About Me

I feel the wanderlust and the call of the open highway. Which is good, because I drive cars for a living. But I'm a writer, and someday hope to once again make my living using my writing skills.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Rushed To The Hospital

Driving for seven years with little exercise and a bad diet was bound to catch up with me. Sitting on my butt all day in a car, 14 hours at a time. Plus eating a steady diet of double cheeseburgers from many a drive-thru, and consuming mass quantities of diet cola for the caffeine content to get me down the road awake and alert. Lately, my stomach had been hurting me badly.

Then a few weeks ago, I had just delivered a car to Clearwater, FL. I was staying for a few days with my old friend Pastor Rex Porter, who I had not seen in many years. When he found me on the bathroom floor in the middle of the night doubled up in pain, he insisted on rushing me to the nearest hospital. The ER doctor said that I was in bad shape, and needed to be checked in so they could run a series of tests on me. I was very scared, and didn't know what to expect.

Over the next few days, I was poked and prodded, and samples of pretty much everything I have in me were taken to be tested. Oh what joy, what bliss. I got restless quickly, as I am not used to staying still. And they were pumping several IV solutions into me, including antibiotics, antibolic steroids, and sugar water. I was not allowed to eat anything, and that got frustrating after day two.

My roommate was an elderly gent who was still reliving WWII from his bed. I'd hear him yell out in the middle of the night, "We're taking the beach, boys! Normandie is just in sight. Buck up, fall in line, follow me!" In between these proclamations he would make all sorts of odd and sometimes unsettling noises. He never quite mastered pushing the Nurses' call button, because when he needed them he'd shout repeatedly, "Help. Help. Help..." I learned to press my own Nurses' call button right away, so they would come and I could direct them to his side of the curtain.

As miserable as I was being there, they did relieve my pain with morphene every four hours. I've never had that particular drug before, and I must say it was a very unique sensation. I felt a wave of warmth surge from the top of my head to the bottom of my toes, and suddenly the pain drifted away. I would not want to get used to this feeling, I can see how it would be addictive. But the nurses and staff were extremely competent and obviously had my best will at heart.

There was one nurse in particular named Randi. She worked through the night, and she made me feel all warm and googley inside. I'd tell her stories of my life on the road. She was 23 and just starting out, but she had a wonderful bedside manner, combined with a sultry voice which she used often to call me "darlin'," and she sort of stole my heart. She could tell I was nervous and did everything she could to comfort me and make me feel special.

One night I was awakened from a deep sleep by a woman screaming bloody murder down the hall from me. I was startled as I sat up, and wondered if she was being beaten to death. Then she began yelling "No, no, no, no!" I was curious, and also needed to stretch my legs, so I decided to take a walk. I got up slowly and grabbed the rolling stand with all the IV bags that were attached to me, then headed down the hall. I guess my hospital gown had come unbuttoned a bit while I was in bed, but I was too doped up and drowsy to notice. I walked by and looked into the room where all the noise was coming from, and saw this odd woman standing on the bed. She reminded me so much of that woman in the bathtub that Jack Nicholson is frightened by in the movie THE SHINING. She yelled at me, "You need to put some clothes on, what's the meaning of you walking down the middle of the street at noon time wearing just a nightgown. Shame on you!"

I felt a hand on my shoulder from behind, and I jumped. It was Randi, and she said, "Easy, darlin'. Don't you pay her no mind, it's all good."

"What time is it, she said noon."

"It's midnight, and don't pay any attention to her. Besides, I think your gown looks cute, but you're coming apart. Let me fix that for you." Randi gently snapped the gown back together and tied it in the back. She leaned in and whispered, "Nice tush," and at that point I knew she was just trying to be nice. "You need anything else, darlin'?"

"Well, I am having a little trouble sleeping. Think you could come and read me a bedtime story?" She just laughed and walked me back to my room.

The next morning, the Doctor dropped in to tell me that I was stabilized and they were sending me home. But that I needed to rest for a week, and also to stay on a strict diet and exercise program daily so this would not happen again. It was a gastro-intestinal problem, and trust me, you don't want to know this kind of pain. Neither do I, ever again, so I intended to follow the Doctor's orders to the letter.

