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Life ain't fair sometimes. Hell, life ain't fair most
times. But it's what we got and it don't do no good
complaining.
"Hi, Sue, where'll it be?" I ask. Sue's wearing her
whites so I'm pretty sure, but it don't hurt to ask. Look
pretty stupid if I drove her the wrong way 'cause I didn't
feel like posing the question.
"General Hospital," she replies as she makes herself
comfortable.
She's another of those who'll sit up front with me. In
some cities they got them dividers and the fares got to sit
in the back. Here we ain't got 'em--yet. Had another cabby
robbed yesterday, though, so it looks like we're moving that
way. It won't be the same.
"Thought it was your day off." Sue is one of them angels
they talk about. Never seen her in a bad mood. Was I sick
and in the hospital I'd want to be on her floor. Doctors
get the publicity and get looked up to, but nurses are the
ones there for you, hour after hour, day and night. They don't
get credit for all they do. Ain't fair, but that's life.
"I traded shifts with Bev." Sue smiles knowingly, "And
you, I thought it was your day off as well?"
"Traded with Stan." Stan's a family man. Got kids. Day
like today you want to be with your wife and kids. I ain't
got nobody, so I work days like today.
"Sixth floor?" I ask.
"Yes."
"See 'em from up there?"
"If everything is quiet I'll take a look. It's not the same
from that distance; you don't get the noise and that's a big part
of the fun, but I like watching the fireworks anyway. How about
you, Dale? If it's quiet will you drive over there? I think you
should." Sue is one of them who's aways thinking of others.
Ain't too many like that. We should look after them we got.
Making them work on holidays ain't looking after them.
"Maybe. But only for a bit. When they finish, traffic is
hell." Be nice to be there, though, and not in the cab. Be nice
to be walking with a lady, enjoying the fair, then watching the
fireworks. Country's birthday, after all. But some got to work
so as others can play. Ain't fair, but that's life.
I drop Sue off and call in clear. Jim has another fare for
me. Jim, he's dispatching today. Jill's day off, too. Guess
she got somewhere better to be than sitting by the radio and
telephone. Hope she's having fun. Jill's a classy lady and
I like her. Kinda miss not hearing her voice at the other end
of the radio.
Green light. Gotta stop thinking and concentrate on my
work. That's how accidents happen. Not concentrating. I turn
left on eighteenth and pick up my fare. Young couple, maybe
early twenties. They been drinking a little, I can tell. After
twenty-some years years driving you get good at noticing. Don't
matter. So they been drinking a little. They ain't drunk and
they're polite. Polite and happy, if a little loud.
Don't mind that. Better they're a little loud in my cab
then dead from driving impaired. 'Sides, it's nice to see young
couples having a little fun. They're going to a party, they say,
and give me the address. I give a little frown. It's at an
apartment building near where the fair is set up and traffic
ain't going to be fun. All part of the job, I guess, but I don't
like it when these fairs and such come to town. Makes the job
that much harder. Then I smile. Could be worse. I coulda been
working during the parade.
It's a long ride to where they're going and they don't
need me butting in, so I just concentrate on the road. Can't
help but hear them, though. Conversation is getting interesting
and I glance back. Sally . . . that's the girl. Heard Bill
call her that. Anyway, Sally's giggling a little now and I see
why. Bill's got his hand on her breast and he's working it.
Meanwhile they're in a lip lock. I shake my head. Funny, even
after all these years, it still gets to me how people can just
ignore the driver as if he ain't there.
I glance in the mirror when I hear Sally gasp. Bill's
whispering something in her ear and her eyes go wide. I look
away before she can catch me watching them. 'Sides, like I
said, gotta concentrate on traffic. I hear a muffled snap and
I almost gotta laugh. I know what that was. I turn my head
