Friday, November 20, 2009

Show business

I was stopped at a light. It was late. The bars had all let out, and the only work left was catching the few stragglers and drunks left on the streets. I was debating with myself about whether to call it quits or cruise around for a final circuit when they stumbled in front of the cab, appearing seemingly from nowhere, a young man and woman, clinging to each other, flushed and laughing.

I waved for them to get in and the two made their way to the side of the cab. The guy flung the door open and threw the girl onto the back seat, her head hitting the opposite door with a loud thwunk! She groaned a little and giggled. He got in and gave me an address in the South End around Northeastern University. I punched the meter and pulled out.

"Can you put on some music?" the guy shouted, as if he was still in the bar he had just left.

Yeah, sure, I answered, tuning the radio to one of the city's alternative stations. The Clash's "London Calling" filled the cab.

"This song ab-so-lute-ly rocks!" slurred the girl. "Thanks mister."

I pretended not to hear. I was tired, and didn't feel like trying to socialize with a couple of stupid drunks. It didn't matter anyway. The two in the back were onto other things, and seemed to be cooing to each other.

Flock of Seagulls, a band I always hated, was about midway through their hit song "I ran," when suddenly there was stirring in the back seat.

"Hey!" the girl shouted. "That fucking hurt!"

"Ah, c'mon," the guy said.

"No," she continued. "That really hurt."

"Look, I was just trying to have a little fun," he countered.

"Get your fucking hands off me."

"Hey, what's the big deal?"

"You're a goddamned pig, you know that?" she screamed.

"What the hell do you know?," he shouted back.

"A lot more than you think, you pig. Maybe you're wife would like to know just what a sleazy fucking pig you are. Maybe I should call her up right now!"

This has now turned in a direction that I really don't like. I'm asking myself should I intervene? And if so, what can I do?

"You're nuts, you know that?" he said. He then leaned forward toward me. "Buddy, is it just me or is she completely out of her mind?"

Leave me outta this, I tell him, wishing now I had driven right past them and quit for the night.

"Yeah, pig, leave him out of it. Besides, I'm sure he knows all about being a sleazy fucking pig!"

What the...? I'm about tell her to shut up, too, but I stop myself. There's some rustling in the back.

"Hey!" he said. "Give that back!"

I could hear the tones of a cellphone being dialed.

"I'm calling her up right now," she said. "I'm gonna tell her all about her fucking pig of a husband."

"Goddammit" he said, reaching across the seat to grab the phone back.

I could feel the phone fly past my ear. It hit the front windshield with a heavy smack!

That's it. I pulled the car over. I picked up the cellphone, which landed on the seat beside me. I turned around. I held the phone in front of the guy, and was about to tell them both that they either shut up or the next stop was going to be the police station when the girl grabbed the phone, opened the door and bolted from the car.

"Crazy bitch," he said, as she crossed the street and disappears around a corner. "Look, I gotta get her. Wait here and we'll be right back, honest." Sure, I said, shaking my head. He took off, and I'm left cursing myself for not getting him to leave something behind. Sure enough, three, five, then seven minutes passes and there's no sign of them. They're gone.

I noticed then that I'm within a block of the address they gave me, and it occured to me that I've been played. This was a set-up from the beginning. All the screaming and the drama was a ploy to beat the fare, an elaborate charade to fool some dumb cabbie. And I fell for it. Probably next night they'll come up with a different routine, maybe where one of them pretends to get sick, or needs to run into a store for cigarettes. Who knows?

The $7 fare I have to eat. I should have quit when I had the chance.