Christmas Day: what a pitchfork of horseshit. I have that feeling that I blew it again, that there is something wrong. My boss June threw me the guilt trip all week until I said okay, I’ll come to your Christmas ham. I am a cab driver and June is the owner of the cab company. The strings of little lights blink red and green and white and red and green and white. No snow in Too-Stoned, Arizona. Boo hoo. Thank God. If you want snow, you know the road that leads to the mountains. Relationships require constant care. People have egos. There’s something wrong with them. I have no children or wife, and this means I am at their beck and call. They think: the old boy doesn’t have anything else to do, he’s lonely, he’s a corner-filler, he’ll clog some low-rent space, he’ll be a good time, round out the photos, nibble on the potatoes, smile. Haw! What fun! Sing and dance! Dance and sing! Pretend to love each other. Pretend to know what love is! Pretend to care.

Parties. People. Jesus. There’s something wrong with this. I don’t want to hang out with the puke-faces I work with. Who would? The meth-mouths, the crack-heads, the criminals. Cab drivers are scum. I’m sorry. I need to make money in order to pay the rent and to survive. I need a job. I need to be decent. I only have a few quality hours per week free for myself.

Cab drivers have breath like a cat’s litter box. I have a mother who is far away. And a father? He doesn’t trust religion. He doesn’t trust anything except physical sensations, because he can feel them, and emotions, because he can feel them.

I touch the gate—cold metal on my hand—and June’s dog greets me. Honeybear! Good clean warm smile with tongue hanging out pink and wet and naked. She likes to chase the shadow of your hand. I box into the air and she chases the fist-shadows. I hop around and she pounces here, pounces there, mouth open, smiling, pure joy.

I knock on the door and go inside. Inside, it is warm with the smell of food. In this constant stuff-yer-face land, the great yearly feast loses some of its draw. Another idea blown to smithereens. Besides, I can’t eat in the presence of others. Sure, I can nibble. I nibble. I lose my appetite. My stomach growls, but if a piece of food touches my tongue, it just sits there. I smile and say, “Wonderful,” but really, it just sits there and I just sit there. I chew, mouth closed, jaw going round and round, mechanical. I go for the wine. I can’t taste a thing. I’m careful on the way to my mouth. I swallow. Slowly I swallow and smile and put my thumb in the air. Yummers! Jimminny, mmmmmmmmhmmm. More? Hell yeah! Pile it on, atta girl cowgirl, pile it on, hills of it, mountain ranges of it! Instant mashed potatoes. Turkey dry as a bicycle seat. Oranges and marshmallow salad. Burnt orange colored yams sticky as baby crap. Marshmallows melted on top. More marshmallows! Marshmallows on everything! Shit-n-shinola, love me some marshmallows! Can’t get enough! And gelatin molds that shine and jiggle and quiver like prairie dogs on a cold windy night, little marshmallows suspended inside like hearts that have stopped beating.

The other day June telephoned me, crying. She was sniffling and could hardly say three consecutive words without choking up. Her husband had moved out of the house after he’d confessed to several dozen sexual affairs over the last five years. She was through with him, through with him! The slut! The bimbo slut! Momma’s tit was dried up, she said. That motherfucker can just see how it is to be on his own! That whore-fuck! I can’t believe it, she said. I can’t believe it. 17 years, I’ve known him since he was 22. He was a baby. His mother really fucked him up. But I fixed him! I thought I did. I thought I fixed him. I didn’t fix shit! He had sex with Alesia. Alesia! I loved him. Oh my God, I hate him!

I walk into June’s house for her Xmas dinner and there is her husband standing there. Nobody else is here. I’m early. I’m always early. What is the husband doing here? His name is Mark; he’s a greasy smile. There’s something creepy about him, like he’d diddle a little boy if he had the chance. It’s hard to put your finger on it. He’s not right. He only laughs at his own jokes. That’s one of his constants.

June is shaped like a snowman. There is a glass aquarium by the window and she sprays water from a bottle through the top of the aquarium, which is a screen. Inside the aquarium is a green lizard with bulging eyes and a fin on top of his head like a shark’s. The lizard sways side to side and seems to be enjoying the spray bottle. A tropical rain! He slowly moves up a small piece of a branch that has been broken off and placed in the aquarium for him. His feet are made for gripping and his tiny toes wrap slowly and tightly around the thin branch as he noses through the leaves. I stand there and stare at the lizard with bulging eyes.

