Transit of Venus
A short-short I wrote a while back. One of my close calls to getting “properly” published in a “real” magazine.
You want I should tell you again? How come? You didn’t get it the first time, smart-guy? Okay, okay, settle down! I’m just joking here! No need to get nasty about it! I’ll tell you what you want to know. I’ll even do you a favor and talk real slow and simple so you can get it down sweet. That work for you? Okay, so it goes like this…
I’m working the West 45th line at the Astor, like I always do on a Sunday afternoon. You know the drill: waiting on queue, listening to the game, hoping for a good fare—What game? Double-header; Tigers and Bombers. Grba’s throwing cans o’ corn, and Detroit put up a five-spot in the first. That clown Bolling… What? Okay—anyway, I’m sweating like a pig—it’s ninety degrees in the cab but feels like more—listening to Mantle whiff, when the maître de bellhops calls my number. Good timing, I need the fare. I move up and wait for the ride to show. They’re pretty classy at the Astor, you know, what with their reputation, and they got this thing where they want you to make like a limo. You know: roll-up, sit there like a chump, keep your hands on the wheel, eyes front. You don’t get out or nothing; you don’t help the Joe with the bags; you don’t get any tips—that sucks.
Anyway, the trunk opens and bags go in—I don’t know! Like I said I just sat there. Guess? Three heavy pieces, maybe four—then the back door opens, and this bouquet fills the cab, like spring and summer come all at once. It was something else, and this over the top of the stogie I’d going. I check the mirror, but I don’t see much, just the flash of one of them big hats like you see on the movie stars. The bellhop comes up to my window, and knocks. I wind down and he sticks his kisser right in. He’s flushed and red, as if he’s having a heart attack or something—maybe it was the long tight coats they make ’em wear at the Astor, or the hot day, or maybe that’s just how he is—anyhow, this chump is ogling the ride, not saying nothing, but finally manages to spit out, “Idlewild,” taps the roof, and staggers away.
“Poor schmuck,” I think, laughing at the guy, then I take a decent gander in the mirror, and my jaw’s flapping like a broken window. The most gorgeous piece of womanhood I ever seen is sitting in the back of my cab, and—What? Describe her? Sure. Light-brown hair, ringlets worthy of a Rabbi, sparkly baby-blues, beautiful creamy-brown skin, and, from what I could see, a body that’d make the Pope reach for his rosary. Sixty-eight, and I get a woody like I hadn’t had for years, know what I mean? I tell you carried some real good looking women in my time—Zsa Zsa, Jayne Mansfield, Rita, Janie Russell—yeah, I’ve carted them all, but this one made ’em all look like five dollar floozies; maybe not Janie, she was a real sweetheart and I got a soft spot for her—so, when I tell you this one had it, I know what I’m talking about.
I figure, what the hell, and turn around to get myself a real good look. I make with the obvious.
“So what terminal you want at Idlewild? International? American? Worldport?”
She just takes my ogle like she was born to it, you know what I mean? Then comes back with, “International. But by the Pennsylvania Hotel. We will pick-up my brother.”
I tell you, this voice is velvet over whiskey wrapped around a Montecristo. Now I got a full-on boner, and I am starting to feel for the bellhop. My ticker’s going fourteen to the dozen, and I’m getting hot around the collar. That voice of hers reached in and grabbed me by the balls, know what I’m saying? Here I am, happily married for forty years and it’s all I can do not to leap over the seat and have her then and there. Funny thing, she seemed like the sort of girl who’d be more than happy with that.
But I am professional, so I drove. To cover things up, I try and make a little conversation. “You like ball?”
The game was still on—Sisler’s throwing rocks and the boys swinging and missing—but somehow I can’t get interested with this bombshell sitting behind me. But I don’t get no reply, so I drive some more. It’s not too far from the Astor to the Penn, but traffic’s bad. Maybe construction uptown? Who knows. I don’t, and I don’t care. I check the mirror, and she’s eyeballing the passing parade on the sidewalk.
I try again, a different angle this time.
“So, you and your bother are heading out, huh? Where you off to?”
She turned her face to the front, and I catch her eyes in the mirror. She opens her mouth to speak, and all I can think of drowning in those beautiful lips.
“Home,” she says. “Europe.”
Europe? Sure, I hear the accent now, but most of all I want her to keep talking. That voice is sending shivers down my spine. The good sort, if you get my drift, so I go to a golden oldie: “Been in the Apple for a while?”
She’s back looking out the window, but doesn’t turn this time.
“Far too long,” says she with a big sigh.
Just then I stop for a red. She leans forward, puts her hand my shoulder, then runs her fingertips on my neck. Straightaway, I cream my pants. That’s a new one for me. I mean, look at me for Christ-sakes! Almost seventy, a cabbie all my life, not so much as a twinkle from the little man for the last ten years, and now this dame has me dropping my load with a touch. Then, she laughs this cute laugh, as if she know what’s going on.
“No more questions,” she whispers in my ear. “Just drive.”
The light changes, and I drive, but, funny thing this, I’m still like a bar of iron.
It takes a while but we get to the Penn. She flicks the door open, and this huge brute gets in. This guy was like Joe Young come to life. He’d make Marciano look like a flyweight, know what I mean? So, she scoots over, the gorilla says, “Affie!”, then he starts in on her: the two of them are necking like teenagers. That’s odd, I think, doing that with your own sis, but if my sister looked like that, who knows.
It’s getting pretty steamy in there, and I’m close to making another mess, when the gorilla breaks it off, growls, “Drive!”, then starts back in on her.
That’s it. Maybe they talk, maybe they don’t; I can’t remember. The Yanks lost, but came through in the second game on the back of Ditmar’s curve. Idlewild was a mess; but nothing new there. I pull into International, they get out, a bag-boy grabs their bags, and that’s the last I see of them.
And then? What do you mean, “then”? I find a nice tip on the seat; I drive back to the Astor looking for another fare; and my boner goes away. This is New York, bud. Like I said, just another slow Sunday in the Big Apple.
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