Eddie's wife, Laura, awoke late one night, feeling uncomfortable. She trudged into the living room, and saw the back of Eddie's head above the armchair; he was watching TV with a beer in hand. She picked up what was closest to her, a few layers of newspaper, and threw it at him. "Here I am, six months pregnant!" she yelled. "And you're home sitting on your dumb ass! Do you think diapers grow like tomato plants? Get out and work! What kind of bullshit -?"
"- Take it easy, Laura!" Eddie said. "Holler… but don't bite! I had a bad night, someone stuck me with a one-dollar bill that had the four corners of a ten taped to it. That killed a lot of my tips. If I see that guy again, I'll turn him in to the cops, after I punch him in the face a few times. Just let me finish this beer, I'll get back in the cab - "
Laura turned and stomped angrily back to bed.
Eddie swallowed the remainder of his lukewarm beer and walked outside to the taxi. The moon-orange metal shone. "This sucks…" he muttered to himself. He called in to the dispatcher to let him know he was available. "You're back, twenty-six!" the semi-mechanical voice answered. "I've got a good one for ya, 1237 Main to 94 Gresham in downtown Philly."
"Got it!" Eddie said, into the speaker, and made a note on his clipboard. He liked to squeal the tires as he backed hurriedly out of the driveway.
He pulled up to the club at 1237 Main and honked several times. He didn't like to get out of the car. One of the smokers hanging around outside walked into the bar. Several minutes later a woman came out the door, and approached the cab. She had blond hair and was about 35 years of age. ‘She looks pretty under the streetlights,’ Eddie thought.
“I'm goin' to 94 Gresham!" the woman belted out. She reeked of alcohol and tobacco, and began speaking freely. "I'm seein' this eighty-year old man now," she said. "He's fucking rich! Worth hundreds of thousands! I'm wondering if I should marry him. He is eighty, y’know, he's prob'ly got a bad heart or something."
Eddie had no response, but glanced at his passenger in the rear view mirror. He noticed she was missing a few front teeth. ‘Typical white trash for downtown Philly,’ he thought. The woman didn't even look back at him, she was absorbed in her thoughts, and continued to reveal them.
"Maybe I could just throw a radio in his bathtub or something. I'd be set for life, y'know. Or make him have a heart attack."
There was a pause as if she expected a response.
"- Yeah?" Eddie said. “Would you really do that?”
"Sure, why not?" she said. "He's gonna die soon anyway."
Eddie pulled up to a small, run-down apartment building at 94 Gresham.
"Fourteen dollars," he announced.
She handed him a ten, and five beat-up singles.
"Thanks!" she said, and slammed the yellow door.
It occurred to Eddie that the woman hadn’t given give her musings a second thought. ‘Too drunk,’ he concluded.
"Ninety-four Gresham, done!" Eddie called in.
"Got another one for ya, twenty-six, busy night," the voice over the radio said. "Get over to 22nd Street East, just a short trip over to 74th West." Eddie logged it.
He arrived at the large, suburban house; there was even a white picket fence. Two couples stood on the front porch, and chatted for a lengthy period of time before saying their good-byes, while Eddie waited impatiently in the car. Finally, the woman, who Eddie calculated weighed three-hundred fifty pounds, and a man as thin as a celery stick, made their way into the back seat. The man was carrying a large, red plastic bowl with foil wrapped loosely over the top. It smelled like sauerkraut. The woman wore a large brooch on her long, burnt-orange overcoat.
"You're a fucking idiot!" the woman screamed.
Eddie was startled.
"You're a fucking idiot!" the woman yelled louder.
"Lady, are you talking to me?" Eddie inquired.
"No, I'm sorry, Cabby, I'm talking to my asshole husband!"
Eddie looked away, somewhat relieved.
"You stupid bastard, Ronald!" she continued, "You spilled sauerkraut on the floor of the car! I'm gonna wring your scrawny little neck!"
"I'm sorry, dear," Ronald said. "The foil on here isn't wrapped very tight."
"No excuses! You're a pathetic piece of shit!"