a little to the side, as if looking up the cross street for
traffic, and catch it. Yep. He's got his hand under her
blouse, now. Her eyes are closed and her mouth is open just
that little bit. Kids. I turn up the radio, just a little.
Almost have to laugh again. Dean Martin is singing,
"Everybody loves somebody, sometime." I listen to a station
that plays oldies. And they don't feel that 'oldies' refers
simply to early rock and roll. Get some of that, but mostly
the softer stuff. Figure if I'm listening to softer stuff it's
easier to stay calm.
'Course, with what's going on in the back seat, it's a
little hard . . . difficult staying real calm.
"No!" I hear her whisper, kinda shocked, but fun shocked.
"Come on," he pleads.
Without appearing to, I look in the mirror. Kinda out
of the corner of my eye. She's looking at me, considering.
She grins at him and gives her head a little nod, then
boosts herself up a bit. I pretend like nothing is going
on. Are they buying it? Guess they are, or they just don't
care.
Sally tries to keep quiet, but little groans keep getting
out. I try real hard to ignore it, but can't. It's there, like
background music.
I come to a stop at a red light. The light changes but
the car ahead don't move. He's stalled and his arm comes out
the window and waves me around. I got to back up first before
I can get into the other lane. So, I got to look back, ain't
nothing else to do.
They don't notice a thing. She's half reclining in the
corner, half against the seatback half against the door. Her
legs are wide, hips turned up, so as he can get to her. His
hand disappears under her skirt and he's kissing her neck.
She's breathing rather fast and shallow.
Only takes a second or two to back up, but that was
more than enough time to see it all. Saw more than I wanted
to. Her blouse was unbuttoned half way down and one breast
was showing. Nipple all hard and erect. Kids. Should
know better. I think about saying something, but what the
hell. I'd only embarrass her.
We arrive and she's almost there, too. Bill looks up
as I begin slowing and catches my attention with a quick
circular motion of his free hand, the one around her shoulder.
I turn off the signal light and continue on around the block.
It's getting pretty frantic back there. She's breathing
fast and hard, head back and mouth open now. Waiting at a
light I watch in the mirror. Her eyes are tight shut and
she's panting some, breath catching time to time. She's
real close.
She tries to hold back, but he's not showing no mercy.
He drives her over the edge and her breath catches and she
stiffens. With a long moan she relaxes. I quit looking
before she opens her eyes.
The light's green and we continue on around the block.
By the time we arrive out front again she's all buttoned up.
I quote the fare without looking back. I'm not looking forward
to this, but I get lucky and it is Sally who, after fumbling
in her purse, comes up with the cash. Bill whispers something
in her ear and she blushes, but drops another fiver over the
seat for me.
"Thanks, Lady," I say as she gets out of the car.
Bill hesitates. "Want to come up?" he asks. "It's
going to be a great party. Nobody'll notice one extra."
"Thanks, buddy. But I got a couple hours left on my
shift. Maybe next time." We both know that there ain't
going to be no next time.
Maybe there's something in my voice, maybe he's just
sensitive, maybe . . . maybe anything. But he suddenly
looks a lot older than his years, more mature I guess, and
says, "You should get out and party sometimes."
The moment is broken.
"Coming, Bill?" Sally's in a hurry to get away.
Bill grins at me, "Coming," he answers and winks. I
smile back at him, but I don't feel like smiling.
Parties. Don't know why I carry it with me. I open
my little box and pull out a tape. Almost never play it.
Don't know why I'm doing it now. No, I don't go to parties.
I plug the tape in the machine and call in that I'm clear and
going to gas up. What I want is to air out the cab a little
before my next fare.
The Man in Black starts singing. Stupid to carry that
tape around.

