Allen X. Davis

Posted on March 12, 2018

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38 Marigold

Penny the dispatcher sends me to 38 Marigold for that cute girl with the big tits who goes to the methadone van and back every day. A free ride and she’s always late. According to Joe, who is neither straight nor gay, just kind of asexual, she charges eighty bucks for a you-know-what. Eighty bucks! What the hell does she do for eighty bucks that makes it so special? Joe’s eyes got real big. That’s a good question! I’m wondering about this as I pull into the driveway beside the sleepy little house and toot my horn. Mostly I’m hoping it’s not true. On the garage is a big sign with the words Entering County Kerry. She’s been to Ireland twice, she told me the last time I drove her, and was bored silly. A small, gray-haired man strolls out from the back yard, picking up branches and surveying his property on the way. He comes up to my window. Did she tell ya she’d be right out? he asks with a slight Irish brogue and a kindly smile. Disappointed, he shakes his head. Young people these days. They t’ink the world owes ‘em a livin’. Eventually she appears: wavy, dirty blonde hair and a pleasantly rounded body, looking like she just rolled out of bed. Can you hurry? she asks, because if I miss the van I’ll have to buy on the street and I don’t wanna do that anymore. I look at her in the rearview mirror. I know, she says, I know. Why the fuck didn’t I come out sooner. But I’m working on it, I really am. Can I ask you a favor? On the way back could we possibly stop at the Coffee Express drive-up? They have the best ice coffee. It’s beyond her house and Medicaid doesn’t pay for any extras. That’s the only thing that gets me going, she says dreamily. I could drink it all day long. I tell her maybe, depending on how busy it is. Hey, just wondering, I hear myself saying as our eyes meet in the rearview, what’s this eighty dollar stuff a little birdie told me about? The soft features of her face seem to harden. Well I guess you’ll have to cough up eighty bucks to find out, won’t you? I instinctively put my hand to my shirt pocket. I’m light on cash. Can I write you a check? She glares at me. I was just messin’ with him, she says. In case you haven’t noticed, that little birdie is kinda gullible. And I’m not blowin’ you for an ice coffee, if that’s what you’re thinkin’. She turns her head away. Drop me off at my house and I’ll walk. Things stay quiet in the cab except for the music from the classic rock station until she starts rambling on about her life like nothing has happened and I’m a shrink or something. She’s landed a job at CVS as a makeup consultant and is trying to get back on her feet again. She was doing well for a while, living in a modern brick apartment with her Brazilian boyfriend but then she had a miscarriage. I can tell she was devastated. I don’t ask if this is what caused her to get hooked on whatever she was hooked on—heroin, Percocet, Vicodin, oxy-this, oxy-that. Usually it’s the women who open up, blaming car accidents, back pain, bad doctors, bad boyfriends. Fuck!! she shouts as we round a bend on Middle Street. The road ahead is filled with flashing lights—firetrucks, police cars, ambulance—and a line of cars. Nothing is moving in either direction. Lying on the pavement in the midst of the hubbub is a motorcycle. Hopefully the biker is okay. If he survives and gets hooked on painkillers I just might end up taking him to the van too. Do something! she screeches as if I can just turn my cab into a helicopter. I can’t miss my dose! Not today! I bang a u-ey and swing around in a wide detour, circling and zig-zagging three miles just to go forward less than one and the time is getting close. We pass the palatial new police station and through the evergreen trees bordering the DPW parking lot we at last catch a glimpse of the sad oasis which is the big white van. A nurse is about to shut the door. No! comes a cry from the back seat. As soon as I back in against the fence per regulations she hurries over and the nurse lets her in. A big old boat of a car with a loud muffler backs in beside me and a girl in a Dunkin’ Donuts uniform dashes to the van. Her lucky day. By the fence a couple of guys are smoking: one a construction worker in overalls, the other a derelict in a Red Sox hat. I feel complicit in this mess, dirty. My passenger emerges from the van, chit-chats with the two smokers, wasting my time, and finally gets back into the cab. She looks more relaxed. I just got my first take home! she beams, and I can see some light in her eyes, some hope. If this works out, she’ll soon start to taper—her choice, not theirs. This is some nasty shit, she says. I don’t have any energy and I’ve been gaining weight. Half the people who come here don’t have any teeth. She pokes me in the arm. Did you see that guy in the Red Sox hat? He’s been doing this shit for twenty years. I take her straight to Coffee Express with not a word about walking. She orders two large ice coffees—one for now, one for later—but her debit card is declined. But I just checked my balance! Can you run it for just one and see if that works? Never mind, I say. I pull a ten out of my shirt pocket and tell the girl in the window to keep the change. That was very sweet, says my passenger. She takes a slurp. Oh this is heaven! My true addiction! She rubs my arm. Thank you, she smiles. And I’m sorry I yelled at you. Our eyes connect in the rearview and for a brief, cosmic moment I feel like I’m travelling to distant stars, distant galaxies. She’s laughing and I know she feels it too. The radio crackles and Penny’s voice jumps out with an airport run. Bad timing but too big to pass up. She pokes my arm and says Call me when you get back. I float across the busy road and roll onto peaceful little Marigold. It is like a different country here—calmness in a sea of turbulence. She leans forward between the bucket seats, her face close to mine, waiting, and I kiss her full on the lips. I know I shouldn’t, but it is too late and they are soft and warm. Her dad is out front. He waves as I pull away.

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Allen X. Davis’ recent short fiction and creative nonfiction appears in Ragazine, Gravel, Schuylkill Valley Journal Online, and Fixional. His short short “Packy & Backy” was nominated for the 2019 Pushcart Prize and his short short “The New Lieutenant” for the 2017 Best of the Net anthology.

 

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