‘I’ve been sick all winter. First, it was a cold, and then the flu, and then I got a yeast infection, and it wouldn’t go away…and I hate to be sick, I’m NEVER EVER sick, but I’ve been sick all year….’
It’s very late, after 2 in the morning, and I picked them all up at the pickup mill on the main drag of San Luis Obispo, and all I want to do is get rid of them and go home.
The girl who talked too much
By Dell Franklin
This pretty mid-20s girl is squished between me and a tall, rangy Hollywood handsome guy with a cast on his right arm from knuckles to mid-forearm. The girl is drunk and won’t shut up, and the guy beside her is scowling and silent as a clam. In the back seat, another girl sits between a well-dressed guy with a $75 haircut who is directly behind me and a kid in a watchcap who can’t keep his hands off the girl, who is too drunk to do much about him, while the guy behind me keeps tapping me on the shoulder and insisting he will pay.
“Don’t take any money from anybody else, dude,” he keeps saying.
It’s very late, after 2 in the morning, and I picked them all up at the pickup mill on the main drag of San Luis Obispo, and all I want to do is get rid of them and go home, for I’ve been at it since 3 in the afternoon. Meanwhile, the girl is telling me of her troubles….
“My favorite uncle died…he just DIED! He was my best uncle, my best friend, I love him so…and I cried and cried, I still can’t stop crying….”
Nobody else is saying anything, they’re all too drunk and tired or distracted, but not this girl.
“I’ve been sick all winter. First, it was a cold, and then the flu, and then I got a yeast infection, and it wouldn’t go away…and I hate to be sick, I’m NEVER EVER sick, but I’ve been sick all year….”
“You should booze it up more, that’s my advice. Booze kills all those nasty germs….”
“I like doing things, and staying busy, I’ve got a good job, I love my job, and I missed so much work…and then uncle Jerry died, he just up and died, and then my best friend, she broke her leg skiing, and her back’s all screwed up, she’s bedridden….”
“What about your little dog?”
“Don’t you have a little lap dog?”
“My parents have the dog I grew up with…Lucy, she’s a little weiner dog, she’s almost twenty years old! She can’t see and she can’t hear! I know she’s going to die soon, and it just tears me apart, it’s one thing after another….”
“But at least you got your job, right?”
“Right. I’ve got my, job. I….”
“Don’t forget, I’m paying,” says the guy behind me, tapping me on the shoulder again. “Their money’s no good.”
“If you didn’t have your job, things’d be much worse.”
“Well, I know, but….”
“And you’ve got a roof over your head…?”
“Oh yes, I live with Frank, in the back seat, in Avila Beach, in a townhouse he just bought, so I don’t really NEED to work, I mean, you know, to survive and all, but I want to work, I need to be doing something, I’ve always been that way, you know, I was a very hyper kid and I’m still hyper and I have a lotta stuff going….”
Her cell phone rings. She’s right on it. Uh-huhs a little, and then goes on a verbal rampage about the night she’s just experienced, with the bar being so crowded and wild and she was bored and would the person on the other phone like to come over for a nightcap? But that person cannot and she feels oh so bad, almost like she’s going to cry, and she insists, implores, “please please please come over, I need to talk to you, I love you so, we’re such good friends, yes, I know you love me, and I love you, too, why don’t you come over and Frank and Rick and you and I can have a nightcap….”
I’m tapped on the shoulder. “Don’t let, anybody pay pal.”
We’re nearing the offramp to Avila Beach. Their townhouse is not situated in the once-old funky part of town that has been razed and transformed into a high-end tourist mecca, but in a gated community adjacent a golf course. They are all so young, possibly 26, 27, and I wonder where they get the money to buy homes that start out at well over half a million when I, an old cabby, have to scrimp for dollars, a beggar at the mercy of the new rich, barely making enough at the end of the month for a moldy old dilapidated beach shack.
She is off the phone. “Mr. Cabby, can I change the music on your radio, please please please?
I always play jazz, blues or classical but I nod, and she goes through a bunch of stations and settles on rap, turning it up, and I let it go, what the hell, there’s only a mile or so to go, who cares about what I want?
“Here here here!” exclaims the girl pointing frantically. “This is where we get off!”
The guy in back is tapping again. “Here, here, yeh, here….”
“I know where I’m going, kids.” I hit the offramp. “I know where Avila Beach is. I’ve made this trip a hundred times. I’ve driven a cab for years around here, I’m not a goddam moron….”
The girl grabs my arm. “I’m sooo sorry.” The music is so loud I can hardly think. “I’m really really sorry. Please don’t be upset.”
“I’m not upset.”
“You’re upset. I’m so sorry. Please don’t be mad at me.”
“I’m not mad at you.”
“You don’t like me, I know you don’t like me.”
“For God’s sake, kid, I don’t dislike you! Relax. I’m just trying to drive my cab.”
“Oh God, you hate me…I know you do.”
“I don’t HATE you. You’re a nice girl. Just a little drunk.”
She starts to cry. “I know I talk too much…I know I bother people. I know I make people mad. I apologize….”
“Stop apologizing. Look, I LIKE you. You’re a sweetie, a dear, an angel. Now just sit still and don’t say anything, we’re almost there, almost home, just calm down, please, calm down….”
