Night of the Chupacabra

At a bar in Juarez
Where the tequila is
As salty as the tears
A man sits alone, but
For his drink 

His bourbon speaks to him
In the clink of ice cubes
Its glass a cool breath
On his hand this
Hot August night
A sweaty palm
Touches his back
Without looking
He pushes himself from
The splintery bar 

‘Chupacabra,’ a voice speaks
‘Another full moon.
Come, it is time.’ 

Luna’s naked eye follows them down
Streets and alleys until they come
To the truck-yard, chain-linked
Full of emptiness, vacant freight
Except for one grand 16-wheeler 

Chupacabra examines the burden
Carried inside her steel womb
Fifty kilos of cocaina, powdered ferocity
Ten kilos of marijuana, sticky daydreams
Twenty kilos of heroina, blissful oblivion
Fifteen kids, teenagers most of them 

‘And who are they?’ Chupacabra asks.

‘They are $10,000 American dollars.  Do as
you are told, hombre.  No questions.’ 

Chupacabra nods, slides down the door of the trailer
Beats his knuckles against it.  

‘Vaya con dios,’ he hears dimly
As he takes the wheel
Pulls out into the night
Following the stars like
An ancient magi
North to Texas
Land of guns and gringos 

From time to time,
A car or truck drives behind them
Down this lonely road
They are toll collectors
One from the Juarez cartel
In a gleaming white pick-up
The policia come in a black SUV
Neither looks the chupacabra in the eye
They keep one eye on the money
Another on the moon 

He understands their fear
He has lost his taste for cows and sheep
Since so many men are so much more
Worthy of his claws and fangs 

Yet he still is a man, usually
So he must make a living 

He drives for hours
On the endless highway
To the corridor
His employers have paid for
Him to use 

On the way
He stops
In the shadow of a mesa 

He pulls down then up on the
Chain hooked to the trailer’s door
The young ones stare at him
Their eyes half-blinded by the moonlight
‘Que pasa?’ Chupacabra asks
Baño.  Now.  Water.  Quick.
We are hidden.
But must cross before the sunrise.’ 

They nod and
Follow his instructions
Chupacabra watches as they leave
Checking faces for bruises
He did not notice before he left Juarez
It is fortunate for his passengers
He does not find any 

The boys and girls
Divide into two groups
And rain two tiny oases

Chupacabra finds his own space
Does the same
Then stands by his cab
Taps his foot
Like a jack-rabbit
Waiting with a
Fiery impatience
Five minutes have passed 

At three-thirty they cross into Texas
A few score miles outside El Paso
Driving past a fallen cattle-fence
Across an otherwise invisible border 

The radio begins to blur
Stations overlapping
Chupacabra turns it off
So he can concentsrate
It does not help. 
In a quarter of an hour,
Blue and red lights turn on
Surround him from black pick-up trucks
Minute men.  Militia.  One fires

A warning shot
Chupacabra slows to a stop
Rolls down the window
The desert’s chill
Enters his cab
He puts on a flannel
Pulls down his hat’s crooked bill
Over his black eyes 

‘You lost, amigo?’ the cowboy asks
In hick English.  Chupacabra understands
Pretends he does not.  ‘No hablo Ingles.’ 

‘Ain’t that a shame.  Johnny!  Open her up.’
The snap of a lock. The soft tinkle of a chain
Rattling wheels as the trailer door slides open. 

‘Well, I’ll be god-damned!  Don’t
Call it in, Rick. 
We’re gonna have some
Fun first’ 

Chupacabra steps out of his cab
Drops to the ground with a soft thud
Held at the point of a shotgun
A clumsy weapon, the kind he has no need for
At least not when the moon is full
They are leading the kids out of the trailer
One by one, they divide the boys and the girls
‘Do not touch them,’ Chupacabra calls
‘I pay if they are hurt.  Es no bueno.’ 

‘Well, lookie who habla Ingles after all.
Don’t worry, amigo, we won’t hurt ‘em.  Too much.
Chupacabra takes a step toward his
Human cargo.  He gets the butt of a rifle
In his belly for the effort and sinks to his knees.
One of the girls is crying.  He hears the rip of
Fabric.  The boys protest, but fall silent at the
Sound of gunshots fired into the air. 

Chupacabra stares at the moon
And feels the change begin
His incisors grow too large for his mouth
So he opens it, and a long pointed tongue falls out
He feels his eyes turn yellow, and in the
Black of night, bursts of color appear in his vision
Where there are warm bodies.
Red, yellow and green, but the cold guns are still
Dark as midnight.  He falls forward again
Puts his hands out to catch himself
Fingernails turning into claws, the hair on his
Arms and hands turning to fur, gray with black spots
Clothes falling to shreds as his muscles well and ripple
He feels his hackles rise and he can contain it
No longer.  A howl erupts from his throat 

It bears the sound of the coyote, the wolf, the
Wild dog, until it falls into the chaos
Of a hyena’s laugh.
‘What in Sam Hell?’ One of the Minute-Men asks
Chupacabra lunges, and before the man can finish his thought
His life has ended like the life of most prey
Quick, messy, and beyond comprehension 

Then the shots begin
The stinging scatter of a shotgun
A rifle's heavy boom
The mad clapping of countless pistols
The desert’s magic protects Chupacabra
He absorbs the metal stones that would kill
Him as a human, but sheds them instead to fall
Into the sand 

The next moment is pure chaos
He tears one man’s arm from his shoulder
His gun still firing RATATATAT
Into the darkness.  A few flee into their trucks
But not all of them.  One who had rape on his
Mind stumbles and falls, pants around his knees
Chupacabra takes his manhood in one gulp
And the only mercy left to him is a
Quick crunchy death

The children stare wide-eyed
Until one of the older girls leads them back into the trailer
Some are crying.  Some have seen worse.
Prayers of thanks, prayers for protection, but
None for the dead
Eventually, the sounds stop.  A weary man
Appears at the trailer’s open door
His clothes in tatters, sweaty but so alive
He tosses a backpack and a half-dozen
Water bottles inside.  From behind him
They can see the soft pink of an American sunrise
Without a word, he closes the hatch 

Back in his cab, Chupacabra can still taste the blood
It’s been five hundred years almost, but he can
Still remember the cold metal of the conquistador
The smoky muskets of Texans
And in his dim memories
The arrows and spears of the Aztec
Once the farmers gave him
Offerings to keep him from their herds
But now he is a shepherd, a coyote
El Chupacabra