It was a cookie cutter neighborhood and nobody answered the phone, so I got out of my cab and walked to the door. I rang the bell. Dogs barked inside.

“Who is it?”

“Taxi!” I said through the door.

“I’ll be right out, sir!”

“Okay!”

“Is that Don?” she said.

“No!”

“Oh! I thought it might be Don!”

“It’s Matt!”

“Don took me last week!”

“Don sucks Boy Scouts,” I mumbled.

“What?”

“Can we get a move on, please?”

14 minutes later, she opened the door. She was in a wheelchair.

“I broke my ankle,” she said. “The doctor’s wanted me to use crutches, but fuck crutches.”

She had an emaciated body and terrible acne. She was maybe 30. She had been pretty at one time. She was one of the millions who had given up and blamed the world.

“Forgive me, I have no strength,” she said, “would you mind?” I steered her down the driveway to the taxi. Then she held her arms out to him like she wanted a hug. I lifted her from the chair into the cab. My face was very close to hers during the lift; her flat breasts pressed into my chest. She smelled like death, death, and entitlement. I put the wheelchair in the trunk.

She yapped the whole way to her doctor’s: the government stole her kids…her ex-husband beat her…her mother was a bitch…there are strange insects that come in through her vents at night…she used to work with Charles Barkley…

“What’s that about the insects?”

“They get in the bed and bite you,” she said. “But nobody believes me.”

“Why don’t you catch one in a jar or something? Then you’ll have proof.”

“I tried that,” she said. “But they disintegrate when they are captured.”

“Little bastards,” I said.

“I used to have so much fucking money,” she said, “I’d leave brand new cars on stranger’s driveways. I’d put big yellow bows on the cars and just leave them there. I wouldn’t even sign my name.”

“You sound like a generous person.”

“I’m broke now,” she said. “You think you know broke? You don’t know shit about it.”

“I’m rolling in money, myself.”

When we got to the doctor, I got the wheelchair out of the trunk and lifted her into it and wheeled her inside. Her doctor was on the seventh floor, so we went up the elevator.

She was finished in 30 minutes. I went back up the elevator and wheeled her out and down and lifted her back into the taxi and put the chair back in the trunk.

Then she needed to go to the pharmacy. When we got to the pharmacy, she said, “Ah, Damn.”

“What?”

“I forgot, I changed pharmacies. The girl at this pharmacy is a fucking cow!”

So we went to another pharmacy. I lifted her from the taxi into the chair and wheeled her in.

While she was waiting for her prescription to be filled, she wanted to do a little shopping. I pushed her down the frozen food aisle. She grabbed ice cream sandwiches, popsicles, a frozen cake, and frozen cookie dough. We went through the cashiers and I held her bag. We went back and got her “medicine.” Then it was back to the taxi, and more lifting.

Back on the road, she gripped her little rattling bottle.

“It just makes me so sad sometimes,” she said. “I hate taking these pills.”

There was an ecstatic gleam in her eyes. “I never used to do drugs at all,” she said. “I never even drank! And pot? Forget it. I was a clean thing, when I was young, I was clean and innocent. But, those doctors, those fucking doctors! And the pain, you know?”

“Yeah,” I said, rubbing my forehead. I thought about my last customer, who was 24 years old and got his legs cut off in a car accident when a drunk guy hit him. I drove him to his physical therapy. Despite his condition, it made me smile the way he talked and had sense and perspective and humility and kindness.

“I totaled seven cars last year,” she said. “I don’t drive anymore.”

“Good thinking.”

“Thinking’s got nothing to do with it; they took my license away.”

“Sorry.”

“None of those accidents were my fault,” she said. “Except that last one. That last one was partially my fault.”

“Is that how you broke your ankle?”

“No, that was something else,” she said. “Besides, the doctor told me it’s only sprained. Fucking doctors!”

I looked through the clean desert air and breathed the warmth in through my nose, out through my mouth.

At her house, I opened the trunk and got the wheelchair. I lifted her from the taxi to the chair one more time and pushed her up the steep driveway toward the door. The sun glinted off the metal chair. My face was sweating. All I had to do was let go of the chair and she would roll backwards 30 feet into the street.

At the door, she said, “Sir, could you, could you…”

The dogs were barking inside. I turned around and left her there for them.

***

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