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My story starts on the floor of a gas station bathroom off Interstate 17 at the moment that the man with the blue boots ended his. Not the birthplace that one might expect for a story like the one that I have, but then again we do not generally get to decide where we or our moments begin. I had stopped to buy cigarettes and maybe some pop, if they sold it in glass bottles. There were two gas pumps and a smallish building with an OPEN sign that had all but lost its color to the Arizona sun. The ten hour leg of my drive had left my bladder as topped off as my tank was empty so I quickly pumped the gas and went inside to retrieve the key to the outside bathroom. The attendant was asleep behind the counter so I cleared my throat to wake him. This was the way that I woke people up. I often do not know the right thing to say especially not when the other person is sleeping, so I clear my throat as if it was just the precursor to my actual wake-up call.  He did not move and his baseball cap blocked his eyes so I do not know if he even opened them but he told me that another man has taken the keys a little while ago so if I wanted to I could just wait outside the door until he was done. As I rounded the corner of the building to wait by the bathroom door I noticed that there were no other cars around. I waited for as long as my continence would allow and then I knocked on the door. The rap echoed back at me as though I had made a request of an empty room. The lack of cars struck me again. I started to wonder if the sleeping man had lied to me. He was unhappy that I woke him and my pointless wait was his consolation. There was still no response so I knocked again. This time I heard soft but gruff grumbles coming from inside. I tried the door without thinking and it gave way about a foot before it was stopped by what I came to realize were blue cowboy boots. There was someone behind the door. I wedged my way through the narrow opening into the room and saw the rest of the man attached to the boots. He was sprawled across the floor with his head against the wall. He looked like a cowboy whose draw was not quite quick enough and who was now doomed to act out the final scene of an old western in this shabby bathroom. He was dying. I do not know why I knew that. There was no blood. No signs of violence or any attacks. His eyes found me and told me that I was right. I made no attempt to go for help and he made no attempt to ask me to. Instead he reached out his hand and showed me an old pocket watch that he was holding. I do not remember if he actually spoke the words because I cannot recall having ever heard his voice but he told me that taking the watch would start me on an incredible journey, a journey for the history books, a journey that would end just as his did. Without hesitation, I grabbed the watch, saw the man’s final breath and left the bathroom. As I drove off, I grabbed my pack of Marlboros from the glove box. I had always known that they were there.

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