As I was getting dressed in preparation of my departure, the old gent in the bed next to me started shouting, "Yellow corn is not meant for eating, its only meant to be used to make bread." He repeated this same statement loudly over a dozen times. And then very suddenly, he shouted, "OK men, parachutes all in place. Get ready, we're right over the target. Jump, jump, jump!" It was time to check out, and I was ready to go.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Carrying A Torch For Karen

Six months ago, I was excited as I drove to deliver a Pontiac to Indianapolis. Because waiting for me there was none other than Karen Robbins, the first love of my life. First girl I ever held hands with, first girl I ever kissed, first girl I ever... well, anyway, I've never fallen out of love with her. And even though I hadn't seen her in 16 years, she still held the key to my heart. I had stayed in touch, and knew she was running a successful Cafe in downtown Indy with a partner.
As I got closer, visions of a lovers reunion danced in my head.

I pulled up to her house late in the afternoon. As I walked up to the front door, my eyes were covered by a pair of hands that crept up from behind. "Guess who?" I heard a familiar voice say. I spun around and hugged Karen, who was still slender and had remained remarkably youthful. Her hair was still shiny blond, and her smile was pure sunshine.

"Hey there, sweet gal. I didn't hear you come up behind me, you are stealthy."

"Yeah, I'm a sneaky little SOB. Boy, its sure is good to see you." She brushed her hand against my cheek. "You made good time if you drove from Virginia today."

"I knew you were waiting on this end, so I was inspired to break the speed limit."

"I've always been your inspiration."

"Yes you have."

"So, you want to come inside, or just stand here in the yard all night?"

"I vote for inside." We walked in and a Golden Retriever came rushing up to meet us. I fell to my knees and began petting her. "Who is this?"

"Bill, meet Lily. Lily, this is Bill. You still love dogs, don't you?"

I nuzzled Lily and said, "Yep, and I always will."

"You want a beer?"

"You bet." I followed her into the kitchen and we both opened a beer. I held mine high and said, "Here's to the most beautiful girl that I ever fell in love with."

We clinked our bottles together, and she laughed. "You're just as corny as ever."

"Yes I am. Wait... did you say corny? I thought you said horny."

"You bastard!" She punched me playfully in the arm. "How was the drive?"

"Mildly boring. How was your day?"

She yawned and set her beer down. "Rough and tough. My partner Cheryl is out of town, so I had to run things alone."

"How's business at the Cafe?"

"I'll open another brew and tell you all about it. Ready for another?"

I gulped down the rest of my beer and belched. "Now I am."

"You are still a nut." We adjourned to the Den, and kept on drinking as we strolled down memory lane together. We talked about our first kiss, where I was scared to death and she finally had to grab me and plant one on my lips just to save time. And the field trip we took to the State Capitol in High school when I tried to make a U-turn on the highway going 55mph and ended up doing a 180. She remembered nearly peeing her pants. And she asked about my Mom, so I told her about the accident and the pain I felt after the funeral over unresolved issues.

After a few hours and a lot of beers, we were both feeling buzzed. I laughed and said, "Do you remember the gift you gave me on my 20th birthday?"

"You mean when I drove 300 miles to steal your virginity?"

"That's the one."

"I rocked your world. Admit it, go ahead, admit it."

"You did, I admit it freely. Can I... would you mind if I asked you
for some insight?"

"Step into my office, lay down. Don't worry, I haven't lost a patient yet."

I laid down across the couch I was sitting on. "OK, Dr. Karen, I feel alone all
the time and need somebody to hold and to love."

"If you want to be showered with love and told how wonderful you are, forget it."

"But I--"

"Shut up, I'm analyzing. You care about people, often too much for your own
good. You try to help people, but often get taken advantage of. And somehow,
nutty folks and crazy situations always seem to find you. I read your Blogs,
I know what I'm talking about here." She got up and walked over to me, sat down on my lap and kissed my forehead. "You're a good soul, Bill." She cradled my face in her hands. "I'm just glad you're here. I wish Cheryl were here, she wanted to meet you."

"Cheryl, that's your partner at the Cafe, right?"

"Right, and my roommate and my lover."

"Oh... Oh! So... now wait, are you saying--"

"I'm gay, Bill."

I was completely flustered. "Oh, yeah, well sure you are. I mean... How's that working out for you?"

