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Men of Leisure

* Story contains bad language

After I got through with that little possession problem in Dallas with the Marshall boys and their nightime distributing business I wanted to get me as far away from that town as I could and even though I was on probation and was supposed to check in with my officer ever month, I figured I could slip off for a while and wouldn't nobody notice so I headed off down to the interstate to a truck stop and found me a long haul driver that needed some company. He was going to Flagstaff and since I was going as far as I could sit my butt in a seat, we sure got off to a good relationship, especially since he liked to talk and well I really didn't have much I wanted to talk about. So we rode for near ten hours through the plains and farms and oil wells and cattle and cotton, with a stop in Amarillo for diesel and a burger that he bought for me and said he could expense to his company, and all along the way he told me about his travels and adventures and especially the women that would just crawl all over him once they'd got a good look at his rig, he said. He was a funny guy and he kept me awake near most of the way and I believe that even when I dozed off he was talking on, living out all his miles in his stories to me. When he wasn't talking to me, he was chatting on the radio with other drivers, all talking about women and restaurants and how the owners of the trucking companies was screwing the men who moved the roads. Well when we got into them mountains in New Mexico and made our way through the gap and down the pike into Albuquerque, I told Big Salami that I just thought I'd see a little bit of the old west and I alighted into the streets of the A town. Now the very first place I know to go in a strange town is where I can find people that'll steer me to good places to eat and sleep so I headed over to the bus station and talked up the janitor for a few minutes and then asked one of the loaders out back where to go, not cause I didn't trust the mexican sweeping floors to tell me the truth, I just didn't want to end up in some place where my white face might be less welcome than it was even back in Dallas.

"Well, my friend," the loader, who looked like he might of been in my position once or twice himself, told me, "there's the El Capitan about two mile down the road for ten an hour," and I said I really needed to sleep a little more than an hour so he said "Oh, okay, you look for long term place, like whole night" and I told him that's what I wanted. "Then you go to Mon-a-goo, my friend," which is what I think he said, though before he said it he stuck a big wad of chew in his mouth and stuffed it down between his lip and teeth with a finger that I wasn't sure where it had been while he was loading them bags, but I decided to take him up on his advice whatever it was about a place I could stay cheap while I looked around for something permanent. He eyed the weeds in my shirt pocket and said "you don't look like a man that got no car, so for a pack of smokes, I'll take you down there, if you can wait till I get off here," so I waited about an hour while he finished up and then he dropped me off at the place which turned out to be the Montague Hotel and they give me a room for $4 a night, which wasn't much more than a closet and I had to wait in line just to go to the toilet down the hall and taking a bath was out of a sink which I at least had in my own closet, but I didn't mind cause it was warm and dry and there was a door I could close and push the iron bed up against to keep anybody from coming in at night. At four dollars a night and eating at the shelter once a day, plus a little for beer and weeds, I figured I could only stay there about a week before I run out of money so I started looking for something the very next day.

Well I was sitting on the curb out front of the Montague smoking a cigarette early in the morning and working on my career plans just like a couple dozen other worn out road men like me was doing, going nowhere and in no hurry to get there, when this other fellow come up and sat down beside me moaning and groaning like he was just about on his last breath. "Man I could sure use me some paint thinner," he finally said, shaking and holding his head.

"What the hell for?" I asked him.

"Hangover. Got me a mean one this morning."

"Paint thinner? What do you do with paint thinner for a hangover?"

He looked at me like I was a stump. "You're shittin' me, right? You mean you don't know? Hell, man, it's the best thing for a hangover. Cures it right up."

"No, man, I ain't never heard of nothing like that. What do you do, sniff it?"

He laughed. "Man, where you from? I can't believe you ain't ever heard about paint thinner to get rid of the uglies. Let me explain."

Well now I been out in the world for a while and I had a few uglies from the night before, too, some of them headaches, but I ain't never heard of nothing like that, so he went over to the trash barrel and dug around and come up with a Burger King sack. "Goes like this," he said, and he gripped it up at the top with his fist and blowed the sack up like he was going to pop it. "You get the sack all nice and puffed up like this, and then you take the paint thinner and you pour a little bit in it," and he tipped an imaginary cup of thinner up to the top of the sack. "Then. . ." he started to go on, but stopped, patted his pants pockets, checked his shirt pocket, and looked at me and said, "oh man, I left my weeds in the car. I can't do it without a cigarette. You got one I can borrow to show you? Gimme a smoke and I'll show you how it's done."

