A gray mist filled the December sky, saturating the colors of the busy street at Christmastime… saturating the bright blue of the parakeets flying away.
Aggie wove through the throngs of people in the street. She kept her eyes up, on the one bird in the sky who seemed to linger a bit, letting her keep up. She approached Boom Boom Carnerceria just as Panama Jones came outside. He was holding two churros and a soda. He was a little nervous but a couple puffs had calmed him down. He concentrated on following the directions of Leland Hays who had told him to, “Use a churro or anything sweet.” to get a little girl into the new blue van he had lent Panama. “We’re helping them.” Hays had explained, “Taking poor little Mexican girls– who are by themselves. We put them with a nice family in LA – give them a job for life. They get new dresses, plenty of food and a room of their own. They love that, their very own room…” Plus, there was the van. Panama had slept in that van the night before. It was nice. Safe. Warm. And it was his to use if he sometimes got a little girl and drove her across the border to LA. Plus he got paid. Pretty good deal.
A little girl’s voice made him look up.
“Bye bye Tyrone!” Aggie called up to the parakeet in the sky as she hurried past Boom Boom, right past Panama Jones. He watched her as she turned a corner and disappeared down a side street while chasing after a bird.
Panama followed Aggie around that corner. After about a half a block, he called to her softly, in Spanish. “Ninita– Ninita–!”
She was so fixated on the bird in the sky, she didn’t see him until he touched her arm and held a sweet churro out to her, asking her:
“Quieres un churro?”
She didn’t have time to try and understand – Tyrone flew close by and she ran down the street following him, sharing his joy.
Panama saw that she was focused on the birds. He followed her and he called to her, over and over in Spanish,
“Vamos a coger el chirrido. Podemos coger el chirrido. Podemos coger el birdie más rápido en el coche -” (Let’s catch the birdie. We can catch the birdie faster in the car–)
She didn’t understand a word he was saying but it sounded important so she stopped and turned to him.
They were only inches from where the blue van was parked. Close enough for him to scoop her up and put her inside. Blink of an eye. He strapped her into a seatbelt and pointed up through the sunroof as Tyrone flew by.
“Ahi esta!” He said as he started the car and pulled away. “Lo atraparemos!” (We’ll catch him!)
Exactly four minutes and twenty-eight seconds after Aggie had first run out of Joe’s, Panama drove her north on a two lane road out of town. Into the desert. Easy Money.