Joe Cottonwood

My First Billionaire

I’m just a hitchhiker can’t complain but
he’s squinting unfolding paper maps 
swerving like a mad carnival ride
right foot on the gas, left on the brake 
in a two-step dance whoosh-fast clunk-slow
up I-280 in a rental Toyota. 
“Where you looking for?” I ask. 
“Some golf course I forget the name.” 
He wears a tam-o’-shanter and flannel pants, 
says he’s from Tokyo, just flew in.
Says they have good trains and subways 
and why can’t Frisco? 
Says he’s learning golf because 
he figured out a philosophy of life 
that money, you know, once you’ve got 
three billion you should spend it 
instead of trying for three more. 
“You have three billion?” I ask.
“I think so.” He laughs. “When 
I was a baby, they bombed my city. 
Now they ask me to join their club.”
Lets me off at 19th Avenue where I can 
catch a streetcar. Studying a map, 
fingering the steering wheel with one pinkie, 
he’s off. Somewhere. I want to say 
Beware of hitchhikers. You’re weirdly naïve. 
But I can only speak to myself.

Joe Cottonwood has repaired hundreds of houses to support his writing habit in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. His latest book is Random Saints. 

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