Outside the hotel two little old ladies climbed into the back seat of the cab and felt the air conditioner.
“2212 North Inn Road,” one of them said to the driver.
“Are you sure it’s not North INA Road?” the driver said into the rearview mirror. He had long scraggly brown hair and his eyes looked as red as a sunset.
“No, no, no,” the same woman said. “2212 North Inn Road. I should know my own son’s address, shouldn’t I?”
The other woman was silent.
“2212 North Inn is the South Lawn Cemetery,” the driver said.
“No it’s not, it’s my son’s house,” she said. “What’s your name, Sir?”
"R.C.” the driver said.
"Well, R.C.,” she said, “when we get there you’ll see.”
R.C. drove to the end of North Inn where the cemetery started and then drove around and showed her that the road did not continue.
“What else can happen, Linda?” she said. “We came all the way from Chicago, we put an ad in the paper that cost me a hundred and forty dollars, and now the cab driver doesn’t know where John’s house is.”
“Ma’am,” R.C. said. “You have the wrong address.”
She exploded. “I DON’T HAVE THE WRONG ADDRESS! JESUS! What’s going on? First my son goes and croaks on me, and now I’ve got to deal with all this.”
Linda nodded and kept her fat hands in her fat lap. R.C. called my boss at dispatch.
"They’ve got the address wrong,” R.C.’s boss blurted over the crackling radio. “She must be talking about North Ina.”
“You tell that lady she is in the wrong business,” the old woman said, pointing her wrinkled old finger at the radio.
“She’s been driving a cab in this town for thirty years,” R.C. said.
"Look,” she said, “my son is dead. I have to find his house and sell it. Ok?”
“Do your mother a favor,” she said. “Get a wife. Get a wife so your mother doesn’t have to deal with it when you croak. You married?”
“Yes,” R.C. said.
“Good boy,” she said.
R.C. pulled into the parking lot of a gas station and parked.
"John ate fast food every day,” the woman said. “He was a bachelor. He moved here when he was nineteen, and that’s just what bachelors do, they eat fast food and don’t worry about it.”
“Can’t you call someone about the address?” R.C. said.
“I don’t have a phone,” she said. “Do you think everyone in the world has a cell phone?”
R.C. handed her his cell phone.
“Who am I going to call?” she said.
“You could call Melanie, Diane,” Linda said quietly.
“I guess I could call Melanie,” Diane said.
She managed to dial the number in 3 attempts.
“Be there, Mel,” Diane said, while it rang. “For once in your life, be there—Hello Mel, it’s mom…” She sighed as she realized it was only an answering machine.
R.C., frustrated, pulled back onto the road and headed back toward their hotel.
Then she got busy with that phone.
“Isn’t anyone home?” she said.
She finally got a busy signal. She waited a minute and then called the number again. It rang, and rang, kept ringing.
“It was busy a minute ago,” Diane said.
“Some vacation,” Linda said, looking out the window at the brilliant day. Three blocks from their hotel, at River and Campbell, by miracle a human being was contacted. However, Diane couldn’t seem to get the person on the other line to understand the situation. So she handed the phone to R.C.
“Hello?” he said.
The other person on the line turned out to be a ninety three year old woman in Summum, Illinois.
“Do you know where we are going?” R.C. said loudly.
“Yes,” the old woman on the phone said.
“How do we get there?” he said.
“Where are you now?” the old woman said.
“On River Road.”
“That’s not where it is,” the old woman said.
“You don’t say,” he said.
“It’s a long way from there,” the old woman said.
“What’s the closest cross street?”
“It’s off of Park Avenue…”
He hung up.
“Well?” Diane said accusingly. “You figure it out?”
“It’s on North INA,” R.C. said.
Diane sank back in her seat, and braced herself for the g-forces of R.C.’s u-turn.
Linda had a slight smile on her face.
R.C. dropped them off at 2212 North Ina. The meter said $74.45. He only charged them 50 bucks because he felt sorry for them.
Diane told R.C. they needed a ride back to the hotel at 4 that afternoon. They were not going to sleep in a dead man’s house. It would be another 50, so R.C. agreed.
When he showed up at 4 to take them back to the hotel, they were standing in the yard behind the closed security gate. It was heavy steel, about 6 feet tall. When he had dropped them off Diane had pointed the little hand-held remote and the gate jumped to life, sliding slowly against the 6 foot cement wall which surrounded the rest of the property. Then they had walked in and shut the gate behind them.