"Well, I like it fine, and Cheryl seems to dig it, too."

"I'm sure, of course, I mean why wouldn't she?"

"Are you OK, Bill?"

"Fine, fine, just great. No problem at all."

"What's bothering you?"

"We had sex. It was the best I've ever had."

"I was there, I remember."

"So, did I somehow turn you gay?"

She burst out with laughter. "Honey, it's not always about you. When we were
together, I was in love with you. You were my first and only man. And it was
very special to me."

"Me too. How did I not know this, I feel so stupid."

"How come?"

"I've been thinking about you all these years, then I come here and
fall in love with you all over again. And you're taken."

"I still love you very much. I just took a different path."

"I guess I hoped we'd have the chance to reunite someday."

"We have, right here, tonight. Just not under the sheets. Is that
what you were hoping for?" she asked with a smile.

"No," I answered, a bit embarrassed.

She began poking me playfully. "Is that what you wanted? To wrestle under the
sheets with me?"

"No... Maybe."

She giggled and shook her head. "You're still the same sweet guy I fell for all those years ago. Come on, time for bed." She took me to the guest room, then kissed me on the cheek and said she would see me in the morning.

I laid in bed for an hour, unable to go to sleep. My mind was busy processing all of this new and unexpected information. My heart was tugging at me, because all of my feelings for Karen had resurfaced, and yet... I couldn't help feeling alone, it had been over five years since I had felt the touch of a woman. Sex is great, but I would settle for just someone to hold.

In the darkened room, I heard something moving towards me. "Hello? Is someone there?"

"No," answered Karen.

"OK, Mysterious Voice, I just thought I heard a noise."

"Pay no attention, I'm just sleepwalking." She climbed onto the bed beside me. "Pay no attention at all. This is just a dream. We can cuddle, but no hanky panky. When you wake up tomorrow, you'll forget all about this, like it never happened." I put my arms around her and held her close to me, and was filled with a warm feeling of love and security like I hadn't felt in forever. It was wonderful.

The next day, I seemed to have a vague memory of it all as I drove the Pontiac to deliver it. With a huge grin on my face,I suddenly found myself bursting into song. "Zip a dee doo dah, zip a dee a, my oh my, my ex-girlfriend is gay!"

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Andy The Paranoid Driver

A few weeks back, I was in Charlotte, NC after dropping a car off and was trying to plan my next move. My boss Riff called my cell phone to tell me that he had a car for me to pick up in Columbia, SC. "You'll get a Dodge Caravan and drive it to Ogden, Utah. Think you can handle that, precious?"

"Yes, Riff. Do I have to take the Greyhound to Columbia?" If I haven't mentioned it before, I really hate riding Greyhound. Lots of bad experiences.

"No, you delicate little marshmallow. Another one of my drivers is passing through Charlotte on his way to Savannah. He said he'd pick you up and give you a ride."

"That's great, thanks."

"Don't gush over it, jeez! His name is Andy, and he is a real man. You could learn a thing or two from him. I gave him your cell phone number, so he should be getting in touch with you soon. Don't mess this one up." Riff abruptly hung up.

Five minutes later, my cell phone rang again. "This is Bill."

The voice on the other end of the phone asked "Who is this?"


"Bill who?"

"Bill Thomas."

"Am I supposed to know you? Why are you calling me?"

"Is this Andy?"

"What? What did you call me? How in the hell did you know
my name. This is too weird."

"Riff told me that you were going to call me."

"Did I call you? What did you say your name was?"


"Tell me where you are so I can pick you up, I'm in a
damn hurry." So I gave him the address at the Cafe where
I was sitting, and he said he'd be there soon.

Ten minutes went by, and my cell phone rang again. "This is Bill."

"Who am I speaking to?" asked Andy.

"Andy, it's me, Bill. Are you here yet?"

"Where is here?"

"The Cafe."

"That's really odd, because I just parked in front of a
little Cafe. How did you know that?"

I grabbed my bag and walked outside. Andy was sitting in a
white cargo van, and I climbed in. My nasal passages were assaulted
by the stench of powerful B.O., and I could see that Andy and his
clothes were filthy. "Hi, I'm Bill Thomas." I reached out my hand
to shake.

