"Car 14 clear and heading for home," I say into the radio.
"Car 14, Roger," comes the reply. "Have a nice night, Dale."
"Thanks, Jill." Jill's the dispatcher. A nice lady. I
think she kinda likes me, but I don't know why. It's the
cool of the morning, oh about 4:00 a.m. Best time of the day:
traffic minimal; people mostly indoors, asleep; it's quiet.
'Bout an hour or so from now and people'll start moving again.
The city will wake. I hope to be asleep by then.
I pull the taxi into the parking lot. It's mine for the
night. No one else's scheduled for it until after my shift
tomorrow. Then they pick it up from the lot and return it.
Perks for being senior driver.
Tiring day. Some are good, some are bad. This one
was tiring. Too many drunks who wanted to argue about the fare,
too many people who wanted me to settle arguments. That's not
my job. Funny what people think a cabby should be. Ah, well,
tomorrow would be better . . . . Or, maybe it would be worse.
I get out of the car and lock the door, looking around.
Hadn't been robbed yet, but no sense not having your wits
about you. City can be dangerous for the unwary. I stretch,
breathing in deeply of the scent of flowers and trees in bloom.
Like I said, best part of the day.
It's a long walk up to the fourth floor. Be nice if
they had an elevator, but they don't. Put my key in the lock
and open the door. Home. Ain't much, just a bachelor pad,
but it's where I live. Home.
I sit down at the small table and figure out my take for
the day. Not as much as it could be, but more than I get on a
bad day. Some people think cabbies got it good. Sit down all
day, just drive around. Think they take in everything on the
meter. Ain't so. We get a cut of the take, and it ain't enough.
Sometimes work a whole shift for less'n minimum wage.
After the figures were entered in my log book, I relaxed.
Tips weren't too bad. I declared some, but not all of them.
Only a fool declares everything. Only a bigger fool declares
nothing. I'm neither. So I declare a percentage. It varies
day to day and the auditor will like the fact that I write it
down every day--if they ever audit me. Haven't yet. I'm tired.
Just sort the mail, take a shower and go to bed.
Damn. I forgot to check the mail. I ain't walking down
four flights of stairs just to get the mail. It'll keep. I
put the undeclared tips in the can that's buried in the flour.
Quite a bit there now. I'll count it someday. Mad money.
The shower is hot and feels good. I want to stay in, but
I know the longer I stay in, the less time before traffic starts
up, and I want to be asleep by that time, so I don't stay in.
Instead I towel dry, brush my teeth and climb into bed. Maybe
I'll have good dreams.
"Good morning, Kate." Kate works at the restaurant on the
corner of 4th and Hill. She has the 6 to 2 shift. I try to
be on hand to pick her up when I can, which is fairly often.
It's nice having a lady like her riding in the cab. Take her
home, sometimes, too. She's a looker. She's one of those
women who you just want to be around. Cute, cheerful, willing
to talk to a fella. Have her in your cab and it's a better
"Hi, Dale. How's life treating you?" she asks.
"Not bad," I reply, "can't complain." Well, I could,
of course, but it wouldn't do no good. 'Sides, she don't
want to hear it, less'n it's a legit complaint. Like the
time I was driving her home that night. I just heard my
brother had died in a car crash. Then she was willing to
hear. We talked some that night. Wasn't busy, so I just
parked outside her place and we talked. Found out some
things 'bout her and told her some things 'bout me.
Funny that. Mostly I don't like to tell nothing 'bout
me. That night, though, I was feeling lonely and told her
some things. She invited me in, you know, and I was tempted.
Only an hour to go on my shift and it wasn't busy. No one
would have cared. And she's a real looker. Got her a body,
she does, as well as a nice face. Probably could have made
her, too, what with her feeling sorry for me.
But I do that and she gets to thinking the next day and
I lose a regular fare. Ain't worth it. But I'll bet she's
real good in bed. She moves real slinky like. It's a treat
to just watch her walk, which I do. She probably thinks I'm
a good guy, waiting 'til she gets inside before driving off,
but I'm watching her walk.
She ain't talkative today. "Thanks," she says as I
let her off. Maybe I'll take her home tonight and she'll
say something. She got her a boyfriend. Lady like her,
guess that's not hard to figure. He works in the camps,
in one month, out two weeks. When he's out he drives her
to work, mostly, but she still catches a cab back home.
It's a busy night and I'm picking up and dropping off
a lot of fares. After yesterday it's a good feeling. Couple
of them good tippers, too.
"Car 14 down for lunch," I radio in.
"Car 14, Roger." I wait. "Dale, if you're in the
neighbourhood, you mind picking me up the regular."
"Gotcha." Jill likes fast food from the hamburger joint.
