There’s some people who capture that wild country with paintings or photographs. Other people write about it, or make up music to try to explain how something so desolate and wild can be so beautiful. Me, I’m just happy to be out in it, to walk the land and breathe the air. I don’t have a creative bone in my body, but I can appreciate beauty. Of course not everything in this world’s a thing of beauty.
Thirty years ago I found myself here at Johnson’s Scrapyard.
It started when Ronnie Johnson—an overweight, mean-eyed bigot—hired me to help him shift a load of car parts. It was just another day job that I’d stumbled into, but this one I didn’t leave, God knows why. Johnson’s an ugly piece of work who seriously pisses me off at least once a day, and I know he sees me as a prime example of everything that’s wrong with this country.
I’ve no idea why I stay, but I know the reason he keeps me on the payroll is that I’m the only one he’s ever had working for him who can put up with his crap, though we had to come to an arrangement: He’s the boss. He can talk about whatever he wants, but as soon as he gets into one of his racist rants, I walk away. I go work in some other part of the junkyard, or feed the dogs, or something.
I told him the first time he started in on badmouthing some Mexican kid who’d come by to get a part for his lowrider. I said, “Tell me what you want done and I’ll do it, but I’m not listening to this crap.”
Johnson’s eyes got that mean look that they will at a moment like this.
“You got a hard-on for that wetback or something?” he asked.
“He’s a human being. We share the planet. What else do I need to know about him?”
“I know you’ve been walking around in the desert for too long. The sun’ll fry your brains out there.”
I get sun working here every day, but I only walk in the desert at night.