She sniffles into a handkerchief and squeezes my arm. “I’m just too sensitive. You’re really a doll. You really are. You remind me of my uncle who died. Just a sweetheart. It’s just that, oh, I’ve had such a bad night, such a bad year!”
I pull up to the gate. The gatekeeper is dozing. A fat Latino. We’ve been through this before. I give him a quick honk. He blinks, sits ups pushes a button, waves me on, the gate lifts, and I drive through. The girl beside me is finally silent. The guy beside her is rocking back and forth, gritting his teeth, scowling horribly. The guy in back with the watchcap is draped all over the girl in the middle, and it looks like he’s trying to fondle her ass and feel her bosom at the same time while he plants a wet one on her lips. She’s not fighting it.
At the directions of the guy behind me, I pull up to a townhouse. Among identical townhouses. There’s a Jag and a Mercedes SUV in the driveway. He hands me a hundred dollar bill. The fare is $18.50.
“You keep the change, cabby,” he says, “on one condition — you take this asshole in the backseat as far away from here as possible.”
Everybody gets out. The guy who paid me goes over to a little garden amid the slabs of stone and plaster and urinates on a rose bush. Meanwhile, the guy with the cast, who is at least six-foot-three and built like a stud athlete, is on the verge of clubbing the guy with the watchcap, his cast raised menacingly as he steps toward him. The guy who paid me hurries over and gets between them as the girls scream and try to pull the attacker back.
“Asshole!” he shouts at the guy. “He jumps in the backseat un-fucking-invited, and tries to fuck my girlfriend! I’m killing you you little piss ant!”
The girl from the backseat who was being sexually mauled shouts at me. “Rick’s an ultimate fighter! He’ll kill him and go to jail forever! He’s not supposed to fight. His fists are deadly weapons.”
The watchcap, believe it or not, is still trying to get his hands back on the girl he’s been mauling in the back seat and I grab him and turn him around and take him by the scruff of his neck and begin march-ing him toward the cab, while the other three people try to restrain the guy with the cast. The back door is open and I throw watchcap in and slam the door as the ultimate fighter lurches toward the door, pre-pared to open it and beat the watchcap to death, most likely.
“He’s an idiot, a pantywaist,” I plead. “Don’t hurt him, guy, go in and have a drink.”
“The fucker, he’s hitting on her all night, he knows she’s with me, goddammit, he jumps in the car….”
I run around and jump in the cab and lock buttons and tear away, leaving four figures in the driveway. I take a deep breath. I come to the gate, where the keeper is back aslumber, and it opens automatically and out on the road I begin to wind down, but now the watchcap is breathing down my neck, wanting to talk.
“That dude, he ain’t givin’ his bitch no play,” he says. “He’s a miserable asshole, man. That bitch, she wanted me. She was mine. Did you catch me in the backseat, dude? She was all over me, wanting it, cuz that guy ain’t givin’ her no play, Man, I know when a bitch wants me, and she was comin’ onto me at Mother’s man, I was dancin’ with her, and she was hot, all over me….”
“Okay, fine. I don’t wanna hear about it. I’m tired.”
“Man, I know when a bitch wants me. You know how many women I’ve screwed, and I’m only 24? I’ve screwed 42 women. How many women did you have when you were 24?”
“Hardly any. I was in the Army. We screwed hookers.”
“Well, I’ve had 42 different bitches, so I know what I’m talkin’ about. I know when a bitch wants me, dude.”
“You keep track? You count ‘em, write ‘em down in a diary?”
“I’ve had 42 different women, and that bitch was gonna be 43. But hey, cabby, my man, when we get to town, let’s cruise Higuera street and see what we can find.”
“It’s two thirty. Everybody’s off the streets.”
“So…we’ll cruise, man. That dude gave you a big tip, so you can cruise, and I can find some pussy.”
“I’m not gonna cruise, kid. Forget it.”
“Why not, man? Come on.”
“Where do you live in San Luis?”
“Don’t worry about that. I just need to find a bitch right now.”
“Listen, kid, I kept that ultimate fighting beast from pulverizing you, so don’t push it.”
“Hey, dude, mellow out, huh? You’re all up tight, all stressed out, we’ll just cruise, man.”
I don’t say anything. I’m beginning to feel like Raskalnikov in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment before he axe-murdered his landlady. There is something about this guy that cuts right through me, compromises tolerance, self-control, compassion, understanding, a sense of humor or perspective….
“Man, that bitch, she WANTED me. She was grabbing my dick, man.”
I slow down. “You’ve got to shut up, kid, or I’m gonna pull over here on the freeway in the rain and throw you outta this cab.”
“Hey, the dude PAID you to drive me, man....”
“SHUT THE FUCK UP! NOW!”
He sits back, falls silent. One more word and I’ll unload on him. But he keeps his trap shut. I get into San Luis and drop him off on the main drag, Higuera, and he gets out and starts walking, looking around for a chick, but the street is stone silent and empty but for a cop car cruising slowly.
A couple weeks later I’m sitting in my cab in front of Mother’s Tavern on a Saturday night and there’s a long, long line waiting to get in. Those in the line who know each other converse and laugh. Others are engaged in cell phone conversations, I spot the watchcap. He’s by himself, but not on a cell phone. He looks slouchy and forlorn, like a man about to go for a job interview here he knows he’s got no shot. §
Dell Franklin is publisher of The Rogue Voice. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.