So I give him one of the last four in my last pack and lit it for him off mine, and he took a long drag and went on. "So you got your bag and you got your paint thinner in it and here's what you do. You open up the bag, just a little bit, and stick your face right up to it," and he did that.

I still hadn't figured it out. "What then?"

"Then you throw the cigarette in the bag."

Well I still hadn't figured it out. "Then?"

"Then it blows your fucking head clean off and you don't worry no more about your hangover," and he laughed and laughed and rolled back and I felt so dumb falling for it that I laughed too and I figured if he was going to that much trouble to tap me for a smoke, he deserved it.

Well we got to talking and turns out Dennis was from Mineral Wells, just the other side of Ft. Worth from Dallas and since we had a lot in common being from Texas and all, we hit it off pretty good and I even let him burn my last weed while we sat out there waiting for jobs to come along. Dennis had red hair and a freckled face and nervous eyes, and though he looked to me to be about 30 or 35, it was hard to tell how old he was exactly, cause those eyes said there'd been some miles along the way that'd been counted double. We talked about Dallas and Ft. Worth and we knowed some places we'd each been. "Man them are some whores on Greenville," he said to me appreciatively as we traded histories, and I told him "Not like the one's over on Harry Hines." Oh Man You Got That Right he agreed and we sized each other up and knowed something about each other right away and when our eyes met, we knowed we was brothers of the alley and we sat there and pickled ourselves on old good times while we waited for new ones to come along.

Well about seven-thirty when two three of them day labor trucks had come by and picked up all the old men shuffling out the door in torn clothes and hungry eyes, I said to him, "Don't you think we ought to take one of them jobs before they're all gone?" but he just looked at me and shook his head. "Nope," he said. "Don't you notice something about the guys that took them jobs?" and I thought about it for a minute and said No I Just Noticed They Was Taking Jobs And We Wasn't, and he said "they're all the gummers, the kind that can't get no other work, and they take them jobs cause they pay two dollars an hour and you have to sweep trash most of the day. Not us, no sir. We're going to wait for the good one. It'll come along" and sure enough about eight o'clock, a truck pulled up with some company name on the side of it and a stallion got out and looked over the pasture. "Come on, boys," he hollered at us. "Four strong ones. " He was big and brown with an angled face burnt brown from sun, and he had on a hard hat and big steel-toe boots and overalls and long black hair down his back and he looked powerful. I figured I'd finally seen me a real Indian. "Twenty five for the day and I'll throw in lunch" he offered, and that's when Dennis jumped up and grabbed my arm and said "Let's go" and we crowded up around him with all that was left of the morning watch, about ten of us. "You, you, you and you" the Indian said, pointing us out, and I was You number four, so we jumped in the back of the truck and I could see that me and Dennis and the other two guys was the youngest of all the ten hopefuls that'd been standing there, and I found out about thirty minutes later why, cause I swore that night that I hadn't ever been so tired or so worn right down into the ground as far ever in my life as shoveling asphalt all day long.

