Whoever Nancy Gantry is, she lives in Bumfuck, Egypt. She’s scheduled for a 2:45 p.m. pickup. My teeth rattle as I progress down the washboard dirt road, like a zipper through the desert. No street signs, just sand, clay, caliche, open range, a few cattle, creosote bush, tumbleweeds, and the massive iodine sun.

I can’t find her address. I pull the cab to a dusty stop alongside the road and call Nancy’s phone number, which is on the pick-up order. State-paid voucher, 18 dollars. Her telephone ring is eardrum-popping rap music. I listen from twelve inches away.

A woman’s voice comes on the machine: “Yo, I ain’t home, a’hite? Do what you need to do. Peace.”

Beeeeep.

I hang up.

Peace, sure. Fuck off.

I keep driving. I finally see an old blue trailer behind a couple of palo verde trees off the road. Two parallel tire tracks parlay through the prickly pears. I follow them in, slowly bouncing my way to the trailer. Junk and garbage cover the ground, beer cans strewn about, some looking at least forty years old from brands I’ve never even heard of. Mouse-infested mattresses, rusty box springs, skeletons of cars, broken toys, an old swing set like some medieval torture machine, weight set, heavy bag hanging from the only tree, a gnarled old Mesquite, overflowing garbage cans, collapsed swimming pool…

I honk my horn and wait. There is no way I’m getting out of the cab. In a couple minutes, she comes out. She’s 75 pounds overweight with a gallon of makeup on her face. Her hair is the color of manure. Her face looks very Irish, very American-Irish.

She gets in the cab.

“How’s it going?” she says.

She’s as high as a bat. Her movements are herky-jerky, she talks too fast, and won’t look me in the eye. I smell the pot on her, which is undoubtedly mixed with pain pills or meth or both.

“Not bad,” he says.

“Any trouble finding the place?”

“Piece of cake.”

I start back down the dirt washboard road on the way to Tucson to her doctor.

“Yeah,” Nancy says, out of the blue, “I could be a judge.”

“Pardon?”

“I was watching Divorce Court when you got here,” she says. “Not much to do out here.”

“I imagine,” I say, looking at the bleak, hot landscape. But still, there must be something out there. Mountains in the distance, mountains in the rearview.

“I could be a judge,” she says again. “How hard can it be? You should see those people, they’re such liars! I can see it in their eyes. I’m great at reading people. I’m great at reading people’s eyes.”

Nancy turns and looks at me. We both have blue eyes.

I turn onto the highway and kick it up to 75 MPH.

“Shit, I forgot all about this doctor’s appointment. I was in my pajamas when you showed up, watching Divorce Court. But it’s okay; I’m a fast dresser. I’ve always been a fast dresser. It’s the Indian in me.”

“Indian?” I say.

“We prefer ‘Native American,’” she says.

“You’re Native American?”

“One-sixteenth,” she says. “I got free health coverage for life. But you should see how they look at me when I go down to the reservation clinic. They look down on me, the other tribe members, you know. They’re some prejudiced motherfuckers.”

She takes out a bottle of Valium pills and pops one in her mouth.

“Want one?” she says.

“Sure,” I say, thinking of later.

“Five bucks,” she says.

“Nevermind.”

“Hey, I gotta make some cash. Freedom Fest is coming up.”

“What’s that?”

“You don’t know what Freedom Fest is?”

“No.”

“Dude, are you living under a fucking ROCK?”

She begins to laugh hysterically. She slaps her knees and then slowly calms herself. She peeks around and looks at me again as if she can’t believe I’m real.

“Well, I live on the north side,” I say.

“Freedom Fest, bro! It’s a CONCERT, man, a bunch of bands,” Nancy says.

“Gotcha.”

“You’re fucking with me, aren’t you?”

“I wish I was, Mrs. Gantry.”

“Dude, you gotta get out once in a while.”

“I’m more of a homebody,” I say.

“Yeah, well, that’s no way to live,” she says.

Nancy continues to talk and I respond with a few “hmmms” and “um-humms.” I nod. Finally, I don’t listen to her at all or give any sign of listening. I go to that place deep inside where I can commit murder without consequence. My face becomes still and relaxed and my neck too, and my shoulders and arms and hands on the wheel. I don’t have to feel anxious or that I am out of place or that anything is wrong. I don’t have to pretend that I love what I don’t love. I don’t have to worry. The cab knows the way.

***

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