He was tired. More tired than he’d ever been his whole life. He couldn’t remember how old he was - somewhere in his late fifties he thought. - but he was pretty sure he’d never tried so hard to do something that made him this tired. It was the sickness, he guessed. Wearily he sat down by the side of the road. In his mind, he was sitting down to die.
That thought made him laugh, only it was more of a hoarse chuckle that quickly turned into a spasm of coughing, sprinkling the hanky he always carried with little red spots. Here he was for the first time in a long time trying to do something besides find his next drink or smoke, and he wasn’t even going to make it out of Texas.
Lord, it was hot. He felt that if he did die right here, he’d just evaporate into nothing and no one would ever know he passed. Come to think of it, it was likely no one would ever know. He had nothing with his name on it. Not one piece of paper that said who he was. No fingerprints on file. No dental work. Some people he knew put their names in their shoes, hoping that would keep others from taking them while they slept. That didn’t work, so he never bothered.
Nope, he was pretty sure that way out here, 200 miles from where he walked the streets most of his life, no one would ever know him.
“Aint that a kick?” He laughed again. “I’m on my way to find myself, and I’m going to die a nobody in the middle of nowhere.” For some reason he thought that was funny. Or at least he couldn’t figure out how to cry.
The whole stupid thing had started with that girl, back in Austin. His life had been just fine until she came along. Sure, he was sick and probably dying already, but life went on for him the same as it always had. Day by day he lived out his sorry existence. His clothes were dirty, his face was rough and scarred, he smelled bad, he cursed like a sailor and he spent every penny he could find on booze and cigarettes.
The girl though, she’d taken an interest in him. Lord knows why. She couldn’t have been more than ten or eleven. She came out with her family every Monday to the shelter. They were part of some group that brought food, clothes and other things for bums like him. For whatever reason she followed him around and asked him questions all the time. He’d tried shooing her away. He’d tried being mean to her. Nothing made her stop.
Truthfully, it wouldn’t have been so bad, except that she looked like Maggie. He hadn’t really thought about her in over twenty years, probably. Not since the day he walked away from her and her mom. He’d had some sorry days in his life. That one was the sorriest. Ever since that girl started coming around he couldn’t get Maggie out of his head.
He knew where she lived. She’d sent some investigator guy to find him years ago, but he wouldn’t talk to her then. He didn’t know her. But now he remembered and he couldn’t stop remembering. Probably had something to do with the sickness he knew, but he just had to get to her and see her once before he died.
So instead of buying booze and cigarettes he started saving his money. When he felt he couldn’t wait anymore, he bought a bus ticket for as far as it would take him. He laughed again. Sanger. That’s how far his life savings got him - not quite to Oklahoma he was told.
So he started walking. He didn’t know why. Something was just driving him on. Now, though, he was done. This little spot on the side of the road was where it all came to an end.
“Hey mister! You need some help?”
The voice came from the rolled down window of a minivan that had stopped. The sliding door popped open and someone small hopped out.
“Hey Dad, it’s Cal!” Squealed a now familiar voice.
“By God I think you’re right Kimmie. Cal what are you doing way out here? Are you okay?”
“I’ll be darned,” Cal rasped, as he wiped more blood from his mouth. “Someone knows who I am after all.”
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