It’s like two in the afternoon and the computer screen spits a fare at me from zone 577. 4500 North Oracle, the mall. I pull my cab up to the Cheesecake Factory entrance and there’s this guy sitting on the sidewalk next to a couple of mall cops. Great, just what I fucking need.

I get out of the cab, and one of the mall cops says: “Okay, here’s the deal: this guy is WASTED.”

“Wonderful,” I say.

“But,” the mall cop says, “he’s got a big wad of cash.”

Okay, I think, that’s a little better.

We get the drunk guy in my cab, I mean he’s fucking gonzo, has no idea where he is, hasn’t said a word yet. Some middle-aged dude.

“Hey buddy,” I say. No response. “Hey, BUDDY! Where you wanna go?”

He comes out of his trance and says, “Daze Inn.” The Days Inn, you know, down by the freeway there. The easiest way to get there is to take a left on Oracle and head down. So I go out and take a right on Oracle, head north.

“How ya doing, man?” I say.

“Uh neeed sum FUCKIN BEEEER,” the guy says.

“Beer, huh? No problem, I’m your man, I got your back.”

So I drive a mile or two up Oracle, passing a few stores, then finally pull into a Circle K.

“What you need, partner?” I ask him.

“Gimme an 18-pack of BUD!” the guy says.

He fishes into his pocket and pulls out this big wad of money, gives me two twenties. I go in, stroll around for a while, then buy a six pack of Bud for five bucks. I go back out to the cab.

“Fuck this store,” I tell him, giving him the beer but not the change. “All they had was six-packs!”

He just grunts and I get driving again. I take a left on Limberlost and head that way. He falls asleep back there in the cab and I drive around for a while.

Then I say, “Hey BUDDY! How ya doing?”

He wakes up and grunts, “Uh need some BEEEER.”

“Some beer it is!” I say. “Let’s get some beer.”

So I take a right on Stone and go up there for a bit. Then I pull into a Circle K.

“What you want, man?”

“Gimme an 18 pack of BUD!”

“Allright, but I need some cash.”

He fishes out two more twenties and I go in and come back out, tossing him a six-pack.

“What the fuck?” I say. “This store only sells six-packs!”

“Fucking Tucson,” the guy says, “Fuck this town!”

“Fucking Mormons!” I say. He agrees.

So I start to head east on Roger Road.

In a few miles, he grunts, “Hey, uh need some BEEEER! I gotta have 18 beeeers!”

So…I pull into ANOTHER Circle K, but when I pull in there, he says, “I need something ta eat too! I need a hot dog!”

“Well,” I say, “You know, QuikTrip has the best hot dogs in town.”

“Less go!”

So I pull out of the Circle K and head north on Campbell. I pass a couple of QuikTrips and finally pull into one.

“I’m gonna need some cash, man.”

Another couple of twenties.

“Don’t forget the beer!”

“Not a chance! And a hot dog too, right?”

“Your arrright, man,” he says.

I go in and get him a six pack of Bud and a hot dog. Seven bucks. I put the change with the rest of it in my pocket. I go back out. By this time, he’s got his 18 beers and he’s happy with that hot dog. I figure I’ll just take him to the hotel.

When we get to the hotel 20 minutes later, I say, “Hey, man, what you gonna do? I mean, shit, it’s only three o’clock in the afternoon.”

“Shiiit, ain’ nothin’ ta do in this fuck-ass town.”

“How about a strip club? You want to see some titties?”

He likes this idea.

“Yeah! Lemme jes put this beer in the room and I’ll be r’back.”

“Okay,” I say. “But I need to settle this meter first.”

The meter says $42.

“How much issit?”

“$50. Plus, a tip for all the beer running I did.”

He gives me three more twenties and I pocket them.

Then he gets out and stumbles to the door with one of the six packs because that’s all he can carry. I take the other two six-packs and hide them under my coat in the front. He can’t get the key in for shit and leans his head against the hotel room door. Then he drops the six-pack, and when he tries to bend over to pick it up, he does a face plant on the sidewalk. I get out to help him and we get the door open. I’m standing there with the six-pack in my hand and he goes inside and collapses on the bed. Well, I think, that’s all she wrote.

“Okay, buddy,” I say. “It looks like the strip club is off.”

“Ohhmmmmffffuckemffff.”

“Hey! Hey BUDDY! I’ll leave you be, but I got to be paid for the meter.”

“The whaaat?”

“The meter, man, you took a cab ride and you gotta pay the meter. I gotta get paid for the ride.”

“Whaddya think I’m STOOOPID?!”

“Come on, man, don’t be that way, I got a kid to feed, I’m just trying to make a living.”

He gets up off the bed and stands there wobbling in the room.

“Look, I got you this beer. But if you don’t want to pay me, then I’ll just take it.”

I take the beer and go back outside and get in the cab, lock the doors. He comes out and stands by my window.

“Hey, isss cool, man, give me the beer.”

“40 bucks,” I say, pointing at the meter.

He brings out his wad and gives me two more twenties.

“Okay,” I say, then get out and hand him the beer.

“Where’s the ress ovit?” he says.

“That’s all, man, that’s all you bought.”

He looks into the back seat and so do I and that’s when I see the back seat is filthy from his hot dog. I mean there’s fucking bits of hot dog and catsup and shit all over the place. I open the back door and show him.

“Shit, look at the seat! I’m gonna have to get that cleaned! Give me another twenty bucks for the car wash!”

“God dammmmit!” he screams. “I FUCKIN’ HATE THIS TOWN!” He does a little drunk fit there in the parking lot of the Days Inn, kind of dancing around, throwing his arms up in the air.

“Just be cool, man, the car wash is gonna charge me twenty bucks to get that cleaned, and if I take the car in like that they’ll fire me!”

He gives me another twenty.

“Shit,” he says and stumbles back to his room with his six-pack.

As I’m pulling out, I see a bunch of Mexicans working on one of the hotel rooms. They’re painting it or something.

“Hey guys!” I say. “You want some beer?”

Claro, they want some beer.

I show them the twelve Buds. “Five bucks,” I say.

One of them gives me a five. Then I’m out of there.

This ain’t really a bad town, you know, if you give it a chance.

***

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