Chapter 7

74 12 2

Miguel didn't believe in luck, and right now he wasn't sure if he believed in fate either; what he did know was that something seemed to be against him. His eyes fluttered open as one of the harsh gym lights shone directly over his bed. How did you happen to pick a bed right under the lights? He groaned and slung an arm over his eyes to block the invading radiance but gave up in what was a futile fight. He conceded by sitting upright in the bed and looking around the gym.

ICE agents, now a familiar sight to him, had created a perimeter around the gym while some of their comrades went around and woke the boys that had somehow been able to ignore the noise and light.

"Hey, man," a voice said from under him.

The sound startled Miguel, almost sending him rolling off the bed. He steadied himself and then looked over the edge, coming face to face with Ricky, who was standing on the middle bunk, arms resting on Miguel's bed.

"Dude," Miguel said rolling over onto his back. "You scared the crap out of me."

Ricky laughed and Miguel responded by throwing a lumpy pillow at the pesky boy's head. Ricky dodged the pillow, losing his balance, and hopped off the bed to the ground. He landed on his feet and gave a bow, eliciting a sarcastic from Miguel.

Miguel climbed down the frame of the bunk to the ground and opened the storage bin that was tucked under the bottom bed. He was relieved to see that his personal effects were still there, having feared that one of the boys might steal something from him. He figured it was bound to happen with so many boys in one area and with such little supervision. He knew that with enough time desperation, resentment, and fear would take over and it wouldn't matter who had the conch shell.

A static buzz rang through the air as the PA system was switched on. "Good morning, gentlemen," came a voice thinned by the speakers. "Red group will head to the showers. Blue will have breakfast. Purple will go to the communication center. Green will remain in the living quarters; no track today."

Miguel bolted up from the bin in excitement that quickly bubbled into something far less pleasant. He couldn't wait to talk to his parents but he wasn't sure what he was going to say. Hey mom and dad, I'm in immigrant jail now but at least I'm still alive. I'll send you a postcard from wherever I end up next. Part of him wished that he wasn't being given the chance to call home. That way he could avoid the explanation, the tears, and the uncertainty that he knew would come up in conversation. His mom would struggle to speak through sobs and his dad would likely default to the monotone that he used in tense situations.

Miguel puffed out a breath as he rose noticing that Ricky was standing next to him, staring at the purple card in his hand, brow furrowed and jaw clenched. When he became aware of Miguel's gaze he dropped the look from his face and stuffed the card into pocket.

"You alright?" Miguel said.

Ricky waved him off with a hand and then began to smooth out his tousled hair. "Yeah, I'm fine. Why?"

"They called our group to the communication room, which is where I'm guessing we can call home. You coming?"

"Yeah," Ricky said with a quiet and airy voice.

One of the ICE agents come by, a burly man with a red face and shaved head. He looked more like a bodybuilder than law enforcement. The bear of a man raised his hand for their attention. "Alright guys, if you have a purple card line up with me. We'll get you to the comm room and then you guys can call home."

There was no surprise that the boys lined up quickly, eager to phone home and hear a friendly voice. Miguel was standing midway through the line, still wishing that his group had been able to get to the showers first. He had been mistaken in believing that he would have grown accustomed to the musty smell of unshowered boys but a sniff of the boy in front of him proved otherwise. Miguel looked to see where Ricky had gone and saw him at the back of the line, pacing around with his head down and his hands thrust into his red pockets. Miguel deliberated for a moment and then left his place in line to stand by Ricky. The boy was nearly a stranger to him but he felt it was the right thing to do. Any way he would lessen the suffering in all this the better.

Huddled MassesWhere stories live. Discover now