Fiction from the Left

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El Malpaís


El Malpaís

(The Badlands)

A Modern Folk Tale from the Left

Episode 7: Back to the Future

 (Previously in EL Malpaís: Having completed his time travels, Oskar reported back to Tatcho, his medicine man, in Episode 6. The old man helped the boy sort out his experiences in order to comprehend the significance of what he had seen. Once Oskar understood his vision quest he decided to go back to the future to pursue his destiny. At the entrance of McCarty’s Flow Oskar bid Diego, his faithful compañero, a final goodbye and disappeared forever into the darkness of the lava tube.)

El Malpaís

Oskar hung out for a week in Gallup before he spotted OZEX Unit 2255 at the OZLAND Truck Stop near the edge of town.

He found Rosa de la Frontera busy fueling her truck and thumping the tires with her ever-ready .45.

“You won’t shoot me, will you?” he called out as he approached her.

She turned and smiled.

“Not if you behave yourself.”

“You headed back to OZ 17?”

She nodded.

“Give a guy a lift?”

She looked him over.

“OK, viajero del tiempo,” she said laughingly. “As soon as I finish climb up into my máquina del tiempo and I’ll transport you to OZ 17.”

El Malpaís

OZEX Unit 2255 was cruising west at 75 MPH on OZCOR 40 when Rosa noticed that Oskar was carrying a backpack.

“You brought stuff this time.”

“I did.”

“No more viaje en el tiempo?”

“No more—I’m here to stay for better or for worse.”

Rosa nodded and stared out at the road.

After a few minutes of awkward silence Oskar asked:

“What’s wrong Rosa?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“It matters to me.”

Rosa looked at him and decided to talk:

“I’m going to be fired and deported to Mexico as soon as I get back to OZ 17. This is my last run. Anna, the dispatcher, warned me. She wasn’t supposed to but she’s a friend.”

“Why? What happened? Weren’t you doing your job right?”

Rosa flared:

“I’m an excellent driver!  I’m always on time and have never so much as scratched the bumper of a truck.”

“Then what?”

“The company found out that I’m an organizer for a union called Trabajadores del Mundo—the TdM i.”

“Did you know you were risking your job?

“Of course I did!” Rosa exclaimed. “But I didn’t have a choice. TdM fought for me so I fight for TdM.”

“What’s the fight?”

¡Usted no sabe nada! It’s about wages—wages are the life blood of working people.

“Look at the struggle of truck drivers to make a living. In the past all the truckers in the land were men. Historically Black and Mexican-American drivers were paid less than white drivers but the law of the land ended racial wage discrimination.”

“That was a step forward,” Oskar observed.

“But the Ownership Zones took two steps back,” Rosa continued. The PROs  undermined the law of the land by bringing in Mexican drivers because they would work for less. OZ Express initially paid Mexican women even less than they paid Mexican men but TdM stood up for the principle of equal pay for equal work and put an end to that. That was important for me, Oskar. It meant that I could pay for my daughter’s education.

“And now the OZs are bringing in drivers from the Far East to replace us all. We in TdM were organizing around this issue when management discovered my activities.

“Cheap labor is what the fight has always been about. The ascendancy of the Ownership Zones means an endless race to the bottom for all the working people of the world.”

Rosa paused and looked far into the distance. A smile tugged at her lips.

“But the resistance is growing,” she said, “and TdM is leading a global fightback ii.”

“I joined TdM and became an organizer because it’s the only hope for a future for all working people of the world and their families. And TdM is spreading like wildfire. We already have chapters in colonias around the world. In French they are called Travalleurs du monde, in Portuguese trabalhadores do mundo, and mangagaga ng monde in Filipino. They’re all expressions of a common cause—they’re all TdM.”

Oskar nodded and retreated into his own thoughts for a while.

El Malpaís

“I know what it’s like to not have a future in OZ,” he finally said rolling up his sleeve and showing Rosa the self-inflicted wound on his right forearm. “You’re looking at a brand-new CE.”

“You were picked up by SDC.”

He nodded.