“Do you want to watch TV?” June says. There’s no one else here but the three of us and the lizard. None of the other cab drivers have shown up yet. That’s why I came early. But the food isn’t ready. Nothing is ready.

“No thanks,” I say.

“Want a beer?” she says.

“Sure.”

She gets me a beer. I open it and drink. It’s cold and bitter. It’s quiet.

“Oh!” June says. “I almost forgot!”

She runs to the stereo and turns on Xmas music.

“Xmas music!” she says.

I sit on the couch.

“Do you want to surf the Internet?” June says.

“Hey!” her husband Mark cries. “I was going to use it!” He wants to use the Internet. What is going on? June has forgiven him. It’s Christmas and June has forgiven him.

June goes into the kitchen to work on the grub. The smells are good but I can hardly breathe. I look at Mark. He sits at the computer. The slut. The beer splashes in my stomach.

“You gotta see this,” Mark says.

I stand up and walk over and look over his shoulder. He’s looking at a website advertising a group of citizen-militia who call themselves the Minutemen. They live along the Mexican border here in Arizona and their aim is to prevent illegal Mexican immigrants from trespassing on their private, God-given, grandpa-given property. Gold-booted ranchers, mostly. Self-righteous and paranoid.

“We gotta keep America the way it is,” Mark says.

“What way is that?”

“I don’t want no wetback Mexican telling me what to do,” he says. “Next thing, we’ll be eating tamales for Christmas dinner.”

“I like tamales,” I say.

“Hey, do you know why Mexicans make tamales for Christmas?”

“No.”

“So they’ll have something to open on Christmas morning!”

He doubles over with laughter, then straightens.

“Pretty soon they’ll run the whole show,” he says.

He scowls at me.

“Where were you born?” he says.

“Peoria, Illinois,” I say.

“Oh,” he says, disappointed. He was thinking I might be a wetback. He turns back to his Minutemen. He’s got ideas. He’s going to join the Minutemen and keep the Mexicans out of the U.S.A., which will ensure that everything will be perfect forever. He doesn’t even have a ranch to protect. He’s nothing but a slut cab driver. But he’s got ideas. Save the world. Solve the world. Keep the world. Keep the world as it is. It’s a good world.

June is still in the kitchen, humming. A snowman humming and gliding around, a snowman that had called me crying, broken down, three days earlier. My stomach sinks in and sucks out. It’s a trap! It feels like a trap. Guilt. There’s emotion for you! Running up your arm like a rat! A roach across the counter. Blam, blam!  Bullets of light, and it zips to some crevice.

I think of Virginia, the girl I met in the shoe store. Mexican. God the long dark hair. You don’t think you’re gonna meet a girl in a shoe store. She was working there and she helped me find cheap walking shoes. She had a sore on her lip. I asked her if she wanted to meet me after work, and she said yes, and we met at a park and we walked around the park and we talked. She told me I probably didn’t want to get involved with her because she had “muchos problemas.” I fell in love with her. Three laps around the small park, the warm desert summer night, the mesquite flowers making us sneeze. A couple of nights later, we were kissing on her couch in her apartment. She had that sore on her lip, but I didn’t care. I had been alone for eight years. A quarter of my life. A week later, she went to Mexico to visit her family for Christmas. I watched her get on the bus. One year ago and she never came back. I went to her apartment and her roommate told me she had been nabbed at the border and could not return. Her roommate said she had no way of contacting Virginia, she had heard the story through the grapevine. She slammed the door on me. A sore came up on my lip soon after that. Now it comes and goes every few months, like a little burnt marshmallow.

I want to kill Mark sitting at the computer. But I save him. I keep him. I keep him the way he is.

I turn around and walk out of June’s house and through the sharp-shadowed yard. I open the gate—cold in my hand. I say goodbye to Honeybear. I walk up the road in the sun and step up the stairs, thighs burning, to my apartment door, number 27, and walk through it.

They are perfect for each other, June and Mark. And everyone else. Most everyone else. Who cares? I’m sorry. There’s something wrong. It’s Christmas, leave me alone.

***

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