Once, years ago, I had a boyfriend who was flown to Vegas for an annual convention of videomakers and such, and I flew out to join him because I knew his company was going to be putting him up in a giant suite at the Treasure Island. This was during the Tulip Craze days of tech stocks, so a game company could afford to do such things at that time.
So he went ahead of me, and I flew out that Friday with plans to meet him at the hotel. When my plane got into Vegas, I grabbed my bag and found a cab driver waiting for tourists in front of the airport. He was about 60, nicotine stained, walrus mustached, plaid shirted. I paid very little attention to him beyond telling him what hotel I needed to get to and slouching into the back seat of the minivan that served as a cab.
For about twenty minutes, we rode in silence. I looked out the windows and daydreamed, staring at the desert- I’d never been to Vegas, so it was a little odd to look out the windows and see, really, miles of nothing. Finally, I became aware that the cab driver was watching me in the rearview mirror. I met his eyes in the mirror.
“Young lady,” he said.
“Young lady. You look to me to be type of person who is game for many things,” he said.
I thought, uhoh, but just smiled at him.
“Young lady, I am going to show you something. It is something mighty special. It is something that you may not believe, but you are going to remember for years.”
I continued to smile, thoroughly spooked now. I remember I thought, please god, don’t let it be anything that he keeps in his pants. He reached up to the sunvisor, where he had a thick packet of something rubberbanded. He pulled down- what? exactly? I couldn’t see. Playing cards? and went through the pack, glancing down occasionally while frowning, until he came across what he was looking for and handed it back to me.
“Young lady, take a look there at that picture and you tell me just what it is you see.”
I looked at the picture I was holding. It was a many-times photocopied black and white photo of- something. Blotches. Ambiguous shapes. I glanced back up at the rear view mirror and he was watching me, frowning, expecting a response. I looked at the photo for a while longer, and then took a wild stab.
“Sir, is it… is it Our Lady? Is it Mary?” I said, thinking wildly that I could always play the “I am a religious freak” card if he was planning to hit on me. I was painfully aware that I was in the middle of the dessert, driving to god knows where, and nobody knew where I was, not really.
“YOUNG LADY,” he said, eyebrows down ferociously. I knew I had guessed wrong. “YOUNG LADY. Since WHEN does the mother of Our Savior have herself a BEARD?”
I looked at the photo again. It still looked like blotches.
“That there is a picture of Jesus Christ. That is his face, appeared on a rosebush in the snow, that photo there snapped by my dear departed mother all these many years ago, passed on down to ME and the start of my collection. That there, young lady, is a PHO-TO FROM HEAVEN.”
He reached up to the visor again, pulled down the whole pack and passed them one by one to me. Each time, he handed me a photo that appeared to be an out of focus picture of the sky with a cloud, or a rock, or some water, and each time, he said, “Now you look at that and tell me what you see.” I guessed wildly, naming all the figures of the New Testament I could remember, which was limited pretty much to Jesus, Joseph and Mary, and maybe Lazarus. About half the time, I guessed right.
For years now, he said, people had been giving him photos where Jesus and other members of the Holy Mouseketeer Club appeared, and he had been collecting them. He now had about 43 PHO-TOS FROM HEAVEN, and he was planning to make him a calendar, mail-order, gonna be rich. I said timidly, you could make you a webpage, you know, and he snarled, NO TECK-NO-LOGIC CRAP.
We stopped at a red light, and he said, “Young lady, we are going to take us a minute here. Just a minute, and we are gonna bow our heads. Friend of mine was killed right here just recently, and we gonna give him a little prayer to send him on his way.” We both bowed our heads. I have no idea what he was really praying about, but I was praying that I was going to end up at Treasure Island unscathed.
As it happens, my prayer was granted, and we got to Treasure Island about three minutes after that. He came around to the side where I was getting out and said, “That’ll be 26 dollars.” I handed him two twenties, and he grunted, “thanks” and disappeared into back into the car in a split second, and I knew I wasn’t going to get any change back. I kind of figured the story was almost worth the extra money, though, and went in to the hotel to find my boyfriend.*