Burger, fries and a milkshake--vanilla. I tell her she should
eat better, but she don't listen. Make my own lunch. Don't
cost as much and tastes better. But I don't mind picking up
for Jill. Then I take it in and we eat together.
Jill's a classy Lady. Don't take no guff from us cabbies,
she don't. She can give as good as she gets, so none of us
try to give her any, least not no more. New guys, sometimes.
We older guys, we just wait for the entertainment to begin.
"Hi, Jill," I smile at her and hand her her bag of
"Thanks, Dale." She motions me to a seat, which I
She looks at me funny, every now and then and I start to
wonder if she's got the hots for me or something. Other guys
are starting to clue in to something or other and Fred, he
winks at me as he passes through the office. But I'm probably
reading something into nothing. He probably thinks I'm trying
to put the make on Jill. He ought to know better. Anyone tries
to put the make on our Jill, and he's liable to get tossed on
But it's nice to have someone to eat with. I don't like
to eat in the car. I like a clean car. So I get out to eat.
Sometimes I just sit on a bus-stop bench, sometimes I eat in
the park if it's early. I like eating different places different
I think too much, I guess. This time when I finish thinking
I find Jill's been looking at me again. I grin at her. "Sorry,"
I apologize. "You you say something? My thoughts were somewhere
"No, Dale," I like how she says my name, "I just like
looking at you."
She looks like she's scared I'll make fun of her or
something for saying that. I won't. Don't do you any good
to do stuff like that. 'Sides, if I do then I won't have anyone
to eat with. I turn my head.
"This is my *good* side," I tell her and she laughs. Jill
has a nice laugh. I laugh with her. I'm almost sorry when I'm
done and have to go back on the road.
Jill's okay. There are others, though . . . . These two
ladies get in my cab. I hate it when a lady wears too much
perfume and one, if not both, of these two are. I'm not
"Thanks for stopping, sport," the older one says to me
and gives me an address. We drive along in silence. They are
talking to each other and I try not to listen. I don't need
to hear stuff like that.
"Okay, ladies. We're here. That'll be $10.75." They look
at each other and I groan to myself.
"Tell you what, sport," the older lady says, "how about
taking it out in trade?" The younger one looks a little
embarrassed. That'll wear off. The older lady tries a smile.
"I'll give you a blow-job, right here. Half price." When
I don't say nothing, she continues, "If you don't like me,
how about Ashlee here? She'll make it worth your while."
Ashlee has the grace to blush.
"Just get out of the cab."
Ashlee is going to say something, but the other lady
pushes her out. "Thanks, sport," she smiles at me then walks
away as if she hasn't just stolen money out of my pocket.
Ashlee makes to follow, then turns back before I put
the car in gear. I look at her, no welcome on my face.
"I'll see that you get your fare," she tells me, which
surprises me. "One way or another." She takes note of the
cab number, then turns away.
"Lady?" I make my voice smooth. Don't want to frighten
"I'd rather you just get out of the business. It ain't
for you and it ain't worth it. You need bus fare back home,
you come and see me. It ain't no life worth living."
Ashlee looks at me all funny-like. It's like she wants
to trust but can't quite do it. I just sit there, waiting.
Finally she makes a decision.
"Can you wait here two minutes?" she asks.
I nod and she turns and runs after the other lady. It's
closer to five minutes, but she comes running back, carrying a
small suitcase. She gets in quickly and I don't wait for an
address. We're three blocks away before she gets up the nerve
to ask if I'm for real.
"The Bus Depot?" I ask. She nods.
"I don't know when I can pay you back," she says, then
hesitates, "unless you . . . " she can't finish.
"You're young enough to be my daughter," I tell her. "If
I was your father I'd just be happy to see you back home. I
wouldn't care whether or not you 'made it' in the big city.
You can always try again later. Where you were heading, though,
it's hard to come back from. Want my advice?" I don't care
whether she wants it or not, she's going to get it. "Don't tell
nobody nothing. Just say you decided that you prefer it back
there. Ain't nothing wrong with changing your mind. Remember
She nods at me and I think she's going to start crying,
but she holds it back. Kids. I shake my head. Think they
know everything and scared to admit they don't. We get to the
Bus Depot and I ask where she's going. She tells me. It ain't
too far off. Turns out she knows the fare. I give it to her
with a little extra for something to eat. I'm a sucker, I know.
She's probably just running a scam on me. Easy money. I'll know
better next time.
A bus is pulling in when I let her off so I get in the
line. Who knows, maybe I'll get a fare, get some of my money
I'm third in line when I see her walking out the front door.
Sucker, I tell myself. She looks at the cabs, peering through
the windows. Cabby out front gets out, figuring she wants a
ride, but she waves him off. She sees my cab and comes up to my
window. She leans in and give me a kiss on the cheek which
startles the hell out of me.
"Thanks . . . Dale," she sees my ID card. "My bus leaves
in 15 minutes. I called home. My mom's going to pick me up."
