Me and Little John were sitting at the bus station behind the wheels of our taxi cabs. We were far, far down on the cab cue, so we wouldn't get a fare for a while. It was a depressing place to be, number 9 or 10 on the bus station cab cue. It was about 4 in the afternoon.
Little John was on his cell phone. His 7 teeth flashed in the sun.“Hey, Donny,” he said into the phone. “What’s up? Where you been?”
He looked at me through our open windows and gave me the thumbs up.
“What?” he said. “No, no, man…Hey, is Jay there?… Where is he?…Don’t fuck around man, I’m completely out, I mean
I had a couple of buds stashed away for an emergency but those are gone now and…What?…No, hey, you know me, man, I can’t live like this. I AM A MAN WHO NEEDS HIS WEED! Ray? Ray? Hello?”
Little John looked at me again. “Fucker hung up,” he said. “He’s blowing me off, man. But I’ll get to him if I have to drive this fucking taxi all the way to fucking Yuma.”
Little John was 5’6” and weighed 245 pounds. He had bad arches that caused him to walk with a stiff-legged lurch, but he hardly ever walked, he mostly remained behind the wheel of his cab. He was most comfortable there, and had the appearance of being a physical part of the vehicle. He was 47 years old with over-washed salt and pepper hair that fell down his neck and onto his Neolithic forehead. A wart poked its nipple-like head out of his right cheek and he had the habit of rubbing it while he talked.
"Don’t smoke pot before you come to work,” the boss told Little John one time.
“Be reasonable,” Little John said.
“Well, don’t smoke at least 3 hours before work.”
“Two and a half.”
They settled on two hours but Little John smokes throughout his whole shift anyway. He goes home and smokes a joint and then he’s back in his taxi, or he just smokes in his taxi.
But today he ran out of weed for the first time in years.
"I can't live like this," he said. "I've got to work, I've got to drive this fucking taxi, I've got to make money. I've got to deal with these people, all these mother fuckers…"
"Easy," I said. “God is listening."
"Fuck god," Little John said. "God didn't get me no weed."
"You hear me, mother fucker?" he said, leaning his head out his cab window and looking at the sky. "Fuck YOU!"
He brought his head back inside the cab and looked straight ahead with a sigh. He sat there for a second. Then he gave me a worried look, and put his head back out the window.
"Just kidding," he said to the sky.
Just then a black van pulled into the bus station parking lot. The hot sun reflected off the shiny black paint. The van stopped and a muscular tattooed white guy got out the back. Then the driver got out, a fat white guy in a white shirt. He ran around the van and grabbed the first guy and started beating him in the face with his fist. He hit him about ten times, rapidly, and the guy crumpled onto the ground. Then the guy got back in the van and drove off.
Little John jumped out of his cab and ran over to the guy on the ground. A couple of other cabbies wandered over too. Little John bent down and helped the guy up, and then the guy tried to hit him. Little John pushed him off and the guy stood up and stumbled away toward Broadway.
Little John walked back to his cab, defeated.
“Some people just don’t want help,” he said.
“Did you ask him if he had any weed?” I said.
“Don’t joke about it,” he said.
“Something will come up.”
“Easy for you to say,” he said. “You’re a drunk. All you have to do is go to the store.”
“Except on Sundays,” I said. “On Sundays I have to wait until ten o’clock. We’re living in a police state.”
“Poor baby,” Little John said. “Poor god damned fucking baby.”
“Shit, I got to get out of this city. I got to get back to the country. I was raised in the country, you know.”
He lit a cigarette.
“We used to have chickens, goats, pigs, all that,” he continued. “That was the fucking life, better than this shitty city. This place is fucking dirty, man, and full of assholes. Plus, in the country you can grow your own weed.”
“So what’s stopping you?” I said.
“I don’t know, I’ve got my apartment. Besides, how would I get money?”
A Greyhound bus pulled into the station and emptied itself of people. A few of the cabs in the front of the cue got fares, and pulled away. Then the whole cue moved up and everyone got in their cars, moved 30 yards up, and parked them again.
“I had this one little chick,” Little John said, “on the farm. “Little fuzzy yellow thing, and she grew attached to me. I named her Peepers. Damn, she was cute, man, you should have seen her, she would follow me around everywhere I went.”
“How old were you?” I said.
“I was like 8 or 9 I think, yeah. Shit, Peepers, I haven’t thought about her in a long time. But it’s sad though, because one day we were running through a field, and I was running real fast, you know, and I guess she just couldn’t take it and she stopped. I felt bad and went back and bent over her and she was breathing real heavy and kind of twitching in the grass. Jesus, I started crying. And then you know what happened?”
“Her heart exploded! It fucking exploded right out of her chest. Right out of her little fucking chest.”
I gave him a look.
“I’m serious, it did, exploded right out of her chest, there was blood on the ground, it was terrible.”
Little John seemed to go into another world and a tear fell down his cheek. He looked away and wiped it.
“Maybe you should just stay here in the city, big fella,” I said.
He shook his head up and down but he couldn’t talk anymore. The cab cue was dead.
“I’ve got to go,” I said. “I’ve got a personal.”
“Ain’t you lucky.”
I pulled out, to the delight of the cab driver behind me. Everything starts with moving, just keep moving and the luck would change. It was like death just sitting there.
I drove over to the Food City by Randolph Park and got a hot dog at an outdoor stand. A Mexican guy handed it to me and it was loaded: beans, ketchup, mustard, mayo, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese and bacon.
I was standing there eating the hot dog next to my cab in the bright sun when I saw a man running toward me across the Food City parking lot, waving his arm. He was lugging a suitcase and it was obvious he needed a cab. Come to papa, I thought. He was running like his heart would burst from his chest.
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.