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Taxi Driver's Tale

Taxi-199

"This is a short one, interested in hearing it?"

"Sure," I said, "but only if it's really short, I have to get to Beit Yanai now."

I guess my voice revealed a lack of belief in his driving skill. I know him, he's sensitive. Irritated, he said, "No traffic on the Haifa highway, five minutes you'll be there, one minute for the story." Then he grinned.

"It's a story you like?" I asked,

"Yes, this is one I really like."

"I picked up a young woman - sweet, pretty - last winter, nighttime, in the middle of a rainstorm. Good she was standing in the light of a lamp post or I wouldn't have seen her. Tiny, in a bulky black raincoat with her arms folded across the front. So where was she going? From Kfar Saba to Ramat Aviv. It was one in the morning, right after the news. After she told me where to go, she didn't say anything. I kept the radio on to keep me awake. They were playing pop songs - from the '60s - and I hummed along. Not really singing because I have a terrible voice. I looked in the rearview mirror and asked her if either I or the music bothered her."

"No, it's okay, really", she answered.

"It was pouring, the windshield wipers were going and I was remembering the old days. She was slumped down in the back like she was enjoying it too. I pulled up at the address, an old apartment building a half block away from Tel Aviv University 'Just a minute,' she said, 'I have to get the money from inside my bag'

Sure, no problem, take your time, and I drummed my fingers on the steering wheel to the sound of (I think) Simon & Garfunkel, the one about the bridge. So she gets out, buttons the coat, I roll down the window, she gives me the fare. I start to drive away and she's still standing there, doesn't go into the building, stands there watching me drive away.

"I take the road back to Kfar Saba figuring I'll pick up someone coming out of a late party or a café closing. I know all the places - my territory for years. But it was a no-fare night, probably the weather. Then I figure instead of heading back to the station, I'll circle back to Ramat Aviv, cruise around the dormitories and the bus stops, catch some late night students."

He turned around – "You won't believe this."

"I will, I will, you always say that . . . okay, what won't I believe?"

"There she was, standing right in front of the building where I had dropped her off."

"The girl?"

"Yeah, the girl. She signals me to pull up. She gets in and tells me to take her back to Kfar Saba, back to where I picked her up. So, I make a turn and head for where I picked her up."

"And you put the radio on like before?"

"No, 'cos I figured she might tell me why she was doing this going back and forth, so I kept the cab quiet. Me, her, the wipers. When we pass Herzliya I hear this sucking sound, like lips smacking or something. It goes on for a real minute, so I know it's not the rain or the wipers. I turn around." He stops.

"Come on, you turn around and . . . ?"

"And she's nursing a baby. When she saw me staring she took part of her coat and covered her breast but I saw the baby's head."

"You know what you're saying, don't you?"

"Of course I know. She left the baby on my back seat and I'm driving half the night with a sleeping baby in the back of my cab."

I was dead silent.

"Can't think of anything to say, can you?"

All I could do was nod my head like a doll with a spring in its neck.

"So she's nursing this baby and you're driving her back to Kfar Saba."

"You got it!" And he slaps his hand on the steering wheel.

I pick up where he left off . . . "she gets out and?" I wait for him to finish my sentence.

"Right, she gets out, the baby inside her coat from the rain, the bag hanging from her shoulder - and with one hand she reaches in for the money and pays me."

"That's it?"

"Yeah, that's it."

"And if you hadn't gone back to Ramat Aviv?"

"Don't even ask," he says.

Pnina Moed Kass
www.pninamoedkass.com

REAL TIME / novel / CLARION -Houghton Mifflin / National Jewish Book Award, ALA Recommended / transl. French, German / Sydney Taylor, Berale, Hebrew picture book series/ KETER Publishing, TV series, short fiction (magazines & anthologies), essays, book reviews. Represented by Deborah Harris Literary Agency 

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