent 1 slides the bill into wallet as Agent 2 disappears to answer a ringing phone; he returns with the news that transport is 20 minutes away.
Both knowing protocol, they silently rearm themselves then unlock the cell, a process that brings the parents back to consciousness. “What’s going on?” The Father demands at his full height a head above either agent.
Glad he’s got a gun, Agent 1 rests a hand on his hip. “Since now you speak English, sir, I advise you to calm down. You and your wife will be back over the border in a couple of hours.”
“What do -”
“Your son, if you’ll let me finish, will be sent to a center with other minors in accordance with the United States of America’s policy to deter illegal immigration.”
Father grabs Son. “How can you do this?!”
“We’re not the bad guys here. We’re following orders.”
The Mother drops to her knees, restarting her fervent prayers. “Hey I heard Hail Mary gimme my money ba-”
The lights shut off, then turn back on; the family is witness to a nondescript yet somehow obviously beautiful glowing orb, and bask in its warmth. What the agents see, however, is a demonic monstrosity with bloodstained teeth and swords for claws; they shrivel in its presence.
“The ball.” Agent 1 is quick to return the toy to Child. “You’re both lucky all they want is to be free.”
And so the family follows the orb of light into America, eager to better their lives.