The Ordeal in the Desert

As the flame-stained sky and heat waves from the black top road began to disappear, I noticed a familiar tremor in my left wrist. It was a late Sunday afternoon in August just outside of Carefree, Arizona. The desert felt like a sauna; a heavy muggy weight that soaked through my clothes. I had began a non-stop celebration, of my fiftieth college graduation with alumni friends on a Friday. With no intermission, until all passed out on Sunday morning, we continually imbibed a shitload of Coronas, margaritas, CC and gingers, 7 & 7’s with a fresh tray of deli delights always within reach. A ton of weed, wrapped in the old “ZIG” papers kept our appetites going strong. The only thing missing from this jolly, boisterous memory-lane atmosphere, were the young co-eds we used to chase.

The party over, but my throbbing headache, nausea and light-headed feeling had just begun. I was on my way home to Tempe. The sunset was leaving its after-image tatttoed on my retina, and I tried looking askew to the bright ball dipping down on the horizon. Suddenly a large object darted out from the desert into my lane and collided with my right front fender.

Shocked, breathless, with pulse racing, I opened my car door to see what object stopped my vehicle. Lying on its left side, head and neck disjointed and propped on the Jaguar moniker, a mixture of blood and foamy froth bubbling from around the nostrils and mouth, was an unsaddled horse laboring to breathe. As I bent over to examine the wounded horse, I noticed in the periphery of my vision, a series of red and blue flashing lights increasing in size. A highway patrol officer pulled next to my stalled auto and stared at the almost dead horse.

Because of my morning hangover, and foggy perception, I failed to ingest my Parkinson’s
medication. I usually took 5 capsules on awakening, 5 before lunch, 4 before dinner and 3 before I slept. That day I missed 3 of my daily 4 doses, causing me to bend over like a stiff “Quasimodo” in “The Hunchback of Notre Dam,” and walk like an alcohlic penquin, shuffling with wide small steps to keep my balance.

My mouth felt as dry as the surrounding desert and I felt weak from two sleepless nights making my already soft voice barely perceptible. The patrol officer kept his right hand resting on top of his holstered pistol. His perfectly ironed, and stiff starched, shirt was marred only by the rings of sweat noted under his armpits. He wore non-pleated pants, a silver bolo tie, and a felt hat with a leather strap matching his polished leather boots. His face was wrinkled in a quizical way, as he shouted,

“What the F happened here?” Before I could answer he yelled, “How much you been drinking, mister?” When the officer came within an arm’s length away, he belted out “W-few-ee!!! Is that liquor I smell mixed with vomit I see on your shirt?”

As I looked down at a brown and yellow stain on the front of my white shirt, I could barely explain my condition as my voice was imperceptible.

The officer responds with a condcscending tone, “Stop your babbling and muttering and
get into the patrol vehicle.”

With little ceremony, the next thing I knew, I was in the back seat of his highway patrol car, hand-cuffed with my sport jacket thrown on top of my knees. From inside of my jacket pocket the sound of my Parkinson capsules hitting the sides of the plastic container was music to my ears. I leaned forward, popped open the cap, and chewed 5 capsules. It took about an hour to kick in.

When we arrived at the holding facility, I was able to walk the straight line, had no tremors, spoke loud and clear, and was able to finally explain about my Parkinson’s condition. No charges were filed and I was set free.

What really irtks me the most, is that to this day, all my alumni friends still think I made it up.

Robert Lewis is a retired ophthalmologist who came to Luke AFB in 1969 and served two years as a Captain in the general medical clinic. He did his ophthalmology residency at UT in San Antonio and began his solo practice in Tempe in 1974. He served as President of the Phoenix Ophthalmological Society from 1996-97. After 38 years of practice, he retired and began to take writing courses. This gave him the insights and knowledge that had been buried in his past. It was like a slow motion camera that allowed him to explore and discover what made him tick.