Border Towns by Susan Gibb

It was just over the border on the U.S. side. A little town that yawned out onto a stretch of desert that looked the same on both sides of the fence. The brush low and harsh with spikes and in early summer, large purple flowers. As he walked he plucked a single bloom for her hair.

She waited until the romance of midnight, watching the moonlight paint long cactus shadows on the ground. Her first wall was the easiest. She leaned out the window and landed in a somersault in the back yard. She stepped quietly around the cans and boxes scattered like sentinels. She ducked behind the shell of an old Chevy, once her playhouse, now sitting like a crab with open door pincers reaching out to catch her, eat her up.

He went up to the fencing and squatted, shifted his gun to his side. He pulled at the wires, his fingers finding the patch and lifting it free.

She felt so unglamorous, glad he couldn’t see her for she ran like a spider, this way and that, hopping in places where dark shapes warned. Something snapped in the night to her left.

In the morning the sun rose on both sides of the border. A young woman lay just out of its reach. As the sun burned her skin and the sand grains blew in to caress her, a purple flower wilted in the hole of a fence three hundred yards away.

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18 Comments

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18 responses to “Border Towns by Susan Gibb

  1. Hopping the border can be dangerous. Poor woman.

  2. So sad. brilliant descriptions though: ‘cans and boxes scattered like sentinels’ and ‘shell of an old Chevy, once her playhouse, now sitting like a crab’.

  3. Missy

    Whew!! You’re good!

    I love this: “She ducked behind the shell of an old Chevy, once her playhouse, now sitting like a crab with open door pincers….”

    and “…the romance of midnight, watching the moonlight paint long cactus shadows on the ground.”

    Poetic story about a dangerous situation.

  4. Thank you, all! This theme just offers so much in human drama.

  5. a melancholy feel to this and a mysterious quality too – yes dramatic to be sure

  6. Ooh, Susan. This is full of subtext, but the physicality of what’s happening is strong too. Nice approach.

  7. the language, susan, the language! wonderful.

  8. Susan, the imagery in this story is so clear and vivid it’s more like a painting than a story. I could SEE the whole thing. Just beautiful.

  9. I couldn’t find a single favorite sentence — too many to choose from. Gorgeous, sad. Peace…

  10. I think this is the shortest murder mystery I ever read. So rich, and powerful. Terrific work.

  11. Kelly

    two different anticipations and a single outcome, in a setting that hints all the time about the latter in its details – well done!

  12. guy

    I liked the crab pincer image. There’s something musical about this. I felt like i’d heard a song or seen an opera when i finished.

    My family had a farm on the border, near Brownsville. I’ve heard my grandfather had girlfriends across the border. I imagine it wasn’t quite so dangerous back then.

  13. Darryl P.

    There is so much excellent about this piece of writing that I don’t know where to start. The beautiful sentence structure, the symbolism, the stark reality: A little town that yawned out onto a stretch of desert that looked the same on both sides ..watching the moonlight paint long cactus shadows on the ground. .an old Chevy, once her playhouse, now sitting like a crab with open door pincers reaching out to catch her, eat her up. . a purple flower wilted in the hole of a fence three hundred yards away..great!

  14. I love the combination of beauty, danger and mystery in this piece.

  15. Great visuals! But the phrase that really pierced me was “the sun rose on both sides of the border.” It does, of course, but it does not shine equally on both sides. Doris

  16. There is exquisite poignancy in this: beautiful, dangerous, clashing, and yet serene too. The searing mysteries of life play out here just amazingly.

  17. this was a very lyrical piece, full of movement and imagery and wonderful undertones. nice.

  18. Pingback: Week #37 – Border town | 52|250 A Year of Flash

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