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From the Logs of Badge No. 54131. By John Whalen

We Were Cabbies Once, And Young: Class of '78

I was sitting on the grass in Alta Plaza at Washington and Steiner Streets one afternoon in 1977 getting high when a thought, like a lightning bolt, struck me: I should Alta Plazaget a job! I had spent the previous seven years going to a four-year college and was frankly getting both tired of poverty and of telling women I met that I was variously: a writer, actor, teacher, fireman, tugboat captain and/or nuclear physicist. I was sleeping on my friend Damon's floor. He knew a few cab drivers, so by the early winter of 1978 I was issued a license by the San Francisco Police Department to operate in the City and County of San Francisco as a passenger vehicle driver. My name is John. I am a cabbie (Badge No. 54131).

I began working at Veterans on Harrison Street as that was the only company then that would hire inexperienced drivers. What a difference thirty years makes. At the time I started driving a taxi in the City most of the drivers were native-born Americans with good driving records and half were college graduates. Many had masters degrees. You had to have experience and be bondable then. Now any moron fresh off the banana boat with no proof of real identity or any experience driving a car at all can be certified. English language skills not required.

Veterans must have been going through a major expansion at the time because a bunch of us twenty-somethings were hired in the same week. There was myself, of course, Nick the pothead, Mike B. the pot dealer, Frank Leonetti from Brooklyn, Manny Fernandez also from New York, T.J. "Snoopy" Johnston, a musician and a local San Franciscan, Victor Karp, Joe Cotton, Jones, Steve F. (who already had worked at Yellow for a year and would go on to threaten to "shoot The president"), Peter Cogar, a few other artists, musicians, assorted lost souls and just plain losers. We were the Class of '78.

One of the most interesting of them that I became friends with was Robert. Bob always had a laugh going, or at least a smile. At the time I was too naïve to understand that it was only partly his personality, the rest of his zaniness was drug- and alcohol-induced. No matter, we were all using something to dull or heighten our senses back then. I was no exception.

We were rookies and really didn't know what we were doing or which directions to take our passengers even though we had lived in San Francisco a few years already. My first passenger was a day driver going home from the garage who had to give me directions up to his apartment on Diamond Heights. After that first ride, I was on my own. We learned, though. Ten hours a night driving around the same forty-nine square miles will teach you – but perhaps not as fast as you think, especially when somewhere during the night you'd take a break to "get your head together" as we said back then. We'd come back to the cab from those breaks a little more refreshed but perhaps not as coherent as the riding public would hope. I have no actual figures, of course, but I would guess that in 1978 if you found a sober cabbie working after eleven o'clock at night then you had found a saint. I don't think there was any such animal.

With that in mind, one warm night that summer there was a cargo ship in port with a fairly large crew. In those days, freighters were often still American-flagged with sufficient crews of our own countrymen. San Francisco was still a port then, not the amusement ride that it is now. This particular ship was berthed way out on Third Street at Pier 80. All night long, crewmembers were coming and going from that location. It was halfway across town and in the days when the most common fare was $1.70 with a thirty-cent tip, this ride was about six bucks – and seamen, as all working people, were good tippers. We were getting eight to ten dollars for each ride, sometimes catching one in each direction, back to back. I had not known where Pier 80 was before that night (at the beginning of Army Street from Third), now I can't forget. I'll never have cause to go there again, but I know where it is.

It was late, perhaps 3 a.m., when I picked up a crewmen from one of the old whorehouses on Eddy Street in the Tenderloin. I think it was called the 181 Club. The doorman would always give the cabbies a two dollar "referral fee" for bringing a drunk in to be fleeced. I was able to buy a few pints at the Barleycorn on my nights off with just what I made from the 181 Club. Anyway, I took him on the long but quick ride out to pier 80. After turning left on Army Street you went down a rutted and pot-holed road cluttered with the flotsam and jetsam of the discarded pieces of the previous thirty years of society. There were old Muni street cars, trucks, autos, beached tugs, launches, landing craft and other relics left over from World War Two. They were no doubt pulled out of the water and dropped there the morning after VJ Day. Many had become the abodes of hobos and bums before we generously began calling them homeless.

At the end of this gauntlet of debris and refuse was a shack with one of those old guys (well, I'm that security boothage now), a security guard with a plastic badge who you had to stop for in spite of the fact that he never asked for any ID or inspected the vehicle for any contraband. I guess it made him feel important. A plastic badge that says "Security Officer" on it does that to some people. So he motions us in, safe I suppose in the belief that we were not terrorists, thieves or pirates.

