My wife wasn’t interested in discussing America’s corpulence as I drove her to work the next morning. She was busy practicing her chapel talk on the “creation story,” which, in a matter of moments, she would be sharing with the “little ones” at St. Richard’s School. I asked her if she would be mentioning the other creation stories.
“Of course, I will, but I’ll emphasize the Genesis account, pointing out its distinctive nature.”
“And what’s that?”
“I don’t think that’s true. I think … I think Sufi Islam teaches that also.”
“How do you know that?” she asked pointedly.
“I don’t know how … a class in world religion or something.”
“Are you sure?”
“Pretty sure.” There was a long silence. “What’s wrong?” I asked.
“My chapel talk is based on the unique nature of the Imago Dei in the Judeo-Christian tradition.”
There was an even longer silence as I pulled up to the red double-door of St. Richard’s. Gathering her belongings, my wife opened the car door and turned around.
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“If you’re near Trader Joe’s anytime today, pick me up some soy milk creamer and chocolate éclairs,” and walked off without so much as a please.
I couldn’t make it uptown to TJ’s without getting my first hit: a hefty, handsome woman in from the Outer Banks to see a “world-renowned plastic surgeon” who would be doing some “aesthetic work” on her derrière. I thought her derrière fine as she walked away from the car — not a Venus Callipyge — but then, at bottom, beauty can be so subjective.
The next quick hit sent me to the Highland Country Club, where I picked up a bag of golf clubs to be delivered to a flâneur of the greens lounging at Daddy Jack’s restaurant on 96th.
“Great!” I thought. “I’ll hand off the clubs, scoot back down to 86th, pick up the creamer and éclairs, and eat one to assuage my guilt for mentioning Sufi Islam!”
It rarely fails: leave your car for just a second or two and you’ll immediately get a beep on your app. This one sent me east of Fishers, to an aluminum-sided, two-storied house, whose only contrast from the neighboring homes was the color of its shutters — a faded blue.
He was waiting for me, which is always appreciated. I’ll call him Jimmy. He was tall, dressed in black, and flipped his cigarette onto the driveway and slid into the back seat of the car, smoke following him like a sticky shroud.
After perfunctory greetings, I asked, “Did you put into the app where you’re going?”
“No, the app always screws it up. I’ll tell you how to get there.”
Now, this is a decisive moment for an Uber driver. He or she must decide whether to trust Uber’s GPS or to trust the passenger, who may be uncertain of the route, drunk, or even delusional — occasionally all three. I decided to go with Jimmy. Next thing I knew, we were on Indiana State Road 32 headed for Morse Reservoir. I hadn’t been there in fifty years, not since my dad would hitch up the speedboat to the family station wagon and take us all waterskiing.
I cracked open my window to let in some fresh air and glanced at Jimmy in the rear-view mirror. He reminded me of a younger Daniel Day-Lewis in “There Will Be Blood.” His face was tight, agitated and he twitched in his seat.
“I could kill her,” I heard him muttering from the back.
I couldn’t resist the bait. “Kill whom?”
“Oh,” nodding my head as if I understood.
“She’s making it hard for me to see my son. Beautiful bald-headed kid … oh, there’s a bit of blond hair sprouting up here and there.”
“How old is he?”
“Three months, and the bitch is giving me grief … every time I turn around.”
“We don’t see eye-to-eye on anything…worlds apart…she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth and wants to raise the kid that way. Me? I had to work for everything. Nobody ever gave me a dime. I could kill her.”
“Well, you certainly don’t want to do that.”
“Yes, I do.”
“But you won’t.”
“Of course I won’t! I’m not gonna make the same mistakes my dad made.”
I might have remained quiet at this point: “Did your dad kill someone?”
“No, no! He’s too much of a coward for that … and a drunk. Dumped my mother and me when I was a kid … been married ten times now.”
“Your dad’s been married ten times?”
“Ten times … he’s on his tenth wife right now. Haven’t seen him in six years. I’m not gonna make the same mistakes he made. I’m gonna take care of my son … hire a lawyer … get custody in my name and let her figure out when she can come see him.”
There was a pause in our conversation. I thought of my wife, wondering how her talk on the “Imago Dei” went.
“Any chance you and your ex-wife might possibly … reconcile?”
“She’s not my ex-wife, she’s my ex-girlfriend!”
“Oh,” I feebly offered.
“We met at a bar, exchanged phone numbers, slept together — she’s a whore — I wasn’t the first one … one thing led to another … and boom! The next thing you know — there was a kid — dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb me.” He breathed in deeply, as if it were his last.
“How old are you, Jimmy?”
“Twenty-seven. Mm…mm…mm,” I chuckled. “You’re a young man, with a great future.” I could see a look of doubt cross his face, and was prompted to continue.
“I was living in LA, Jimmy. Came home late one evening after a long, out-of-town film shoot, and the house was stripped of everything, everything but my books — my wife and three beautiful daughters nowhere to be found. In a few minutes the cops arrived, served me with a restraining order, based supposedly on my having ‘inappropriately touched’ one of my daughters.” Jimmy and I locked eyes in the rear-view mirror.
“A lie, of course, concocted by her corrupt lawyer, who shortly afterwards died from a massive heart attack, much to my … quiet satisfaction.”
“I bet you could have killed her,” he said.
“I guess I wanted to … I don’t know … it wasn’t her fault. I’d been unfaithful … years earlier … then she had … it’s hard to build trust again.”
Jimmy looked out the side window. I took in a big breath.
“Now flash-forward a quarter-of-a-century, Jimmy, and, if you’ll excuse the patriarchal pride, my three girls love their dad, even as I adore them, always have, always shall.”
“And what about the bitch ex-wife?” he shot back.
I put the window up and rolled into a graveled parking lot leading to a lakeside restaurant, framed by dozens of docked boats swaying lazily on the reservoir. I slipped the car into park and turned around.
“My ex?” It was hard to continue. “My ex … my ex is dying … and all I can do is encourage my children to … love her through this … this … difficult time.”
Jimmy said nothing as I swiped the “Trip Completed” indicator on the app. He got out of the car, lit another cigarette and told me to stop by the restaurant sometime. I told him I would and drove off — south on Hague Road, west on SR 32, until at US 421 it came to an abrupt dead end.