"Get in, get in, we gotta go." He was looking all around him
nervously. As soon as I closed the door, he stepped hard on the
gas and we were flying down the road. "What's your name?"

"Bill Thomas, nice to meet you."

"OK, OK, fair enough. I guess I can give you a ride down
to Columbia. But listen close, this is my van and it's my
rules. You step out of line, you say one thing I don't like, and
I will kick your ass right out on the side of the highway. Are
we clear?"

"You bet."

"Bet? Well, I gamble occasionally, but that is a personal
matter and I don't want to discuss it. You know what your
problem is, Bill?"

"What's that?"

"You're a pussy. You probably let Riff push you around and
tell you what to do. Dammit, you gotta stand up to the man.
You need to go into his office, slam your fist down on the desk,
and tell him that he better give you all the best runs, or else."

"Or else what?"

"See there, you just made my point."

"I've never been to Riff's office."

"Liar! You are a damn liar. I hate liars."

"No, seriously. Never been to the office, never met
Riff. To me, he is just a voice on the phone."

"You know what, Bill? I think you are just stupid
enough that I can believe what you're saying is true.
Wait, what was that?" Andy's head jerked around as he
looked up and down, side to side for some unseen object.
"Did you hear that?"

"I don't think so."

"You need to be alert when you drive. That is why I
take pills all day long." Andy pulled a prescription bottle
out of his pocket and poured several pills into his mouth.
"Better than vitamins, and they will keep you going, and I
don't mean maybe. Do you follow me so far, Bill?"


"Let me ask you something... do you shower and change
clothes everyday?"

"Yes, of course."

"I knew it! I could tell you were one of those kind of
people. Big mistake, you are losing money. Me, I wear the
same clothes for a week at a time, and shower once every
other week."


"Don't you doubt me and don't you judge! Damn you! I sleep,
eat and pee in the vehicle I'm driving, and it keeps me
moving down the road. Unlike you. You know what your other
problem is?"

"Tell me."

"You don't demand what you want. You've got to go
into Riff's office and tell him to give you the best
runs. And then kick his dog right in the ribs."


"Riff has a dog in his office, but a dog doesn't
belong in an office, the dog should be at home in the
yard. What the hell, right? Wait, did you just see
that flash of blue?"

"Flash of --"

"Hey! I just realized something. If you demand that
you get all the best runs, you are taking work from me.
That's money out of my pocket. You are taking bread from
my table, and I won't put up with that. We are gonna have
a big problem if you're stealing work from me. How long has
this been going on? Do you love Neil Diamond as much as I do?"
Andy stopped talking and began to hum, quietly entering his
own little world. He didn't speak to me, or even seem to
notice me, until we passed the sign that said COLUMBIA CITY

"We're here," I said cheerfully.

Andy jumped in his seat, very surprised to see me. "Where did
you come from? Who are you?"

"Andy, it's me, Bill."

"Bill? Bill who? What are you up to?" Andy swerved over to
the shoulder of the highway and slammed on the brakes. If my
seat belt weren't fastened, I would have flown through the windshield.
"Get out of my van right now, you son of a bitch."


"Don't make me hurt you. I don't like hitchhikers, especially
not ones who get into your van without being invited. Now hit
the bricks, hippie."

I grabbed my bag and started to climb out, and Andy hit the gas
before both my feet were on the pavement. Now I had to make my
way on foot into the city and find a local bus to get me to my
destination. It had been an interesting ride.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


I was driving a beautiful brand new pickup truck through the Texas hill country one year ago to the day. My cell phone rang, and I heard the familiar voice of Mrs. Sherman, an elderly woman whose car I've driven to Bonita Springs, FL several times.

"Hello Bill, this is Mrs. Sherman."

"Hi, Mrs. Sherman, what can I do for you?"

"I am the lady whose car you drove to Bonita Springs." She's charmingly forgetful.

"Yes, I know."

"You picked me up at the Ft. Myers airport and drove me home.
And then you unpacked my car and brought all of my stuff into my
condo. And then you turned down my tip. Remember?"

"Yes ma'am, I remember you well."

"Bill, I'm sitting here in my home enjoying a hot fudge sundae,
and I suddenly thought of you. Do you like ice cream?"

"Uh, yes I do."

"With hot fudge on top? And nuts and whipped cream?"

