Sometimes when I'm driving I get to thinking. Like there
are some things a man just don't do. Not if he wants respect.
Funny how those things often get done anyway.
Yeah, and funny how cabbies don't exist. People get into
the cab and talk to each other like the cabby ain't there. They
think he don't hear? We hear. I've heard too much. Times I
wish I didn't hear. Other times . . . Well, once had a couple
stock brokers for a fare. Got a tip from them, not the cash
kind. They didn't know they gave it to me, but they did. Made
a couple of grand, but you see what I mean. Cabbies just ain't
there to lots of people.
It's about 9 o'clock and the sun's gone down. I'm at the
airport. I dropped off a fare and now I decide to hang about,
see if I can pick one up. So I'm in the line. Not much doing,
so I put on a Johnny Cash tape. Got the Man in Black singing
'bout a flood somewhere when I get the wave. I turn down the
volume and move up. It's a young couple, maybe late twenties,
early thirties. I get out and open the trunk. Not too much
luggage like some people, but plenty enough. Three suitcases.
The couple get in the back and I close the trunk and get
behind the wheel. We start off and I ask them where to.
"To a hotel," the man says. Real helpful, that.
"Which hotel?" I ask politely. You don't tell your fare
that he's stupid and still get a tip. 'Sides, I can see he's
upset. It's in his voice and in his face when I glance back.
"How the hell should I know which hotel?" he growls. "A
good one. Downtown."
I shake my head, a little disgusted, but that don't come
through in my voice. "Main Street Hotel's a good one and it
ain't too far," I tell him. It is and it ain't. I don't stiff
"Fine, fine," he snarls, then he starts in on the lady.
She's a good looking one. A classy one. Like I said
earlier, some people think a cabby just ain't there. This
guy's one of them. Maybe he thinks we're beneath notice. I
don't like him already.
Anyway, Johnny's singing low and the couple are talking
loud. Don't take much sense to know what I'll be hearing. I
pick up the mike and report in. "Car 14 leaving airport, going
"Car 14, roger." It's Jill, the dispatcher. She's almost
laughing and I know she heard what's going on in the back seat.
She'll want the story later. Almost time to eat. Maybe after
I drop the fare. Pick up something to drink and go in and eat.
Pick up something for Jill too, probably. The usual. Hamburger,
fries and shake.
Seems like the couple is just in from Hawaii. Shoulda
known by their tans. Maybe not. Could get a tan here, too,
if that's what you want. Never had no use for just lying in
the sun, though. Seems kinda wasting time. I donno. So,
they just get back from Hawaii and they have to catch a
connector. The guy's plenty steamed 'cause she made a mistake
in the time difference and they missed the plane. He's really
raking her over the coals.
Now I'm getting steamed. A man don't do a thing like that,
cutting down his lady in public. Maybe it's her fault and maybe
it ain't, but that's something you do in private if it's got to
be done. Here he is doing it in front of me. The lady's
embarrassed. I can tell by her voice and the way she's trying
to get him to lower his. He don't and, hell, I'm embarrassed
too. I don't like it at all.
"You just didn't fucking think, did you?" he rants at her.
Hell, I mean enough is enough. He's told her 'bout ten
times and there ain't nothing they can do now. The plane's
been missed. I've had it. I should know better, but I've
just had it.
"That's no way to talk to your lady, mister," I tell him.
"What?" He's mad now. I don't care. "What the fuck is
it to you?"
"This is my cab, sir," I tell him though he ain't no 'sir'.
Can't be a 'sir' when you lose my respect. He lost it good.
"I don't like that language in my cab." I'm looking in the
mirror and I catch a glimpse of the lady's face. She looks
relieved. At least he ain't on her case no more.
"I don't give a fuck what you like or don't like." He's
losing it so I start to pull over. "What the hell are you
"I told you, I don't like that language." We roll to
a stop. "I'll call another cab for you."
He looks around. It ain't a good part of town. That
sobers him up. 'Bout time.
"Never mind," he says. "Just take us to the hotel."
I wait a minute, just to make the point, then shrug and
put the car in gear. They don't say another word, rest of the
way. Least now I can hear Johnny. Stupid of me. Ain't my
place to go butting in.
I see Len. He's doorman at the Hotel. I give him a
little wave as I pull to a stop. I turn off the meter.
