Beacon on the Hill by José Francisco Fonseca

by Leslie Anne Mcilroy


Ricardo wipes sweat away as he starts the second level. The first level of cinder block is half buried in the rocky dirt. He slathers cement onto two blocks, then puts a block on the no-man's-land between the bottom blocks. In this way the bottom supports the top and the whole thing does not collapse.

Sweat falls into the hollow inside of the cinder block with some cement. Ricardo wipe it with hisdusty sleeve when it stings his eyes. The bone inside his arms rub roughly at their joints and his arm muscles are sore with heaviness. Ricardo breaths out loudly and leans on some large PVC piping that sticks out from the smooth concrete under his feet.

Guey, look, Marco says.

Marco is standing over a wheelbarrow on the other side of the cinder blocks a shovel in his hands stirring cement inside its red body. He is facing down hill toward the Rio Bravo beyond the flat black roofs of homes that descend like steps down the hill.

Five men are climbing a tweed rope over the large rusty iron fence that close off UTEP, which sits on a hill. Two of the men make it into a parked pickup on the byway that run behind the fence before a white and green Expedition with police lights on its roof drive up. The pickup peels off, the other three men still on the fence fall of and splash back into the river.

Marco whistles loudly and turns around to Ricardo.
Only two tomato pickers made it, Marco says.
Gringos are off there game, Ricardo says.

Marco walks over with the wheelbarrow, takes a hand shovel, and begins to spreads cement like Ricardo. They both work on the same side of the wall, watching shadow of the hill and homes slip onto the muddy waters of the rippling river, then creeping up the large iron rusty fence. The windows of UTEP shine on the other side. Slowly the cinder block blocks their view and hangs over them, it's hollow body groaning with a bit of wind that kicks up. Ricardo and Marco sit on the smooth concrete floor leaning on each others limp sore body, smoking a cigarette while rubbing off dried streaks of cement on their heavy pulsing arms. Three men walk on the street in front of them, with loose shirts that hang off their thin torsos, ballooned plastic bags tied to their belts, jeans with patches sewed on them, sandals with thin soles, and one carries a tweed rope on his shoulders. They are all covered in dry mud.  Marco whistles at them.

Hey Guey, Marco says, didn’t you guys try to cross earlier today?
Yeah, one of the men says, we trying again when it gets dark.
That wall too high.
So what, Ricardo says, Vaya con dios.
The man with tweed rope nods his head before walking away.

Ricardo gets up and stretches his fused bones that pop and creak under worn muscles. He walks over to the sidewalk. He looks down the hill to the three men, arms draped over each others shoulder, walk past a dusty white propane truck with crackling speakers that shout Servigas, along with the pricing of propane. They walk to the darkening banks of a river, to a large rusty iron fence with a green and white Expedition creeping along under it, to the glittering gold windows of UTEP campus that shine like a beacon on its hill. And he hears the cinder block wall groan and shift, adjusting itself on the slope.


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José Francisco Fonseca is a writer, mechanic, and Iraqi war vet living on the border of US and Mexico. He spends his days cursing dismantled motorcycle motors, reading Rick Bass or Roberto Bolaño, and Spaniglishifying pop music in his kitchen.