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Spacer - Short Story by Daniel Wade

I wasn’t in the humour for driving that night. Half-eleven on a Wednesday evening, and the O’ Connell Street taxi rank was dead. Not a sinner in sight. It was baffling, to say the least. Just a few hours earlier, rush hour had been absolute mayhem, an arterial flow of steel and exhaust fumes, traffic lights bleeping faster than a round of gunfire. And now, except for a few last buses and those of us still left at the rank, the place was deserted. So this is what a nuclear fallout must look like, I kept thinking to myself.

I wasn’t too surprised, though. Wednesdays are always quiet. No matter how poxy the economy, business is usually at full tilt on the weekend. But during the week, dead time rules the city centre. It’s my belief that people will look for any excuse to go out and get langered, however and whenever, but tonight, that just wasn’t the case. My graveyard shift. Fucking love it, so I do.

The mirror of my mind showed me the dog I ran over on the N11, late one night in winter. As it had been showing me every night since. Id always avoid driving that stretch of road if I could. I was still able to see its fur, vivid and shaggy against the shade of the tarmac. It was white, too; white like my mother’s hair.

I felt it in my waters, as I steered the cab in and out of the streets and backlanes of Dublin: tonight was going to be a tedious fucking slog. I’m bad with boredom; I need something to happen or to make something happen, always. Streetlights glared through the windshield, searing my eyeballs. The cab felt too small, cramped, even though it was only me inside it. I kept drumming my fingers on the steering wheel, harder and louder than your usual absent-minded tap; flicked the radio on and off, scanned the streets like a hawk, alert for an outstretched thumb. My own face, younger, clean-shaven and deadpan, stared at me from the ID card on the dashboard; I felt like I was being watched.

I cut the motor and parked at the front of the rank, slumped back in my seat, opened my copy of the Daily Star, and played the waiting game. Which got very testing very quickly, for two reasons. First, I wished I’d brought a proper book along with me for the night, just to stay occupied. My house is swarming with books I keep meaning to read; instead, I always end up settling for the rag of red-top bullshit that is the Irish Daily Star. Secondly, and more crucially, O’ Connell Street does my fucking head in at the best of times. It’s usually a failsafe option for finding business, but the thought of waiting there for a fare to shape along my way just sickened me. I don’t know what it is, but the place really gets on my wick. Scumbag Central, you know the way?

It might have been a wolfhound, or a great dane. The dog, I mean. I didnt see it too clearly. You see them so rarely nowadays. Its legs were bony and curved below the knee, its bristly coat flecked in soot. I remember how it stood in directly in my headlights path.

Anyway, I was about to give up and to go for a spin out Dawson Street way, and try my luck there, when this toolbox dressed in a knitted farmer’s cap and a t-shirt that read ALL THIS... AND BRAINS TOO! lurched past, holding out a finger at the cab. I rolled down the window.

“Howiya. Where to?”

“Can you take me as far as Kilmacanogue?” Whiny little ponce’s voice on him, with cider-breath into the bargain.

“Yeah, no bother. Hop in,” I replied, upping the metre. Kilmac is in the backarse of nowhere and well out of my jurisdiction. To get there I’d have to pass along the road where I buried the dog. But I thought, fuck it. Work is work. More readies for me. Assuming he had readies on him, of course.

He waltzed around the bonnet, dragging his hand over the paintwork, and slid into the backseat. Ah, the backseat. Where love stories begin. I groaned to myself. Whenever a lone customer gets in the back, it inevitably means they’ll try talking to you. Or at you, in my experience. It’s weird, if they sit beside me in the front, they rarely bother. Maybe they feel safer in the back; I don’t know. As a rule, I never talk, or even instigate a conversation with a passenger.

But then, I’ve lots of rules for this cab. And I never break them. There are certain people whom I never allow inside. Give you an example: if I see a girl who, from the looks of things, is over twenty-eight, on her own and well off her face, she gets no lift from me. They’re always the worst, in my experience. Self-centred wagons expecting to be babysat, and some them cheeky enough to try doing a runner on me. I never let them escape. The reason I never tell the likes of your man to sling their hook is because, annoying as they are, they always pay up, and they pay well. But Irish women? Not a chance. They’re a unique sort of crazy.

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