Well they made good and paid us the twenty-five dollars and give us sandwiches off the roach wagon so me and Dennis went out and got pretty stiff that night and I woke up at six thirty the next morning with a headache and a deskman poking me in the ribs and telling me I owed him another $4.32 for last night and another $4.32 if I was planning to be their guest again for another night, so while I stood there in that room in my shorts with him guarding the door to keep me from getting out I guess, not to keep nobody else from getting in, I looked through my jeans and come up with ninety-one cents which the deskman took and then told me I'd have to leave but that they'd keep all my stuff till I paid the rest, which was nothing really but a bag I'd brought along with some extra clothes, and he was pretty clear he wasn't going to let me have any of the clean stuff, so stinking pretty good from the same clothes I'd shoveled asphalt in yesterday, I was graciously throwed out and told I'd be mighty welcome as soon as I walked through the door with the ransom for my old jockeys. Well I couldn't figure out where my money'd gone, cause after checking into the room then getting paid the twenty-five dollars for yesterday's work, I should of had about sixty dollars, but I reckoned I blew through it at that bar the night before as usual and I seemed to remember buying a lot of drinks but all of it was still pretty foggy. Outside, there wasn't nobody up yet waiting on jobs and since it was warm in the morning sun I sat down against the wall and dozed off, then in a little while somebody was kicking me and I looked up to see Dennis and the sun both high up high over my head. "Come on fruitcake," he said, "it's nearly nine. Let's go have some breakfast" but I said "I ain't got any money which is why I'm sleeping out here instead of in there," and he laughed at me and said "that's alright bubba, I'll buy this morning. You bought enough drinks last night I guess I can pick up a cup of coffee for you" so we went down a block or two to some cafe and sure enough, he bought my breakfast with eggs and bacon and grits and a bisquit and the coffee smelled so good I had me about four refills and while I was drinking it I got to wondering what I was going to do for the next cup. "Ain't you working today?" I asked Dennis. "Naw, man," he said "I didn't feel like it today. My old lady got paid yesterday and we're ok for a few days." Seems I remembered him saying something yesterday about his old lady waitressing at a good restaurant and he just worked when they needed a little extra money, which sure sounded like a good idea to me, to have your old lady bring in regular pay and you go get a days work like I'd just done when you need some money to spare. "So you ain't going to work today?" I asked. "Nope, hotrod, not today," he said with a shake of his head. "Today I'm a man of leisure."

They say that we're supposed to do others like you'd want to be done but I don't think I could of ever done things for people that needed help like things was done for me, like when I was sitting hungry on a corner with a dime in my pocket or when I needed to be some place too far for my feet to get me there or when I was drinking a cup of coffee somebody else had paid for. Seems I spent a lot of time drinking somebody else's coffee and eating somebody else's bacon but at least I was thankful when I did and I didn't ever just take their kindness carelessly. I realized the value early on of somebody helping you out, and I always thought that someday when I got everthing straightened out and I was running the show, I'd return some of that by helping somebody else out, but it just seemed to go on forever that I was the one drinking the coffee instead of buying it. Now here was Dennis, who'd worked right there next to me yesterday, helping me learn how to spread asphalt by standing beside me and pointing to the areas that needed filling instead of just letting me throw it all over the place and having to rake it back up, here he was buying my breakfast and offering to take me around the city that day with him on his day of leisure. Well we finished our breakfast and went off around Albuquerque in his old lady's car while she was working. We spent some time sitting down in the park for a while with a beer, talking about Texas and how Dennis come to be in New Mexico, and having pizza for lunch sitting out in a parking lot. Then we chased a couple of tails around the city for a half hour, looking at them looking at us and weaving through traffic and speeding up when they took off and slowing down when they got behind us and at a stop light Dennis tried to pick them up but they was just high school girls and wasn't having any interest in us, and then about five or so, we hit a bar and drank three four beers before Dennis said "well we'd best be getting home or Swaylo is going to be so pissed she won't give me any" and without saying nothing else, we just got in the car and headed to his house. I mean he didn't ever ask me if I wanted to come over or say nothing about checking with Consuelo he said her name was though he just called her Swaylo, or even think twice about it, he just said Come On Let's Go Home, and so there I was, one more time sleeping under a roof cause somebody done unto me when I needed it most. When we got there, Swaylo was already home, frying something in the kitchen and when we walked in Dennis come up behind her and rubbed her butt and slobbered on her neck a bit and said "Hi honey I'm home from the office" to which Swaylo, without stopping flipping whatever meat it was she was turning with a plastic spatula looked at me standing in the doorway and said "Another one?"

