I pulled my cab into the long smooth driveway that led to Desert Palms, a high-end rehab/loony bin out in the middle of nowhere. It was getting close to Christmas and they had put little Santa hats on the saguaro cacti. Before I could get to the front gate, a guy jumped out of the mesquite bushes and leapt in front of my cab. He was wearing a white smock and his black hair was all over the place. He looked like he was about 30.

He got into the cab and ducked down out of sight.

“Get me the FUCK out of here,” he said.

“Wait,” I said, checking the order on the computer screen. “Are you J. Pipple?”

“Yes, for Chrissakes, just move!”

“Where to?”

“The closest bar.”

“Dressed like that?”

“You’re right. Take me to Target first.”

“You got money?”

“This place costs 2,000 bucks a day, dude. I got money.”

“I mean, do you have money ON you?”

He pulled his wallet out and waved it at me.

“GO, man!”

I flipped a bitch and got out to the main road. He relaxed a bit then.

“I must have been crazy to check myself into that place,” he said. “It’s supposed to be voluntary, you know, just to clean up and relax a little, eat some good food, massages, steam room, you know. They got some hot nurses, too.”

“Hold on,” I said. “Two THOUSAND a day?”

“Yep. I got the deluxe package.”

“What do you do for a living?”

“I’m in real estate. My dad owns half the East Side.”

“Don’t try anything funny. I’m packin’ heat.”

“You’re not packin’ shit. Calm down. You’re kind of paranoid aren’t you?”

“I’ve had a rough week.”

“YOU’VE had a rough week? Check this shit out. That fucking place back there is supposed to be voluntary. Well, I’m in there a week and one day they have a barbecue for all the patients. Hamburgers and hot dogs and tofu dogs and stuff. They had some Chippendales boy toy cooking the hamburgers. He was all done up in cowboy attire, big hat, chaps, I swear. All the ladies were creaming their panties. The nurses, too. Whatever, the hamburgers were good. But one of the rules is you’re not supposed to take food to your room, I mean unless you’re diabetic. Fuck that. I put three hamburgers in my coat pocket. Big juicy things; I swear it was ground ribeye. Well, as I’m walking back to my room, there’s this basketball court there, and I cut across it. It was getting to be dusk and suddenly there’s this fucking coyote standing right in front of me. He’s looking all dodgy and eyeing me and shit. I turn and there’s ANOTHER one. Then behind me, I heard a third one. THREE motherfucking coyotes! And they weren’t going anywhere. I tried to push my way through them and they started circling me. It freaked me out and I started yelling, HELP, HELP! A couple of the nurses ran over. That’s when I realized they smelled the hamburger. The coyotes, I mean, not the nurses. I pulled the hamburgers out and threw them and they fucking pounced on those motherfuckers. Then I got the hell back to my room.”

“Beats the hell out of jackrabbit, I bet.”

“Yeah, so, anyway, word got out about the hamburgers. I was in big trouble. They took my clothes away and gave me this fucking smock. I was not to be trusted with pockets of any kind. And I heard through the grapevine that they were planning on having me committed to Kino downtown. Can you believe that shit?”

“Which Target you want to go to?”

“The one on Oracle’s fine.”

“Two thousand dollars a fucking day, wow.”

“Yeah, there were some real big shots there. Martin Sheen was there.”

“No shit?”

“No shit. He was all fucked up. I guess it runs in the family. He hopped out a window one night and jumped the fence and hitchhiked his way all the way to Phoenix. He’d smuggled some drugs in with him. But he came back the next day.”

“Martin Sheen, that’s something else. He made a good president.”

“That’s what gave me the idea: Martin Sheen jumping out of a window like that. I called a taxi and got the hell out of there. They were gonna send me to fucking KINO man. You ever been to Kino?”

“Just the lobby. There was a lot of moaning and yelling. It smelled strange, too.”

“That smell is bleach and boiled brains. Kino is the bottom of the barrel, man; that’s where they send the hard cases. You go into that place and it’s bye bye, birdy.”

“I’ll bet it doesn’t cost two grand a day.”

“Hey, you think you could go into Target and buy me a pair of pants and a shirt? I don’t want to go in there wearing this fucking smock.”

“Can I get a soft pretzel?”

“Sure. Get me one, too.”

“Okay.”

“Any good bars around here?”

“Strip club down the road a-ways.”

“Awesome. Seriously, dude, you saved my life.”

“Merry Christmas.”

***

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