Johnny America


Short Piece In­volv­ing an Au­to­mo­bile (3 of 5)


Botan­i­ca closed an hour ago but An­gela knows the door­man and the bar­tender has a crush on me, so we let them pour us Jäger shots ’til five. We walk to Hous­ton Street and hail a cab.

I glance around the taxi, look­ing for the de­vi­a­tion that’s al­ways there. The dri­ver’s name­plate shows his ID, his name looks mid­dle-East­ern — nor­mal. The ra­dio has an am­ber LED dis­play — nor­mal. In every cab, be­hind an acrylic sheet, is a no­tice ex­plain­ing fixed fares from the air­ports and stan­dard tip­ping prac­tices. I spot an anom­aly; “oblig­a­tory” scrib­bled in Sharpie mark­er over “cus­tom­ary.”

An­gela whis­pers, “in my butt tonight,” then slides my hand from her knee up her leg and un­der her skirt.

All the while the cab is in mo­tion, and traf­fic is clear. Morn­ing rush hour has­n’t start­ed yet. We start over the Man­hat­tan Bridge when I no­tice the dri­ver has a bead­ed seat. I turn to­ward An­gela for a minute, bit­ing her neck, kiss­ing her cheek­bone, then back to the bead­ed car seat, count­ing a mantra in my head, the pat­tern of beads dark, light, dark, dark, light.

The dri­ver is su­perb. He is­n’t turn­ing back to watch us, he does­n’t ad­just the ra­dio, does­n’t ask for di­rec­tions to Park Slope. An­ge­la’s un­done the but­tons of my pants and is strad­dling my right leg, drip­ping on­to me.

The dri­ver proves his su­pe­ri­or­i­ty. He rounds the cor­ner and we’re on her block.

“Just park any­where,” says An­gela, “any­where, please,” and he does, face still for­ward, eyes not glanc­ing in the mirror.

“What­ev­er you say, Boston,” he says to her. He no­ticed her ac­cent. He’s def­i­nite­ly In­di­an, I de­cide. “You don’t take too long.”

The sun start­ing up, our dri­ver picks up a news­pa­per from the pas­sen­ger side. I can’t tell which paper.

“You can watch if you want,” I say to him, look­ing from him to the pic­ture of a ba­by taped on the dash­board and back to An­ge­la’s crotch.

He fights with the Sports sec­tion; it’s not fold­ing over. “Thank you, no,” he says, “re­mem­ber tip.”

Filed under Fiction on July 8th, 2003

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