"Swaylo baby, this is me amigo, my pal, my confidant, my working buddy, my bubba, "Dennis told her. "He will be our guest for dinner," and she said "Does your confidant have a name?" and I answered that one so she said "Come on in Larry. Sit down and have a cold one. Everybody else Poochie brings in does." So I stayed with them that night and a even a few more and they was some of the friendliest people you'd want to know. Swaylo had lived all her life in Albuquerque. She was a little shorter than me though a lot stouter, with bronze arms and face and black hair pulled up tight on top of her head so's you could see the little flower tatooed on the back of her neck. Dennis had told me that he'd met her right after her former old man took off for parts unknown and that they'd been together for a few weeks now and seemed to be hitting it off pretty sharp. They was playful and joked with each other a lot which made her smile and show off the silver in her teeth. It was her house and Dennis just brought himself home one night just like he did me, she said, and she'd taken him in like a stray and they was pretty happy together. They sat in a big stuffed chair, Swaylo on his lap, and we watched TV for a while till Dennis untied her bun and all that long black hair spun down around her shoulders and after he whispered something, they said goodnight and left me there in a hurry. After the lights was out and we was all in bed it sounded like they was damn happy together.

Next morning Dennis poked me in the ribs early and for a few seconds in my waking up I was thinking it was the deskman again looking for his $4.32 and I said "Alright, I'm going," and started getting up looking for my shoes and Dennis laughed at me and said "No need to hurry, partner, I'm just getting us ready to go work" and then I woke on up and was thankful I wasn't going to have to go sleep out on the sidewalk again. We got a cup of coffee and then Swaylo come out with her hair tied back up, filling out that yellow waitress outfit a little more than it was designed for, and she and Dennis smacked gums for a minute till she said "Gotta go or I'll be stuck in Section Five where the old gringas sit for hours and the tips are bad" so we got in the car and Swaylo dropped us a block from my old stomping grounds, the Montague, then she went on to work. "Let's go get us some moola," Dennis said so we went over to stand with the other hopefuls in front of the hotel again and pretty soon the gummers was gone and after a while, we got an offer for concrete work which Dennis didn't like but I talked him into it cause I'd done that down in Houston and knew what to do. "I can show you the ropes today," I said, but he didn't seem real thrilled that I was going to be able to teach him any work. Now concrete work is tough business and at the end of a day, your hands are all scuffed up from the gravel and sand and your arms and face are dried out from the cement dust leaching the sweat off your skin and your back hurts from pulling a screed, but it paid good, thirty five dollars for the day, and at the end of the day, they asked us to come back tomorrow. This time we was too tired to honky-tonk, so we went by the Montague where I paid the cheery deskman the rest of my tab and got my clean clothes back then we headed home where Dennis stood in the shower for so long there wasn't any hot water left and when he finally let me in there, it didn't matter to me cause it felt so good to stand in that cold shower, washing the sweat and concrete off my hide. I had done a hard days work and there was money in my pocket and something else smelling good was coming out of Swaylo's kitchen and it was one of those moments when everything in your life feels right in place.

After a couple more days the concrete work was finished, so me and Dennis decided to take some time off and rest a while and so we got up early one morning before light and headed off to the river to do some fishing. There was a couple of Dennis's pals out there too, with a cooler and beer and wine and we started the day pretty early so that by about ten we was all loaded and hadn't caught nothing and there was beer bottles all over the place and one of the pals had dropped his fishing rod off the pier and was diving down, drunk and coughing, pissing about having just bought the damned thing and bitching cause he couldn't find it. He never did and after we finished off the beer and realized somebody'd knocked the carton of worms off in the river and they was floating off to a holiday in Mexico, we give it up and headed off for lunch. I ended up buying two pizzas for everbody though Dennis bought some beer and when we'd finished off the pizza it was still before noon and there was sure a lot of leisure day left for us. Well one of the other boys got the bright idea that we ought to run over to Ruidoso and watch the ponies run, cause it was just about the end of the season, he said, and you could make a lot of money betting on them and Dennis told us about his winning a hunderd fifty his last time there and since it was only a couple hours drive over there if we hurried we could probly make the first race. So we piled into their car cause Dennis said he didn't want to risk Swaylo's up in the mountains on account of a bad freeze plug and they said if I'd fill up the gas tank for the trip over they'd pay for the gas back, but I sure don't ever remember stopping for no gas on the way back and that thing must have been down to fumes when I filled it up cause it took $26 to do it. Dennis slapped me on the back and said "we'll win it back for you bucko, and even if we don't there's lots more concrete out there just waiting to be poured. Let's live a little today." His pals bought some more beer and we took off for the race track with every intention of winning our fortunes and all the way over I listened to them talk about which horses to bet on and how much money they'd made and how many good looking women there was that latched onto winners, and they sounded so good and knowed so much about what they was doing that by the time we got there I was ready to go get some easy stuff but I guess I was so full of suds that I seem to have left my brains in the backseat of the car, as usual.