“I’m so sorry, Oskar.”

“Nothing to be sorry about,” he said.

“You cut out the chip yourself?”

Oskar nodded and rolled his sleeve down.

“There’s no other way for me, Rosa. No one can tag me and deny me a future—no one!

It was Rosa’s turn to be speechless.

El Malpaís

“There is hope,” proclaimed Rosa after an hour of silence. “The Ownership Zones are castles built on sand.”

“Tell me why,” said Oskar leaning closer.

“The walls and fences of OZ will fall as surely as the Long Walls of Athens, Hadrian’s Wall, the Great Wall of China, and the Berlin Wall fell iii.

The barriers around OZ are as porous as sand because the Ownership Zones need the labor of the people outside the zone and working offshore to preserve the wealth and power of the PRO’s.

“Right now OZPOL controls the flow of millions of ATs and TTs into the OZs around the world to work for the PROs and their agents. In the developed world it’s service work and in the developing nations it’s industrial work.

“But the police cannot control the flow of millions of NCs whose even cheaper labor is in great demand inside the Zones. Everywhere and every day the NCs go over, under, around, and through the walls and fences to get to their jobs without much trouble.

International solidarity will bring all the workers together. Organized, the working people of the world will constitute a global army that cannot be defeated. When we march together the walls and fences of the Ownership Zones around the world will come down and a better system will take its place. That’s what we in TdM are working for.”

El Malpaís

They were past San Bernadino on the final leg of the supercorridor into OZ 17 when Rosa stopped the truck on the shoulder of the road, set the brakes, and switched on the hazard lights. She rolled up her right sleeve, reached into a gym bag behind the seat, and pulled out a large spring-blade knife. She snapped it open and handed it to Oskar.

“Cut out my chip.”

Oskar took the knife and tested its edge.

“This is one sharp thorn, Rosa.”

“Just cut it out,” she said turning her eyes to the traffic roaring past.

“Can’t do it yourself?”

“I can’t stand the sight of blood,” she admitted.

“You’ve given birth to a baby but you can’t stand the sight of a little blood?” he chuckled.

“Just cut!”

Oskar made an incision over the scar on her arm, sucked out the RFID chip, and leaned over to the open window on the driver’s side. He spit out the chip which hit and stuck like an insect on the windshield of a passing truck.

“Looks like you’re on your way into OZ 17 after all,” he quipped.

“Quick!” Rosa urged tying a bandana around her arm.” Let’s get out of the truck.  It won’t take OZPOL long to locate it.”

El Malpaís

They had climbed halfway up the side of the corridor when Rosa dropped her gym bag on the ground and ran back to the truck. She returned with the amuleto of the peasant woman, placed it in her gym bag, and smiled at Oskar.

“We’re going to need all the luck we can get.”

At the fence Oskar bent over and laced his fingers together to offer Rosa a boost.

She shook her head.

¡Usted no sabe nada! Climbing over a security fence in broad daylight is a surefire way of getting spotted by OZPOL.”

Rosa noticed Oskar blush but didn’t say anything.

Dropping her bag on the ground, she opened it, pulled out a pair of compound pliers, and cut a narrow opening in the fence. When she reached down to place the pliers back in the bag she and Oskar chimed in unison:

“Every rose has its thorns.”

They laughed as they slipped through the fence and disappeared into East LA.

El Malpaís

El Malpaís

Rosa and Oskar were last seen walking together down North Gage Avenue in East LA—him with his thumbs hooked behind the straps of his backpack and her with her gym bag swinging at her side—talking to everyone they met about Trabajadores del Mundo. Occasionally they would pause their conversation, point at the towering walls of OZ 17 to the west…

…and laugh.



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Copyright © 2016 by Richard D. Vogel

Permission to copy granted

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iThe first American attempt to form an international labor union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), was founded in 1905 and is still active today.

iiThe global fightback by the workers of the world was first called for in the Communist Manifesto in 1848.

iiiHistorically empires have erected elaborate barriers to preserve the power and privileges of their elites. None of the empires or their fortifications have survived.