Authors: Stephen Dixon
Tags: #All Gone
1334 Woodbourne Street
Westland, MI 48186
Copyright Â© 1990 All Gone by Stephen Dixon
All rights reserved, except for brief quotations in critical articles or reviews. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without prior written permission from the publisher.
Published 2012 by Dzanc Books
A Dzanc Books r
print Series Selection
eBooks ISBN-13: 978-1-937854-59-1
eBook Cover Designed by Awarding Book Covers
Published in the United States of America
The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
To Barbara Richert and Jerome Klinkowitz,
for their help and encouragement over the years
This begins more than four years ago. It was when I was driving a cab in the day and going to college at night. I was a pre-dental student. I lived in a single room. My folks were dead. I had no close relatives. I was dating someone and had a number of friends. I had little time for parties and movies though, what with my studying and job. My girlfriend, Louise, usually stayed with me weekends. We planned to get married during my third year of dental school, when she'd be graduated and teaching second grade.
One Saturday, when Louise was studying her own college work in my room, I was driving a man through the factory part of the city. I suddenly felt this cold thing on the back of my neck. I swatted it from behind. The thing came right back to the same spot. “It's a gun,” the man said. “Make another move it doesn't like and it'll bite off your head.”
“I'll do anything you say,” I said.
“That's a smart hack.”
“You want all my money, you can have it.”
“Just stick to your driving.”
“You want me to still drive to where you asked to go?”
“Drive around this block.”
“And after that?”
“Just keep driving around this block.”
He took the gun away from my neck. In the rearview mirror I saw him sitting in the middle of the back seat. He was nicely dressed in an overcoat, suit, tie and hat. His gloved hands held the gun between his knees and kept it pointing up at me.
I drove around the block several times.
“How many times you want me to drive around the block?” I said.
“Till I say for you to stop.”
“And if I run out of gas?”
“No funny remarks.”
“That wasn't intended to be funny. I'm low.”
“You'll be lower if you make any more funny remarks.”
“I mean I'm very low in gas. I was going to get a few dollars' worth right after I dropped you off.”
“You'll be dropping off if you don't shut up fast.”
I drove around the same block about two dozen times. The gun was still between his knees. Just the end of the barrel was visible now and still pointing at my head. Then the cab began making these bumping back and forth movements every few seconds.
“What's that?” he said.
“That's the gas tank going out of gas.”
“I'm serious. What is it?”
“You must have never owned a car. Take a look at the gauge.”
“Then get to a garage fast.”
I told him I knew of one right around here. It was cold outside and all the windows were up but mine, which was opened just an inch. And there was no glass partition or steel cage separating the driver from the passenger section, as all the fleet cabs in the city are forced by law to have now. Not that a thick glass or cage would have stopped any caliber bullet from coming into me from behind, if I had wanted to yell for help through my window crack or signal with my hand or lights to a policeman if I saw one nearby.
“And no funny remarks or lowering the window an inch more or getting out of the cab,” the man said, putting the gun in an overcoat side pocket, “or the trigger gets touched. It's a hair trigger too.”
I wanted to ask him what exactly a hair trigger was, something I read of in newspapers and heard said about in movies and never looked up, but I knew he would think that a funny remark. Or maybe I wasn't as calm as all that and only imagined I wanted to ask him that question. Later on though, I told people I had asked him what a hairpin trigger was and that he said “It's a trigger that releases the hammer that strikes the cartridge primer that sends the bullet up through the back of a cabby's head and out of his hair like a pin.”
I drove the few blocks to the gas station and pulled up beside the gas pumps.
“Seven dollars of the cheaper grade,” I told the attendant, “and a receipt.”
“Why'd you ask for a receipt?” the man said when the attendant began putting in gas.
“I always get a receipt when I don't fill up at the taxi garage.”
“No receipt,” he said.
“But I need a receipt to get my seven dollars back. I've dealt with this guy. He knows that.”
“I don't want you passing anything to him.”
“What could I pass? He'll be the one passing me the receipt.”
“That's seven dollars,” the attendant said.
I gave him a ten.
“I'll get your change and receipt.”
“No receipt,” the man said to me.
“No receipt,” I yelled to the attendant as he headed for the station office.
