Riming the volcano of garbage are vultures—fifty or more, their black plumage inky in the smoldering sun. Big as toddlers, they cock their crocked necks as if they know my thoughts, but they do not, no one does.
Last week my son fought one of these evil birds. Marco had discovered an uneaten sandwich in the heap when the creature swooped down. Thank God Marco had the bent-up umbrella he always carries, sometimes using it as a bat (“Look, Papa, I’m A Rod!”), a dancing cane, (“I’m smooth like your favorite, Gene Kelly!”), a golf club (“Now I’m Chi Chi Rodriguez. How do you like those apples, Papa?”) I watched him beat the bird, heard their tangled screaming. We were in the middle of sorting recyclables from other’s people’s discarded waste. My wife implored me to intervene, but I knew that would only make Marco soft, and soft does not survive here.
We used to live inside the dump, among the maggots and rats, until the missionaries came. Now we have rows of tin boxes to make our homes. Still, a narrow, dirt road is all that separates our make-shift town from the dump.
Miles below sits Puerto Vallarta. At night, she shimmers, a bejeweled gown. A cruise ship glows with its windows white as America teeth.
When I was young like Marco, I often plotted an escape. Now that I am wiser, I watch my family sleeping and feel embarrassed to be this rich.