Matt spent the night behind McDonald’s, sleeping on cardboard with cardboard for a blanket. He slept poorly, with disturbing visions of totalitarian sugar plums dancing in his head. In the morning, he scraped some fast food off the parking lot that even the gulls didn’t want. It wasn’t enough, and Matt found a blind spot near the drive-thru where he could panhandle without management seeing him.
He stood there for a couple of house without getting as much as eye contact. He needed a more aggressive approach, but he was so exhausted that he could barely form words.
A Ford 150 pickup, two-tone, red and white beauty from the 1970s, appeared in the drive-thru lane. A few moments later, Matt saw a large elderly bewhiskered man with flowing white hair take his order and a coffee from an employee. The man put the truck in gear and moved forward.
He stopped in front of Matt. He motioned for him to come over to the driver-side window. The man rolled it down and Matt did as directed.
Matt expected some change, perhaps a breakfast sandwich.
“You want a job?” the man said. He looked Matt straight in the eyes.
There was no hesitation. “Yes.”
“You just get out of jail?”
“You got a meth problem?”
“Do you know how to work?”
Matt hesitated. “I used to.”
A gigantic SUV appeared behind the Ford.
“Get in,” said the man.
Matt got in.
The man handed him the bag.
“Eat this. You can have the coffee, too. I hate their coffee.”
Matt realized he hadn’t said “thank you” aloud in years.
“My name’s Chris,” the man said. He reached out and shook Matt’s left hand with his right.
The man had a kind grip. The cab of the truck was warm and soothingly analog.
“Nice to meet you Matt and Merry Christmas. You like Christmas music?”
“Sure,” said Matt. “The old stuff.”
“Pick one out.”
Matt saw a shoe box of cassettes on the passenger side floor. He perused it and picked out Willie Nelson’s Christmas album. He handed it to Chris.
“Good choice. I haven’t heard that one this season.”
Matt took a sip of coffee and then opened the bag and began eating. Chris sang along with Willie. He steered the truck down Main Street.
“Finish your meal and then I’ll tell you about the job,” said Chris.