Over the next few days, Martin’s work product decreased as his personal problems increased. He showed up daily asking for advanced payments for work he promised to complete the next day. He told my wife and me stories of his hardships and we both felt really bad for him.
We did all we could to help him. My wife would make him lunch. Some nights, I would buy him a value meal from a fast food joint for supper and take him wherever he’d secured a place to sleep that night. I’d also give him a few dollars so he’d have enough to get something to eat the next day. It wasn’t every night, but we’d hear from him every few days at least.
One of those nights, he needed $50 because he’d secured a motel room for 2 nights and that would be enough for the motel room and his supper that night. Because I wanted badly to help him but he was beginning to stretch my available liquid assets, I decided to counsel him on money management. Among other things, I told him he should think about getting a couple $1 hamburgers instead of the $8 supersized burger and fries. He thanked me and said he would do his best to stretch his (my) money as far as he could and he’d start by staying at a rooming house where he could stay a whole week for just $40. I felt pretty good about myself and agreed to take him to a drive through choke-and-puke then on to the boarding house.
As I pulled out of Burger King, I asked him which way to go to get to the boarding house. He told me it wasn’t far and directed me back down Hall’s Ferry Rd toward downtown. Then at 9:30 in the dark of night, he directed me to turn left onto Bowmar St. and to stop in front of a cluster of rundown shacks in Marcus Bottom.
If you’re not familiar with Vicksburg, you can’t fully understand the danger I was in. My lily white, wheelchair-bound butt was parked in an area only slightly safer than Baghdad’s red zone in 2003 while Martin scampered off behind a couple of the paintless shacks and disappeared. For a couple minutes, my head was on a swivel as my butthole chewed a hole in my seat cushion and I prayed for either safety or a painless death.
When I saw Martin pop emerge from the darkness and head back to the car, my adrenaline was flowing like nitro-methane into the cylinders of a top fuel dragster, and as soon as my car door closed, I shot off the line with a reaction time that would’ve made John Force jealous. I was piloting 4 cylinders of fury as I did my best to outrun any bullets trailing me.
After I dropped Martin off at his cousin’s house a few blocks away so he could attend his Aunt’s birthday party, I spent the short drive home trying to calm down and deciding not to tell my wife how stupid I’d just been.
Looking back on the incident colored by the knowledge I’ve since gained about Martin, I realize that I took him out and treated him to dinner and a sack of crack.