I came home from driving the cab all day and I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t want to be in my apartment. I walked around the block with no sidewalks or streetlights. It was a warm desert night.

I came back to my apartment building, an unpainted two-story cinderblock hulk. I walked up the open-air stairs and past the windows of my neighbors, none of whom I knew personally. I got glimpses inside a few windows, but most had their curtains closed. The smell of meth cooking drifted through the air.

Then I heard it: ker-clack, ker-clack, ker-clack…

Here came Crutch Boy walking down the dark road. Crutch Boy was around 30 years old, five feet tall with long, blond, greasy hair. I had never seen him without his crutches ever since I moved into that apartment building eight years earlier. He wore his army coat and carried his standard load: 12-pack of beer. He halted every few yards on his crutches to hurl profanities into the air. When he finally got to the stairs of our apartment building, he held the crutches with one hand and the beer with the other and simply leaped up, two at a time, using both legs perfectly.

Crutch Boy sat down in his little chair outside his door. It was 8 o’clock at night and he had his sunglasses on. I walked over to him.

“How’s it going?” I said.

“Yeah?” Crutch Boy said.

“What’s your name?” I said.

“My name?” Crutch Boy said. “My name, it was Wes before the rivers came and then my mother and that damn bitch until the Walgreens fiasco.”

“You don’t say.”

“But I do say so, sir.”

“You lived here long?” I said.

“Long?” he said. “Long, long time ago, I saw that giant clown cross the street to go to the outhouse WAY up on Henderson Hill.”

“What’s new?” I said. “Same old shit, eh?”

“New, never, nothing is new ever,” Crutch Boy said. “I got some new shoes once.”

A few moments of silence passed while he sat there drinking from his can of beer. He put a pair of headphones on his ears and began to tamp his foot. The headphone wires dangled freely, connected to nothing.

“What’re ya listening to?”

“Listening to?” he said. “There’s a big fucking bird up there, man, can’t you hear it? It’s black and blue and stole my jacket.”

“But you’re wearing your jacket,” I said.

“My other jacket.”

Lightning appeared in the west. The breeze picked up, wet and smelling of creosote.

“I really don’t want company,” Crutch Boy said.

“Sure you do.”

“No, no, no, no, no!”

“Of course you do.”

“Go away,” Crutch Boy said. “Go away! GO AWAY, GO AWAY!”

I didn’t move. Crutch Boy stood up slowly and grabbed one of his crutches and raised it above his head to hit me.

“Okay, okay,” I said. “Take it easy.”

I backed away and walked over to my apartment.

“THANK YOU!” Crutch Boy said. “THANK ALL THE GOD IN THE HEAVENS AND LET THE LORD OF SATAN TRY TO GET AWAY WITH THAT AROUND HERE! I SAW HIM! I TOLD HIM NOT TO, BUT HE DID IT ANYWAY, THANK YOU! THANK YOU, THANK YOU…”

I guess everybody has their crutches. Sometimes it doesn’t feel very good to be alive and you can’t sleep and you don’t know what to do. I stood outside my apartment and leaned on the railing.

***

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