<%@ Language=VBScript %> <%response.buffer = TRUE%> Handsome Cab
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Handsome Cab

Last year I ingested enough tranquilizers to kill a horse. A hundred milligrams of an experimental, pharmaceutical-grade sedative, name unfamiliar, something her dealer had. I floated out into the damp evening like a glider on a thermal up-draft. Cars glistened, as if their paint was still wet, in lime street light. Shaking off an eerie shiver, I was confident I'd make it home, only blocks away.

Fiction by Braxton Younts
Illustration by Palmer Saylor

February.1st.2003

When it hit me, when I knew it was going to be far more than imaginable, it was too late. A car passed in front of me. The wash of air twisted me and I fell off-balance. My eyelids ceased to blink, and I toppled teeth-first, watching slow-motion rain droplets mimic my fall toward the pavement. I hit hard. A rainbow of colors flashed through my brain.

A samaritan called 9-1-1. They said I bled like Saint Helen's.

I awoke in the hospital. Ninety-seven stitches for my face and three front teeth amiss.

She said I had a problem. I shrugged, but wouldn't admit it was true.



Beer for breakfast, again. Two tall-boys leftover from last night, green can with a capital red "R", washed down a powdered doughnut. Though Helen never be washed from my mind.

Slap! Out the screen-door to a place less familiar. I bussed it to my taxi in the dispatch lot. Fiery yellow tree leaves complimented the fleeting deep blue sky. I looked forward to the mindless driving that laid ahead of me.

When I arrived, a driver was bragging how often he'd gotten laid driving cabs, hawking the late night bars, finding lonely women. A nameless driver and a buzzed, lonesome female equated free anonymous sex, if you played your cards right, he swore. Every time, like luring a child with candy: It was easy.

I'd be luckier than a two-dicked-dog to get laid by a fare. My luck was drier than Seattle in July.



I felt the pressure of the 14-carat wedding band against the steering wheel as I pulled up to the curb out front. The only driver I trusted, Yoshi, had a cousin who owned a liquor store in on Jackson in Chinatown. It's where I wired money to the wife and, hopefully my boy.

Each evening, each time I quit for the day and had money left over from paying the company for everything, reminded me that she had left me. She'd picked up and moved to sunny San Bernardino with her lesbian lover and my four year old son. Ordered by the court, I sent a meager $500 per month for child support. She shot most of it into her arm. Only good thing about her leaving was she couldn't monitor my habits. I consumed what suited my whim –– all the things she hated: cheeseburgers, fries, beer for breakfast, and all the sweets I could stand.

Chocolate was smeared on the corner of this week's money order, a sweet addendum to the pittance I was a paid.



Outside, I savored another cream-filled sponge snack cake, wadded up the clear plastic wrapper, and threw the crinkled ball onto the floorboard. It was autumn, business was slow. Dispatchers and drivers yammered on the radio. The engine idled and the pine air freshener was too old to cover the interior's pungency. I thought about how long it'd been since I'd had sex.

A dispatcher interrupted, calling my number. Someone needed a ride, someone needed me.

Since moving to Seattle from North Carolina I had worked my way through the driving ranks –– from pizza delivery boy, to medical courier downtown, and now taxi driver. As I learned the quirky streets and neighborhoods, the more responsibility I undertook. I was glad to be out of the small towns of my youth. Here I attempted anonymity. I enjoyed being a guppy in a huge fish bowl.

On the way to make the pickup, I cruised past the Ethiopian restaurant where East African cabbies parked, socialized, and waited for their next run. I tooted my horn and waved.

The address I was going to was 425 16th Avenue North, a private residence located in the trendy Capitol Hill area. Capitol Hill was home to screwball artists, broke students, and in-your-face queers. Rain had made the streets slick and the car's tires spun as I turned off Broadway.

There was no house number, but the one across the street was 426. I parked in front of the white duplex with green shutters. No lights were on and I waited five minutes. And waited another five minutes. I got impatient. People from the Northwest had no sense of urgency. Some needed a cattle prod. I lightly honked. I was accustomed to the east coast go!go!go! mentality.

Eventually the door opened and a figure walked out. The silhouette fumbled through the wet grass to my waiting car.

"Good evening," I said flatly, attempting to cover the space where my teeth had once been.

"Take me to the liquor store". Her breath was perfumed with booze. That was an odd request because there was a liquor store down the block, within easy walking distance.

"You and your girlfriends having a party?"

"Not really."

Within seconds we were at the store. She stepped out of the cab and gingerly walked to the store. I turned off the meter and watched her aimlessly loaf around inside. Her shoulders were athletically wide and hips slim. The V-neck tee she wore accentuated her full, natural breasts.

Getting back into the car with the procured bottle, she zealously slammed the door. "Father died today. I want to get drunk, and want you to screw my eyeballs out."

The proposal was curiously disgusting. My gut tightened and face engorged with blood. I floundered. In the rear view mirror, I could see her sly smile. This wasn't a joke. I had an obligation to take her where she wanted to go.

"Let's go to Volunteer Park. Right now!"

I rationalized: You're a guy, of course, you want to screw her eyeballs out. It's the perfect opportunity. She wants it, you want it, you'll never see her again. Casual sex at it's best. No strings attached. No snuggling. No dinner. No mundane small talk about her cat. Nothing but sex. It was a dream come true.

In the rush, I forgot to restart the meter until we were already five blocks away. Volunteer Park was were I sometimes ate egg salad sandwiches in the shade, hiding from the summer sun. Also it was where perverts groped jogging women and deviants had sex with each other in public restrooms. The rain came down in a mist that gave the street lamps and car headlights mystical-like halos.

But anonymous sex with a paying customer is kind of weird, when it comes down to it. She's depressed, probably psycho. I'd be taking advantage of her situation. I can't. I wouldn't be right. Catholic guilt weighed on my conscience.

Volunteer Park was on 15th Avenue East beside the cemetery. I quickly maneuvered the tight neighborhood streets.

Entering the park via Prospect Street, I drove her through the maze of roads, eventually parking under a row of expansive trees that occupied the hilltop. It was a secluded spot by the reservoir. Glowing in the sky, The Space Needle was a flying saucer hovering. Soon the park would close. If I was going to do this, the time was nigh.

I've often heard off-balance females with low self-esteem make amazing lovers, all their angst powering a very intense sexual experience. I can't miss out on that.

Our Lady and certain sex sat in opposition on each of my shoulders, tugging at my conscience.

I stepped out of the cab, got into the back with her, and rolled down my window. The air was cool and damp. The stranger and I sat in the dark car, passing a bottle of whiskey between us. Business was slow. That was my last run of the night.




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