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Just another night and it’s the same old shit. 1 a.m. and I’ve had four customers already. They get in, I drop them off, they pass the cash. Always make sure they have cash or you’ll be driving around looking for an ATM. And during that time other taxis will be getting customers that you should have had. Trust me. I know. Time is money. It’s true. I refuse customers with no cash on them now. No cash. No ride.
I hate it when they try to talk to me. I don’t want to know them and I’m pretty sure they don’t really want to know me. Another hate: when they tell me where they want to go and once I’m there, they say, “oh, sorry, my friend needs a lift now, too. Would you mind going to…” Yes. I do mind. Time is money. I know your game. It won’t work with me. The last person who tried it… well, let’s just say they won’t do it again. You’re where you asked to be, now get out. Don’t try a runner. I’ve locked the doors. Money first. Then you get out. Best thing about not having a meter: you can earn twice as much for one journey without them questioning it. Best thing about being a taxi driver: the power. People think us taxi drivers have to take them where they want. We don’t. The road is our friend. It won’t tell. It’s good at keeping secrets. Some people think a taxi is the safest way home. Let me tell you, it’s not.
Driving a taxi around is better than being inside, though. Yeah. Much better. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy being inside, I made some good friends. But, you know, outside is outside and inside is, well… inside. Made some money, too. There are good things about having a rep as a fighter. Not many good things but there are some. No one bothered me inside after I left that prick John ‘Pitbull’ Warren needing hospital treatment for a month. Pitbull. What a joke. More like a fucking poodle.
Now I can do what I want. Six years was enough for me. Any more and I’d have gone crazy. Same walls, same wardens, same fucking shit every single day. I’ll be honest, I did deserve to be put away, even though that guy will think twice about trying to run away without paying his fare next time. I suppose it’s hard to run when you’ve got permanent damage to your spine.
I’m just glad Freddy gave me my job back. That’s the thing about friends. Surround yourself with good ones and you’ll never have to worry about a thing. 99% of taxi company owners wouldn’t have even looked at me twice after what happened, you know. It was on the news and everything: ‘TAXI DRIVER NEARLY KILLS FARE JUMPER.’ But Freddy’s a good man; he knows how to look after his own. Without this job I’d probably be decaying in a gutter somewhere, my pants filled with shit and piss, and vomit caked all over me.
Anyway, I’m telling you this because I’m stuck at a red light and it’s taking ages. Absolutely fucking ages. Roadworks. I would put the radio on but at this time of night on a Saturday it’s all that house music. Can’t stand it. Give me Roy Orbison or The Eagles any day.
Oh, and we’re off. Green light. I amble along with the rest of the cars, the queue like a big metal snake. I’m just another engine in the night.
Straight on at the roundabout, stop for the traffic lights, watch out for the speed camera and onto the main street and join the rank. Like the back of my hand. There’s about ten or so cabs in front of me, all growling and hungry for custom. Feed me feed me. A couple stroll up to taxi 1 and get in. The line moves up a little. A group of young girls, shrieking and shouting, get into the second one and the line moves again. This cycle carries on for 15 minutes until a bunch of men – no, boys – can’t be older than 20 are turned away from a taxi and as it drives away, two of them kick it and throw their burgers at it, the greasy meat sliding down the windows. Over the purring of my engine and through my thickened windows I hear one of them shout, “Chink cunt! Watch your back!” Now, one thing I can’t stand, abhor, is racism. It’s just skin at the end of the day. Know what I mean? One of my best mates, Harry, is black. And you won’t meet a nicer guy. After those racist football hooligans chased him down and nearly kicked him to death, I absolutely hate racism and racists. No need for it. It’s always been a thing that makes my skin crawl, you know, most of the people where I grew up weren’t white but we all got along. Most of the time. They only hurt Harry because their fucking team lost and I think the goalscorer was a black fella, too.
He’s a different guy now, Harry. Hardly steps out of the door. Shame, he’s a top bloke. Some people may look at him funny now, I suppose when you’ve had all that plastic surgery and are blind in one eye, they’re going to. But he’ll always be my mate. I’ll always be there for him. A mate is a mate. They’re like your virginity. Once lost, you’ll never get it back. From my experience, anyway. Losing a mate is a hard thing to do, so once they’re gone, perhaps they weren’t worth having around in the first place. Good mates, you never lose.
Notice how those cunts hunted him in a pack? That’s football for you – a woman’s game. Any sort of contact and they keel over as if they’ve been sniped. I used to think they were joking when they did it, but they were serious… I’d love to meet one of his attackers.