"That'll be eighteen forty-five," I tell him. He gives
me eighteen forty-five. Exact change. Guess I didn't expect
no tip this time.
Len, he comes to open the door for the man. I get out,
again just to make the point, and I open the other door for the
lady and bow to her as she exits my cab. Then I pop the trunk
and pull out their luggage.
"I'll be talking to the taxi commission," the man glares
"That's your right," I agree amiably and pull out my card.
On the back I write the taxi commission's number and hand it to
him. He snatches it from me and turns away. The woman hangs
behind a few steps and turns to me.
"Thanks," she says quietly so as he won't hear.
"No one deserves that treatment," I say. She follows him
and I close the trunk and drive off.
Stuff like that can ruin a day if you let it. I don't let
it. "Car 14 clear in zone 1," I call in. "Taking lunch."
"Car 14, roger," Jill comes back after a minute. She waits
'til she gives fares to a couple other cabs before getting back
to me. "Dale, the usual?"
"You got it." Well things are looking up. I turn up the
radio a little and sing along as I head for the fast food joint.
I only sing when I'm alone. Don't got a good singing voice.
'Times I go to my sister's place and their dog howls if I sing.
Trouble is, I like to sing. Some folks say there's a god. I
don't know. If there is, he's a joker, giving me this voice *and*
the yen to sing. Don't think I could worship a god like that.
Jill, she's real friendly tonight. Ain't always like that,
but I guess it's a good night for her. Ain't always like that,
either. Some people think she just got to sit and talk on the
phone and radio. People don't know much, sometimes. She got
a tough job. Gotta keep a hundred things floating in the air.
Gotta know the city, gotta know the drivers. She gotta know
who's where and when'll they be free so as she can tell a
fare how long he'll be waiting. Gotta handle complaints, too.
She's on the front line.
Anyway, she has a smile for me today, so that's good.
I hand her her bag from the fast food joint. Hamburger, fries
and a vanilla shake. I take out my sandwich and the juice I
got at the fast food joint. That and a couple air-tight
plastic foodsaver containers.
We eat and I tell her 'bout the guy from the airport and
maybe she's gonna get a complaint. She'll leave a note for the
boss, anyway, so as it won't come on him outa nowhere. Jill's
good 'bout things like that.
"What's this?" she asks as I hand her a container and
"Egg custard," I tell her. "Sometimes dessert is nice."
She gets that funny look on her face when she takes it.
I been noticing it more often. She don't say nothing, though,
just opens the container and digs in.
"This is very good," she tells me.
I smile. Few years back, like maybe twenty-five, I worked
in the camps. Cook there loved to make egg custard. I loved
to eat it and one day I ask him to teach me. Took nerve, 'cause
he was a mean bastard. Least I thought that. Turns out
different. He's pleased as punch to teach me. Taught me a
few other things, too, and not just 'bout cooking.
Lots of times you ask someone to teach you something they
know and they'll bend over backwards for you. Tease 'em 'bout
their work and you run up against someone mean.
"You made this yourself, didn't you," Jill asks, looking
at me considering like.
"Yeah." I shrug it off. Ain't no big deal. Make it all
"Thanks, Dale," she nods, not really smiling, but kinda
pursing her lips, "thanks."
I take back the empty container, put it with the other
one in my bag and get up. Time to be on the road again. Jim
walks in 'bout then, sees me and turns around and walks out.
I wonder if I said something to get him mad.
"Guess I'd better go now," I tell Jill and she nods. Looks
for a moment like she's gonna say something but I guess she
changes her mind. "Maybe I come by later," I say over my
shoulder, then I go to find Jim and apologize. Maybe he'll
tell me what I did.
As I'm walking out the door I hear Jill say, "I'd like
Seems I didn't do anything, 'cause when I get out of the
office he comes over with a big smile and asks how the night's
going. People are funny. Anyway, the night is getting better
the later it gets. Yeah, maybe I will drop by at the end of
my shift again. Don't do that often, mostly just go home, but
tonight . . .
At two in the morning all the heat of the day is gone.
That's the time to be awake. You can stuff all that early bird
rot. I breathe in the morning air and I feel good. Pick up a
drunk from a bar and take him home. There's always a little
rush around closing time. Can get some good tips from the
drinkers sometimes. Can get someone throwing up in your car,
too, so it ain't all good. The rush dies. I'm ready to quit.