So I ain't a sucker after all. Not this time. "A last
bit of advice?" I ask. She nods. "Wash off some of that make-up
before you get home." She nods again and walks back through the
I get a fare, and a good one. Then I barely have time to
get to 4th and Hill to pick up Kate. She's silent all the way
home. Not just silent, but she don't want me to talk, either.
After a time a cabby will know when the fare just wants
him to drive and nothing else. Kate just wants me to drive.
I just drive.
Third day in a row that Kate's doing the silent routine.
Sometimes a body wants silence and sometimes a body wants
someone to break through that silence. It can be tough
to tell the difference.
"Nice night," I say. She just looks straight ahead.
Unlike many fares, Kate likes to sit up front. "I hear it
might rain tomorrow." That's a bald faced lie. It's hot
and it's going to stay hot. Weatherman figures another
five days of this before we get relief. Kate don't say
nothing and I try to think up a new angle that won't get me
"Might rain tonight," she says quietly.
Shit. I pick up the mike, "This is Car 14, I'm going to
take an early one."
"Car 14, Roger. Nothing much doing anyway. Sleep well,
I turn off the meter and take a right turn. This ain't the
way to Kate's place, but she says nothing. I'm not sure if she
noticed. Soon we're climbing what's known as Snob Hill. There's
a point where you can pull off the road. Sort of a little
lookout. I stop there.
"There's the whole city, down there," I say to Kate. The
city can look nice at night, all the lights on and all. I don't
know if this angle will lead anywhere, but she wants to talk and
that talk of rain might come true, too.
Out of nowhere she asks, "Have you ever had a dream, Dale?"
I don't like where this is leading. I've had a dream or two,
I want to tell her. I've been there. But I don't think she
really wants me to say anything right now. Maybe later, so
I just say, "Yes."
"Sometimes you have a dream and the dream becomes your
reality. Everything else is just a sideshow to your main event.
Soon you begin to believe in your dream and you work to make it
happen. It is wonderful, actually living the dream, moving
towards your final goal in a meaningful way.
"Yes, the city is beautiful from up here. The lights seem
friendly. Warm and friendly." She swallows a couple of times
before getting ready to continue. "But if you go down the hill,
go to one of those pretty, warm and friendly lights, you see all
the ugliness around.
"Sometimes dreams end. Sometimes they are destroyed."
She's been doing good, keeping calm, but now the rainstorm
starts. "He left, Dale. Left for another woman. One who makes
him feel more alive than I do."
"That hurts," I tell her. Women are funny ducks. You
try to solve their problems, you end up being their problem,
seems like. So I just agree with her and keep my solutions to
"Yes, it does."
"A lot," I contribute. Not that I really know, see, but
it seems the thing to say. I reach out and put my hand on her
shoulder. She brings up a hand on top of mine and squeezes.
She pulls my hand down and kisses it, then places it on her
breast. Damn. I'm going to lose a regular fare. One way or
another, I'm going to lose. I withdraw my hand and turn the
key in the ignition. "I'll take you home, now, Kate."
There must be something in my voice, 'cause she looks
over, through the tears and says, "I'd like that. I'd like
that a lot."
At her house I get out and go around the car to open the
door for her. She gets out, every inch the Lady I know she
is. She takes my hand and leads me up the walk. We go in
the front door and she leads me, without turning on any lights,
to the bedroom. She hesitates. I've lost her as a fare, so
what the hell. I lean down and kiss her neck.
"You're very beautiful, Kate. Always loved the way
you walk. Turns a man on." She reaches down to see if I'm
turned on. I am.
"Good," she says, though what she means is anyone's guess.
Kate is a class act. If I'm going to do her right, I got
to be classy too. I reach up and unclasp her barrette. Her
hair comes cascading all around. It is fine, silky hair and
I run my fingers through it. She turns around and raises her
head. I bend down to kiss her lightly on the lips. Just the
smallest touch. Lips brushing lips. I ain't in practice, but
I know what a Lady likes, and it ain't a big wet kiss with
lots of tongue right off the bat. Not in a situation like this.
I hold her close and her arms come around me. My lips are
near her ear so I murmur, "God, you smell good, Kate." And she
does. Just a hint of perfume. I nuzzle her and she tilts her
head to give me more room. My hands are caressing her back and
she seems to like that, too. Then they find the zipper and
slowly pull it down. Her skin is smooth and wonderful. She
steps back and allows her dress to fall to the floor. In the
dim light from the streetlamps outside I see her figure,
covered only by bra and panties. I whistle softly and she
Her smile is one of those smiles that can light up a
room and make a man's heart pound. "Walk for me," I tell her.
She looks puzzled. "I love watching you walk," I explain.