The boys continue down the rank and are pointed towards the end of the queue, towards me. I don’t know why, but this always happens. People who seem a bit, shall we say, fucked, are always pointed towards my cab. Oh well. Money’s money but they’d better not spout out any racist shit or they’re straight out onto the road. Trust me.
They idle up to me and one of them – close cropped hair, tomato ketchup flecked on his chin, his eyebrow scarred – raps at the window. I wind the window down. “What?”
He backs up a little and the smirk fades from his face. “Can you take us,” he nudges his thumb at the other two who’re watching me, “to Vicarage. The estate there.”
Vicarage. That place has gone downhill since the council moved all the lowlifes there.
“I can, yes. Have you all got cash on you? I don’t take fares who haven’t.”
They rummage in their pockets and tell me they have. They could be lying but I’m gonna trust them. Just the sort of guy I am. And as I said. Money’s money.
“Get in, then,” I say. Eyeing them all to make sure they’re not holding. None of them reach into their pockets or for their socks though so I stop staring and turn to the front of the car. Even if they are holding, I keep a little something in the glove box for occasions like that. Haven’t had chance to use it yet but you never know when your life’s in the hands of someone else. I may trust these guys to have cash and not to be holding but can you ever really trust anybody?
They’re all in and I accelerate off. Down through the side streets and past the new mosque and onto the motorway. They’re talking between themselves but not loud enough for me to hear so I slyly press the intercom button. I raise my eyes to the mirror. They haven’t noticed.
“Eh, quite a shit night,” says the one in the middle: dyed blonde hair, T-shirt declaring DRUNK GIRLS LOVE ME.
“Was a bit,” says the one directly behind me. Skinniest of the group but he looks like fucking hard work. The sort who’d rob your grandmother for a fiver. “Pity it was so empty in the clubs.”
“Dunno about you two but it’s got me in the mood for a fight, shit nights always do, always have. Would love to batter some poor cunt right now,” says eyebrow scar.
At this, my ears prick. A fight. It’s instilled in me now, I can’t help it. The word just brings deep rages in me and it takes ages to pull myself back out. It’s like being in a peaceful sea and all of a sudden black oil engulfs you and you can’t get rid of it. That’s what it feels like. That word has got fucking powers, I’m telling you. Deep breath. One two one two one two one two, mouth, nose, mouth, nose. But it won’t go. I need some thing to get rid of it. I need this job. Please go away, please.
The racism got me riled a little but picking a fight with someone who’s obviously weaker and not as aggressive as you is downright cowardly. Bet these kids have never met a real fighter, someone who will bite, stab, shoot, do anything to win; someone who would kick you under a blanket of darkness. They need to. Perhaps it would do them a bit of good.
“Yeah, can’t remember the last time I had a good fight,” says DRUNK GIRLS.
There it is again and it’s not going to go away and it’s there in front of my brain, the only thing I can think about and nothing matters anymore and I need to breathe but I can’t, it’s bursting my lungs, the anger oh the anger keeps coming and coming and coming and it’s there in front of me, an entity, a ghoul, waiting for me to fucking kill it and hurt it and it’s etched in my vision, I shake my head but it won’t go away, it’s back, it’s always been there but it’s been hiding and it’s like an old friend who I’ve missed dearly and I embrace it with open arms and it is the only thing I love, have ever loved, has ever loved me, oh dear god please go away make it go away I can’t do it again I can’t I can’t make it go make it
I push the gear stick into 5th and soon reach 90. I make a turn and am soon near Vicarage. Before I go there, I make a turn into a disused industrial estate. They’re still talking and probably think I’m taking the short cut through the country lanes which is reachable through the estate but they are so wrong, oh so fucking wrong wrong wrong.
I stop the car suddenly and DRUNK GIRLS LOVE ME falls forward off the seat and hits his head on the back of my chair. That’s the best thing about having a seatbelt that doesn’t work properly. It may have clicked in but if the eject button is constantly halfway pushed in then it won’t help you.
“Fuck! What’s the matter, drive? Nearly run over a dog or something?”