Well we did make the first race, but just barely, and we run up to the window to get down our bets but since we hadn't had no time to study the sheets, we just all picked a different horse to show and ten dollars seemed like a good bet. Mine was a nineteen to one mare and she worked hard at being twenty to one right away and I was thinking maybe ten dollars was a little steep to have put down till I got to know the game a little better. Dennis's horse placed and he won sixteen dollars and one of the other guys horse won and he got about nineteen dollars and it looked like it was just their day to win and mine to buy the beer. By then I only had about fifty bucks left, so for the next five races I put down five dollars on each one but I was beginning to learn picking the right horseflesh was a lot like picking women. Just because they was silky and lean didn't mean they'd end up at the winner's circle, and more than likely they'd just take all your money and you'd cry about it. By the time the seventh come along I had twenty dollars left in my pocket as my glorious fortune, along with two more beers and three hotdogs in my gut. Dennis had won a couple more shows and his pals had picked up a winner or two apiece but they'd bet most all of it right back on the next race and I was the only one left without no win. "Come on, big boy," Dennis said, dragging me back to that window with him. "It's the last one. Your luck's bound to change now." Yeah, one of the Pals said, You Can't Go Oh For Seven In New Mexico, It Ain't Allowed so I went to the window with them and that's when somebody got a bright idea. "We bet on all of them," somebody thought up. "One of us'll win for sure and then we got our money back and maybe even a little ahead." So we stood around the betting window and yammered for a few minutes over who was going to bet on what horse and since there was eight of them running and there was four of us, Dennis said let's just pick two apiece and he said "I'll take Miranda's Pride and Tractor Trailer" and then the other boys popped up and picked their horses and that left me two, Flasher and Carolina's Jasmine, and then I noticed they'd left me with the two with the biggest odds and I didn't say nothing cause what they didn't realize was that since we was dividing up the eight horses evenly, I'd have just as much chance of winning as they did but since mine had the higher payoff odds I'd sure make a lot more money if mine won but they was all so tanked that I figured they'd never spot that and so I kept quiet and kissed my good luck. I put up $10 to Win on each one which at the time I didn't think about but it sure didn't leave me money for tomorrow's cup of coffee again and then we made it back to the track after the longest pee stop I think I've ever taken and sat right down by the rail for the last one since most everbody who'd been down there had already left.

Well them ponies leaped up out of that gate like they all had dates after this run and they tore off past us in a thunder that you couldn't hear way back up in the clubhouse where we'd been watching the other races, but soon they was out of sight and we could just see a brown storm speckled with jockey's colors moving around the track like a dust devil. The announcer was calling out the race and I heard Flasher out front for a while and I thought maybe I was going to get a little money and then I heard Flasher falling back and Rio Mama coming up on the inside so that meant it was over for me already and then Charlatan challenging off the outside and then Miranda's Pride pulling up to the front and Dennis was just about going wild hooting and hollering and yelling Come On You Bitch and them other two boys was looking sad and when the storm come round the last turn and headed back our way it was Miranda's Pride that was pulling away from Rio Mama and Dennis and the other boy who had picked Rio Mama was both hollering, so down the stretch it was Miranda's Pride and Rio Mama, Miranda's Pride and Rio Mama but then all of a sudden it was Carolina's Jasmine coming up on the outside and Dennis was jumping up on the fence yelling COME ON YOU BITCH and I jumped up on the fence right beside him and yelled COME ON YOU BITCH and as they roared right by there in front of us I couldn't hardly believe it when the announcer said Carolina's Jasmine by a nose.