"Yes, sounds delicious."

"Oh, oh, and a cherry on top. Mustn't forget the cherry."

"Sounds great, you enjoy it."

"Wait, wait, Bill, I need to ask you a question."

"OK, what's that?"

"Will you please drive my car again? I like you very much."

"Sure, when you need it moved, just call my boss Riff and he
will arrange it."

"But I want you to drive, not another driver."

"No problem -- hey, I gotta go!" I hung up quickly because the car in front of
me suddenly swerved, and I saw something lying in the road. I pulled off onto the grass on the side of this narrow highway and jumped out of the truck. There was a beautiful black lab lying there in the middle of the road, bloody and whimpering. "Hey boy, how ya doing? Oh, man! We need to get you some help." I slowly petted him and let him sniff my hand. "Sorry boy, this may hurt a bit." As gently as I possibly could, I lifted him and carried him to the truck. He whined a bit, but I felt it was worth it to try to save him.

I checked my map and could see that the closest town was thirty miles behind me.
So I turned the truck around and floored it, speeding my way to Llano. It was clear that I had found this dog just short of too late. Who knows how many other cars had just driven past this poor pooch, but I couldn't do that. I truly believe that dog's are in fact man's best friend. The dog licked my arm, and my heart filled with love for him. "Mind if I call you Paulie? You remind me of a Paulie. Don't you worry, we're gonna get you fixed up. Just hang in there." I gently petted his head.

When I got to Llano, I found the only Vet's office in town. Dr. Branson's name was on the sign out front, and I jumped out of the truck and ran to the front door. As I banged on the locked door, I noticed the sign that said, THE FISH ARE BITING AND I'M GONE. Great. Just great. I had a dying dog in my truck, and the only animal Doctor was out of the office. I went to a local market and asked if anyone knew where the Doc might go fishing. The manager gave me directions to Dr. Branson's favorite fishing hole, and I was off.

I went where I had been sent and looked hard. I searched high and low for the Doc, but luck was not with me. My cell phone rang, and my boss Riff began barking at me immediately. "Just where in the hell are you?"

"Busy right now, Riff."

"You'd best be on your way to Van Horn to drop off that truck. It's due there
this afternoon."

"I'm dealing with an emergency right now, but I'll get the truck there as soon as I can."

"What do you mean as soon as you can? Get it there, and it better be clean."

I looked at the blood on the passenger seat, which was now dripping onto the floor. "I have to go, Riff." I hung up the cell phone, and it rang again almost immediately. "This is Bill."

"Hello Bill, this is Mrs. Sherman. I'm eating an ice cream sundae, and I was just thinking of you."

"Sorry Mrs. Sherman, I have to talk to you later." I hung up, and then saw a sign posted in front of a ranch that made my heart leap. LOVE A DOG ADOPTIONS - DOG CARE, DOG EMERGENCIES, FIND A DOG A HOME. I made a U-turn and found my way back to the driveway. Several miles down a bumpy trail I came out of the woods and into a huge clearing where a Warehouse sat. I honked the horn furiously as ten dogs came running out, barking madly. Jenny Forrest came running out, and I opened the passenger door. "Can you help my dog? Please?"

Jenny was all business. "We need to get him inside."

"Let's go." We both carried Paulie inside, and Jenny got to work. I stayed right by Paulie's side, and answered all of Jenny's questions. I told her how I had found Paulie, and my search for Dr. Branson, then how I had stumbled onto her place.

"You didn't stumble onto my place. This was God's work. Fate brought you to my door. We're gonna be friends forever."

And she was right. Paulie is just fine now, and loves to chase tennis balls as often as you will throw them for him. Later that same day, I met Jenny's husband Tom, who is the best mechanic in the state of Texas, and a good man to share a beer or two with. They are good and kind folks, salt of the earth, and they have made me feel like a part of their family. Anytime that I'm passing anywhere near them, I will stop at the ranch. Jenny can have up to 30 dogs at any given time, and she is really good at finding homes for them.

I call her my big sister. She calls me Bill-doggie. We love each other's company, we laugh and talk and share secrets with each other. She is one heck of a cook, and I can always plan on eating good when I'm there. Tom will take me out for rides in his boat on a nearby lake.