To Eddie's surprise, the woman began hitting her husband all over his face, head, and upper body, as hard as she could. Eddie cleared his throat, and turned and looked in the back seat. The man was enduring it without a word of protest. ‘Must be used to it,’ Eddie thought, and decided not to intervene. All the way to West Street, Ronald tolerated his wife's blows.
"Well, you know, Marge, accidents happen," the husband said nervously.
"Here we are!" Eddie interrupted loudly. "You're home! Twelve dollars."
Ronald took out his wallet and paid. Marge, looking more massive than when Eddie first saw her, smiled, and thanked him.
"Goodbye, Cabbie, I can't thank you enough for getting us home safely tonight.” She opened her change purse, and took out an extra dollar to add to her husband's tip. For those few seconds, it was hard for Eddie to grasp the transformation: the smiling woman seemed to be the sweetest, most charming person in Philly. She closed the door gently, and then began haranguing her spouse again.
"Ronald! Get in the house now, and come out with some paper towels to clean this nice man's cab! He's a nice hard-working man! You don't expect him to do it himself, do you?"
"Okay, Dear, in a min- "
"Now!" she shouted. Eddie felt his stomach turn. Ronald hurried to the house and came back with a roll of paper towels. The woman went inside. "You know, she's right, you're an asshole!" Eddie yelled at him. The words ushered out uncontrollably. "You're an asshole for taking that shit from her! Why don't you just leave?"
The man ignored him, and wiped the floor of the cab. Eddie drove away, still feeling somewhat sick.
He approached an all-night convenience store, went in, and bought a few packs of cigarettes and a large coffee, before radioing in. He sipped it; it was hot but stale. The dispatcher gave him another trip; he wrote on his log sheet, glanced at it quickly, and headed to another Main Street bar. After honking several times, it seemed that no one was coming out, so he reluctantly put the car in park, and walked in. "Someone call a cab?" he shouted.
"Someone call a cab?" the bartender echoed.
"Coming!" a girl answered. She and a young man approached Eddie and gave him directions. As soon as they were all in the cab, the two began screaming at each other.
"You did all the coke last night!" she said. "I'm out two hundred dollars! You sonofabitch!"
"You know how it is," he said. "And who bought it last time?
"Fuck you!" she screamed. "Who paid for half your drinks tonight?"
"You bought me two drinks! And you could afford it, you had that other guy buying you shots all night!
"Yeah, right!" she screamed. "I want my coke back!"
"Can't have it, Suzi," he said, "it's gone."
"Then I want my money!"
"That's gone, too!"
For the next few moments there was silence. Eddie was somewhat confused, and looked in the rear view mirror. The girl's head was bobbing up and down. A sudden thought occurred to Eddie. "Hey, if you give him a blow job, you better swallow," he said.
The young man grinned. "She'll give you one for the fare."
"I'll pass. I’ve got a wife at home who would tear my balls off for that," he said sharply.
Several minutes later Eddie heard the girl spit. Angry, he demanded that she clean it up.
"Here, Suzi, here's a napkin," the young man said. Suzi gave the seat a quick wipe, and the man paid. No tip. They left the car without another word.
Eddie called in. "You'll have to sit tight for a while," the dispatcher said. "We're having a slow spell." Eddie relaxed, turned on the boom box he kept on the front seat, and smoked a few cigarettes. He thought about the baby on the way. "Three kids, where will it all end?" he thought. The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK," was blaring. After a moment, Eddie reflected, "If it's a boy, we'll have plenty of hand-me-downs. Laura and I will be okay. Laura's just nervous." He reached beneath the seat and felt the sturdy wooden box - rare Cuban cigars, for when the baby was born. Although he rarely left the vehicle, he had a compulsive fear that his special surprise would be stolen. Eddie opened the glove compartment and took out a picture of his children. He mulled over what his forty-percent commission and tips would buy them. ‘Fourteen hours a night in this cab, what am I doing it for?’ he thought, looking at the photo and smiling.
"Are you there, twenty-six?" the voice came over the radio speaker. "Got one for ya, 192 Oakville Avenue, destination not currently known." Eddie scribbled on his notepad. He squealed the tires and headed towards metropolitan Philly. Annoyed that he passed the house, he turned around, went back, and pulled into the empty driveway. A man hurriedly rushed out the front door and into the cab.
