The filling station sits on a rural highway, across from a kajillion acres of peanuts. A kajillion, you will note, is more than a bazillion, less than a zillion.
He is outside the filling station, sitting in a wheelchair. He wears a camouflage cap, hunting T-shirt, tattoos everywhere. He is drinking coffee from a Styrofoam cup. He is young.
“Nice weather,” he says when he sees me pumping gas.
And no matter how old I get, I love to cuss the weather. I come from a long line of men who cussed the weather. It’s something humans have in common. We can all talk about the weather with complete authority even though we don’t know much about what it will do.
“Yeah,” I say. “Great weather. But a little hot.”
“I know,” he says. “But I like the heat. It’s better than being stuck in a dark house.”
He seems to know what he’s talking about.
He parks his motorized wheelchair here at this station almost every day except
Sundays. He does it because he is Chatty Cathy. Here, he meets people. And he likes people.
“I get all cooped up in my house,” he says. “I need to be around people, and feel like I’m really here.”
After his accident—which he tells me nothing about—he’s been isolated from life. His friends have all have jobs, and girlfriends, and he’s been fighting to recover.
“Man,” he says. “I used to do so much cool stuff, four-wheeling, and hunting, and fishing, and you know, everything. It’s tough not being able to do that no more.”
He doesn’t say it, but I can see it. He’s lonely. He just wants someone to talk to. Someone to do things with. His friends used to go fishing with him, and go riding.
Even so, this isn’t getting him down. Not when the weather is…