I sneer and get out of the car, my size 14s step in a puddle and it ripples as I walk away. The lights from the car twinkle and shimmer in it. I reach the passenger door where eyebrow scar looks bewilderedly at me. I pull the door open and punch him in the face and then haul him out of the car before he knows what’s going on. He didn’t take his seatbelt off so as I drag him, it cuts into him until it rips. The one who was sitting behind me, skinny boy, undoes his seatbelt and throws his door open as I heave eyebrow scar onto the ground and start kicking him, lightly at first. My kicks get progressively harder until skinny boy tries to stop me by pushing me. I spit in his face and then push him back. He lands on the floor and I walk over to him and spit on him again, a nice thick green one. Then I punch him pretty hard in the nose, not enough to knock him out, but enough to daze him and his nose just fucking explodes. Everywhere. Snot and blood are piling out of it and into his mouth, which is open with his moaning.
That one was for you, Harry.
I walk back to the taxi where eyebrow scar is in a foetal position. He covers his head with his arms and is looking at me out of the corners of his eyes.
“Please,” he says quietly, “please don’t hurt me anymore. Who are you? Who are you? We won’t press charges, we’ll just forget about it.”
“I am… me,” I say as I casually kick him in the ribs, which he failed to protect. He gasps in pain and starts to cry but I tell him to “shut up, just shut up” and then proceed to tell him how “it’s only just started so keep the tears for when you’re really going to need them.” He curls himself into more of a ball, and he reminds me of a cockroach. I kick him in the back of the head so hard that it makes a sound like a muffled clap. He doesn’t make a move but I know he’s conscious as his body is moving up and down with his breathing.
DRUNK GIRLS LOVE ME is just getting up in the taxi, blood streams from a lovely looking gash on his forehead. The blood drips down his face and splashes on my taxi floor. The filthy bastard’s blood in my taxi! I haul him out of there and grab him round the neck and squeeze until he is going purple and his cries for help are now nothing more than tiny raspy splutters. The blood drips onto my arm and it feels warm, like a tongue. Just as he is about to become unconscious I leave him go and he falls to the floor in a heap.
Time is getting on now so I need to get back to the rank and get some fares. But not before these amoebas learn a lesson. I’m not a qualified teacher but I can give a good lesson when I want, let me tell you.
Skinny boy is first. Luck of the draw. He’s still on the floor and he hasn’t made any effort to get up. I pick him up and inspect his face – he’s not much of a beauty. I throw him back onto the floor, tell him to give me the money out of his wallet and not surprisingly he does so. Two tenners. I thank him and tell him to behave and let this be a lesson to him, that racism isn’t a good thing. But not before I give him a treat of a few more punches to his face, his eyes swell immediately and his mouth is nothing more than a crater filled with his own blood after I knock some of his teeth out. He gargles on the blood and I tell him to “be quiet”. I wipe his blood that is on my knuckles, some of it even spattered on my arm, on his clothes and then I leave him be.
He’s got his whole life ahead of him.
Eyebrow scar is crawling away and I rush over to him and stamp on his back. Seeing as he tried to get away without paying, I drag him to my taxi and rest his head on the opening of the door. I then slam the door on his head six times shouting “No-one gets away from me without paying!” until he just collapses on his back onto the floor. His head is fairly dented and lumps swell out of his forehead. He looks like the elephant man with those lumps and I laugh at him. I don’t want his money, he looks like he needs it. I then whisper into his ear, “You wanted a fight, now you’ve had one.”
DRUNK GIRLS LOVE ME is just rousing from my stranglehold. He makes to get up but I tell him to give me money for the ride and of course, he obliges. Gives me a twenty. Fair play, these boys know how to tip. He tries to get up but I kick him back down. In the chest. He takes a sharp intake of breath and tries to get up again, looking at me, but the blood from his forehead is blinding him. He shakes his head and the blood flies in different directions off his face. He reaches into his pocket and, fuck I knew it, they were holding. He gets up. He’s got a pocket knife and jabs it at me but I jump out of the way and kick him in the calf quickly. This hurts him and he limps towards me.
“You fucker,” he says, “what have we ever done to you?”
“You wanted a fight. I’ve given you one. And you’re racists!” I shout back.
He’s closer to me now and jabs the knife at me again but I’m one step ahead of him and grab his arm and twist it until it cracks and he drops the knife. He screams and holds his arm as the pain surges in floods through it. He can’t do a thing. He’s delirious. I punch him as hard as I ever have anyone and as his head hits the floor with a crack, I tell him, “For fuck’s sake, stay down! Time is money!”
I look at the other two but they don’t move, only groan. I get back in my taxi and clean up the spots of blood with a tissue which I then throw at eyebrow scar as I inspect them once more. I get in the front seat, put the money in my fare-box and turn my full-beams on and then drive back to the rank quickly.
As I said. Time is money.