Volume 29, Number 4


Christopher Aslan Overfelt

Among the concrete rubble of a collapsed building, a girl finds a piece of shrapnel from the guided missile that destroyed her home and killed her parents. Into the heavy iron an indestructible message is etched that reads, If found, return to the Government of the United States of America. The iron is heavy and jagged in her hands, and she wraps it in her scarf and holds it close to her bosom. It is a burden to carry across the vast desert sands that rise and fall in mountain high swales, and she struggles to maintain her grip on it as she sleeps in the cargo hold of a boat that is crowded with migrants.

In South America, a man grabs it from her chest, but she screams with such ferocity that he starts back and then retreats into the shadows. It becomes an item of curiosity in the trains that carry the migrants northward, and the packed passengers force her to give up the piece of shrapnel for their inspection. They hold it up in the slats of daylight that penetrate the steel cargo box in which they travel so that they might read the inscription. One man bites the iron with his teeth as if he would divine some deeper meaning in the message.

When the smugglers stop the train to demand a ransom, the iron is passed outside to a man with a gun. He, too, reads the inscription, and then the passengers part and make a path to the girl as he steps up with heavy boots into the train. He hands the shrapnel to the girl and says Norte.

Through Central America and Mexico, the train carries on until the girl once again finds herself carrying the shrapnel through desert sands in a truck along a barren highway. At the Border, the girl dismounts and crosses a bridge on which mothers sit in the heat with their children awaiting entry and men stand scowling into the sun. A man with heavy boots and a rifle stands at the end of the bridge, and the girl drops the heavy shrapnel with a ringing clatter onto the table before him. The men and women and even the children on the bridge watch in silence as the man picks up the iron in his gloved hand and reads the inscription. He looks at the girl for a moment before biting the iron in his teeth, and then he hands it back to her and stands aside. Behind him, the land of America beckons, a peaceful pasture of wealth and plenty, and the girl knows her parents spoke the truth when they talked of the Kingdom of God being established on earth as it is in heaven but narrow is the way and few who pass through the gates.