The dock area was huge. You could put many football fields on it. I drove over to the gangplank where Bob in Veterans Cab 2106 was also dropping a passenger. As my fare paid me, Bob pulled his cab around cop-style with our driver's doors facing each other and said, "Hey Whalen! Looks like the last one of the night. Wanna do a number?"

Getting stoned at the end of a long and busy shift was an appealing idea – but, after all, I was a bonded and certified San Francisco Passenger Vehicle Driver still officially on duty. I gave it some considerable thought, perhaps seconds, before I responded.

"Shit yeah! Light that thing up!"

So we sat there at the foot of the gangplank of a ship on a warm night smoking a dube of high potent Humbolt in front of the officer of the day who only smiled at our blatant violation of both the law and common sense. We were talking and joking, having a grand old time when the coarse voice of the graveyard dispatcher, Potter (an asshole; all dispatchers are assholes), came over the air.

"Who's for Third Street? Pier 50."

Now I wasn't sure where Pier 50 was, but we were at pier 80 and they were numbered evenly south of Market so it didn't seem like it could be far. Bob and I looked at each other momentarily stunned.

"Who will go out to Mission Rock, Pier 50? I've got some of you on Market Street, but who's close or who is coming back from the Outer Thirds?" Potter coaxed.

That's when our stunned and stupid looks turned to brilliance. Bob and I both grabbed our mics at the same time.

"2106, Pier 80!" Bob yelled into the mic, creating a screech on the headset at the dispatcher's end.

"269, pier 80!" I mimicked.

"I've got two of you at the same location. Which one is first?"

Bob had the drop on me as he was faced toward the exit gate and I was facing away. He floored his high-powered Dodge while I burned rubber pulling my Plymouth Fury around to follow.

"269, Third and Illinois!" I stretched my location ahead of him.

"2106, Third and Army!" Bob countered. Neither one of us had actually left the dock yet.

"I've got two jerks comin' in at the same location. Anyone else?"

Other drivers from all over downtown and Nob Hill volunteered for the order. Bob and I kept shouting into our mics.

"2106, 25th and Army!"

"269, 24th and Illinois!"

"There's too many of you. 269 and 2106 let me know which one of you gets it. The Eye Institute on Mission Rock Road."

"Eye Institute!" we both responded at the same time drowning out each other's transmission. Neither of us actually knew where or what it was.

The race was on. In those days, no matter which driver was assigned the order, any cab could pick it up as long as they had bid on it before it was given out. In this case, not only were Robert and I competing with each other but cabs from downtown were likely descending on the pick-up location too.

Bob flew past the guard shack scaring the sleepy security man into action. You were supposed to stop when leaving, too, I guess so he could justify his life and sense of duty. The old man jumped out of the shack shaking his fist at the rear of 2106 as it sped away, and turned in disgust to re-enter his box-like sentry post. It was then that he saw me roaring in his direction. He stood in the gateway like the caped man of steel with his arm outstretched in a "Stop in the name of the law!" kind of pose. I just shook my head "No," turned on my high beams and increased my speed. Understanding my determination and taking his job seriously, the old rent-a-cop stepped over to a button on the fence which evidently activated an electric motor which slowing began closing the chain link gate.

"Damned Twentieth Century technology!" I thought to myself. The guard returned to the driveway and stood stoically secure in his belief that no one would dare run him over. He didn't have much experience with cabbies.

I increased my speed and the determination on my face convinced the plastic-badged lawman to run for his life and 269 slipped through the gate with inches to spare. I followed Bob down the rutted and zig-zagging lane with hobos, their dogs, feral cats, rats, raccoons, sleeping seabirds and various amphibians sprinting in all directions for safety. I could see Bob's face in his rear-view mirror laughing. At Illinois Street I hesitated as I thought that it ran parallel to Third toward our ultimate destination, but I was unsure. I was fairly certain that I had to turn right on 17th (or was it 16th?) to go over to Mission Rock but I had no idea whatsoever what the address of the Eye Institute was. I followed Bob out onto the broad three-laned Third Street and pressed my foot down on the pedal. I was on Bob's tail traveling about fifty-five miles per hour in a thirty-five zone, but there was no one out that time of night. Our speed increased to freeway levels. Heaven forbid that a vehicle should enter from a side street.

