"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. Different, anyway. 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 day already. "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 poisons.
"Thanks, Dale." She motions me to a seat, which I take. 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 his ear.
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 times. 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 else." "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 surprised. "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 her. "Yes?" "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 that." 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 back. 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 front door. 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 in trouble. "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, Dale." "Will do." 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 myself. "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 smiles. 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 like." "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 other clothes.
"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-time thing.
"One hamburger, one large fries, one vanilla milkshake and a salad." "Salad?" Jill asks. "Salad.
You got to start eating better." I like it when Jill laughs. "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 in particular. "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 work. End of part 1