As truck owners and hookers will say, you never know how many friends you have until it gets around that you’ll share your bed.
A quarter after midnight.
I never questioned as he lifted a tool kit into the back of the truck. I was more amazed that anyone with a prosthetic leg could balance enough to hoist tools.
I was young.
It was my first time.
He asked that I drive him to 31st and Powell to get some “plumbing parts.” We arrived to find no plumbing store, no hardware store, no store of any type. That’s when he asked if I could help him lift a shower stall into the truck.
“Grab that,” he said, pointing towards the toolbox. He lead, I followed, down the street to a construction site where they were building the new Huntington Holiday Inn. Taking a pair of tin snips from the toolbox, he cut away four metal bands holding the sides of a wooden crate together. He then pried some nails from the crate with a hammer. One side fell open, and in the moonlight was revealed a brand new shower stall. “A buddy of mine works for Holiday Inn,” he said. “We made a deal.”
He was a short, heavyset man in his mid-forties who had a red face, a constant coating of sweat and often wore the look of a dog just returned from picking apart someone’s garbage. Completely different from anyone I had ever met, specifically people I rented from, he never seemed to be concerned when I explained how his payment would be late by a few days, never seemed interested in hearing my sad story of how I came to be broke or seemed offended at my lack of funds. I thought at first this was a reaction to being disabled – maybe the leg lack made him more forgiving of others’ inadequacies. Soon I realized that I was shown rental pity for an entirely different reason.
I owned a truck.
In actuality, the bank owned the truck. If, on the first of the month, I could not come up with 125 dollars a month for rent, it was usually because I had already given it to the bank to pay for one more month with the truck. There were months when it was a toss up – after all, I could, if forced, sleep in the truck, but I could not, conversely, drive the apartment. Thanks to the fat man letting me slide until the fifteenth a time or two that decision never happened.
In return for the courtesy, he expected the occasional favor, like, oh, “picking up some plumbing parts.”
I learned three valuable lessons that night. One – single-legged people aren’t much good when it comes to lifting shower stalls onto truck beds. Two – people who become your friends soon after you buy a truck are not real friends, they’re just truck friends. Three – I would not have to pay rent for a while.
I passed him in the hall a few days later. “Hey, man,” he said. “About that late rent? I’ll let you slide ‘til next month.” As I closed my apartment door, he was still talking.
He was asking if I was busy that weekend.
He needed to use the truck.
Two months later I moved.