Now the thing wouldn’t open. There was no other gate to walk through, which seemed odd. R.C. wondered about the strange son who had died before his mother. He pulled up and got out and looked at them standing in there like captured animals, half blind in the afternoon sun. Diane had white, short cropped hair. She reminded R.C. of an effeminate man. Linda was Hispanic. She had dark skin with hundreds of little brown moles all over the sides of her face and neck. She used a cane because of a bad right hip.
“Damn thing won’t work,” Diane said. “Can you believe this?”
She asked R.C. for his phone and while she used it he tried the gate-opener, pressing the single button on it over and over like an idiot.
They stood there, looking at each other through the bars, R.C. on one side, them on the other.
“I can’t wait here all day,” R.C. said.
“Go on, go on,” Diane shooed him away. “We’ll call the fire department and they’ll come and get us out of here.”
R.C. stood there. They didn’t even have a god damned phone.
He climbed over the fence with some difficulty.
“There must be a switch or something,” he said, out of breath.
They looked everywhere, inside and outside the house. No switches.
R.C. saw a ladder in the back yard of the neighbor’s house. He knocked on the door but no one answered, so he went around back and grabbed it.
“How’s Linda going to climb a ladder?” Diane said.
"We could try,” R.C. said. Linda gave a small nod of consent.
He leaned the ladder against the wall and held it.
“Ok, Linda,” he said.
“I’ve got you,” he said, holding the ladder while Linda slowly lifted her left foot up to the first rung. She reached the second rung and then the third, one at a time, each a great effort. If she toppled backwards with her weight there wouldn’t be anything R.C. could do about it.
At the top she celebrated with a “Hurrah!” Then she realized she could not lift her leg up over the wall.
“Try going up backward,” R.C. said.
The slow process began again downwards and then she turned around and started to put her foot up backwards.
“Like this?” she said.
“You can do it.”
She did it. At the top, she moved, one inch at a time, her fat ass onto the wide flat top of the cement block wall. R.C. put his hand on the pendulous waddle of her upper arm. She got both her legs over and was sitting on the wall with me and was quite happy about her accomplishment. She giggled. He moved the ladder over the fence and hopped over and situated the ladder under Linda from the other side.
“Ok,” he said. “Come on down.” She began to lower herself and we held our breath.
All this time Diane was talking on the cell phone.
“Yes, Mel,” Diane was saying, “we tried that. We’ve tried everything. No, I can’t get hold of Bill. I can’t get hold of Bill and the cab driver’s here and it already cost me 73 dollars for the cab ride, and he couldn’t find the address and then we stayed out here all afternoon and no buyers showed up…”
R.C. noted what she said about the fare being 73 dollars, instead of the 50.
“…they got a ladder,” Diane said, “What?…Yes, Linda’s going over right now.”
Diane smiled at Linda who was just then reaching the ground on the other side.
“Land,” Linda said, like a sailor after months at sea.
“…Ok,” Diane said. “Bye.”
Diane handed the phone up to R.C. “My daughter,” she said. “She lives in Michigan. I thought she might know something. But of course she didn’t. Watch, she’ll die on me next.”
She nimbly climbed up the ladder and over the wall, a regular gymnast.
“Now do you see?” Diane said to me, shaking the gate controller at me. “Can you blame me? What else can happen? I can’t believe this.”
“Some vacation,” Linda said.
“But you climbed the ladder,” R.C. said.
“I can’t believe I did it,” she beamed. “What was I thinking?”
“Let’s get the hell out of here,” Diane said. “If John was here I’d kick his ass, I swear I would.”
They climbed into the cab and were laughing by the time they were half way back.
R.C. radioed dispatch and they talked and joked about it. The dispatcher said, “I guess we all learned a little lesson today.”
R.C. showed Diane and Linda a bakery near their hotel and suggested they have breakfast there. He rolled up to the hotel doors. Diane paid, including a tiny tip. They moaned and groaned with the creaking of old bones as they climbed out of the cab and stood on the sidewalk. They waved goodbye and disappeared into the resort lobby.
“232 Clear,” he said into the radio mike.
“10−4, 232,” the dispatcher said.
R.C. sat there for a minute. Then he slowly drove over to Jacob’s Park, where he found a shady spot and parked the cab. He dialed a number on his cell phone, back in Illinois, and put it to his ear.
I was born in Peoria, Illinois in 1970 and have lived in Tucson, Arizona for the past 14 years. I love it here, love the desert, love the Mexican culture (most of it), and I love the heat. I have one full-length book of poetry out called DROUGHT RESISTANT STRAIN by Interior Noise Press and another called HE TOOK A CAB from New York Quarterly Press. I have had over 500 poems and stories published since 1993 and I am currently working on a book of prose.