Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Stalker

Tall, blond and beautiful she took up jijitsu again when she started driving cab. The day shift was safer but she drove nights because the money was better. She could break a wrist with one quick move and throw a man three times her weight. She carried a taser but only used it once.

Her best protection was her personality. Open and friendly, she had a talent for turning men into guys. She knew how to deflect a pass without hurting a man or making him angry. Almost all her friends were guys who had started out by trying to be lovers.

As a rule she didn't date customers. One exception turned out to be a case in point. She usually didn't go for men shorter than she was either but he was cute, sexy and very funny. She slept with him on the second date. It was a mistake. The sex was great but he acted as if they were an instant couple. He called every day and starting making plans for them without even asking her.

She didn't want an intense relationship. She didn't have time for it. She'd discovered that she had a talent for computers and was taking courses. Her two girls were still in high school.

He had some little clerical job that paid him even less than she made. Besides - he had needs. He needed to be nurtured. He needed love. She had two kids already. She didn't have time for another.

She stopped sleeping with him but he wouldn't go away. He kept calling. She made subtle hints but he ignored them. She started hanging up on him. Then he started stalking her - following her everywhere. Finally, she got a male friend of hers to come over and spent the night.

The next morning when they went out, the little man was standing there, angry and agitated. He obviously hadn't slept. He was almost crying as he shouted,

"I love you and you treat me like this? You'll never find anybody who loves you like I do! I cared for you! I would've done anything for you! I would've made you happy! You'll never see me again!"

He was so pathetic that she almost apologized. It was a low trick but it worked. He never called again but she did see him once a year later.

She was cruising in her cab on Columbus looking for a fare when she spotted him.

He was walking with a plain women his own height. They were holding hands and staring into each other's eyes, lost to the world, in love, happy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


"I used to be beautiful." She said with a light laugh. "You don't believe it, huh?"

I turned around and glanced at her in the back seat. She looked middle-fifties and dumpy. If you studied her face, you could see that she might once have been beautiful.

"You're a fine looking woman," I told her.

She broke out laughing.

"You're a lousy liar," she said.

"Other women have told me that."

"No - I was drop-dead gorgeous," she said, as if stating an obvious fact. "And I have Asian genes - when I was 60 I looked 35 - and I was fine. A Body an 18 year old would kill for. I would've had you eating out of my hand."

"It my case that wouldn't be hard."

She laughed and continued.

"I had a beautiful twenty-five year old boyfriend. Hard body. Filipino like me. It was the greatest passion of my life."

"I mean, it was crazy. I couldn't get enough of him. If he didn't call, I went insanely jealous. I couldn't eat. I'd walk around in agony - I mean physical pain. I never felt nothin' like it before. I couldn't sleep if he wasn't with me. I'd just stay up worryin', imagining him with other women."

"It turned out he was sleepin' around. Maybe my jealousy started it. I mean I accused him so much maybe he thought,

'Fuck it! I might as well get some.'"

"I started sleeping around for revenge. I screwed his best friend and let him know it."

"We fought all the time. Hysterical fights. I threw a knife at him."

"It got crazier and crazier. We'd break up and when we got back together it would be hotter than it was before. Then we'd fight again and break up again. It was like an addiction."

"I came in one afternoon and found him doing my niece on my bed - ON MY BED - they didn't see me. They were really goin' at it. I mean, they were really fucking!"

"So I went and got the gun and came back and they were still at it. They had so much energy. I suddenly thought,

'Yeah they belong together' and I said to myself, 'what the hell are you doin' Marcie? You're 60 years old.'''

"That was it. From that moment, I just let myself go. That was last year."

She laughed again.

"You don't believe me but it's true. I turned old overnight ..."

I stopped the cab and she paid me.

"Thanks for getting me home so fast. I'm just in time for the Surviver final. I'm really lookin' forward to it. It should really be exciting."

A Rear Ender

The pick-up truck zoomed backward out of a Chinatown alley. No way the driver looked.