"Take me to the Main Street bars!" he demanded.
Eddie drove to the first one.
"Bonnie doesn't go to this one!" he complained. "A couple blocks down!"
The man rushed out, ran into the bar, and back out again. "Go to the one around the corner," he said.
Agitated, the man checked three different bars.
"Did you find your wife?" Eddie asked patiently.
"Hell no, not yet!" he cried. "I'm gonna find that cheatin' whore tonight! …Got a cigarette?"
Eddie handed him the pack.
"Drive down the next few blocks of Main Street, I know where she might be," he said.
The man was gone for nineteen minutes. And as the seconds flashed by, Eddie counted along with the clock on the meter. He was glad for the mechanics, who had adjusted the meter speed so that Eddie's fares were inflated.
When the man returned, he asked Eddie for another smoke. The red box of Marlboros changed hands again. Eddie noticed a Rolex watch on the man’s wrist, and wondered if it was genuine. If not, it was a very good replica. There was also a wide gold band decorated with diamonds and rubies on his finger. “Could this guy have money?” he wondered.
"…You don't have a gun, do you?" Eddie asked.
"Why the fuck would I have a gun?" the man answered, upset. Eddie exhaled his relief in a spiral of cigarette smoke.
"What do you think I'm gonna do, shoot my wife and the bastard she's with? You have nerve, man."
"Sorry," Eddie said. "…Your fare is adding up, you know… Don't you have any cigarettes of your own?"
"I've got a whole goddamn carton at home!" he protested. "I was in a hurry to get rolling! Let's find my goddamn wife!"
Over an hour passed searching for the missing Bonnie, and Eddie had given up almost an entire pack of cigarettes. "Where to now?" he said.
"We'll go to some of her friend's houses. Now that I think of it, that's probably where she's hiding out. She knows what I’m gonna do to her when I find ‘er. Goddamn bitch!"
Eddie drove, the man smoked.
He proceeded to knock on the third door of his wife’s friend’s houses. There was an animated argument on the front porch.
The woman approached the car and turned to Eddie. "I have to go to work in the morning, driver! Don't bring this guy to my house ever again, at least not after midnight!"
"I understand," he said.
"Where's that fucking Bonnie?" the man asked.
The woman ignored him and hastened back to the house in her nightgown. The man shrugged.
"Where to now, Bud?" Eddie said. "You smoked more than a pack of my cigarettes, I can’t give you any more smokes! And I can't keep driving you around, either! I’ve got two other fares waiting, y’know!"
"Bullshit!" the man said. "I didn't hear you get a call. Just head back to Main Street."
Determined, he entered a few bars that he had previously told Eddie to pass. Becoming more and more anxious, and returning empty-handed, he pleaded with the cab driver for another cigarette.
"One more," Eddie agreed, not knowing where to draw the line.
Another hour passed, and another half a pack of Marlboros. Eddie said, "That's it. I'm gonna have to call it quits. I got a fare waiting, and you've taken hours of my time. I'll drop you off where you wanna go, and no more. You owe me two hundred and twenty six dollars."
"I'll give you a check."
"It's all I've got, my checks are good, I promise. Just leave me off at the next bar, goddamn it!" he said, exhaling fresh smoke. Eddie accepted the check - two hundred and thirty dollars - and immediately called the dispatcher. "It's six o'clock in the morning, I'm going home," Eddie said. "Fucking guy, after two and a half hours, gives me a four dollar tip. This sucks!"
"Go home," the voice over the radio said. "Get some sleep."
Eddie entered the living room, and saw that he had left the TV on. He turned it off. He looked in the kids' rooms. Both boys were sleeping – ‘dreaming about school tomorrow,’ Eddie thought. He crept into bed with Laura and kissed her on the head above her ear.
"I made a few bucks tonight, don't worry. It'll be okay, things will work out," Eddie said, undressing himself for bed. "I'm glad you're home with me, and pregnant, barefoot, and sleeping."
"Leave me alone," she groaned, rolling over. She looked at Eddie, and there was a flicker of sympathy on her face. She gave him a faint smile.
“I love you, too,” he said, and turned his head on the pillow to sleep.