Entertainment, Music, Literature, & Culture
3 A.M. Magazine



Frederick Zackel

Copyright © 1999
All Rights Reserved


One of those dead nights when everybody goes home early, and the streets were left pretty much to their own. I mean, so dead, even most of the other cabbies have gone home, except maybe for some of the Yellows and the Veterans who gotta work their ten hours whether there's anybody on the streets or not, and maybe a couple other independents like me, who really feel just too good to deadhead in and head for home.

Not many people to talk to, when the going gets slow, so I was pulled off on Clay Street over by Earthquake McGoon's, talking with the doorman from the Playboy Club. The Playboy Club was closed down for remodeling, and the doorman had switched to McGoon's for the duration.

The real reason behind the shut-down, he claimed, was cockroaches, not remodeling, and the Club was so depressed, he didn't figure on going back there, once it reopened. He liked McGoon's, he said. It was just as busy, which meant it was really just as quiet as the Playboy Club, because the Playboy Club hasn't been making money for a long time, what with only the tourists and conventioneers making any money for the club. Real slow, he said.

We were talking about that. That and the fact that since the car dealers had left town after their convention, the town had dried up again, like it had for a week or so after Labor Day. I told him the word was the town would be staying quiet till after the first of March, a full six weeks away. That I was planning on half-shifts and plenty of television to get me through the dry period. He wasn't so sure, said he had word that another convention was due in soon, and he hated to spend February in the rain, what with his arthritis and all.

He had arthritis, all right, probably worse that most thirty-eight year olds I knew. He was strange like that. Thirty-eight years old and suffering from arthritis. He had other problems, too. He looked like a twenty-eight year old hippie, not a doorman, what with his sea captain's hat and his faded raincoat. Big beard and small height. A gentle guy, probably burned too much by LSD in the Eighties. Normal, though, with a gentle manner. He had some small charms. Only, don't get him excited, because the acid burns made his brain a little like Jerry Lewis's nutty professor. He would get giddy and flaky and make the tourists a little scared of him, with loud laughter and giggling sounds. And talking too loud.

He had more problems than a rushhour cop. He had a bulbous nose that came from a deviated septum, he said, and the doctors had operated a couple times on his beak, breaking it, healing it, then breaking it again, just trying to let him breath right. There was something wrong with his spinal column, too, that prevented him from parking cars and retrieving them, prevented him from being a valet.

He was pissed at the Playboy Club, he told me. He had played Santa Claus for the bunnys at the Christmas party, and the manager wouldn't pay him the forty bucks for his being Santa Claus. He had done it twice before, on other Christmases, but the new manager claimed he didn't know what the manager before him had done, so he couldn't stick his neck out and give the doorman forty dollars.

The Club was losing money so fast, he told me, whispering like it was a big secret, even though we were the only two people on Clay Street at twelve-thirty in the morning. He had heard that, when the Club reopened, you wouldn't need a key to get in. And a key club without a key, he told me, means the Club was losing money.

We were just jawing, when McGoon's front door opened, and three dizzy blondes came running out. They were all good-lookers, not a fat or an ugly one in the bunch, which is not to say they were great-looking, just a touch better than average, which is pretty good at twelve-thirty at night on a Tuesday. They're scurrying and giggling and rushing about, until they see me. Oh, it's a taxicab, one blondie cried, as if that meant something extraordinary. And they bustle into the cab, faster than the doorman can open the doors for them. One climbs in on my other side, and the two fill up the back seat.

The doorman stuck his head in to say something to me, but I lost him in all the excitement and confusion. All the dizzies are hollering at me to step on it, get moving, don't stop, get going, real quick like, because we're leaving this joint right now.

I start up and make the accelerator earn its keep, but fishtailing away from the curb doesn't cool the chicks and their giggling excitement. Quick, go around the corner, I'm told, so I spin south at Montgomery and make the turn from Clay. I'm interested now, so I immediately make the turn from Montgomery onto

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