"Car 14, base," Jill calls me.
"Car 14, go ahead."
"Have time for a personal?" She knows I'm about off.
A personal? Someone asking for me in particular? At this
time of the morning? What the hell.
"Sure," I say.
"Main Street Hotel. Your fare will be waiting for you at
the door. Good night, Dale."
"Good night," I reply, but I figure I'll be back later.
Main Street Hotel? Guess Len's car broke down or something.
It ain't Len. It's the lady from Hawaii, which surprises
me no end. She's got her suitcase with her, too. I open the
trunk and put it in, then open the door for her. The front door,
'cause that's where she's standing. That's Len's job, but I wave
him back. He grins at me, knowing like, but it ain't that.
"Where to, Lady," I ask her.
"Are there any restaurants open this late?" she asks.
"We got a twenty-four hour joint . . . er, restaurant, not
far from here. Good food but nothing fancy."
"That will be fine. I don't need anything fancy," she
smiles at me.
I wonder about that. This here lady has 'class' written
all over her. Expensive clothes, good luggage, gold earrings.
But no rings, I notice. Anyway, I'm just the cabby. She wants
to eat, I'll find her a restaurant. Only thing that bothers me
is she's got her luggage with her. I pull into the parking lot
and stop in front of the door.
"That'll be five seventy-five, lady." I turn off the meter.
She just looks at me for a minute, as if deciding something.
I seen others do the same, others who don't have the fare.
Surely a lady like this has the fare.
"Why don't you park the car and I'll buy you breakfast,
or supper or whatever."
My eyebrows go up. She laughs at my expression, but it
ain't a mean laugh.
"I talked to your dispatcher earlier. She told me you
finished work at about this time. I called back. She told me
you were off but might take the fare."
There's a story here, and I like stories. Maybe I'm
stupid, but I park the car and we go in to eat--but not before
she hands over the fare. "Wouldn't want to forget it," she says.
Like I said: Class.
She orders a meal. I just get a large salad. I ain't
really hungry, but I'm interested, so I order. She won't be
as free if I ain't eating, too. That can put someone off.
Something 'bout eating together, though . . .
She starts talking and I start listening. Name is Linda.
Can't say I ever really liked that name--guess 'cause there was
a girl named Linda in my grade 5 class and she made fun of me.
This one don't seem like she'd make fun of me though. Her and
Brett, that's her boyfriend, been together almost two years
now. Treated her real good at the start, but it's been going
down hill since she got her last raise. Now she makes more
than he does. I can't see what that matters. Course, almost
everyone makes more than me. But seems like it matters to him.
Bad thing, them working in the same type job, I guess. Makes
I heard the story before, seems like. He starts cutting
her down, first in private, then in public. Pretty soon she
starts thinking she's to blame. It's an old story, but I
listen anyway. I figure that's all she wants me for. Someone
to listen and nod their head occasionally. I can nod my head
Finally she's done. She looks up at me.
"In the taxi, then at the hotel, when you said that no one
deserves that sort of treatment, that's when I woke up. I think
that it was then I realized that it wasn't going to get any
"So what now?"
"I made reservations for a noon flight tomorrow. Funny
thing is that the lost day doesn't really make any difference at
all. We still have three days vacation left." She laughs a
little, but it's a sad laugh. "After he went to sleep I left.
There was no sense in getting into another argument." She smiles
a bit and reaches in a pocket and hands me something. It's the
card I gave him with the taxi commission number on it. "I
used this to find you. I wanted to thank you."
Nice of her. No need to do that, but nice. "And what
"Me?" She gives a half laugh, half snort. "I changed my
reservation while I was waiting in the lobby. A different
airline has a 10:00 a.m. flight. That will give me two hours.
In two hours I can have most of my stuff out of the apartment.
I have a girl-friend I can stay with for a few days until I
find myself some other place."
That wasn't what I meant, but it's good to know she's
getting out. "I mean tonight."
She looks at me, calculating like. "Could you give me
a ride out to the airport in the morning?"
There. It's out. I give her a look. She's a smart
looking lady. Good looks and nice body. I smile, gently.
Least I hope it looks gently. "No problem," I tell her. She
pays the check and we leave.
"So this is where you live," she says as I open the door.
She's a little out of breath from climbing the four flights
of stairs. Don't know why she's out of breath. I'm the one
who lugged the suitcase up.
