Debora Hunter, 389 W. Rillito Drive, is seven feet tall; her head eclipses the sun. She doubles over to get in my cab, her face a sad skull with cracked hide stretched over it, bony hands like giant spiders, knees that knock the dash, a smile like an unknown species.

I begin the drive to Arivaca, a tiny town two hours south, way out in the desert, where UFOs are seen each night, where time seems to stop, where there are javelinas as big as cows with tusks like saber-tooth tigers. On the drive, she tells me she camped out in the hills of Arivaca for 12 years in a tent, sequestered in that quiet, peyote desert, and it was the most wonderful time of her life. It was much better than her childhood, much better than any of the years since then. There was nobody around to judge her or laugh at her, the way she looked; just the sweet deer and rabbits, the netherworld sunsets, the fruits of nature, a hidden spring where she got her water which she boiled to drink.

“I can’t live like that anymore,” she says. “I had to move into town when I got sick. I had to come here and live with all these people around. People are very cruel. I’ve been here for the last seven years and I’ve gone to every so-called expert doctor in town, but they haven’t done anything except stick needles in me and suck me dry…but it’s almost over now, my old doctor has been calling me, he finally found a cure.”

I don’t ask what is wrong with her. If people don’t tell you, you don’t ask them, in the same way that you don’t ask someone in prison what they are in for, or someone just out of prison, either. Anyway, what’s the difference? She is not long for this world; none of us are.

On the twisting road to Arivaca, the radio goes to static and I turn it off. We watch the countryside in silence. As I round a sharp turn, we come upon a caravan of tarantulas crossing the road, a couple hundred of them trooping along. I stop the cab, the only car as far as you can see, and we watch the little hairy army cross the pavement. You can almost hear their footsteps under the autumn sun; you can almost hear them humming a song. The cab shakes with a gust of wind and I get a chill down my back, despite the heat. Debora doesn’t think it strange at all. She smiles beneath her glossy eyes.

While we wait, she points out a tiny shack in the distance, tells me it’s the home of a dead gold prospector who still haunts the place.

“There’s a road up a little ways, on the right, see it?” she says.

“Yeah.”

“Don’t ever follow that road.”

When the last spider has blended into the weeds, we get moving again.

“It won’t be long now,” she says. She takes a deep breath and sniffs the air. “Isn’t that wonderful?”

“Yes,” I say. It is wonderful: creosote, sage, mesquite, the clean desert air, the burned blue sky, the faint smell of cattle, jackrabbit fur, dry grass.

I’ve never been to Arivaca before, but I’ve heard rumors. Rumors about wild bulls fighting in the streets, Indians that never die, animals nobody’s ever seen anywhere else. When we arrive, it’s damn near a ghost town. I drop her off at a rickety Western-style building with boarded-up windows and high weeds in the path to the front door. There is a stand of timber surrounding it, which is odd because most of the area is high desert that can’t support any trees, except the short scrubby mesquites. But this area is wooded with tall pines because of a river that cuts through its heart, a river that is probably drying out now, like most rivers around here, a river that I can’t see or hear but I know must be here.

Tarantulas march across my soul and I feel an itch somewhere deep inside me.

“Good luck with your doctor,” I say. “Nice to meet you.”

She pays me with what seems like the very last of her money and smiles. She even tips me, and I feel bad taking it and try to refuse, but she closes my hand around the bills with her huge bony hand and assures me it’s all right.

As I drive away, I see her lope across the dirt road away from the rickety building with the boarded-up windows. She is so tall she is like some skinny ghost floating above the road, her head lifting into the foliage, and then she disappears into the trees.

***

For all installments from 6 to 6, click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Traveling Mercies
  2. Next Time, Take Skyline
  3. Suicide Lane
  4. Morenci in My Rear-View Mirror
  5. A Spiritual Adventure
  6. Sonja’s Ring
  7. A Pair to Draw To
  8. Grocery Day
  9. A Day with Melanie
  10. The Hot Light
  11. Drano
  12. The Cab Knows the Way
  13. Dodi’s Luck
  14. Don’t Die Before Your Mother
  15. Bob’s Big Day
  16. Nothing But a Human Being
  17. John’s Dream
  18. God Didn’t Get Me No Weed
  19. Ramirez
  20. What’s Going to Happen to Me?
  21. Do I Look Like an Indian to You?
  22. The Maze
  23. Fun with Ruby
  24. Portrait of the Artist as a Certified Loony
  25. Turn Around, Dumbass
  26. Red Bull Blues
  27. The Great Desert Palms Escape
  28. Bitcoin
  29. At Least it Isn’t Raining
  30. Marshmallows on Everything
  31. Mermaid with Doctor’s Mask
  32. My Other Jacket
  33. Late
  34. The Hideaway
  35. You Can Have a Seat, Sir
  36. Book People
  37. 112 Degrees
  38. No Way
  39. El Pendejo
  40. Batman
  41. Plasma
  42. The Jumping-Off Place
  43. November in July
  44. The Double
  45. The Road to the Casino Del Sol
  46. The Standard
  47. Thinking’s Got Nothing to Do with It
  48. This Shit Kicks Viagra’s Ass
  49. And Deliver Us from the Vikings, Amen
  50. Somebody Say the Magic Word