"I been watching you walk for months," I add and she gets
that little look that tells you that she knows she has a hold
on you and that she likes it. She turns away and walks across
the room to the window. When she turns around, her bra is open
and her breasts are there, in all their glory. I just stand
there and stare. She laughs a victorious little laugh and comes
striding back to me in that slinky way she has. No, slinky
ain't the right word. It's softer than that, more exciting.
It ain't a come-on, it's more natural . . . oh, who the hell
cares what the word is. I bend down and kiss each breast
right on the nipple, giving the nipple a tiny flick of my
tongue. She purrs.
"You like what you see?"
"I want to see you, too." She begins unbuttoning my
shirt. I shrug it off and it joins her dress and bra on
the floor. Then her hands are undoing my belt. I give a
little shiver and her smile gets that little hook to it.
You know, that hook that tells you that she knows the power
she has and that she's enjoying using it.
"Mmmm." My pants and underwear have joined my shirt.
I'm naked and she's running her hands all over me. I'm not
in great shape, but at 45 (20 years older than her) I'm not
all that bad either. She grasps me and I gasp. She pulls
me over to the bed and then pushes me back on it.
Kate is enjoying this and I let her enjoy, 'cause I'm
enjoying it, too. She lowers a breast to my face and I capture
it in my mouth. I caress her sides and one hand finds its
way up to touch and caress her other breast. I love how she
moans. So, it's one breast than the other, then her lips and
whatever else she wants. We're having a lot of fun, her teasing
and me being teased. Then she pulls back and lowers herself on
to me--I never even noticed her panties going the way of all our
"Ah!" I'm inside Kate. She's warm and wet and wonderful.
It has been quite a while. "You're beautiful," I tell her and
she knows I mean it. She goes wild on me, riding me and I
go wild right back, bucking up into her.
Afterwards I go exploring, finding all the little places
a woman has and loves to have a man find. Most of all I just
let her see how much I like being with her, playing with her
and making love to her. She is beautiful, she's just forgotten
it for a moment and needs someone to remind her. I'm happy to
be the one and I take advantage 'cause I know all too well it's
a one-time thing and what the end'll bring.
Soon as I'm sure that she's asleep I get dressed and
leave. No way she'll want me to be here in the morning. It's
going to be embarrassing enough as it is. No need to make
it moreso. I know that it wasn't me she wanted. By tomorrow
she'll know it too. That's when I lose my regular fare. No
more watching Kate's body move as she walks from the cab to
her door. No more enjoying the friendly smile and the talk.
It's over. Too bad. I shrug. Can't do anything about it now.
My room is as I left it. I do my fare sheets. Have to take
money from the can to make good what I gave to Ashlee or whatever
her real name is, not to mention the lost fare from the other
lady. Not a good night. Too many lost fares.
My days off go by uneventful. Then it's back to work.
I make sure I'm on time to pick up Kate. She sees me and
almost turns away, but gets a determined look on her face and
heads for the cab. I try not to shiver.
"Good morning, Kate," I say as I've said every afternoon
I've picked her up.
"We have to talk."
Yeah, I know, but why do they have to say it that way?
As if talking to a man is as unpleasant a chore as might ever
have to be done.
"Okay, Kate, I'll start." I planned this last night when
I couldn't sleep. "I had the strangest dream. Ever have a
dream, Kate?" She looks at me funny. "Well I had this dream
and you were in it . . ." I let my voice tail off. "Second
thought, maybe I'd better not tell you that dream. You might
think bad of me. Had another dream, though. Went flying without
a plane or nothing. Kinda scary looking down, but kinda exciting
too. Guess it ended okay, 'cause here I am, back at work. Going
to be another hot day, I understand."
Kate looks at me and smiles. We talk about nothing
important the rest of the way. As she gets out of the cab she
looks me in the eyes and says, "You're wrong, though." I raise
my eyebrows. "I wouldn't think bad of you." She turns and
walks into the restaurant. Her walk is just a little more sassy
than usual and I know it is for me alone. I also know it is a
"One hamburger, one large fries, one vanilla milkshake and
"Salad?" Jill asks.
"Salad. You got to start eating better." I like it when
"Oh, and I have something for you, too." She hands me an
envelope. I look at the front. "Dale, Car 14," it says and is
addressed to the Taxi Company. I shrug and open it. There's
a short note which I unfold.
"Thank you for getting Sandy back to us. Her father and
I are in your debt."
Sandy? The name ain't familiar. There's also a cheque.
I look at it. Then I understand. It comes to the amount I gave
'Ashlee' plus the cab-fare I didn't get plus a ten dollar tip.
I'm feeling pretty good and I smile, my thoughts nowhere
"What is it, Dale," Jill asks.
"Nothing much. Just thought I'd lost a couple of fares,
but turns out I was wrong. I look at Jill again. She's got
a nice face. I wonder if she'd like to go out sometime after