After a couple of blocks I realized that I was not going to make any headway on 2106 and knew by then that Illinois Street was in fact an alternate route so I turned right and went over to it. As I sped down the deserted old industrial district with railroad tracks in the middle, my cab rocking and rolling from its uneven surface, I looked to my left at each intersection to see Bob's 2106 on Third Street keeping pace with me. He knew I was closer, though, and not surprisingly at the intersection of 20th and Illinois, near the entrance of the old but still operating Bethlehem Shipyard, he tried to run the flashing red light in front of me. I called his bluff and his taxi slipped into a side skid but still managed to pull directly in behind me burning rubber and billowing smoke. I was now clearly the leader and would beat him to the order. We had endangered our's and other lives, not to mention possible property damage and citations for the privilege of making perhaps five dollars off the patron at the Eye Institute, wherever or whatever that was.

17th Street It wasn't over, though. Bob crazily pulled alongside of me on the wrong side of the lane, our speed at least fifty. The night being warm our windows were open and we were loudly laughing and shouting at each other. The uneven surface created by the railroad tracks caused our vehicles to wobble close to each other as we blasted through every intersection without slowing or looking. Bob was on my left and at 17th I began to slow as I thought that was the right turn that I needed to make to get to the destination. Robert didn't slow though and blasted through that intersection laughing loudly as if he knew something that I didn't.

"Damn it!" I yelled out loud, though there was no one to hear it. "He does know the way," I thought. "It must be accessible from 16th Street!" Now Bob was in the lead but I managed to catch up. This time, I was on the outside and 2106 was on the tracks in the right lane. As we blasted into the intersection of 16th and Illinois I realized that Bob had overshot the turn. I had expected him to hang a right and go over to the order along Mission Rock Road. I also realized that this part of Illinois Street dead-ended in a short distance. I jammed on my brakes, laying down a strip of rubber fifty feet long. Bob just turned his head to me and laughed. All I could do was mutely try to yell out "No!" I came to a complete stop just feet from the dead end as 2106 left the relative smoothness of the roadway and onto the railroad itself with its old splintered ties, golf ball-sized gravel and three-foot high weeds from years of non use. He was traveling at about fifty mph. His cab flew, bounced, sparked, rocked, rolled, bucked and finally came to a rest about sixty feet down the deserted track line and just in time, too, as there was a chain link fence surrounding a wrecking yard directly in front of him. The Alsatian junkyard dogs, unlike their foolish human counterpart back at Pier 80, ran for their lives whimpering.

All through the latest part of this race, Potter the dispatcher, kept calling over the air:

"Which one of you guys got the Eye Institute? 2106 over. 269 over."

Naturally we were too busy handling our cabs to pick up the mic; besides, the race wasn't decided yet.

"Who's got the order?!" Potter demanded as I got out of my cab and literally fell to the street, leaving my door open, rolling in laughter on the ground.

"I don't know, 248. Both those guys came in closer than you. 2106 and 269 over. Where are you?"

Potter sounded concerned for our safety, which was unusual for him.

"Anyone in that area look for them."

As I rolled around on the filthy street roaring in laughter, I glanced at Bob as he stumbled out of 2106 and tried to approach me tripping and laughing uncontrollably as he fell in the weeds and guffawed.

"Okay 248, you're in front of it, pick it up. 2106 and 269 back off. Where are you guys anyway?"

Naturally we didn't answer. Not that we didn't want to, we couldn't. Our laughter was the type that takes your breath away leaving no oxygen for the brain to operate coherently. And, oh yeah, there was that pot we did, too. Every time I lifted my head and saw Bob stumbling through the weeds and over the railroad ties I flopped back down nearly unconscious with child-like glee. The air was heavy with smoke and noxious odors. My face was only a few feet from the front wheel of my 1977 Plymouth Fury and I actually saw it glowing red from the heat of the brakes and tires. Note to self: Thank Lee Iacocca personally for building such a fine automobile.

2106 was smoking from various parts of its undercarriage and steam was rising from the engine compartment. I thought, like in the Hollywood movies, that it would blow any moment. Bob kept crawling towards me on all fours laughing his ass off and I was too well-amused to speak or get up. All I could do was laugh loudly. Hobos looked out of their cardboard boxes and broken-down cars in evident fear of our presence.

"269 over? 2106 over? Anyone seen those guys down there?"

Robert just pointed at my radio through the open door and mocked the voice coming from it.

I finally caught my breath long enough to mutter, " I think we got beat to the order!"

That brought on another series of gut wrenching laughter, the kind that is dangerous to your health, heart-stopping and stroke-causing.