Well we just about peed our pants right then and there and they was slapping me on the back and looking up at that tote board waiting for the official results to come in and they kept being my best friends for a couple minutes till it finally posted, Carolina's Jasmine to win at 74 to 1 which I thought at first meant I was going to win seventy-four dollars which would have got me even on the day and made me feel rich again, but Dennis said, "Uh-uh, me amigo, you put up ten bucks so that's seven hunderd and forty smackers you won us. We gonna party tonight!" and we headed off up to the window to pick up my fortune. While we was standing in line they kept up the whooping, saying Party Time, Man We're Gonna Have Us Some Time, but it was my money I'd just won and I wasn't planning on my new best friends blowing it for me, I could do that all by myself. So I collected my cash and when that fellow counted out all them twenties I just watched him lay them all down ever one like he was dealing a deck of aces till he said "Seven hunderd forty congratulations come again next" and they even give me a little envelope from the track to hold all that green in and I was then and there truly a rich man.

Well we just had to have one more round apiece on my good fortune so Dennis ordered us all a Crown Royal double and we sat back out on the clubhouse level watching the sun rest behind the mountains and toasted our good luck. When we got finished with the last drops of bourbon and New Mexico sun, we got in the car and before we even got out of the parking lot, Dennis was gone in the corner, head back on the seat, mouth open, snoring like he was in Swaylo's arms. All the way back he bobbed up and down, rolling over toward me on an inside curve and rolling away like a bowling pin on the outside, and though I closed my eyes and curled against the door, I couldn't go to sleep one bit thinking about the fortune I'd made and how this really had been the easy money they said it was, and I was thinking about coming back again the next week, but mostly I was thinking of how I could maybe go back to Dallas now and hold my head up a little higher and get everthing straight.

When we got back to Albuquerque, the old pals dropped us off at our car. "You sure you don't want to go down to Parley View's and look at necked women?" they asked, but I said I didn't believe so, no. Not that looking at necked women wasn't one of my favorite past times, but the past time that always goes with it is spending all my money and this was one night I made myself remember I wasn't going to do that. As they left they was starting to think up stories to tell their old ladies about where they'd been and why they was coming home without a day's pay from somewhere so me and Dennis climbed into Swaylo's car and didn't worry about that. We drove on home and got there just about when Swaylo come in and Dennis told her all about our day at the races right off, but he didn't say nothing about me winning big, just said we'd won enough to cover our beer money and Swaylo seemed to buy it and started cooking us some dinner, but I was so dead I laid down on the couch and went to sleep with a vision of Carolina's Jasmine crossing that line and the next thing I knowed I was waking up in the dark and I guess I must of missed dinner but I still had that warm lump inside my shirt where all them twenties lay there waiting.

