A few days ago I was up at a gas station on Broadway chatting up the clerks. “Chatting up” is a British idiom, but it describes well what I do.
It was 5:00 AM and the morning rush hadn’t started yet. I got to talking with a man about my age (56) out in front of the station door. He was loud, voluble, and profane. He was a car buff and wanted to tell me all about his antiquated Honda, which was parked nearby.
“Why’d they ever quit making this model, that’s what I want to know! It runs like a top and gets forty miles per gallon! I love this fuckin’ car!”
The Honda had a raked rear window, sort of like an old Plymouth Barracuda. I don’t really care about cars and I’m unable or unwilling to distinguish between car models, but the guy seemed to need someone to talk to. There I was.
I said, “I think I’ll amble on towards home. My place is just six blocks from here.”
“No, no! I’ll fuckin’ run you home! I have another one of these Hondas I’d like to show you! We could swing by some of my rental property too!”
At this point Lizzie, the salty and experienced clerk in the station, came to the door and said, “Are you guys fighting?”
I said, “No, no, Monty’s just kinda loud.”
“Well, all that cursing right in front of the door…”
Monty opened the passenger door of the car and with a sweep of his arm cleared junk and debris from the passenger seat.
“Damn — I need to clean this thing out!”
I was a bit dubious about driving off with this manic character I’d just met, but I thought, “Oh, what the hell, I’ll go with him.”
For the next hour this man drove me around the North Side of Quincy:
“Oh, look at this house! My last tenants were deadbeats and I had to have them evicted. The place was a mess after they left.”
Many variations on that theme followed.
We ended up at his house. Monty ushered me into his cluttered garage so that I could see his beloved Suzuki 750 cc motorcycle.
“It’s old but it rides like a dream!”
I began to wonder if I’d ever get home. Monty didn’t seem drunk, but perhaps he was on some stimulant drug? I thought, “What if he’s a psychopath and ends up shooting me and hacking my body to bits, then distributing the pieces into various dumpsters around town?”
I have a vivid imagination, which can be a curse sometimes.
Later we were regarding another of his low-rent rental properties when a pained scowl passed fleetingly over his face.
“God, my gut is killin’ me!”
He got out of the car and vomited repeatedly. I hate being around people who are vomiting — but then I hate the process when it happens to me! Was Monty a heroin user, perhaps? Heroin users I’ve known are prone to vomiting unexpectedly; I’d always have a wastebasket handy if one of them stopped by for a visit when I lived in Hannibal. It’s a druggy town. “White Town Drowsing” indeed.
Monty said, “I had some tacos earlier and they didn’t agree with me.”
Finally Monty took me home — I was ready. For all of his quirks I did like the guy. I wouldn’t have gotten into his car if my initial judgment of him had set off alarm bells. Do I even have alarm bells any more? I hope so!
The next day I described the experience to Lizzie and Bonnie, the clerks on duty. I asked Lizzie:
“Do you think he was on heroin?”
“Naw — I know Monty. I think he might have an ulcer or somethin’ like that.”
Beautiful young Bonnie’s eyes were wide.
“I’d never get into a car with a strange man!”
“Damn, Bonnie, you’re a pretty young woman! You shouldn’t! I’m a man and I can hold my own. After all, it was very unlikely that he would try to rape me!”
I still have a lottery ticket Monty gave me. It has his name, address, and phone number scrawled across the scratcher area.
Monty told me, “Call me any time!”
I think the guy needs a new friend. Do I?