Most important, we both love dogs. We agree that you can always count on a dog for unconditional love.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Last month, just before the 4th of July, I was excited to be a few hundred bucks ahead and going home to Birmingham, AL. It had been many months since I'd been back there, and I was feeling really homesick. Even though I lost my home there and my family members moved away, it will always be home in my heart. I knew my old friend Frank would let me stay in his spare bedroom, and I could use a week off to rest.

On my way to deliver a car from Syracuse, NY to Birmingham, I decided to stop off in Columbus, OH and see my old friend Smokey. He's a rock & roll drinking, smoking, always up for a good time fellow.  He's a real character who oddly reminds me a lot of my older brother. When my brother Jack died some years ago, it was very hard on me. We had grown apart, and I wanted to reach out to him but he resisted all my attempts. Sometimes I feel like I have a second chance with Smokey.

I called to tell him I was coming, and Smokey said "You're always coming, because you're always spanking. You spank the monkey more than any human on the face of the earth. Get your ass over here, and bring along some thick steaks ya bastard."

I arrived about 6pm, and when I walked into the house Smokey said, "The bar is open, what did you bring?" He puffed a cigarette and tossed back his long flowing blond hair.

I handed him a bottle of Crown Royal, which I know is his favorite. "Oh my stars" he exclaimed. "You shouldn't have, but I'm glad you did." He immediately made us both a cocktail. "So let me guess, you drove here listening to George Strait all the way."

"I don't only listen to his music."

"Yeah you do, Spanky."

"No, I also like Elton John..."


"...and Billy Joel..."


"...and the Beatles..."

"So lame!"

"... the Rolling Stones."


"Oh, come on, Smokey. The Stones are a classic rock band."

"Hey, I know all about them. Back in the day, I worked as a roadie on one of their tours. They should have kept the music pure, but instead they sold out. Sell outs!"

I reached into the bag and pulled out two thick rib eye steaks. "How do these look for dinner?"

"You dick, you should have told me you had those, they need to go in the fridge."

"I'm pretty hungry, you feel like throwing them on the grill?"

"Yes sir, I'll get to that after I make just one more toddy." And he lit another cigarette and made another drink. I excused myself and went to the bathroom.

As I sat in the bathroom contemplating my day, there was a loud knocking on the door. Smokey shouted out, "Hey, are you spanking in there again?"


"You sure? Geez, you're chronic."

"No, I promise. Just answering nature's call."

"Get finished with your business, I got another drink made for you."

I joined Smokey again in the kitchen, and he started telling me tales of his life on the road, and his days of playing in a popular Ohio band. After an hour, I asked him again about the steaks, and he said, "I plan to get those coals started, after just one more toddy." And one hour and three drinks later, we had the same conversation. Well, I should say three drinks for him, I was still nursing my second drink, which is all I planned to have.

"Did I ever tell you about the time Joey Ramone of The Ramones taught me to skateboard in Greenwich Village?"

"No, I don't know that story," I lied. It was a great story, and I loved to hear Smokey tell it in his gravelly baritone voice.

One hour later I told him I was getting mighty hungry, and he told me that it was just about time to fire up the grill, "but I think I'll have one more toddy first."

I knew I needed a shower after my long day, and excused myself to his bathroom. When I finished and put on fresh clothes, I came out and smelled him smoking "the peace pipe" as he called it. He was puffing like nobody's business, and when I walked in he said, "Want to smoke some pot with me, Spanky?"

"No thanks, buddy."

"But its the good stuff. Rectified gut buster."

"I'll pass this time."

"Come on, you know you want it."

"What I really want is that steak, maybe with a potato on the side."

"You sound like a broken record. I'll get around to it, it's only 10pm."

I stretched out in his reclining chair. "So how's everything else going?"

He let out a long sigh. "Not so good, actually. Um... I lost my job three weeks ago, and things are a little bit lean. I don't mind too much, but its the holiday season, the anniversary of the birth of our nation. You know how I get around the holidays."

"Yes I do."

"I miss my mom a lot."

"I miss mine, too."

"Yeah, but you weren't close with your mom like I was with mine."

"True. My mom wasn't too fond of me, that's for sure. Still, I miss her
since she passed."

"Kinda makes you feel alone sometimes, doesn't it?"

