By Phil Rossi
I just made an airport drop when the dispatcher called in a house account pickup. I fired up the bird, and buzzed for the location. Once a day shift opened up at Gemini Taxi, I grabbed it. The nights are too full of drunks, lonely weirdos, and creeps jonesing for drugs and revolution.
When I reached the head shrinker’s office, a thirty-something burnout hopped into the backseat. Brandon had no job and rich parents paying off the sex, drugs, and school of rock.
Nowadays, junior popped street legal pills to steer the signals. The duds and misfires would send the movie out of focus, turning him into a dragon. Then it was over the rainbow and back to the bug house.
Brandon wanted to stop at the Foodway on the trip home. A few blocks later we passed Eddie’s Foxhole, a military consignment shop. Brandon asked to pull over and invited me in. I left the meter running, and locked the cab.
Eddie’s bunker was a run down bungalow, packed with wartime regalia. Nazi armbands, camo uniforms, spent weapons. When we passed a spiked helmet from the German infantry, Brandon pointed out the World War I relic.
“My rock band used to wear these with sunglasses. What a trip. The crowd loved it,” Brandon said.
We mazed our way to Eddie, an older guy with white mutton chops and matching goatee beard.
“Do you sell swords?” Brandon asked Eddie. That one stood me up like a stiff jab. Why the heck this guy needed a sabre, I’ll never know. It failed to spook Eddie, despite his fisheye stare studying Brandon.
“I’m all out of swords, but I do carry bayonets,” Eddie said. Smelling a sale, the owner lunged from his post.
“Hey Steve, what do you think? Pretty cool, huh?” Brandon asked me while twisting the bayonet in the air. Before I could answer, Brandon told Eddie to ring it up. We went back to the hot meter and headed for the Foodway.
I stayed behind while Brandon entered the market. With no idea how long he’d be, I fished for that hardboiled paperback. The one with the doomed crooks and the heist from hell. That’s when everything outside the cab went haywire.
There were screams, incoming sirens, and a flash mob huddled at the front doors of the Foodway. A few folks stepped forward, warning newbies not to go in there. A flashing patrol car zoomed up to the entrance and stopped. Two knights flew out, dashing past the small crowd.
Hemmed in by picture windows and the frozen aisles, I watched shoppers unaware of the earthquake across town. In real life, the police aren’t directed to milk the tension and risk a stampede. Whatever the chaos, the Foodway was swiftly pacified and back in orbit.
A whacko wearing shades and shouting a freak version of up with the people. All this, while waving a smuggled bayonet from the siege at Khe Sanh. After backing up the produce manager and security guard, the rabid perp challenged the blitzing police. Out came the tasers, down went the cowboy.
An ambulance already pulled up, as medics raced a stretcher into the Foodway. They returned a few minutes later with Brandon strapped onto it. The cops were busy grinding out the charges while the medics prepped the launch.
I watched a snug Brandon vanish through the rear tunnel of the blinking wagon. The driver sounded off, rolling for the padded tombs.
Once Brandon splashes down, they’ll be more loops and wildcard stops. It’s a good thing Eddie was out of swords and German Lugers. I called Gemini Taxi, and filled them in.
“Kill the meter so I know what to bill the card,” the dispatcher said.
I left the Foodway, aiming the comet for the next fare. The sun had begun punching out, and once my relief reports, the shift will end. I hope he shows up soon. I dread those bugshit lunatics who travel in the dark.