Luckily I have rapid reflexes. I hit the horn and the brakes at the same time. Then, the instant I stopped - just as the truck started to hit me - I threw it in reverse. There was a little contact but no damage.

"Why don't you look where you're going," I told the driver, a twenty something American born Chinese.

"Fuck you. Any moron could see me backing up - asshole!"

"You're the asshole!"

"You white mother fucker!"

"Ni bu shi donxi," I responded in Mandarin. It translates to: "you're not even a thing."

"You speak Chinese?"

"A little."

"Well - fuck you!"

A typical exchange. You get a chance to blow off a little steam. It's all part of the job.

"What an asshole!" My customer said from the back seat. He was about 55 and in the middle of a middle-aged spread.

"However," his wife, a statuesque blond of 35, added in a slight Swedish accent, "our driver was at fault."

"What? The guy blew out of that alley."

"Our driver should have been paying more attention."

"Attention! If he didn't back up, we could'a been killed."

"If he wasn't looking at China girl's asses, he would've seen the truck earlier."

"What the hell do you know about it?" he said starting to shout. "You don't even drive!"

"I don't have to be a driver," she shouted back, "to know a bad one!"

"Stop shouting!" He shouted.

"You stop shouting." She screamed.

"If don't mellow out, you're gonna be alone with your dildo tonight."

"I finish with the dildo every night anyway."

"What? With your love master here?"

"The only thing you've mastered is premature ejaculation."

"I hate to interrupt," I said interrupting, "but which one of you is paying?"

"Who do think is paying?" he asked sarcastically.

"You mean, you're going to give this asshole money?" she asked incredulously. "He nearly killed us."

"Of course I'm paying him - he saved out lives."

She got out behind me, slammed the door and walked around the cab while her husband counted out my money. Then he she opened the front door on the passenger side and stuck her head inside.

"You boys take all the time you want," she said looking at me with a suggestive smile, "he just loves being rear-ended."

She slammed the front door and started walking up the street.

"Sorry about that," I said.

"Forget it," he said. "Of course I'll apologize. ... They never give in. ... She's my fifth wife. ... Can you believe it?"

Monday, December 7, 2009

144 Athens

I was in love with love. Everything Jessica did - every move, every gesture - struck me as marvelous and filled me with joy. I loved her lithe tom-boy walk. I loved her open joyfull smile, her long blond hair, her dark blue eyes, her light brown skin, her Brazilian accent - the way her elegant fingers magically moved as they rapidly counted money through the dispatcher's window.

I couldn't understand how she could have married a snark like Maurice. She was not only twenty years younger than he was but she was vibrant and, I thought, passionate. I could see no possibility of him satisfying a woman like that.

Jessica hung out with the guys at the Ha Ra after work before going home or heading out to dance. She was just one of the boys and, although Maurice didn't drink and never joined her, nobody was about to make passes at the boss's wife. Except for Gill who made passes at all women and, well, me.

I tried to be quiet about it. When no one else was looking I might tell her that I loved her smile or her blue eyes. But, whenever I did so, she froze me out and snubbed me the next day. But, the day after that she'd not only be friendly but flirtatious ... or was it in my mind? If I flirted back, she'd turn cold.

I finally asked her out. She suggested that we meet for drinks and dancing. Clearly a date. However, she not only showed up with Gill but an entourage and she made eye passes at every guy in the place.

A few days later, the taxi dispatcher told me to pick up an order at 144 Athens. This was highly unusual. Normally all radio calls go out on a bid.

"They asked for you," the dispatcher told me when I questioned him. "If you don't want the order let me know - I'll get it myself."

Strange comment. Satyric tone of voice. Now I was intrigued.

"I'll take it - why not?"

144 Athens was a tiny cottage set back from the street behind a picket fence and couple of dwarf palm trees.

Jessica answered the door wearing only a terrycloth bathrobe.

"All women confuse me," I told her, "but you're in a class by yourself."

