Me and Little John were sitting at the Greyhound bus station behind the wheels of our taxicabs. We were toward the end of the cab queue and wouldn’t get a fare for a while. It was a depressing place to be, number nine or ten in the bus station cab queue at four in the afternoon. It was hotter than a whore on dollar day.

Little John was on his cell phone. His seven teeth flashed in the sun.
“Hey, Donny,” he said into the phone. “What’s up? Where you been?”

He looked at me through our open windows and gave me the thumbs up.

“What?” he said. “No, no, man…hey, is Jay there?…Where is he?…Don’t fuck around man, I’m completely out, I mean, I had a couple of buds stashed away for an emergency, but those are gone now and…What?…No, hey, you know me, man, I can’t live like this. I AM A MAN WHO NEEDS HIS WEED! Ray? Ray? Hello?”

Little John looked at me again. “Fucker hung up,” he said. “He’s blowing me off, man. But I’ll get to him if I have to drive this fucking taxi all the way to fucking Yuma.”
Little John was five foot six and weighed 245 pounds. He had bad arches that caused him to walk with a stiff-legged lurch, but he hardly ever walked; he mostly remained behind the wheel of his cab. He was most comfortable there and had the appearance of being a physical part of the vehicle. He was 44 years old with over-washed salt-and-pepper hair that fell down his neck and onto his Neolithic forehead. A wart poked, nipple-like, out of his right cheek, and he rubbed it while he talked.

“Don’t smoke pot before you come to work,” the boss told Little John one time.
“Be reasonable,” Little John said.
“Well, don’t smoke at least three hours before work.”

“One hour.”

“Two and a half.”

They settled on two hours, but Little John smoked throughout his whole shift anyway. He smoked everywhere, many times right in his taxi.

Today, he ran out of weed for the first time in years.

“I can’t live like this,” he said to me. “I’ve got to work, I’ve got to drive this fucking taxi, I’ve got to make money. I’ve got to deal with these people, all these motherfuckers…”

“Easy,” I said. “God is listening.”

“Fuck God,” Little John said. “God didn’t get me no weed. You hear me, motherfucker?” He leaned his head out his cab window and looked at the sky where God lived. He shielded his eyes from the sun and yelled, “Fuck YOU!”

He brought his head back inside the cab, looked straight ahead, and sighed. He sat there for a second. Then he gave me a worried look and put his head back out the window.

“Just kidding,” he said to the sky.

A white van pulled into the bus station parking lot. A fat corrections officer got out and opened the door, and four men hopped out wearing their blue jail shirts. This is standard procedure for released convicts who have no one to come pick them up. Whether the convicts have money for a bus ticket or where they go from there is of no concern to the corrections officers. They just drive away.

Val, an asshole Russian who drove for Yellow Taxi, got out of his cab and started yelling toward the men in the blue shirts.

“HEY CONVICTS, NEED A RIDE? CONVICTS, HEY CONVICTS, NEED A RIDE? GOT YOUR TAXI RIGHT HERE, HEY CONVICTS, CONVICTS!”

Val knew they would not retaliate for fear of getting sent right back to jail. I secretly wished one of these men would get in Val’s cab one day and strangle him with his own seatbelt.

The convicts lingered for a few minutes and then dispersed on foot into the hot bowels of downtown.

An old drunk wearing only one shoe came stumbling through the parking lot of the Greyhound toward our cabs. When he was about 50 yards away, he fell flat on his face. Little John jumped out of his cab and ran over to the guy. Little John bent down and helped the guy up and then the guy tried to hit him in the jaw. Little John pushed him off and the guy fell down again, stood up, fell again, then stood up a final time and stumbled away toward Broadway.

Little John walked back to his cab.

“Some people just don’t want help,” he said.

“Did you ask him if he had any weed?” I said.

“Don’t joke about it,” he said.

“Something will come up.”

“Shit, I got to get out of this city. I got to get back to the country. I was raised in the country, you know.”

He lit a cigarette.

“We used to have chickens, goats, pigs, all that,” he continued. “That was the fucking life, better than this shitty city. This place is fucking dirty, man, and full of assholes. Plus, in the country, you can grow your own weed.”

“So, what’s stopping you?” I said.

“I don’t know. I’ve got my apartment. Besides, how would I get money?”

A Greyhound bus pulled into the station and emptied itself of people. A few of the cabs in the front of the queue got fares and pulled away. All the cabs moved 15 yards up.

“I had this one little chicken,” Little John said, “on the farm. Little fuzzy yellow thing, and she grew attached to me. I named her Peepers. Damn, she was cute, man; you should have seen her. She followed me around everywhere I went.”

“How old were you?” I said.

“I was like eight or nine, I think, yeah. Shit, Peepers, I haven’t thought about her in a long time. But it’s sad, though, because one day we were running through a field, and I was running real fast, you know, and I guess she just couldn’t take it and she stopped. I felt bad and went back and bent over her and she was breathing real heavy and kind of twitching in the grass. Jesus, I started crying. And then you know what happened?”

“What?”

“Her heart exploded. It fucking exploded right out of her chest. Right out of her little fucking chest.”

I gave him a look of disbelief.

“I’m serious, it did. It exploded right out of her chest. There was blood on the ground; it was terrible.”

Tears slid down his cheeks. He looked away and wiped them with his sleeve.

“Maybe you should just stay here in the city, big fella,” I said.

He shook his head up and down, but he couldn’t talk anymore. Another bus wasn’t scheduled to arrive for an hour.

“I’ve got to go,” I said. “I’ve got a personal fare.”

“Ain’t you lucky.”

I pulled out, to the delight of the cab driver behind me. I didn’t have a personal fare, but I wanted to move. Everything starts with moving: just keep moving and the luck would change. It was like death just sitting there.

I drove over to the Food City by Randolph Park and got a Sonoran-style hot dog at an outdoor stand. A Mexican guy handed it to me and it was loaded: beans, jalapeno sauce, mayo, mustard, onions, tomatoes, and bacon.

I was standing there eating the steaming hot dog next to my cab in the bright sun when I saw a man running toward me across the Food City parking lot, waving his arm. He was lugging a suitcase and it was obvious he needed a cab. Come to papa, I thought. His face was red and it looked like his heart would burst from his chest.

***

For all installments from 6 to 6, click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Traveling Mercies
  2. Next Time, Take Skyline
  3. Suicide Lane
  4. Morenci in My Rear-View Mirror
  5. A Spiritual Adventure
  6. Sonja’s Ring
  7. A Pair to Draw To
  8. Grocery Day
  9. A Day with Melanie
  10. The Hot Light
  11. Drano
  12. The Cab Knows the Way
  13. Dodi’s Luck
  14. Don’t Die Before Your Mother
  15. Bob’s Big Day
  16. Nothing But a Human Being
  17. John’s Dream