Driving a cab for Atlas Taxi when the dispatcher sent me to Regional. I fired up the ride and headed over.
Growing up, Regional served as the local loony bin. It’s where they brought the kids who threatened to kill their parents and blow up the high school. It still houses the disturbed, but nowadays doubles as a detox center.
I called dispatch and waited for my fare. That’s when Kenny Callahan tumbled into my rear bench. A regular customer who I hadn’t seen in awhile. Now, I knew why.
“Holy smokes. What’s with the beard?” I asked, always speaking my mind. Almost. Geez Kenny, you could smuggle an exotic bird in that thing.
“The court ordered me to spend a month in the tank, what did you expect?” he said.
“Dispatch told me Waterford Towers. That right?” I asked.
“Yep. Back to Mom’s couch. I lost my apartment. My job too,” Kenny said.
“Sorry about that.”
“Don’t be. That job sucked. Bunch of back stabbers and I hated the place. They did me a favor.”
Out in the wild, Kenny played a boozed-out fiend chasing topless dancers. He also got popped buying dope and soliciting hookers in a few sting operations. The judge had enough and handed down an ultimatum: Rehab or the county jug.
Can’t tell you how many work nights Kenny spent closing down the bars. Blitzed out of his mind, playin’ grab-ass with a chick in the back seat of the cab.
No idea how the dude would sober up and make his morning bus. Had a decent job too. The things you see on the night shift are better than HBO.
“Look at us, man. I’m a lush and you’re a taxi driver,” Kenny said.
“It’s a living,” I told him.
“A living, not a career,” Kenny said.
I wasn’t the only hot dog on the grill speaking his mind. It’s times like this when you realize how far you’ve fallen. A washed up taxi driver with no better job prospects at the moment, and a derelict as my life coach.
What happened? Beats me. You mess around and pick up a stop-gap job. Before you know it, you cut a groove and start feeling snug. You look up, and bango — you logged a few more years on the odometer.
“It’s all taken care of, right?” Kenny asked. I snapped to and told him it was on his mother’s credit card.
“I just want to make sure you have your tip. I only have enough cash for a bottle,” Kenny said.
“A bottle?” I asked.
“Forget Waterford Towers. I’ll get there on my own. Drop me off at Colonial Liquors,” Kenny said.
“Sure about that?” I responded. You just got outta rehab. Get a grip on it, chief.
“Bet your ass. I’ve been locked up in that nut house for a month without a drink. Try that one, man. I’m the one goin’ crazy.”
Whatever. That’s when I tilted the bird towards Colonial Liquors. My mind started tilting too. Wondering if I should tailor my suit, get a haircut, and go after Kenny’s old job.