THREE FLASHES FROM THE CAB
I take an elderly man to the movie theater. Not just any movie theater, but the FANCY movie theater. The one where they have big leather seats with push-out foot rests, menus of food you can order from a built-in microphone, personal light, wait-people, even BOOZE! Yes, these places do exist. I’ve never been inside, but I’ve heard second hand.
He complains the whole way there.
‘It’s a good concept, he says, but when you put your foot rest out the wait-staff always knocks it when they walk by, blocking your view and often times spilling food and drinks, especially if it’s a dark movie, with many night scenes. They pretty much have to hire really short people for the wait staff, and I have noticed quite a turnover rate. The people sitting next to you are always turning on their lights and “discussing” what they want from the menu, RIGHT AFTER THE MOVIE STARTS. Do you want ham or turkey dear? Mayo? Mustard? What kind of merlots do you have today? Also, if you are sitting next to a beer drinker you can hear their burps all through the movie. And when they check ID’s, oh that’s like a 5-minute procedure right there! The prices are extremely high but your actual experience is sub-par and oftentimes quite irritating. Sometimes people will want to “cash-out” before the end of the movie and that’s annoying, especially if they find a discrepancy in the billing. That sure is a treat!’
‘What movie are you going to see?’ I ask.
‘Doesn’t matter’ he says. ‘I just got to get out of the house and be around people for a while.’
I pick up another guy from Buffalo Wild Wings. He tells me the address of where he lives.
‘How old do you think I am?’ he says.
That threw me. He really looked great! It didn’t appear that he had any plastic surgery done, he just looked naturally youthful. Hell, he didn’t look much older than me.
‘Congratulations!’ I say. ‘When you were 30, did you look 8?’
‘I may not look my age, but I feel it! I’ve lost everybody. Are you married?’
‘Well, cherish her every minute. I lost my dear Patricia 3 years ago. I’m all alone now.’
‘Before that, I lost my mother and father. Shit, I know all about loss! My brother Gene passed 10 years ago. I lost my sisters Judy and Jackie. I lost everybody, I’m telling you, there’s no one left! I lost Uncle Roger and Uncle Joe. I lost Aunt Harriet, Aunt Geneva, Aunt Marsha and Aunt Marie. That’s just on my mother’s side. On my father’s side I lost Uncle John, Uncle Buddy and Uncle Richard. Lost all my cousins, not a one left. I had one daughter, my precious Samantha, lost her in a car crash when she was only eighteen. All my old friends are dead, lost Bill and Larry and Anny. Lost Ted, Lawrence, Marty, Kip, Darda, Evelyn, Nancy, Chuck, Peter, Andrew and Bob.’
‘That’s a lot of names to remember.’
‘My memory is still sharp. Sometimes I wish I could forget, but I can’t. Getting old sucks. There’s nothing to do. I started painting.’
‘Oh, well that’s a good idea.’
‘You want to come in and see my paintings?’
‘I really need to get a move on. Gotta pay the bills.’
We pulled into his little condo and sat in the driveway. He didn’t move, so I got out and went around and opened the door for him. He kind of looked out like he wasn’t sure where he was, then slowly stood up and looked around.
‘Yep, this is it.’
‘That will be ten bucks.’
‘I couldn’t interest you in a nice watercolor?’
‘I’m not much of a collector. I like to stay light.’
‘Yeh, ok…I’m on the internet if you change your mind.’
He handed me a ten-dollar bill and a business card that said: “Will Knight, award-winning artist,” and an address for a web site.
‘I’ll check it out, thanks.’
‘Ok, have a good one! Don’t get old!’
‘I’ll try not to!’
My next call comes from Fry’s grocery. These calls always stink, total jerk-runs. I pull up through the chaos of the parking lot. A deaf lady dangles in the swarm. Anarchy cooks at the supermarket doors stuck half open. She thinks the cab’s for her, but I’ve come for a man named Glenn. Her eyes eclipse from prayer to rage like she’s been punched as an old man approaches, says he’s Glenn. She throws a fit! She karate-chops me a new asshole with her sign language. Mute fumes. Pissed-off mime with moldy spaghetti hair on her mutilated skull. She begs a pen and digs out a Tucson Daily Star from the trash can. “I waiting 2 ½ hours” she scribbles in the gray margin, waves the news in my face. July 5th. Headline photo of the foothills burning. No rain forecasted. 10 a.m. Blue ink veins her rheumatoid claws. Asphalt hot as Satan’s abscessed tooth. She tosses the paper to the oven wind. I stare directly at her face and tell her I’m sorry but I have to pick up Glenn. Just following orders. She’s somebody’s mother. Grandmother. Far too much light. Glenn in puppy shit thrift store slacks isn’t looking for trouble. 70 years old. 5-foot-1. 80 pounds. The sun throbs like a sore on the back of a leper’s neck. Embolism air bubbles trample toward our hearts. I pile Glenn and his groceries into the mustard-yellow cab, swear to the deaf lady I’ll drop Glenn off and return for her. No clue which cab company she called or if she’ll curse my soul. Doesn’t matter. We’re all nutsacks and frail promises collapsing in the funk. Glenn lives 8 blocks away where the rippling water mirage evaporates at a stroked-out apartment complex. I lug his bags up 4 crooked flights.
Back in the cab I get another fare and take it without thinking in my automaton nod. I remember deaf lady but can’t turn back. I’ve got my own problems, I rationalize to my gin blossom in the rearview mirror. My wife is crippled and someone hacked my bank account. There’s a constant ringing, a voice in my mind I can’t plug up. Sweat beads like spider pearls on this faded roulette wheel that bites. Hell, she’ll be alright, bawling in her silent sentience. I pass a rotted coyote in the cinders of the shoulder, like a poet grinning in a heroin suicide or a theorist who wrote his final pamphlet on the social ecology meltdown. Horse flies rifle loud and mad in the cracked mud ditch. I suck oxygen into wretched sciatica biomass and hold the fuck on. A 17-tired truck skids sideways through the red at Rudasill Road. Spilled oranges bounce like propane orbs in violet oblivion. Tremulous meteorites criss-cross my eyeballs. Oblique brakes rip the fabric of traffic like knees bending the wrong way and shattering, like bees sizzling the bliss with 10,000 flames, like the future blow-horning my name here right now and there’s nowhere to go but straight into it.
Mather Schneider was born in 1970 and now lives in Mexico. He has had many poems and stories published and has 4 books available.