The tarmac was blazing hot. Nadir carried his flight helmet under one arm. The wind came in from the desert North-Northeast, light cumulus clouds on the horizon South. It was 1979. The Shah was dead. When a leader forgets the people, it never lasts long. Even at 26 years of age Nadir understood this
The controls officer, with a jarring shout and catching up from behind, presented a clipboard. Nadir fumbled the pen and looked down where it lay under the fighter wing. It was a mistake he forgot to sign out. And now he could not bend enough to pick up the pen. His squad was busy climbing into their jets. The flight officer looked at Nadir curiously, hesitated, and bent down to retrieve the pen. Nadir accepted it with a touch of Arabic superiority; he did not fully possess. He thought better and thanked the officer.
Lumbering up the cockpit ladder, he felt that day, every ounce 27 pounds heavier. Taped to his skin, a section under his flight suit loosened but did not let go. Sheets of gold hammered thin and flexible, wrapped about his torso, arms, and legs, did not breathe well. He was sweating terribly.
Free or dead. The day would decide.
August 2004, the street was like a cookie sheet.
Sometimes it’s a wonder tires, don’t just melt. The air conditioning was full-on. Tiny streamers in the dash vents said so. Freddie turned the service light off and aimed the cab for the Queen of Angels Hospital in the suburbs. The wind was light, South-Southeast.
The front seat of his cab was strewn with business cards, a coffee thermos, and a sack lunch. A supply of rubber bands dangled from the column shift, a briefcase on the floor had a newspaper laying on top. A bundle of unopened letters several years old, including junk mail lay on the dash, stuffed beside the meter. It was enough to make the Crown Victoria feel like his own, though he rented for just over a hundred dollars a day.
Nadir would never have approved such a personal and financial mess. But Freddie had gotten used to playing the part. To all the world for the last 25 years, he was just a cab driver–and a pretty good one at that.
At a stoplight, he fished out a peanut butter and jelly sandwich from the brown paper bag. Else in the bag was another sandwich, an apple, and a candy bar. What he saved on daily preparing his lunch amounted to a small fortune over 25 years. When splurging on his wife, the cash source he could honestly attribute was to this simple lifestyle.
No one, including his wife and daughter, knew about his golden nest egg. How quick it would have been gone! But today, his first grandchild cleared a period of close observation, and could finally be visited. She was born six weeks premature and needed only to put on some weight.
The traffic was moderate. Freddie was a conservative driver, cutting no one off yet still able to get where he needed. It was a saying he knew: It matters not how fancy one can fly but how well you land.
His daughter was still single, doesn’t know how to cook, which made perfect sense in Freddie’s mind. She is of this frivolous generation, especially in America, where people don’t know how to prepare, don’t know how to judge which way the wind blows. They couldn’t, not even to save their lives.
And yet without a plan, there comes this tiny baby girl. Freddie smiled, thinking. It’s the wonder of God how things will happen. He could hardly wait to spoil her with love–not money, no not money. It’s too easy. The nest egg was for a day of need. It could be tomorrow or in another 20 years. His hunch was it wouldn’t be long.
On The floor lay the newspaper folded open. On the front page had been little more than politics—signs of volatility. Skimming the want ads, he found an answer to the dog whistle he often heard from aspiring leaders.
FREE. Chest freezer. Deer and catfish as-is. All must go today. Compressor might need fixed. FREE. No Latinos or Muslims.