Cliff Fyman: 3 Taxi Interludes

Fall '08 TOC

*

I once had this old crotchety man.  Whiskey in the handle of his cane.  He kept sipping & hollering, “Beat that truck out!  Oh cabdriver, you stink!”  But no matter about his insults now.  He did give me one good piece of nostalgic information.  Park Avenue, he said reminiscing, used to be called 4th Avenue all the way up.  Those were the days horses were prevalent on the street.  I liked his vest, & the chain of his railroad watch that overlooped the lap of his vest pocket.  I looked at him in the rear view mirror.  Eyes dim, crying, crying, crying.  O pity the poor old men dying.  But no pity for him as far as he was concerned, rapping his cane against my back seat screaming, “Faster, driver.  Driver, you shmuck!”

*

Mike Wallace got in.  It was 59th Street and 3rd Avenue, Friday night on the movie strip.  He said in a calm, cool voice, “Take a left here if you would please, and then we’ll go to 74th Street between Park and Lexington.”  His voice sounded like it was tape recorded.  It was authoritative and the diction was unusually crisp.  I was slightly entranced by it.  If he’d said, “Now you will drive into that brick wall,” I think I might’ve done it.  I made the run up 3rd Avenue trying not to hit any potholes.  Stopped at a corner, I had my head bowed and tried a little bit to pick up what he was whispering to the woman with him, presumably his wife.  He sensed that I was eavesdropping and said, “The light is green.”  Down 74th Street, I took a right turn and a half a block from his brownstone he began saying ve-ry slow-ly, “You will...let...us off...right...here.”
            And I did.

*

A guy from Astoria, he worked for the telephone company, he wasn’t very rich, gave me too much.  The fare was 4.80.  It was dark under the Queens side of the 59th Street Bridge, and he pushed 15 dollars into the cup.  I just stared at the bills in my hand.  They looked good (untaxed tips was my bread and butter).  I wondered whether I was going to keep my mouth shut or not.  Then I said, “You know, you gave me a five and a ten.”  He said, “You are an honest motherfucker.”  He told me to give him both bills back and we’d start all over again.  The second time around, he pushed through six dollars, a five and a one, which was still a pretty nice tip.
            He asked me why I said anything.
            I thought for a minute, looked up and saw the lights from the bridge twinkling from the heavy girders and said, “Well, I get enough.  I get some and I give some out and get some back and give some out and get some back and give some out.”

:: TOC ::

Not Enough Night
Not Enough Night
© 2012 Naropa University