My sunflower-yellow cab stopped in front of a small trailer on a gravel road. A big old man came slowly out into the sun, his body jerking and flailing with advanced Parkinson’s. He had a cane when he really needed a wheelchair. His legs and feet went around in circles three times with each step. It took five minutes for him to climb into the passenger seat. The air conditioning was cranked. It was 108 degrees outside.

“That feels fucking good,” the big old man said.

“Hot out there,” I said.

“I’m Phillip,” the big old man said.

“Matt.”

We shook hands and he gripped me to stop the shaking.

“Be honest with me,” Phillip said, a few miles down the road. “How old do I look to you?”

His face was not too beaten up and he had good skin and a shaved head.

“About 60,” I said.

“I’ll be 70 tomorrow,” Phillip said.

“Happy birthday.”

“I’ve got a date with Maria,” he said, “a little gal I met the other night.”

“Sounds good.”

“You don’t believe me?”

“I believe you.”

“If you don’t believe me, I’ll call her right now,” Phillip said.

He twitched and fidgeted with his cell phone, then dropped it on the floor. I bent down and got it for him.

“Thanks.”

With much effort, Phillip managed to dial a number. He put it to his ear and kept looking at me and giving me that “you’ll see” look. It rang and rang and rang.

“Well, she must not be home,” he said.

I got him to his doctor and helped him inside. Then I drove over to the park to wait. I sat in the park watching the pigeons. The pigeons just pecked the ground and ate what was there. They always were eating. They slept in the trees and they ate what was on the ground. And there was no shame in that.

In an hour, I went back and picked Phillip up from the doctor. Everything looked bad. But there was a bright spot: the receptionist had given him some free samples of a new drug that was supposed to help a man achieve and maintain an erection.

“This shit kicks Viagra’s ass,” he said. “I’m gonna have one happy fucking birthday!”

Phillip wanted to stop at a hamburger place on the way home. I went in with him. Two steps inside the door, he fell jerking and spasming to the floor. He knocked a man’s coffee out of his hand and lay there, looking up at me with a terrified look. It took three men to get him to his feet.

Then, at the counter, he didn’t have enough money for what he ordered. The cashier called the manager over and the manager looked like he was terrified of some kind of legal liability. Phillip’s head was bleeding a little bit, but he shook it off.

“I’m fine,” he said. The manager gave Phillip his food for free just to get him out of there.

We made it out to the cab. Phillip couldn’t believe his luck. He ate his hamburger as I drove him back to his little trailer in the dust. He shook my hand again and then staggered toward his trailer door.

“Happy birthday!” I hollered out the window.

Phillip stood there trembling and shaking all over. He grinned and lifted his cane to the sky.

***

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
  47. Thinking’s Got Nothing to Do with It