They called him Sailor, or Sail for short.  He was my old man’s road dog.  Sail looked like a stout Native American Frank Zappa.  He was my guide into the halls of the Los Angeles County hospital.

“This is where all the winos and bums come to get straightened out,” he belched.

A pigeon shit encrusted statue of Hippocrates eyed us solemnly as we made our way within.  Inside, a maze of lines greeted us with flat-tired lives scattered along its wayside in gurneys, wheelchairs and the occasional shopping cart.

“Just follow the red line on the ground,” Sailor said.

The linoleum floor had a rainbow of lines leading you to a variety of departments.  The red line led to the elevator.  The blue line led to the psych ward.  A long trail of shoeless and toothless mutterers frantically kept up with that blue line.  Dad just had his foot operated on; they removed his left ankle and replaced it with the ankle of a cadaver.  When we got to the room my Pops was sitting up, in a morphine haze.  Sailor promptly crashed into a chair and nodded out in a methadone haze of his own.  My Father and I stared at each other.

“How you holding up, Dad?” I asked.

“This foot has a mind of its own now.  I want to go one way, it wants to go the other.  It dances when it damn well wants to.  A good dancer, the foot is.  I can be half a dance king now.”

I plopped in the other vacant seat and began cadging gin from a flask, hopeful for the old man’s recovery and staring at the unruly, mean summer sun outside.