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  • Cicadas, mosquitoes, butterfly swarms. The Tropical Texas Trail is the Texas Coastal Birding Trail is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway. Under a picnic shelter in horizontal rain, revolving groups of Hispanic construction workers in orange safety vests stop for lunch, cigarettes, and beer, the doors of their white pickup trucks left open in defiance of the weather.

    A sudden voice from a truck stop bathroom stall: "so, she's got money, hunh?" The voice shifts to rapid Spanish and then back to American-accented English: "yes, sir." Back to Spanish. Then English, again in mid-sentence: "I can't believe you'd do that..." Then he abruptly steps out of the bathroom stall with jeans down and boxers up, nonchalantly continuing his cell phone conversation in Spanish.

    Brownsville is sunny and choked with flowering, big-leafed trees. Old houses are cocooned in this foliage, roadways cluttered with vegetative excess. Off the freeway, the city is quiet, the humid air stifling activity and sound.
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