Last Cabbie Standing
By RoMeObYtEs Disclaimer: I do not own Taxi or any of its characters.
The garage is dark; Louie is working the night shift because Jeff is sick, and the place is empty. Alex Reiger brings his cab in, brings his take to Louie; He counts it. A cigar is jutting from his miserable mouth. Alex looks on, his face long and sad like a depressed hawk.
"What's with you, Reiger? Get mugged by a nun?" he says, cackling like a maniac.
"You know Louie, you have to move up just to be the pits." He says quietly. He pulls out a cigarette he bummed off a fare and lights it up, walks over to the table; there's shadows everywhere, and the place feels empty and spiritless; He smokes and shuffles a deck of cards left there. Although Louie is not an expert on the human condition, he certainly knows when something's up. He climbs out of his cage and comes over to Alex.
"Aw-right, spit it out," Says the sensitive Louie Depalma. He doesn't sit down; he's already at eye level with his disgruntled cabbie. "An unhappy hack is an unprofitable one…"
Alex looks up at his unlikely Sherpa, deciding if he should confide in him. In the past Louie has made friendly overtures and has proved that he is no Joyce Brothers. Alex decides to BS him a little.
"It's nothin' Louie. Just tired, that's all." He says.
"Aw come on!" Louie says. "You used to talk to everyone else about your problems! Even though I hate people who piss and moan about how "Bad" their life is; Buncha Losers."
"Well Lou, you've convinced me," Says Alex. He gets up, tosses the deck of Bicycles back on the table. "This place sure is empty without the guys."
"Ah HA!" yells Louie.
"What's 'ah ha' Louie? What's that supposed to mean?"
"You wanna quit cuz everybody's gone and you're the only LOSER left from your little bunch of LOSERS!" he laughs. He's still laughing as he walks back to his cage.
"I suppose your right Lou. Hey, how 'bout giving me another shift? I'll work the Boroughs tonight…could use the cash, y'know."
Louie turns, stares. His hair is slightly disheveled from his laughing fit, and there's Twinkie crumbs on his vest. "You serious?" he says.
"Yeah. Plus I need to think. Come on Louie, you don't care anyway. All you care about is losing your best booker."
Louie walks out of the cage with the keys to cab 804, tosses them to Alex.
"Thanks Lou." Alex says quietly, and gets in the Cab and leaves. Louie goes to the table, sits down and picks up the deck of cards. He shuffles them absently.
"Everybody's gone." He says quietly.
He's cruising aimlessly through the night-time streets of Manhattan, and even though his hack light's off he's still getting people waving him down. He ignores them. The sites are passing by in blurs; the pawn shops, the strip clubs, the homeless setting up their boxes and sleeping on subway grates, getting ready for a hard nights rest on a cold New York night. He soon finds himself in Queens, near JFK airport. What led him here he couldn't tell you. He sees an elderly gentleman hailing him, and despite his antisocial mood, he picks him up.
"Where to?" says Alex, dropping the meter-lever. He talks to his fare through the rear-view, waiting for a response.
"Idlewild," says the old man.
"Idlewild?" replies Alex. "You must be an old-timer. They call it JFK now."
"Oh goodness, I always forget. JFK it is then." He says politely.
They drive for a while without talking. Alex clears his throat. "You're catching kind of a late flight aren't you?" he asks.
"Oh, I'm not catching a flight. I just like to watch the planes fly off…" he says wistfully.
Great; a nut-job, thinks Alex.
"I don't have much family left. Just a son who I don't see much." He says. "I was never married …"
"What happened?" Alex asks.
The old gentleman leans forward, "I didn't go for the gusto when I had the chance, and so, well…" He says. He leans back in the seat. "I suppose we were just two ships passing in the night."
This is too much Irony, thinks Alex. I let Elaine get away; how did that happen? He pulls into JFK, refuses the man's money, and says goodbye. Before he leaves, the man motions for Alex to pull the window down.
"You sound like you need a friend. Would you like to watch the planes with me?" He asks. Alex agrees. Just then the radio crackles to life. It's Louie.
"Reiger! Where the hell are you?" He growls. Alex tells him. He goes nuts, tells him to get the cab out of there because he doesn't have an airport hack license. Alex turns off the radio and parks the cab.
They watch the planes for awhile, then Alex says he has to make a phone call. He's at the booth, holding the dirty receiver in the crook of his shoulder with his head. He's flipping through his tattered address book; all his friends forwarding addresses are there; Tony, Bobby, Latka and Elaine. Tony is managing a promising young boxer name Terry Barducci, a welter-weight contender, and Bobby Wheeler finally got his big shot doing a big-time soap and had to quit hacking. Latka, he moved to Omaha with Simka to open up his own combination Mechanic shop/Restaurant. There was no entry for Jim, he just disappeared; whereabouts unknown.
"Elaine? Hi!" he says brightly. "It's me Alex! Yeah!" They talk for a while. His sad face now glowing a little. The old man is back. He's grinning at Alex.
"What are you smiling at you crazy old man?" says Alex.
Alex takes the old man and hugs him. "I've decided to go for the gusto." He tells him. He calls Louie next; he tells him he's flying out to be with Nardo in L.A. and that he can send someone to pick up his cab at Terminal 8 at JFK. Louie is fuming, but Alex doesn't care.
For the first time in his life Alex decides to follow his heart and not his head.