We continued laughing and crying until we were too tuckered out to go on any longer. Then we managed, by leaning on each other, to stagger to our feet. 2106 hadn't blown up and there was less smoke. 269 looked fine with its engine still running and the wheels now much cooler but still too hot to touch.

"Has anyone found those guys down there yet? Christopher over? Whalen over?"

"You know, Bob, I think we better get you off that track before they find us."

Bob's response was merely to nod and laugh. The engine still ran, so Robert tried backing off but it was stuck tight. A quick look at the rear axle showed that it was broken in two. We found a nylon rope in the brush and I tried pulling it off with 269 but the differential was stuck tight. We figured that if we got it in the street at least he wouldn't have to explain how it got on the railroad tracks. 2106 was an old spare cab with hundreds of thousands, maybe half a million miles on it, so an axle breaking was possible at any time. Driving it intentionally onto the tracks was a different matter altogether. Unlike in the war movies where the loyal buddy never leaves his friend, I had the sense of mind that one guy getting in trouble was better than two and told Bob that I was going to the garage. I briefed him on my cover story: He was ahead of me so I pulled back and headed for the garage. As the night was over I had turned off my radio and that is why I had not heard Potter calling us. Although agreed that it was best, when I backed out of there the look on Robert's face was sad and frantic. This was likely his last night on the job.

When I got back to the garage, Benny the gas man "sniffed" the air around my cab.

"Jon drive hard, brakes hot, Jon be late to garage, ha ha ha ha." I ran to the dispatch window to punch my waybill before I was officially late, while Benny tanked up 269. Potter was famous for charging the twenty-dollar late fee.

Rebel was at the window. "What chew all doin' out there? We been looking for ya!"

I feigned surprise. "What cha talkin' bout Reb? Was just drivin cab." I mocked his Southern drawl. Reb gave me that look like a father who knows his son has just lied to him but realizing that he didn't want to hear the real story. I glanced over at Potter on the radio, who was laughing. One good thing about Potter: He was drunk every night and if you caught him during the "happy" part of his inebriation then all was well. Evidently I got there at the right time. I went back to the pumps, tipped Benny for filling the tank and returned to the window with my receipts for the day.

"Hey man!" Reb started in his Alabama accent. "Robert just called for a tow. Seems he's stuck on the railroad tracks. You know anythin' bout that?"

Again feigning surprise and acting dumb, I said, "No. Sounds bad." Reb just shook his head in disbelief and Potter continued to laugh. They both knew something went on and could probably figure out the whole thing. I gave them each a five-dollar tip, that being a lot of money back then. I figured I was safe.

It turns out that Robert was not fired. Among their many scams to separate drivers from their hard-earned money, the company charged him "damages" and junked the car, which was rolling junk anyway. I don't know how much he paid, maybe as little as $100 but more likely three to five hundred. Why taxi-drivers pay it I don't know as it is so obviously a chance to escape from their servitude by refusing. I have to admit, though, that I have paid it myself, many times.

So Robert and I continued to drive, at least for a while. Not long after our escapade on the railroad tracks I found myself sitting at a red light at Broadway and Larkin Streets facing east, staring into the Broadway Tunnel. The tunnel runs under Russian Hill and connects North Beach with the Marina and other outlying districts. It was a hot summer's night in the customarily cool San Francisco. We were driving in T-shirts with all our windows down, there being no air conditioning in the cabs. Next to me at the light was another Veterans cab with passengers. I didn't know the driver, though I had seen him around. We nodded to each other the way passing bandits in the wild West might have: kind of a cross between "Hello" and "I'll kill ya if you get in my way!" Anyway, as we were posturing to one another through our macho cabbie body language our attention was drawn to a racket coming from the tunnel.

Broadway Tunnel The Broadway Tunnel runs downhill to the east and has a slight s-turn in it so we did not have a good view until the source of the noise appeared coming from the westbound section. It was a Veterans cab traveling at high speed bouncing off the side of the tunnel wall like an out-of-control pinball. When it exited the tunnel, it made a right-angle turn into the center divider just forty feet before our eyes and crashed in a crumpled heap. Before I could even think, a young black man jumped from the rear of the cab and sprinted away at an Olympic speed. I made a mental note that he was wearing white bell-bottom pants and an orange shirt or was it the other way around? It makes no difference, it was the standard disco suit of 1978 and it was a Friday night after all.

