R.M. Cooper


R.M. Cooper’s writing has appeared in dozens of publications, including Adroit, Best American Experimental Writing, Cream City Review, Denver Quarterly, Fugue, Passages North, and Redivider, and has received awards and recognition from UC Berkeley and American Short Fiction. Cooper lives in the Colorado Front Range and is the managing editor of Sequestrum.


Border Patrol

It was the first layup we’d found in a week. A natural ditch formed behind some sagebrush, at the bottom a stash of food and clothes and water.

We do our job. We slash their jugs and watch their water sink into the sand. We strap down their food and backpacks to the flatbed and Daniels pisses on their clothes. But we leave the shoes untouched. The idea being they’ll find their stockpiles ransacked and realize their situation is hopeless. They’ll see the endless desert stretching to the north and east, and they’ll have no choice. They’ll struggle, but they’ll make it west to the highway. They’ll flag us down and an agent will pick them up and we’ll take them in.

Sometimes they’ll refill a layup after we’ve raided it. So a month later we head back. Before we reach the spot, we pass a body.

It’s north of the layup, looks a few days old. A woman. She’s wrapped in blankets and face down in the sand, her eyes closed, her mouth gaping, her hand at the blanket over her shoulder as if she’s just laid down and reached to reposition herself in the night. Her feet stretch out in the sand.

“Her feet were too big,” Ramirez says. He puts his boot to her bare foot for a reference. Her heel extends beyond his toe.

“What were those pairs we left back there?” Daniels nods towards the layup, still some six miles south. “Eights? Nines? They’d never of fit.”

“Giant motherfucking feet,” Ramirez says. “She’d never of made it.”

One by one we nod. We agree. The highway was to the west. There was nothing but desert in front of her. Her feet were too damn big.

It’s Daniels’ turn to bag. When he goes to remove the blanket her hand clings tight. He shakes, but her fingers won’t come loose. Daniels sees that we’re watching and smiles. For a second time you could trick yourself into thinking the woman’s just laid down; she isn’t ready to leave just yet.