Couple days later they called us for some more concrete work and though Dennis wanted to be a man of leisure again for a while, Swaylo convinced him that everthing in her house had a price of some kind and so he agreed to go with me. By the end of the week I'd paid Swaylo a little money for food but I was still holding onto about five hunderd bucks in my envelope and I got to thinking maybe it was time to head back East and get back on the right track instead of trotting off to Ruidoso again and tossing all my money back out onto that other track. Me and Dennis sat outside that evening drinking beers and looking at the sky and talking about planets and stars and constellations and things so far away we couldn't see them. "When I get back to 'Wells," Dennis said, rocking in his chair and looking lazy at the night, "I'm going to open me up that motorcycle shop. I can fix most any bike that comes in the door and all I need is a stake to get me started. Just a few bucks to get going," and the creak of his old chair's legs as he tilted it back and forward was the only sound between us for a while. "Did you ever think about doing something like that?" he asked. "Maybe you and me could be partners." Now that was a thought. I'd never owned a motorcycle in my life and hadn't even rode one but once or twice, but the thought of being partners and having a shop where we could fix things and make things right was a good thought. "How much you figure it would take to be able to do it?" I asked. "Not much, I don't think," he said. "Maybe three four hunderd dollars to buy some tools and we'd be on our way." So I thought about it some more and we heard crickets from the lawn and a chilly breeze of mountain winter coming our way and we sipped cold beers in the dark. "It wouldn't take much and we could be real partners," he explained. "All's we'd need is to find some old garage where they'd let us pay the rent a little bit at a time and hang out a shingle and we'd be in business." He spread his hands up in the air like he was seeing the sign already up there in lights. "It'd be Worzak and. . .and. . . " and he looked at me lost, and I knew what he didn't know so I told him and he went back to hanging the sign, "it'd be Worzak and Tieray Motorcycle Company. We could have business cards and go to bars and places and give 'em our card and when they needed work, they'd come see us. Maybe we'd have free beer in the back so they could rest while they waited and we'd have big-tit chicks to hand out the beers, just like them biker bars do, and after a while we'd be doing so good we'd hire ourselves a couple of greasers to fix the bikes and we'd just sit back and be men of leisure. It'd be easy to get there, all's we'd need is a stake" and I thought about it some more and wondered if being a motorcycle mechanic was the life I was looking for. We talked a lot more that night and sipped beers as cars went by out on the highway and hearing a truck now and then whining in high gear coming down the canyon made me think of getting back out there on that strip of concrete and going home. I liked Albuquerque, but it wasn't my town, and there's something about being in your own place that seems a lot better when you're sitting in the night in the place you thought was going to be better than the last place you was in. "Hell, Dennis," I said. "I got the money. Let's go be motorcycle mechanics," and then he slapped me on the back just like when I'd won at the racetrack and said Oh Man We're On Our Way, then he snuck in the house and got down the bottle of tequila Swaylo kept for herself and poured us each a glass and brought it back out. "Here, partner, let's toast the future," and I tapped my glass on his and tried hard to think about what it would be like to have a decent future.

Well two days later Swaylo went off to spend a weekend with her sister in Socorro and that was when Dennis come to me and said "Okay partner I made a couple calls and an old bud of mine's got a place in 'Wells that he'll let us have with no rent for a couple months till we get going. Only thing is, we need to be there tomorrow to move into it before somebody else does, so what say we head for Texas tonight?" and I thought that was just about the warmest words I'd heard said since I got down out of Big Salami's rig. "Let's do it Partner," I said, "but what about Swaylo, she ain't supposed to come back till tomorrow night?" and he said not to worry about it, that he'd called her sister's house and talked to her and told her what we was doing and she said it was alright, to go on and she'd come join us in a week or two after she quit her job, so then and there we started packing up her car. "Swaylo wants us to take this stuff," he said as we put the tv and stereo and microwave and a couple other things in the car. "She's afraid to leave this stuff behind when she comes to 'Wells and wants us to make sure it don't get lost," and pretty soon we had the car loaded up and then Dennis said we ought to take a little nap so we could start out late and drive all night, so we pitched out to go to sleep but I just couldn't sleep at all, thinking about strutting down Harry Hines Boulevard in Dallas with green in my pocket and pump in my stride and I laid there restless on the couch and tossed and turned and finally bumped enough things around in the living room that Dennis got up and said, "Hell, buckwheat, ain't neither one of us getting no sleep so we might as well head to Big D." So it was about midnight when we got in the car, taking a couple cups of coffee from Swaylo's kitchen and her bottle of tequila and a bag of potato chips and we headed out into the night, rolling east. The wind was starting to blow steady and cold from the first winter storm just coming down off the Rockies like it was there to help us be on our way, to blow us right out of Albuquerque and on to Dallas. There's something I always liked about traveling at night, something about the shelter of darkness on a long road where the flash of faces in the cars and trucks and buses pass you by in a blur. There's truck stops with noise, and there's side roads with quiet places to see stars you never see in the city, and there's cars you peer into as they pass, men driving strong and tall while women sit near for company and kids sleep full in the back seat, all warm and safe in their shelter, running down highways that never end, never stop moving. I like the night, and while Dennis drove, I lay back and looked out the window at the shapes of the hills we were leaving, and at the moon peeking around the clouds and I wondered who in Dallas right then might be looking up at the moon and starting out a drive West, aiming for a new start like I did. Me and somebody else was looking at that same ball, one going west, one going home, neither really knowing what was ahead.

