The plan, as Micah explained it, was surprisingly simple. Che was going to come up out of the ground during the second run of the day and integrate himself with the team of immigrants. He’d then slip out of the field and into Micah’s car, which would be waiting as close as possible to the northeast exit. Both Jo and Micah would be in the car, and they’d quietly head out. It would be Jack’s job to ensure that Che make it to the right exit—without getting picked up by one of the patrol jeeps—and from there make it safely to the car.
Jack was almost disappointed.
“Your job,” Micah told him, “is basically to keep your operation running normally.”
Jack looked toward the fenced-in field of Border Run!, and wondered where Che was now. Was he already where he needed to be, just biding his time, or was he still tunneling? What a strange thing it would be, to point yourself down a path that held you in place, forcing you in the direction you chose at the start. And all this toward such an uncertain outcome. How could the man be so trusting? Faith like his, thought Jack, must be a powerful thing. It must be contagious. The trick of being a great leader was to convince people that by betraying you, they betray themselves.
Micah wanted to stay up a while, so after a final sip of whiskey Jack lurched down the hill toward his house alone. The moon shone on his path, illuminating it but also casting weak shadows across the rocks, suggesting depth where there was none, and making the walk more dangerous. Twice he stumbled, and once his leg shot out from under him, casting him backward to catch himself before hitting the hard packed earth.
“You alright?” Micah called.
“Yeah,” Jack said. “It’s that damn moon.”
Jack wondered how Micah could possibly have any respect for him. What was he doing out here? A bumbling fool cut off from everything, a literal Seminole, wasting away while giving tourists another reason to justify their idiotic attitudes toward the world. And if that wasn’t enough, all it takes is for an old girlfriend to come in asking for a favor and he drops everything for her. Risks everything.
He entered the house and saw that Jo had seen the box. It was open, and its contents lay beside it, spread out across the counter. He handled the wooden car, pushing it along the rough surface. It rolled unevenly, and he rocked it back and forth on the axis created by the two touching wheels, the other two tapping the counter as they hit. As a child, he’d look for places on the ground where all four wheels would touch, small depressions in the sand or clay that seemed, if only for a moment, to give the car what it wanted.
He left the toys and entered his room. Jo was on her side, facing away from him, and he walked toward the bed as he had that morning, stood over her. Soft white moonlight fell across her body, a landscape of cotton and wool. It was quite possible, Jack thought, that he was doing this entirely for Jo. That he was trying to impress her.
He’d never truly impressed her.
He looked out the window to see if Micah was still out there, but couldn’t find him. Just the black, lunar landscape. Jack felt a hand on his leg, and looked down to find Jo staring up at him. She gently tugged at the fabric of his pants, and with her free hand pulled aside the covers to reveal her white skin, brighter than the moon.
They made love silently. He sought out Jo’s eyes in the darkness, and stopped at every sound the house made, half-trying to conceal their sex from Micah, should he return. It was childish, a game, and though Jack knew he could do as he pleased, for some reason he reveled in the secrecy. Jo wrapped her legs around his and pulled him into her tightly, holding on. Jack cradled Jo’s head with his right hand, holding himself above her with his left, and moved slowly, steadily, upon and in her, a soft machine.
When Jack was about to come he rolled over on his back and let his ejaculate pool on his belly. The warm, viscous liquid cooled quickly in the dry night air, and his body felt flush with exertion. He lay there, staring up at the ceiling until his breathing slowed. Then he turned to see tears rolling down the side of Jo’s face. It had been a bad idea.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
She shook her head, but said nothing.
Moments later Jack heard Micah walking toward the house, and he leapt from the bed, pulled on his pants, and returned to the living room where he climbed onto the cot and closed his eyes. As he listened to Micah open and close the door, move quietly about the house, he wondered at his own feelings. He was surprised to feel like he’d ruined something, for there didn’t seem to be anything that wasn’t ruined already.