I immediately looked to my right and saw that my fellow driver was already calling it in. I motioned to him, in that aforementioned cabbie body-language, that I was pulling around in front of his cab and not to move. I needed to get my taxi out of any possible traffic that this crash was sure to cause. In a true cabbie sense of brotherhood and comraderie, when the light turned green he went about his business and left with his passengers. Guess he figured he had done his duty by calling it in.

"Is anyone near Broadway and Larkin to help a driver?" Tommy pleaded through the radio.

I responded, "205 at the scene. I saw the whole thing!"

"205, Whalen, tell me what's going on!"

"2107 crashed into the center divider and a man ran from his cab!"

"Oh no! Oh no! 205 check on him and report back. Who is it?"

"I don't know. I'll be off the air to take a look!"

After parking 205 on Larkin Street I crossed carefully over to the broken-up cab. There was no traffic. I was afraid of what I would see. After all, there had been that terrible noise in the tunnel. A struggle? Then the awful crash and the passenger running from the scene, a black man at that. The driver appeared lifeless. In 1978, these set of circumstances added up to only one thing: the driver had been attacked and injured or killed by a criminal.

Though it was an emergency I crept up cautiously to the disabled cab. Even from across the street I could see blood all about the dash and windshield area. The driver was face down in the steering-wheel lifeless. I had already been assigned a regular cab by then, 205, having made it past an imaginary probationary period. Guys driving old spare cabs like 2107 were either new or on some dispatcher's shit list. We usually identified each other by our cab numbers. I didn't know who I was going to find behind that wheel. I called out as I approached.

"Hey Buddy! You all right?" No response. I got closer and repeated myself. "Are you okay?"

I was only a few feet away now. I couldn't see his face but I saw the long brown hair of the back of his head splattered and matted with blood. Naturally I thought the worst. I began to reach my hand in to turn his head and check his pulse. I had never seen a dead man before let alone a dead friend. I was on the one hand terrified of what I would find, yet on another knew that I had to do it. If this driver were still alive, I might be his only chance of survival until the ambulance arrived. If he was bleeding out, I'd have to stop it. If he wasn't breathing, I'd have to perform CPR. I suddenly became braver and more responsible. I reached in while still calling out.

"Are you okay? What's your name?"

Just as I touched his head, he came alive and sat upright and responded, "Razzo razzo rizza roz!"

"What!?" I jumped back in fright.

"Razzo razza rizza razza! Ha ha ha ha ha ha!" It was Robert, drunker than shit.

"Robert! Robert! Let me look at you!" I tried to assess his wounds, but he kept moving his head and babbling.

"Razzo razza rizza roz! Ha ha ha ha!" He couldn't hold his head up long. His nose was clearly broken and his forehead split open. His was wedged tightly into the crumpled car. I managed to reach in and shut off the engine, taking the keys with me, not that it was going anywhere. In the meantime, out of the quiet night air I could hear Tommy crackling over the radio.

"205 come in! 205 over? How is he? What's going on out there?"

I momentarily tried to figure out a way to get Robert out of this predicament. Let's see, a UFO tried to abduct him, no that won't work. A monster came out of the wall of the Broadway Tunnel andů no. Okay, okay, I got it. The passenger forced Robert to drink excessively before clubbing him over the head and ...

"205! Whale, what's going on?" It was Big Bill the night manager. He always called me Whale. The sound of his voice and the fear it instilled brought me back to reality. There was no way out of this for Robert. Besides, even though he was drunk I still believed that he had been victimized, maybe shot. I couldn't reach Robert's mic so I ran to my own.

"205, we need an ambulance and the police here!"

Tommy's voice came back to my relief but I knew that Big Bill was still listening.

"Oh no! Oh no! How is he 205? What are his injuries?"

The moment of truth: It wasn't up to me to say he was drunk, so I just responded.

"He's incoherent and has head injuries. I don't know if he has been shot or what but he is alive."

My idea of work supplies in those days was a pencil, one sheet of paper, a clipboard and a map, which I never used. I had nothing in the line of medical supplies and I wasn't about to ruin my shirt with Bob's blood. I returned to the crashed cab and saw a man with a sport coat running through the Broadway Tunnel towards me from the direction of North Beach He was in his late thirties maybe (I thought that was old then) and had clearly been out on the town. He rushed up out of breath simultaneously flashing an SFPD Inspectors gold badge.

"Is he okay? I saw him racing down Broadway in North Beach. I had never seen anyone driving that fast on the City streets. I heard the raucous in the tunnel. I was suspicious of the passenger."

"Well, detective, the driver is drunk and his passenger ran off up Larkin Street. I don't know what happened."