"Do you find this confusing?" she asked as she opened her robe.

"No," I told her as I walked over and finished removing it.

She put an arm around my waist and led me into a bedroom with a panoramic view of downtown San Francisco and the Bay Bridge. The bed took up half the room.

Afterwards I asked her, "Was that some sort of game were you playing at the nightclub?"

"I was punishing you," she said with a devilish giggle. "How dare you ask me out! I'm a married woman. What do you think I am?"

There was certain bend to her logic but I thought it best not to comment.

We saw each other two or three times a week after that - always at the cabin. We couldn't safely go out because every cab driver in the city knew both of us. We'd just watch movies, eat take out ... and fuck.

In between we'd talk about our childhoods. Her Amazon adventures, my trips on the lakes of Minnesota. She was a great listener. I talked for hours at a time about canoeing on the headwaters of the Mississippi.

Maurice didn't know about 144 Athens. Like most owners of cab companies, he took a percentage of the tips that the dispatchers extorted from his drivers. Unlike most of them, he took 20% instead of the usual ten. His mistake was in letting Jessica count the money. She saved enough to buy the cottage in less than three years.

I didn't think too much about where the affair was leading. I was only making $500 a week. I didn't see how I could ask her to leave Maurice's millions on that kind of salary. We did plan a few trips: one to Mendocino and another to Yucatan but something always came up before we could leave.

She went back home to Brazil for a month and then I went to spend the Christmas holidays in St. Paul. When I came back I had trouble getting hold of her. I saw her at work but she wasn't returning my calls.

I tracked her down at the Ha Ra. She was sitting at the bar talking and laughing with the bartender.

"Haven't seen you for awhile," she said when I went over and sat next to her.

"I went home," I said puzzled, "don't you remember?"

"Oh yeah," she said brightly, "Iowa."

A few night later, I was driving my taxi when the dispatcher told Cab #268 to pick up at 144 Athens.

Who the fuck is 268?


His real name was Mike but he started calling himself Maurice when he returned from studying art in Paris. Maybe he thought the name would help him sell his painting. If so, he was wrong but he never went back to Mike.

He held court with the other owners at a coffee house across the street from the cab lot. He was there every morning and every morning I'd come in for coffee before I started work. Every morning I'd say hello to Maurice and the gang and every morning they'd scowl and snub me.

But when I started political organizing, he took an interest. Maybe he thought I had guts. I was a so-called Independent Contractor. He could have eliminated me with the stroke of his pen. It wasn't courage. I was single and didn't give a flying fuck. Getting in the face of pricks like Maurice was my idea of fun. On the whole he seemed amused by my provocative yet ultimately impotent actions.

He started including me in his court. He apparently had done a background check and spoke to me as a fellow artist cast adrift by the storm. He regaled me with tales of his painting days. He'd grown up with the poet Harold Morse and they shared an apartment in Paris.

"I don't know about my own art, " he told me, "but I knew lots of geniuses - lots of them."

I don't know know about his geniuses but his "art" explained why he owned a cab company.

When my political group began getting notice, Maurice pulled me aside and gave me a lengthy talk about how bad conditions had been for workers back at the turn of the 20th century. You know: 18 hour work days, company stores, sleeping on the job site etc etc. His point of course was that he wasn't all that bad.

Certainly, Maurice could be charming.

There was a veteran driver who was one of the last to belong to the dying union. Maurice made the driver a member of his coffee klatch and told him that he could keep all his benefits if he quit the union. Maurice would personally guarantee that the driver would still have his wage rate, his paid vacations, his retirement and his medical benefits.

"Why pay those damn union dues?" Maurice asked.

The driver took him up on the deal and went on vacation. When he came back, he discovered that he no longer had a job.

"But what about our agreement?" the man pathetically asked as he stood at the door of the Maurice's office.

Maurice got up and walked over to the driver.

"What agreement?" he snarled as he closed the door in the man's face.