I don’t normally ride in cabs. Never really need to. Usually, I am familiar with my surroundings enough to get where I need to go by foot. But I had never been to Baltimore, and so I was forced to take my very first cab. Who knew it would also be my last.
It wasn’t bad enough, with it raining and storming as it was. But to add insult to injury, when I opened the cab door, I got a strong sense of foreboding. Still, even with a tug of hesitation, I got in just to get out of the storm.
“Where to?” A hollow, almost dead, voice asked from within the hooded cloak that sat up front.
I looked at the driver’s ID. Grimm, it said. Grim, indeed. I shivered and looked out the window. In all my acquisitions, I had never encountered such a scene.
I would have laughed if it wasn’t for that instant sense of dread I felt emanating from the front seat. That persistent chill continued to walk up and down my spine.
“Tattle Tale Books,” I replied, “Since when does Death drive a cab?”
“You realize,” his hollow voice began, devoid of any emotion, “that there is more than one of us, don’t you?”
“No,” I responded, “I was taught that you were-you know-like God. Omnipotent. Omniscient. Omnipresent. Everywhere like the air.”
“Sorry to disappoint, but Death is a job that requires an army. One could never be everywhere at all times. After all, there is a death every second at every point in the world and one could never be in all places at all times.
“But, to answer your question, yes, Death always drives a cab. It is a mandatory job so that we are always able to show compassion and understanding. We also learn how to differentiate between the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. Some of us tried working in hospitals, but found that we usually scared the patients to death. Many before their time. So, we were banned from the medical profession.”
I was beside myself. “Oh.”
there was an awkward silence for at least five blocks. Then, as if nothing happened, we began talking again.
“Wanna know my favorite clients?” He was eager to share.
I smiled. “Sure.”
“I think the ones I like going for the most are the corrupt. They tend to believe that they can buy their way out of dying. But, like everything else, we are forbidden to take bribes. The last Death that took a bribe has been in hell for the last millennia.” He turned the car toward my destination, then continued. “Criminals and politicians are my second most favorite. Lawyers come in third. I hate going after little old ladies, though. They are almost always such sweet people, and so giving! I also feel bad about going after children. They are always so innocent.”
“What about men?” I was now interested in his thoughts.
“No, can’t say as I have a problem with most adults. Although it depends on their age and what they have done with their lives.” He chuckled at some private joke. “The more violent or the more they have wasted their lives with nonsense, the more eager I am to do my job. Why allow someone to waste perfectly good living with mindless drivel?”
“I see.” I was now regretting asking.
Another awkward silence followed for several blocks, ended by the sharp odor of brimstone.
“My apologies,” my cabby’s hollow voice mumbled, “burritos always give me gas.”
“I didn’t know you ever ate!” I exclaimed.
“Oh yes,” came the answer, “just not as often as I would like.”
“But you’re nothing but bones!” I exclaimed in awe.
“Now you know why,” came the cool, hollow answer.
It had taken an hour for us to reach my destination. For the first time, I had never been so glad to get to where I was going. The second I stepped from the cab, the feeling of foreboding lifted from my shoulders and I suddenly felt a sense of relief. I turned back to the cab, despite my urge to run away as fast as I could.
“How much?” I asked.
“One hundred-fifty dollars even,” came the hollow answer.
“Kind of high, ain’t it?” I asked.
“Hey, Mack,” he answered, “I just read the meter. I don’t tally the cost.”
“Fair enough,” I replied, I handed in the fare. “Here.”
“Take care, Now,” he replied, taking the fare from me, “and thank you for riding along. I will see you in another sixty years, if you behave.”
I withdrew my arm and turned toward the publishing house I had acquired, then turned to wish him a good day. But I found he had vanished into thin air. I shook my head. Never again would I ride in another taxi. I had seen my fill of them with that single ride.