The Cab Knows the Way, prose by Mather Schneider

Who­ev­er Nan­cy Gantry is, she lives in Bum­fuck, Egypt. She’s sched­uled for a 2:45 p.m. pick­up. My teeth rat­tle as I progress down the wash­board dirt road, like a zip­per through the desert. No street signs, just sand, clay, caliche, open range, a few cat­tle, cre­osote bush, tum­ble weeds, and the mas­sive iodine sun.

I can’t find her address. I pull the cab to a dusty stop along­side the road and call Nancy’s phone num­ber which is on the pick-up order. Her ring is eardrum-pop­ping rap music. I lis­ten from 12 inch­es away.

Then, a woman’s voice comes on the machine: “Yo, I ain’t home, a’hite? Do what you need to do. Peace.”

Beeeeep.

I hang up.

Peace, sure. Fuck off.

I keep dri­ving. I final­ly see an old blue trail­er behind a cou­ple of palo verde trees off the road. Two par­al­lel tire tracks par­lay through the prick­ly pears. I fol­low them in, slow­ly bounc­ing my way to the trail­er. Junk and garbage coat the ground, beer cans strewn about, some look­ing at least 20 years old from brands I nev­er even heard of. Mouse-infest­ed mat­tress­es, rusty box springs, skele­tons of cars, bro­ken toys, an old swing set like some medieval tor­ture machine, weight set, heavy bag hang­ing from the only tree, a gnarled old Mesquite, over­flow­ing garbage cans, col­lapsed swim­ming pool…

I honk my horn and wait. In a cou­ple min­utes she comes out. She’s 75 pounds over­weight, with a kilo of make-up on her face. Her hair is the col­or of manure. Her face looks very Irish, very Amer­i­can.

She gets in the cab.

How’s it going?” she says.

She’s high as a bat. Her move­ments are herky-jerky, she talks too fast and won’t look me in the eye. I smell the pot on her, which is undoubt­ed­ly mixed with pain pills or metham­phet­a­mine or both.

Not bad,” he says.

Any trou­ble find­ing the place?”

Piece of cake.”

I start back down the dirt wash­board road on the way to Tuc­son to her doc­tor.

Yeah,” Nan­cy says, out of the blue, “I could be a judge.”

Par­don?”

I was watch­ing Divorce Court when you got here,” she says. “Not much to do out here.”

I imag­ine,” I say, look­ing at the bleak, hot land­scape. But still, there must be some­thing out there. Moun­tains in the dis­tance, moun­tains in the rearview.

I could be a judge,” she says again. “How hard can it be? You should see those peo­ple, they’re such liars! I can see it in their eyes. I’m great at read­ing peo­ple. I’m great at read­ing people’s eyes.”

Nan­cy turns and looks at me. We both have blue eyes.

I turn onto the high­way and kick it up to 75 mph.

Shit, I for­got all about this doctor’s appoint­ment, I was in my paja­mas when you showed up, watch­ing Divorce Court. But it’s ok, I’m a fast dress­er. I’ve always been a fast dress­er. It’s the Indi­an in me.”

Indi­an?” I say.

We pre­fer ‘Native Amer­i­can’,” she says.

You’re Native Amer­i­can?”

One six­teenth,” she says. “I got free health cov­er­age for life. But you should see how they look at me when I go down there. They look down on me, the oth­er tribe mem­bers, you know. They’re some prej­u­diced moth­er fuck­ers.”

She takes out a bot­tle of val­i­um pills and pops one in her mouth.

Want one?” she says.

Sure.”

5 bucks,” she says.

Nev­er mind.”

Hey, I got­ta make some cash. Free­dom Fest is com­ing up.”

What’s that?”

You don’t know what Free­dom Fest is?”

No.”

Dude, are you liv­ing under a fuck­ing ROCK?”

She begins to laugh hys­ter­i­cal­ly. She slaps her knees and then slow­ly calms her­self. She peeks around and looks at me again as if she can’t believe I’m real.

Well, I live on the North side,” I say.

Free­dom fest, bro! It’s a CONCERT, man, a bunch of bands,” Nan­cy says.

Gotcha.”

You’re fuck­ing with me aren’t you?”

I wish I was, Mrs. Gen­try.”

Dude, you got­ta get out once in a while.”

I’m more of a home­body,” I say.

Yeah, well, that’s no way to live,” she says.

Nan­cy con­tin­ues to bab­ble and I respond with a few “Hmmms” and “um-humms.” Then I only nod. Final­ly, I don’t lis­ten to her at all, or give any sign of lis­ten­ing. I go to that place deep inside of me. My face becomes still and relaxed, and my neck too, and my shoul­ders and arms and hands on the wheel, all become relaxed. I don’t have to feel anx­ious, or that I am out of place. I don’t have to wor­ry. The cab knows the way.

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.

http://​www​.nyq​books​.org/​a​u​t​h​o​r​/​m​a​t​h​e​r​s​c​h​n​e​i​der

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One Response to The Cab Knows the Way, prose by Mather Schneider

  1. Jen Conley says:

    I real­ly enjoyed this. Great dia­logue. Won­der­ful descrip­tions, sense of place.

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