"Yep, it really does. But, life goes on."

"And you go on, rolling down the highway."

"The life of a driving fool."

"You are a driving fool, you sonuvabitch!"

"Indeed I am."

"Bill, I thank you for bringing me the Crown Royal and the steaks.  Things have been tough, and I don't even have enough to pay my power bill this month. They'll cut my power on Monday. But that's my problem, its my cross to bear, it just worries me."

"Believe me, bud, I know how it is. I can barely keep my head above water, but I do my best."

"You're a brave little bastard, Spanky. I'm gonna make you the best steak you've ever eaten tonight, just as soon as I make us one more toddy.  And then I'm gonna tell you all about the new band I'm putting together.  It's named after my favorite movie."  Smokey took another long hit on his pipe and got up to amble into the kitchen. I could see my brother Jack doing the same thing a hundred times before.

We ate at 1am in the morning, and I stayed up talking to Smokey til 3am.  He started watching TV Land and his head began nodding and bobbing, so I went and crashed on the couch. I wanted to get up and get an early start for my drive to Birmingham.

At 6am, I awoke very groggy but splashed some ice cold water onto my water onto my face and drank two cups of coffee. Before I left, I went and slipped a folded note onto Smokey's bedside table. I wrote on it, "I love you, brother" and stuck $100 inside.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


I have been running all over the state of Florida the past two weeks, dropping off cars here and there.

A few days ago, I had an assignment to drive a car to a man in Tampa.
I called him the day before to see what time of morning he'd like me to arrive.

"Early," he told me. "Very, very early. Is that a problem for you, Bill?"

"Oh, no sir. But just how early would you like me."

"7am. Not 7:01, not 7:02, but 7am."

"No problem sir, I can be there at 6:55am."

"Not 6:55, not 6:59, but 7 sharp. Are we clear on that?"

"Very clear, sir."

So, I got up extremely early so that I could drive to the far Northwest
side of Tampa, and got to his neighborhood 5 minutes early. It was a gray
and overcast morning. I parked down the street out of sight, for I didn't
want to arrive one second too early. Or too late for that matter.
When I pulled into the driveway at 7am, he walked out into the yard.
He stopped short, and put his hands on his hips and shook his head
with disgust. "No, no, no."

"Good morning sir, here is your new company car."

"And I'm supposed to live with this? You expect me to just accept this? "

"It's a nice car, I just drove it here from Orlando."

"Says you. Come here, look at this." He pointed out a tiny scratch on
the front bumper, and another one on the rear bumper. "I'm supposed
to drive a car like this?"

"I did note those marks on my condition report."

"I don't give a damn about your condition report. I have to drive a car
around town with nasty scratches on it. How do you think that makes me feel?
What do you suppose people will say?"

I shrugged, unsure what to say.

He pointed into the back seat, where somehow a single small brown leaf
had flown in and rested on the seat. "Look, the seats are filthy. They're
covered with leaves." I picked up the single leaf and tossed it out. "And
how am I supposed to fit my kid's car seats back here, there's so little
leg room?" While I said nothing, what I was thinking was 'your company
does not provide you a car to drive your kids around in.'

Right at this moment, his wife came out to the car. You could say that she had
a bit of an attitude. Or a chip the size of Texas on her shoulder. When she looked into the car, she said to her husband
"This is totally unacceptable, tell the boy to take it back."

"What's wrong, ma'am?" I asked.

"I was speaking to my husband, not to you. But since you ask, this has a single CD player in it. We prefer a 6-loader."

I had visions of a recent encounter with a woman named Nora, and only hoped that this
woman wouldn't produce a baseball bat. "I'm sorry sir, but this is the car your company gave me to bring to you."

The man shook his head. "And you just do as you're told. How do you look yourself in the mirror each day? You ought to be ashamed of yourself, treating decent people this way."

"Do you want the car?" I asked.

He reluctantly signed for it, just as raindrops began to fall. I grabbed my bag, and he asked me, "How are you getting out of here?"

"I'm catching a bus at the corner of Linebaugh and Montezuma."

The rain began to fall hard. "That's a mile and a half away from here. I'd start running if I were you."

By the time I got to the bus stop, I was soaking wet. But the rain sort of washed away the bad taste this ungrateful man left in my mouth.