Miles Waggener: Dirt Bike

J. rides his dirt bike
the length of desert
counties to take the keys
from the half of Arizona
that can’t pay. There are fish
hooks hung at eye level
and meth labs. I don’t creep up
on them anymore,
he tells me, banking the five
ball off the rail. But I try
to work at night, so I can
get back here by happy hour.
They hear me coming.
I bet I’ve played thirty
games of pool with J.,
but I’ve never heard him
speak so many words.
I’ve never seen him turn
his head either. That’s my beer.
He’s looking down his cue
at the eight ball. Yours is
over there. His peripheral
vision is flawless, his glasses
thick and dusty. Head
shaved to blonde shadow.
Smaller banks hire me.
Lots of trailer parks,
manufactured homes.
Unincorporated places like
Wintersberg, near the nuclear plant.
He rides his route all night
into morning, eats at the breakfast
counter at the Dinner Bell,
and comes here by four.
When I ask about guns
and dogs, he says they’re
mostly vacated by the time
the bank contract him. But yes,
people breed pit bulls
in Wintersberg. When he says he
keeps the humane society and
animal control in his phone, I
stop myself short of asking
about child protective services.
But I’m feeling smug asking J.
all these questions. We’re so
different, but united in this
pool game. He’s not exaggerating.
He’s beating me. I’m going to
buy him a beer. No, he was never
a private detective, and he doesn’t
serve papers for no lawyers. I just
take keys and hang lockboxes
on knobs. He walks through
the empty units to make sure
they’re empty. He has a flashlight.
His boots crunch flies on linoleum,
his boots part seas of dust and hair.
Tweakers are the worst, he says
after a pause. They’re up all night
taking things apart: hot water
heaters, copper plumbing,
cars, stoves, the voice chips inside
stuffed pandas that talk to you.
But that’s not my problem.
No one’s ever surprised to see me.
When I push my coins in
and the pool balls drop,
I tell myself I’ll ask him. I’ll ask J.
if he likes his job. But soon
the balls are racked tight
in their triangle, the bathroom
is empty, there are two beers
on the table, and I’ve been waiting for
him to come back
from his smoke for a long time.



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