"Yes." It ain't much, but it's my home. I'm hoping
she won't say nothing bad about it. Her place must be lots
"Very cozy," she says, and I breathe a little sigh
of relief. She walks over and sits on the bed.
I tell her I'll be a couple minutes. Gotta do my books.
I tally everything up and put it all away. She looks tired.
I'm tired and sweaty from the day and I want to take a shower.
I tell her so. She can make herself to home.
I'm under the shower with shampoo in my hair when I
hear the door open. Guess I shoulda let her use the bathroom
first. Been long enough for me to forget things like that.
I put my head under the stream of water, then freeze. The
curtain gets pulled open a bit and she steps in the tub
"I hope you don't mind," she says as I try to wash the
shampoo out of my eyes. "I've had a very long day, too."
What can I say? I do the smart thing. I keep my mouth
shut. Her hands are soft and slippery with soap as they
glide across my back. It feels real good. It's been a real
long time since I shared a shower, but I don't want to think
'bout that. Her hands come round my front and soap my chest
and stomach, then venture lower. It's exciting but I'm a
I turn around to face her. She's real nice looking.
Got curves in all the right places. I draw her in for a
hug, then turn us 'round so the water's coming down on her
mostly. Now it's my turn and I wash her. Her breasts are
soft and smooth, though the tips are hard. She groans a
bit when I touch them. The groan tells me to keep going.
I pay them quite a bit of attention, seeing as they feel so
nice and she's liking it, too. Then, keeping one hand at her
breasts, I go lower with the other.
She gives out a gasp and shifts her weight to spread her
legs a bit when my hand finds what it's looking for. I soap
her up good and she's moaning and gasping. Her arms are on
my shoulders, hanging on and she's breathing real ragged. I
wonder what the hell I'm doing but I don't stop. Then she
cries out and sinks down to her knees in the tub.
While she's recovering I put in the plug and push in
the lever that puts the water up to the shower. The roar
from the faucet is loud and the tub begins to fill. Linda
settles back lying down in the tub as the water slowly
rises around her.
"I just need to catch my breath for a little bit," she
tells me as I step out.
I kneel by the tub for a bit and stroke her face. I wish
I had some bubble bath, but I don't. The water is nice and hot
and relaxing. "'S'okay," I murmur, "just enjoy." I towel off
and go back to the main room.
It's warm in the room, window open or not. I look out the
window at the city. Can't see much, really. Highrise blocks
most of the view, but I can look down the street. She shouldn't
be here. But she is. I get lost in looking out the window 'til
I hear her letting the water out of the tub. I move to the bed.
When she comes out I'm asleep, breathing regular. She
looks at me for a bit then turns off the light and climbs
in behind. She fits herself to me, her breasts pushing against
my back, one arm over me. It ain't long 'til she's asleep.
Lucky her hand didn't move down low or she'd have found just
how asleep I was.
Been a long time since a woman was in bed with me,
sleeping, holding on to me. A long time. I like the feel
of her breasts pushing against my back. I'm tired. Musta
given one of them silent close-mouth yawns, 'cause I feel a
tear or two coming to my eyes.
I feel her breath against my neck, feel her move as she
breathes in and out. I'm tired. I just want to sleep. The
pillowcase is getting a bit wet and I close my eyes tighter.
She looks lovely, lying there asleep. Too bad. I give
her a little shake and her eyes open.
"Breakfast almost ready," I tell her. "Time to get up
or you'll miss another plane."
She blinks a few times then looks at me all serious and
nods. I turn back to the stove to give her privacy. Don't
take long for her to be dressed. We eat, but don't talk.
I put the dishes in the sink.
"Dale," she starts, "I'm sorry . . ." her voice fades.
"'S'okay." I wonder what she's sorry for. Couple times
when eating she looked at me funny and I wonder if she didn't
really fall asleep so quick. Don't matter.
It's not a long trip to the airport. She gives me a hug
good-bye. It's funny, like she wants to ask questions but
don't want to either. Just as well. I don't want to answer
I'm back home in time to get a few hours before my shift
starts. I lie down on my side and I can smell her shampoo on
the pillow. I turn on my back and drop the pillow to the floor.
I can sleep without it. I'd better. If I don't get some sleep
it's gonna be a long day.
My eyes open. Damn. I was supposed to go back and see Jill
last night. I close my eyes.