First off, consider for a moment what driving a taxi entails. It means you pick up hitchhikers for money, and as most people know: the last thing you should ever do is pick up hitchhikers. I mean, when you're driving in the city and see a guy on the corner waving at traffic your first thought isn't, "Oh yeah I could give that guy a lift." And you shouldn't because that guy might murder you and rape your skull. It happened to a driver I knew -- messed up his family for life.
Case in point. One night I'm cruising around, the alert goes off on my dashboard setup. There's a fare at Lincoln and Brown. I'm close by, so I head over. Out front of this small tavern I see a guy standing on the corner smoking.
Pulling up beside him I ask, "You call a cab?"
"Yeah," he says, and gets in the backseat, "Take me to, uh, Clark and Division. The red line stop."
That's a forty minute drive this time of night, assuming traffic is kind. Most taxis aren't fond of the long slogs, especially around two a.m. When the bars are letting out you can usually get ten quick trips -- block and drops -- in a short span. That's easy money. Now I got this guy who wants me to drive him all the way into the city; and odds are good he wants to be dropped by the CTA so he can run for it instead of pay. Then he does something real unexpected.
Sighing, he holds up two twenties, "Here."
"What's that?" I ask.
He goes, "Just so I don't forget. I've been drinking, and my mind's all ovah the place."
"Thanks," I say, not sure what to think.
"No problem. It costs more. I got more. Fucking Benny," he laughs.
And we're off. Guy in the back doesn't say anything so neither do I. People who want to talk will chat you up, at least that's the way I figure. Never saw the sense in asking for a conversation someone doesn't want to have. Then, as we head onto the highway, he gets chatty:
"Hey man, what's your name?"
I tell him.
He goes, "Aight. My name's Louis, unless you ask my friends."
"What do your friends call you?"
"Man, they fucking assholes about shit. They call me Murder."
I glance at him in the rearview. He's looking out the window, watching the world stream by, not a sign of a smirk. In the flash of a streetlight I notice a greenish tattoo on his hand, but it's only a glimpse -- no way to know what it's of. His expression is that of someone deep in thought, his mind on the past more than the present, and the recollections don't seem to be all too pleasant at moment.
"Yeah, ain't that some shit? I never killed anybody..."
A wave of relief washes over me.
"...I mean like manslaughter is not murder. You know what I'm saying? Murder is like on purpose. I just beat a motherfucker to death. It was a fucking accident."
Unfortunately, it turns out the wave is made of acid that strips me of all relief. However, years of experience have taught me how to handle such circumstances.
I say, "That is some bullshit. Motherfuckers should know the difference."
Louis Murder perks up in the backseat, "Right? It wasn't even my fault."
I shrug, "I hear ya man."
He leans forward, his head hovering just over my shoulder, "Like it was like this man. I'm telling you it happened just like I'm sayin'."
"All right. I'm listening."
"So I'm out with my boys, and we're laughing, having a good time, when this guy walked in to the bar, and like fuck, man, it was all his fault. He pissed me off."
Naturally I asked, "What did he do?"
"He pissed me off!" Louis Murder's tone drove home the fact no more explanation than that should be necessary.
Accepting that elaboration I said, "Well then fuck him."
"Man, you get it." Louis Murder reached over to pat me on the shoulder. I glanced at my GPS. Too many minutes to our destination.
Louis melted into the backseat, "I'm glad you understand. I'm telling you, I didn't mean to kill that guy. I've been hit in the head with a pool ball. I didn't fucking die."
Knowing not to ask for details I said, "What was he made of glass?"
Chuckling, "He musta been. Shattered and shit." Adopting a whiny mock tone, " 'I wasn't looking at you.' Yeah, look at this motherfucker." Louis slammed a fist into his palm. I hoped for a minute that he broke one of his hands. Sensing no such luck I continued agreeing with him:
"So you tuned him up? No big deal."
Throwing up his hands, "Exactly! How is it my fault he died? He made it to the hospital."
"Then it's the doctor's fault he's dead."
Nodding, "That's what I've been saying. Man, you get it. You fucking get it. I knew, I knew when I saw you, you been in the same situation."
It's not every day someone says I look like the kind of person who kills people. So I took that as a compliment. Now, it seemed prudent not to point out his error. While I've been known to commit certain felonious acts -- blowing up cars, breaking into houses, selling drugs, etc. -- I have never killed anybody. That isn't to say I haven't pondered it from time to time. Considering that all fiction is about murder it's hard not to have the thought pop into one's head. We love murder. Don't think so? Romeo and Juliet is about two teenagers who's suicide pact inspires their parents to stop killing one another. Han Solo is cool because he shot first. Would you watch a cop show that was all about recovering stolen property? We enjoy murder; we only hate it when it's happening to us. But I digress.
Louis Murder then said, "So tell me something, what do you think of the Bears this season?"
I made the mistake of answering honestly, "I don't really watch football."
"What the fuck is wrong with football?"
Glancing in the rearview I saw him glaring at me as if I'd profaned something sacred. I said, "There's nothing wrong with football."
"Nah, nah don't back down like a bitch. What's wrong with football?"
My brain immediately considered all the options available. Settling on one, I took my foot off the accelerator. Lightly applying the brakes I slowed the cab below forty as I said, "Well, if you must know..." -- I jumped out the moving car, tumbled along the shoulder, slammed into the concrete divide between the highway and the Addison blue line. The cab pinballed off cars in the neighboring lane before arcing into the divide. Clambering over the concrete wall, I limped along the railroad tracks, and onto the platform. Keeping an eye on the smashed taxi I waited nervously for five minutes before a train arrived -- thanks Jesus, Allah, Buddha. I never saw Louis Murder emerge from the cab, but I still hurried onto the train.
As the train pulled away I flopped into an empty seat. I pulled out my cell phone. Bloody fingers smeared the screen as I dialed up the dispatch.
Soon as someone answered I said, "Yeah, I'm just calling to say I quit."