The last guests were leaving the Mekong. As usual there is a fare for me. The lady from the Fort Frances wants to go home. And who but your friendly neighborhood taxi driver will do it ? I start the conversation with a:
" So how is it going?"
"Uh, not to bad, actually it could be better."
"Had a pretty busy day, eh ?"
"Kind of steady, at ten came this girl in, alone, and ordered every drink an the menu."
"Is that right ? " I said.
I remembered picking her up earlier. In fact she was pretty nice, totally spaced out, and that's just what I like on a boring Monday night shift. Not having to talk about the weather. Mind you, weather is important, specially as an opener, but after you figured out all day long if it's to cold, to warm, to dry, but the country out there needs some rain, but my little poodle has a cold, a cabdriver appreciates it to laugh about the unusual.
It is certainly not the money that keeps me behind the wheel. What I hate the most are those staff people, who themselves depend on tips and don't bother to give me enough for a coffee. Being as cute as Ms. Rainy Lake, I couldn't care less of course. At 6 o'clock in the morning I drive her to work. Me a little wasted from the previous night, she all fresh and rosy, facing another day.
“Well, you're looking good this morning, I know, you got a new hairstyle !”
"Do you like it ? " She asks me with a cute smile.
“The prettiest girl in town. "
And off we go to the restaurant.
Those are the good ones. Bad ones happen, thank God not too often. Some people think I drive cab for the fun and live of fresh air and love alone. Too bad they aren't right.
And then you get the all too human ones.
When I pulled up in front of the Fort Frances Hotel, he leaned heavy on the side guards. I didn't push the door open sensing he'd run into it. I've driven the guy before and was fairly sure he knew how to behave. Indeed after sinking in the seat, he all to ready opened his window wide. Even my smoothest driving though couldn't prevent that at the first
red light he , still capable to crack the door open, had to relief himself on the black pavement, with a rather sickening sound. The light turned green, then red and when it turned green again we got going.
“Ahh, did I ever get zooed tonight, " he says.
“Yeah, I noticed. I wish I was in your boots."
Sometimes I give the “Fort Frances Party Blues” a lift.
“ Who are you ? Where ya from ?”
“Did you go across or what ?”
It's there again. The blues. 10000 years ago.
“ Pass me that smoke, give me that forty.”
“Here ya go.”
Winter is coming. You know, all ice end snow, drunk driving and that. My passenger is hard to categorize. Somewhere between 20 and 40. Loaded on same kind of trip.
“And then all the girls left. Where to, can you tell me ?”
”All I know is they are not in hear, which is sad.”
“Home. A nice warm bed, food in the fridge. Peace and sleep. In the morning bacon and eggs. Na hassle, just me.”
Tell me about it.
Red light on Scott corner Portage. I scan the Mekong through its window, just about packed, barrush, That's where the action is now. The Winnipeg busdriver tells me he hit a deer between Rainy River and the Fort. No chance. Tried to move, but to big. Left light went out. 45 minutes late.
Radio Chicago keeps fading out en me.
The party is over. Nothing left to do. Tomorrow is another day, I couldn't care less.
In the summer I drove a few nightshifts. Picking those Yanks up. A lot from the windy one, Chicago that is. Florida and Texas run up next. Stop at the duty free store. Good Canadian whiskey, dirt cheap.They load themselves up alright for them 4-5 days in some camp in the sunset country. Tip good too.
Out of Thunder Bay construction workers and Bell employees. Kenora and Dryden, mostly ball teams. A salesman an and off. Some lost drifter. They all. don't know where to go.
”So where's the best country and western, mac?"
”Rainy Lake is your best bet hear, Rock 'n' Roll you got to across these days."
”Road House is where it's happening on Fridays. Or the Flame, Border bar."
“Drive us to the, strippers cabbie."
So I do.
The girls from the Red Dog are all sharp. I don't even distinguish if they are from the bar, the reception or the restaurant. Nicely dressed, good looking. A little tired at 2 am or whenever. We chitchat. I take them curves just a touch more sporty. Perfume fights it's way through gas, smoke and Boise smell up my nostrils. A cruiser passes. A guy got to watch it though. You can't kiss every girl you drive home. If you drive a cab anyway.