Well I finally dozed off like I usually do when somebody else is driving, and I woke up when Dennis was pulling the car off at a rest stop. "Gotta take a dump," he said, and he navigated around the eighteen wheelers and pulled us into a handicap parking space and I said, "I don't think we're supposed to park here, this is for people in wheelchairs," and Dennis said "Well there ain't nobody using it right now, is there? It's alright, we won't be here long." After we stopped, he looked around at the cars and people in the dark and shook his head and said, "Mmmmm, I don't know about this place with all the stuff we got in the car. You better wait here and I'll go first," and then he got out and went up to the can and I started to doze again and was getting cold till he got back and put the key back in the ignition and got the heater going again. "You better go good, partner, cause once we get on the road, I ain't stopping till we see Texas," so I got my coat out the back of the seat and started to get out. "Hold on a second, partner," he said, grabbing my sleeve, "you carrying your money with you?" I said I was and he said "these kind of places can get pretty mean. Maybe you ought to leave it in the car, just in case. Wouldn't want you to get rolled out there and lose everthing we got." Well I thought about that and though I hadn't never had no trouble at rest places I figured maybe he was right. It wouldn't take too much for two three guys to jump me in the can and if they found five hunderd dollars on me, I'd be hog meal. "What should I do with it?" I asked him. "Just leave it in the glove box. I'll lock it up so nobody could get to it even if somebody jumps me while you're gone," so I put my Ruidoso Downs envelope with our motorcycle shop in it in the glove box and he locked it and sat back and nodded to me, "it's safe now, you go on and hurry up. Longer you take to pee, longer we take to get to Texas," so I went down to the toilet, but I was lucky cause there wasn't nobody around there no how, and it didn't seem like there was many people in that place but truck drivers and quiet people heading somewhere's with cars full of clothes and boxes and bicycles and kids, all headed some place in the middle of the night, and they didn't seem to even notice me and I figured I'd of been okay with my money in my pocket after all.

Well when I walked back down to the car I didn't see it nowhere and I figured somebody made him move it from the handicap spot so I walked all around that rest stop three times, looking at ever car, behind ever truck and off in the dark corners where people was trying to sleep and that car had just vanished off into the night along with my sack of clothes.

And along with my five hunderd dollars.

What I had in my pocket consisted of a half pack of cigarettes and a lighter and forty bucks left from the last day of concrete work and thank god I had my jacket on cause it was already getting cold standing out there wondering where Dennis had gone and what exactly I was going to do next. The stars was bright, so I lit a cigarette and watched cars and trucks come and go, people shivering in the cold air as they ran to the toilets and ran back to their cars to jump in and feel the warmth of the engine, and one by one they came in and one by one they left and one by one I finished off my cigarettes and waited for the sun to rise. That's when I saw the most beautiful sight, a bright orange sun climbing up over the peaks and streaming light through clean desert air, and that's when I did a lot of thinking. The more I thought about it and the more I pondered on everthing Dennis had said and done in the last couple days, the more I could see how the I should of heard the guard dogs barking at me from the time we left the racetrack, but I guess I was just so happy that the sun had shined on me for once in my life that I didn't hear them yapping till it was too late. But, I was leaving New Mexico with what I come with at least, and I'd had some work and some good food and a place to sleep and met some good people and there wasn't much I could do about Dennis, so I did what I usually did when times was low. I waited for the kindness of a soul who cared, and pretty soon I met a weary old trucker stopping for a break and when I struck up a conversation with him I told what had happened to me and he offered me a cigarette which was good cause it was my last one that had tasted so fine when that sun was coming up. Then he said to me, "Come on with me, son, it's warm up in that cab and it's a long road to go alone," so I got up in his truck with the sign on the door that said "Jesus Is My Passenger" and pushed the seat back and got warm again. He was headed for Houston and he wanted to talk about the miles the Lord had ridden with him and I didn't have no argument right then for any reason why he might not be right, and since I figured there wasn't much I really needed to go back to Dallas for anyway, I slept through the plains and the farms and the fields and most all the Lord's miles, and when I woke up there was a Houston radio station playing and I had money in my pocket and a coat on my back and the future looked as good as ever.