FIC I T O Nw i n n e r Intersection I t had been a tiresome day in a tedious month. He mused over why he took that PI case in Tucson. It was marginal from the beginning. Modest damages, some tough liability issues, and a car- rier that absolutely refused to settle. Four hours of windshield time for a trip to Tucson just added to his misery. The pretrial conference this afternoon was an absolute disaster. He was behind the curve in his discovery, and the judge showed no leniency. A parking ticket tucked under the wiper blade when he returned to his car was the last thing he needed. Well, maybe next to last. Thirty miles north of Tucson on the 10, the sign board flashed a warning. “Collision 20 miles ahead, use alter- nate route.” Alternate route? Did one exist? He took the next exit, and headed east. He intended to turn north at the next major road. Which
he did, but a few miles later, the compass in his rearview mirror reported that he was going northeast. Then, five minutes
later, he was going east again. After a long curve bent
to the right, he was going south.
He had perhaps a half-hour of daylight left, and
open range stretched out before him. He had no idea
where he was. He slowed as he approached the only
building he had seen for the past five miles. It was
a small mom-and-pop gas station. Might as well ask
someone there, he figured.
The inside of the store was eerily empty. “Anyone
here?” he asked loudly. There was no response. He
slowly walked back to his car, which was parked in
the shadow of the building on the side of the store.
He sat behind the wheel, rolled down the windows,
loosened his tie, and took a drink from what was left
of the coke he had bought on the drive down from
“Hey, mister,” came a voice. He turned over his
left shoulder. An old man half-hunched was stand-
ing by his left rear fender. The top of the old man’s
face was partly covered by the brim of a hat, and the
bottom was hidden behind an unkempt white beard,
but he could tell the old man was deeply tanned, as if
he had spent years under a hot sun. A half-full paper
grocery bag was tucked under the old man’s armpit.
“Hey mister, you wouldn’t happen to have a cold
He thought the old man might be thirsty and
offered the old man the rest of his now warm coke.
“Naw, I need a beer,” said the old man, “I really need
a drink.” Inside the gas station there were only signs
for soda and snacks, no alcohol. The old man would
have to go elsewhere. He offered the old man a ride
to a store in exchange for directions back to the in-
terstate. The old man accepted, opened the passenger
door, and entered the car. The car interior instantly
reeked of sweat and booze. The old man pointed to
MARK MELTZER is a court policy analyst
with the Administrative Office of the Courts.
The May issues of ARIZONA ATTORNEY during
the past several years have included some
outstanding works of fiction, and Mark is
gratified to have his story in the current
issue. Lawyers are bound by the facts.
On the other hand, fiction writers are not
constrained by the record. They can make
up anything, untethered from footnotes
or other proof.
BY MARK MELTZER