Straight on at the roundabout, stop for the traffic lights, watch out for the speed camera and onto the main street and join the rank. Like the back of my hand. There’s about 10 or so cabs in front of me, all growling and hungry for custom. Feed me feed me. A couple stroll up to taxi 1 and get in. The line moves up a little. A group of young girls, shrieking and shouting, get into the second one and the line moves again. This cycle carries on for 15 minutes until a bunch of men — no, boys — can’t be older than 20 are turned away from a taxi and as it drives away, two of them kick it and throw their burgers at it, the greasy meat sliding down the windows. Over the purring of my engine and through my thickened windows I hear one of them shout “chink cunt! Watch your back!” Now, one thing I can’t stand, abhor, is racism. It’s just skin at the end of the day. Know what I mean? One of my best mates, Harry, is black. And you won’t meet a nicer guy. After those racist football hooligans chased him down and nearly kicked him to death, I absolutely hate racism and racists. No need for it. It’s always been a thing that makes my skin crawl, you know, most of the people where I grew up weren’t white but we all got along. Most of the time. They only hurt Harry because their fucking team lost and I think the goalscorer was a black fella, too.
He’s a different guy now, Harry. Hardly steps out of the door. Shame, he’s a top bloke. Some people may look at him funny now, I suppose when you’ve had all that plastic surgery and are blind in one eye, they’re going to. But he’ll always be my mate. I’ll always be there for him. A mate is a mate. They’re like your virginity. Once lost, you’ll never get it back. From my experience, anyway. Losing a mate is a hard thing to do, so once they’re gone, perhaps they weren’t worth having around in the first place. Good mates, you never lose.
Notice how those cunts hunted him in a pack? That’s football for you — a woman’s game. Any sort of contact and they keel over as if they’ve been sniped. I used to think they were joking when they did it, but they were serious…I’d love to meet one of his attackers.
The boys continue down the rank and are pointed towards the end of the queue, towards me. I don’t know why, but this always happens. People who seem a bit, shall we say, fucked, are always pointed towards my cab. Oh well. Money’s money but they’d better not spout out any racist shit or they’re straight out onto the road. Trust me.
They idle up to me and one of them – close cropped hair, tomato ketchup flecked on his chin, his eyebrow scarred – raps at the window. I wind the window down. “What?”
He backs up a little and the smirk fades from his face. “Can you take us,” he nudges his thumb at the other two who’re watching me, “to Vicarage. The estate there.”
Vicarage. That place has gone downhill since the council moved all the lowlives there.
“I can, yes. Have you all got cash on you? I don’t take fares who haven’t.”
They rummage in their pockets and tell me they have. They could be lying but I’m gonna trust them. Just the sort of guy I am. And as I said. Money’s money.
“Get in, then,” I say. Eyeing them all to make sure they’re not holding. None of them reach into their pockets or for their socks though so I stop staring and turn to the front of the car. Even if they are holding, I keep a little something in the glove box for occasions like that. Haven’t had chance to use it yet but you never know when your life’s in the hands of someone else. I may trust these guys to have cash and not to be holding but can you ever really trust anybody?
They’re all in and I accelerate off. Down through the side streets and past the new mosque and onto the motorway. They’re talking between themselves but not loud enough for me to hear so I slyly press the intercom button. I raise my eyes to the mirror. They haven’t noticed.
“Eh, quite a shit night,” says the one in the middle: dyed blonde hair, T-shirt declaring DRUNK GIRLS LOVE ME.
“Was a bit,” says the one directly behind me. Skinniest of the group but he looks like fucking hard work. The sort who’d rob your grandmother for a fiver. “Pity it was so empty in the clubs.”
“Dunno about you two but it’s got me in the mood for a fight, shit nights always do, always have. Would love to batter some poor cunt right now,” says eyebrow scar.
At this, my ears prick. A fight. It’s instilled in me now, I can’t help it. The word just brings deep rages in me and it takes ages to pull myself back out. It’s like being in a peaceful sea and all of a sudden black oil engulfs you and you can’t get rid of it. That’s what it feels like. That word has got fucking powers, I’m telling you. Deep breath. One two one two one two one two, mouth, nose, mouth, nose. But it won’t go. I need some thing to get rid of it. I need this job. Please go away, please.