It may be noted that in all that time, no vehicles of any kind stopped to offer assistance. It was just a dead cabbie, wasn't it?

Neon bar sign The fire and rescue units arrived. It was determined that Bob did not have any gunshot wounds and he was too drunk to say what had happened. The police decided not to look for the missing passenger. He was long gone, anyway. The off-duty detective and I became talkative and I offered him a free ride back to North Beach but he suggested a bar nearby, Henry Africas. I don't know how it transpired but the cop asked if I had a joint and naturally, for emergency use only, I did. We pulled over on Van Ness Avenue late that night and smoked it, maybe even another. We talked for hours, him telling me what a drag it was to be a cop and how disillusioned he was with it. He was considering becoming a cabbie instead. I was shocked by this and tried to talk some sense into him.

"Are you insane? Get a grip on yourself!"

"Well I hear you guys get laid, is that right?" In my case, of course, it was true – but then again I am a real charmer and exceedingly handsome.

"Yes, but that's not everything!" I momentarily thought of the foolishness of my response. Of course it was everything! At least to a twenty-something guy.

I finished my conversation with the disgruntled cop and realized it was time to check in.

Bob was fired, of course. A couple of nights later while on the job I took a drive out to his house in Cole Valley to check on him and deliver some beer, munchies and cash. I knew he'd need them. I had never been in his pad but had dropped him off there before. After ringing the bell, I was greeted by his girlfriend, whom I had never met. She was a cutie: red hair, freckles, and glasses. Girls in glasses have always been a turn-on for me, you know the librarian look? Oh yeah, she had a nice set of breasts too, stuffed inside a too tight sweater, also a favorite female attribute of mine. He lived in back of a row of flats. She led me through a side gate, past the trashcans and into the old earthquake-shack in the rear. It was little more than a converted one-room garage. Bob was there with his head bandaged, his arm in a sling and his leg in a cast. He had a broken arm, leg, ribs, concussion, black eye and who knows what else.

"What happened the other night Bob?"

"Were you there, Whalen?" He had no recollection at all.

"Was I there? I single-handedly saved your life! Fought off your attacker and brought you help!"

We both laughed. He went on to tell me that he had no memory of anything after leaving a notorious North Beach watering hole, The Saloon on Grant Street. He didn't know if he'd been attacked by a passenger or what. It's unlikely that he was. I understood now why the passenger had run from the scene. In 1978, a black man probably didn't want to explain to the cops what he was doing that may have caused this nice young cabbie to crash. Good thing, too, because Bob's dad was a retired SFPD officer of some rank. The passenger may have also had in his possession some illegal substance. Partygoers in 1978 usually did on a Friday night. It was de rigeur.

I think Bob's cabbie career was less than six months. He didn't know how lucky he was. I didn't know it then, but I still had ten more years on my sentence, with some time off for good behavior. His girlfriend, who's name I have long forgotten, walked me back outside to the street. Robert was a friend, but not that good a friend, so I immediately starting charming the buxom honey.

"What are you doing with a guy like that? You're too good for him" and so on. Next thing you know we were making out up against my cab. It was quite an experience getting friendly with a librarian on the hood of 205, feeling her breasts and such with Bob on his back in the rear shack but he owed me, after all I had saved his life and lost a lot of money in the process. It's the least she could do for me. I don't know how much time had passed when we heard a noise but it was too late.

"What are you two doing?!"

It was Bob. He had managed to crawl out on his crutches past the trashcans and through the gate to find out what was taking his woman so long to return. I think he could have guessed.

I quickly removed my hand from under her blouse and instead of trying to explain it away I just muttered.

"It's cool, man! It's cool!"

"No, it is not cool!" He was shaking his crutch at me while hanging on to a small tree.

"Get the hell away from my chick!"

"Okay man. It's cool. Be cool!" The girl whispered to me "wait here" while she helped Bob back inside. I could still hear him growling.

"I'll get you for this, Whalen, you'll see! I'll get you!" I wasn't too concerned. I was pretty sure I could take a crippled drunk on crutches.

The gal rushed out a few minutes later and slipped me her phone number plus a couple of more kisses before she ran back to Bob's demanding bellow.

"Come over to my place this Friday. I'll be waiting." I could still hear Bob cursing.

I lit my customary late night joint and headed back to the garage thinking what a great week it had been. I had made a few hundred bucks cash, done a number with a decent cop, helped out a friend in need and was going to get laid in a few nights. "Life is good." I thought. "Life is good."

Published July 2006

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