"I go out on a party,
and look for a little fun.
But I find a darkened corner,
'cause I still miss Someone."

No. I don't go out on parties anymore.
I got half a tank left, but pull in and fill up.
As I'm pumping gas I notice something on the floor in
the back of the car. I pay for the gas and check the oil
before I open the back door and take a closer look. Her
wallet. Guess she meant to drop it in her purse, but missed.
Yeah, and that ain't all. Her panties are down there, too.
Just as well I looked. The next fare would be doing
some wondering, not to mention she might lose her wallet.
I take my lunch out of the brown paper bag and carefully
put the lost articles in the bag after writing her name (from
her driver's licence) and address on the outside of the
the bag. Wonder if she carries a spare pair of panties
in her purse.

I'm at the entrance to the fairgrounds. Someone's
supposed to be here wanting a cab. A Mr. Brown. He ain't
close by, seems, so I get out of the cab to stretch my
legs a little.
I see a little girl, can't be much more than six, crying.
There ain't nobody around her. I wait for a minute watching
for her parents, but they ain't about, seems.
"What's the matter?" I ask, squatting down.
She looks at me, kinda hopeful and kinda scared. "I lost
my mommy."
Oh, hell. Just then I see a man come over to the cab.
Must be Mr. Brown, or maybe not. "Come with me to the Taxi
and we'll call for some help," I tell the girl.
It is Mr. Brown, and he seems in a hurry until he hears
about the girl.
"Why not get her to stand on the hood," he suggests.
"If her parents are around, she'll be more visible."
Sounds good to me, so I lift her up. Brown points to
a phone booth and says he'll call the cops.
"No, I'll radio in," I tell him. "Dispatch will contact
them for us." I open the door and pull the mike out.
"Base, this is Car 14. Gotta problem."
"Go ahead, Car 14." Jim'll look after everything. He's
a good man.
"Got a lost kid here." I give the address. "Could you
call the cops for . . . never mind." I see a patrol car and
wave him over.
The cop is just getting out of his car when I hear a
sudden cry.
"Julie! How many times have I told you not to wander off?"
"Mommy!" the kid cries out and jumps into her mother's
arms.
There are smiles all around and the cop goes back to his
car. Problem solved. Wish they all could be solved so easily.
"Where to, sir?" I ask Mr. Brown. He tells me and I get
him there quick as I can. Nice of him not to complain about
the delay. Others ain't so nice.
Driving, a cabby gets to see his fair share of people.
See the best of them, and the worst. If there's a god--and I
ain't saying there ain't, but I ain't saying there is, either--and
I was in his position, I wouldn't sell this world short. There's
a lot of good people out there.
"Thanks, pal," Mr. Brown tells me as he steps out of the
cab. "I hope you have a real good evening."
A kid comes running down the front steps and Mr. Brown picks
him up and swings him around before carrying him back up the
steps. Yeah, there's some good people out there.

I stop the car near a small city park. It's ten o'clock
and I look up into the sky as the first explosion occurs. Red
and green streamers. The sky erupts in flashes and bangs.
Happy Birthday. I watch for a few minutes then drive away.
Somehow I don't feel like celebrating. I just wish the shift
was over and I could go home and get some sleep. Good thing,
Stan's shift ends at midnight.

I'm tired. It's been a long day. Working holidays ain't
no fun. Just shows you how you ain't got nothing better to do,
and that's just no fun at all.
"Base, Car 14, I'm closing her down."
"I have one more for you, Dale," Jim's voice comes back,
giving the address. "It's a personal."
"I'm off, Jim. Give it to someone else." A personal.
Someone who's driven with me before and likes how I drive. It's
nice to know that some take enough time to actually remember
your name and ask for you--but not at finishing time.
"Can't," Jim tells me. "Everyone else is busy."
Now that's a lie. I just heard Tony call clear in this
sector. He's up, anyway. "Tony's next in line," I call in.
"I'm just stopping to gas up," Tony's voice comes through
the radio. He sounds funny, like he's having problems talking.
I'm not happy. He should have called in and said so. There's
ways to do things and ways not to. "How about Al?" Al, apparently
can't make it either and no one else pipes up to take the fare I
don't want. I sigh. "Okay, I'll take it." I don't like it.
This sort of thing doesn't happen. Someone should want the fare.
I get to the address. An apartment building. There's people
filing out. Another party over. People who got to work in the
morning. I see my fare coming and I get out to open the door
for her. She's done up real nice. Got a lovely dress on and
her hair is done, like I said, real nice. She's carrying a large
purse, almost a bag.
"Evening, Jill," I say as I open the door for her. She
smells good, too, I notice as she gets in.
"Good evening, Dale." Jill has a nice, warm voice.
I'm happy to see her. Makes the day for me. She's sitting
up front, next to me and I feel better. Not tired any more.
"Going home?" I ask as I pull away from the curb.
"You haven't turned on the meter," she says softly. I
could listen to her voice forever, I think.
"I'm off," I explain. Even if I wasn't I wouldn't charge
her. "Where to?"
When she tells me I kinda freeze. She musta thought I
didn't hear, 'cause she repeats it. "Eight forty-seven,
Fourteenth Street, Dale. You do know how to get there, don't
you?"
I look over to her. She's got a funny smile on her
face, teasing me. 'Course I know how to get there. I've
been going there every night for years. My stomach is
tight.
She takes the tape out of the machine and looks at it.
"Johnny Cash." She nods to herself. "Do you have any
Marty Robbins?"
"At home," I reply. It's nice to know that she likes
the same kind of music I do. Feels like butterflies in my
stomach, now.
"A woman can't wait forever, Dale," her voice is like
nothing I've ever heard before and I wish my stomach would
settle down into one state. Now it's jumping all over the
place.
"Yes, Jill," I say, not sure why I'm saying it, but I
should say something.
"You can be infuriatingly slow at times, you know," she
laughs a little, as if she's nervous, too.
I look down at the speedometer, but I'm doing the limit.
Now she bursts out laughing. I'm not sure what's so funny, but
I join in anyway. It's good to laugh with her.
"Let's go home," she says, finally. I like the sound of
that, the way she said it.
"Yes, Jill." I get the feeling I'm going to be saying
that a lot. It's a good feeling.
Life ain't fair, sometimes. Other times . . . .

The End
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