• Mark Budman

A Triptych about Borders

caged bird

Photo Source: MaxPixel

I. Antboy

My friend slows down to wave to me. I stand on the sidewalk, and he’s cruising in a topless car. It’s 2017 Maserati GranTurismo MC Centennial Convertible. Retails at $182,009. Borderline conspicuous consumption.

I wave. I flash him the victory sign. We both came here with nothing a short ten years ago. We made it in America. We are rich. We are the giants of the software industry. We are just giants. Someone will stand on our shoulders.

He flashes me the victory sign. He grins. Another car hits his from behind. The force of impact brings the other car on top of his. The bystanders and I remove his body. It’s flattened to the size of an ant. I see his beating heart the size of an apple seed. His blood is blue.

I cry Save Him to the ambulance men. They eye me suspiciously. I’m dressed in a businessman costume. So it’s got to be my accent. They undressed me after just two words.They take my friend in the ambulance. I follow them on foot. I look even less like you than before. My feet are tiny. I have six of them and two antennas. But I run fast. That’s how I survive.

II. The Seeds of Freedom

I’m quite the gymnast, so I like to hang upside-down, looking at myself in the mirror. I have a large head and short neck, which makes me so handsome, though my BMI is over 30 now.

You could say that I’m an immigrant. I’d be happy to repeat that. I came to the United States in the hidden compartment of a smuggler’s truck, and I almost suffocated in there. What’s new? We immigrants always suffer at first, but we move ahead eventually and beat the natives to the punch.

Though I was already an adult when I arrived in America, I speak English without an accent now, and no one picks on me anymore. I have a good ear for languages, though my Spanish and Zaparoan are getting rusty.

I have few regrets. Well, I can’t eat chocolate because it’s poisonous to my body. I sleep behind the bars, in total darkness. When the darkness is gone, I can see disgusting human sex sometimes. So what? Who cares about the bars or humans? I’m smart, funny, and happy, and I’ll live till 75, at least.

So I often spread my blue wings, inflate my yellow chest, open my beautiful black beak and talk to the hand that feeds me, “Freedom is overrated, folks, and home is where your seeds are.”

III. Mass Migration

The zombies are moving into our neighborhood in columns of U-Haul trucks. They unload their furniture silently, their faces smeared with fake blood, their movements jerky.

We are thrilled at first. We smile. We invite them to veggie dinners. We take selfies with them. Sometimes zombies bite, but mostly they sit on the porches, playing with their phones or staring at us. Their kids scream in ultrasound, and our dogs howl and our cats run away. We lose our nerves, pack up and leave in columns of U-Haul trucks. The newly erected sign behind us says Velcome to Zombieland. It makes sense: the letter V takes less paint than the letter W. More paint left for fake blood.

We go to the next town. The locals are frilled at first. They smile. They invite us to veggie dinners. They take selfies with us. We sit on our new porches, play with our phones and stare at our new neighbors. They try to stare back, but we don’t blink and they look away. They will be packing soon. This is a big, welcoming country. Lots of space.

Mark Budman was born in the former Soviet Union, and he speaks English with an accent. His writing appeared in Five Points, PEN, American Scholar, Huffington Post, World Literature Today, Daily Science Fiction, Mississippi Review, Virginia Quarterly, The London Magazine (UK), McSweeney's, Sonora Review, Another Chicago, Sou'wester, Southeast Review, Mid-American Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Short Fiction (UK), and elsewhere. He is the publisher of the flash fiction magazine Vestal Review. His novel My Life at First Try was published by Counterpoint Press. He co-edited flash fiction anthologies from Ooligan Press and Persea Books/Norton.

You can learn more about Mark Budman at his website here markbudman.com