An Overworked andoverpaid fisherman, I went into Barnacle Pete’s Seafood for two dollar and fifty cent “happy hour” beers.
After a week at sea I needed to talk to a different face than my comrades on the boat, preferably a woman’s. A classic symptom of sleep deprivation, I talked until nobody wanted to talk anymore. I knew I was delirious, my favorite time to be in a bar. I called out, “I’ve had enough. I’m walking home.”
At the top of the bridge over the freeway I stopped to wave at the cars passing by. I filled my pockets with oranges from a tree that hadn’t been picked in a while. Just as I arrived at my house cab driver rolled down his window and shouted across the street, “Hey pickle dick! You need a ride?”
I recognized the man’s grin from the window. “This is my house. When did you start driving cabs?”
I met Anchovi right after he finished his last term in Afghanistan. We both surfed the pier regularly back then. Supposedly he used his G.I. Bill to go to the same college I went too, but I never saw him there.
“It’s been a few years. Maybe you just want to ride around with me for a while. I don’t have any clients yet. You want to check out my boat in the harbor.”
“Might as well.”
He opened the back door. “You’ve got to ride back here just in case I run into my boss.”
It was a modern cab shaped like a box that smelled like a thrift store inside. He hit the gas on the way to the harbor.
“Check this out.” Anchovi wielded a 9mm handgun in the air. “I picked it up last week.”
“Holy shit, be careful with that thing.”
“I know how to use a weapon. I did three tours in Afghanistan.”
“I remember. This is a nice gun.” I turned it over in my hands. “Is it loaded?”
“Of course it is. I saw too much crazy shit not to carry a loaded gun. I saw things that will make you smoke a cigarette in one puff.”
“I bet.” I said as I handed him back the gun.
“It’s a strange operation over there. The Russians buy the guns off of us to sell to the Afghani’s who turn around and use them on us. “Anything for a buck.”
We pulled into a dark parking lot by the boat yard. “This is where I keep my boat.”
It was silent other than the creak of the docks. “It’s peaceful here.” I commented.
“That’s why I stay here.”
We climbed through the hatch on the deck because he doesn’t like to take out the door. Inside was a bed at the bow of the boat and a small space filled with clothes that we sat on. “Time for a smoke break.” He loaded a pipe with marijuana.
Just as I settled in to hang out for a bit he said, “We got to go. I have to be at the comedy club on the other side of the harbor.”
“Sure.” I said. “I’m just along for the ride.” Which was the wrong thing to tell him.
Anchovi raced to the other side of the harbor. The tires screeched as he swerved into the handicap spot in front of the comedy club. I slid behind him as he sped up the stairs to the club. “Anchovi!” A drunk man yelled from the front doors. “Did you get my message? Why’d you leave so quick the other night?”
The club owner approached us in a hurry holding his arms in the air to pull us out the door. The back rows of the audience looked at us as the comedian tried not to peak over at the commotion in fear of losing his audience.I looked in and saw the back rows of the audience distracted by the commotion and staring in our direction. Anchovi broke the mans grasp with a quick flick of his elbow then stood his ground. For a moment I thought Anchovi was going to take him to the ground.
“I don’t know this guy!” Anchovi pointed at the drunk man at the door. “I’m a taxi driver taking this guy to the show.” Anchovi pointed in my direction.
The owner glanced at me with a strange look on his face. “I’m so sorry.” He sat us at a table, then came back with two drinks on the house. “Sorry for the mix up we had to kick that fellow out earlier because he had too much to drink.”
“No problem.” I told him as Anchovi scowled.
People around the room stole glances our way. Everybody was dressed up and I was still in my stinky old fishing clothes. I felt out of place.
Just as I started to get into the show the comedian said his last few closing lines. and the owner took over the microphone to advertise upcoming events.
“I’ll be back.” Anchovi said and slipped out the front door.
What the hell am I doing hear? I asked myself.
I finished my drink then Anchovi’s next. I walked out the front door just in time to see Anchovi approach a decent looking girl smoking a cigarette.
“What’s all this I hear about you getting crazy in one of my cabs?” He asked, pretending it was his cab business.
“Getting crazy, huh. What do you mean by crazy?”
“First off you were drunk.”
“I was drunk? Wow. Isn’t that the reason most people take cabs?” She did a good job of looking mildly interested.
“…And you were sitting in the seat kicking…”
“…I was sitting in the seat?”
I could see in Anchovi’s face that he was losing it.
“Kicking the fucking dashboard!” He yelled. An awkward silence followed. “Yeah, so I was just coming over to see what was going on that night?”
“I don’t know what the hell you are talking about.” She stormed off.
“Wow, she seemed interested in you at first Anchovi until you lost your cool.”
“I just don’t need this shit. People disrespecting my cabs.”
I wanted to ask if he owned the cab business, but couldn’t.
“I’ll be back.”
Just then an acquaintance I’d met through an ex-girlfriend recognized me. “What are you doing here?” He asked. “I saw you come in.”
“I really don’t know.”
“You look real tired.” (A nice way of saying ‘you look like shit’)
“I am tired. Will you excuse me?”
I headed down the stairs and onto the pathway that leads around the harbor to walk home. There she was in the parking lot with eyes full of tears and three men crowded around her. We made eye contact and I expected her to tell them that I was Anchovi’s friend. It no longer mattered. I’d already thrown in the towel. I heard someone approaching from behind. A car door opened and I turned around to see her getting in her car by herself. “Look, I don’t know who you are, but when someone yells at you for something you don’t even remember…It’s just not right.”
I didn’t know what to say. I got the sense that I was in the middle of some sort of sick dramatic game, a battle for recognition. She wanted to be comforted. I wanted to be free. I turned and headed for home. “Men are such assholes.” I heard her say as she got in the vehicle and sped away.
I threw a single punch into the night air, followed by another, followed by a spinning kick. In a dream world on the way home I pretended to surf down the sidewalk. I was just happy to be off the boat for a while. Just before I entered the neighborhood a car horn sounded from behind. I turned to see Anchovi’s taxi cab swerving from one side of the street to the other. He skidded to a stop with the window already down, “Hey, get in.”
“I’m on my way home.”
“I know. I’ll give you a ride!” He opened the backdoor chauffer-like and I got in. “You should have seen it. Three dudes tried to fight me back there.”
“Wow.” I tried to look shocked.
“Yeah, they’re lucky I didn’t have my gun. Some guy tried to rob me last week with a knife. You know what I did?”
“I took it from him and cut him with it. I’ve killed too many people to put up with this shit…The cops congratulated me for it.”
Anchovi answered his phone. “Ok…Ok…Ok.” He turned back to me. “I need to go downtown. Are you in?”
“I need to go home.”
“I understand.” We pulled up to the front of my house. “Do you got any weed? Yes…No…Yes. No.”
I got out and he sped off towards downtown.
By: Barnacle Pete