“It's no trouble,” he said. “No thanks.”
“No three dollars either,” the man said.
“I shouldn't wait for my three dollars?” I said.
“Forget the three dollars also,” I yelled to the attendant as he left the office.
“But I got it right here.”
“We're in a rush. Sorry.”
“Sorry for what? Are you kidding?”
“Why'd you tell him we're in a rush?” the man said.
“I said what came into my head.”
“Really,” the attendant said. “Three bucks tip is crazy,” and he held the three dollars through the window space.
“Should I take it?” I said to the man in back.
“Why you asking me?”
“Is it yours?” the attendant said to him, his mouth at my window and waving the money through the space to the man. “Well really thanks, mister, but three dollars is a pretty large tip.”
“Will you please take your change?” the man said. “Because I am in a rush.”
“I'll take it,” I said to the attendant.
“I shouldn't have said anything,” he said. “Three dollars would have done me fine.”
“Now please get moving,” the man said, pointing to his watch.
“See you,” I said to the attendant and drove out of the station. “Where you want to go now?”
“Around this block,” the man said.
“You see another block?”
“There are lots of blocks around here. This, that and all the other blocks including the factory one we must have driven around a hundred times. It's a big neighborhood. An even bigger city.”
“Shut your mouth and drive.” He took the gun from his pocket and held it between his knees.
I drove around the block that had the gas station on the corner of it. The first time the attendant saw me he waved. He waved the second time also and then scratched his head when he saw me coming a third and fourth time. The fifth time he saw me he yelled “Hey, you're driving in circles.” I shrugged. The man in the back said “Don't shrug. Don't make faces. Behave like your driving is perfectly normal.” The next time the attendant saw me he yelled “You're getting me dizzy with your drivingâyou know that?” The time after that, he was pointing out my cab to a driver of another car in the gas station and yelling “What's your cabâlocked to hidden street rails we don't know about?” Then he gave up on saying anything to me and only made the crazy sign with his finger screwing away at his temple, and the times after that he mostly wouldn't even look up.
We drove around the same block for about a half hour. Finally I said “You still want me to drive around this block?”
“That gas station guy's going to get suspicious.”
“That's his trouble.”
“He could call the police thinking something's wrong.”
“Then that's their trouble.”
“The police could try to stop us and you might use your gun on them and they might use their guns on you and I could get killed in the crossfire.”
“What do you know?âJust keep driving.”
“Why don't we drive around another block? One away from the gas station.”
“We drove around another block before.”
“That was till you ran out of gas.”
“I could run out of gas again. This stop-and-go driving drains the hell out of it.”
“Then you'll get some more at the station.”
“What could I ever say to that man the next time?”
“You'll say âFill her up, please, and no receipt.' And then exchange pleasantries about cars, auto parts and motor oils, or just read from one of the books on your seat.”
“You must like that gas station very much.”
“Save your remarks for the gas pumper.”
“I will. I was just trying to be protective about myself then. I don't want to get hurt or cause any trouble in the least.”
The gun was still pointing at me. I drove around the block another fifteen minutes. Every three times around or so the attendant looked at me and went right back to his work. Then I saw a policeman waving me down on the avenue around the block from the gas station.
“Keep driving around the block,” the man said.
“But he wants me to stop.”
“Pass him the next time you see him too.”
“He'll have a car on our tail by then.”
“Do as I say.”
I drove past the policeman. Through the side mirror I saw him calling out for me to stop. Through the rearview mirror I saw the man putting the gun in his overcoat pocket. We passed the gas station. The attendant was wiping someone's dipstick. We went around the block. The policeman ran farther into the avenue this time and waved his nightstick for me to stop.
“The light's red,” I said, passing the policeman.
“Go through it and around the block again and then stop where he says stop.”
“Why not back up for him now? I could say I didn't see him the first time because I was keeping my eyes out for a certain address, and only saw him the second time when I was turning the corner and had mistakenly gone through the light.”
He motioned me to continue around the block.
“You're the one asking for trouble now,” I said.
“From the police. I could still back all the way up this block and around to where he is. It'll look better for us if I come around backward that way. More respectful, and as if I only passed him once and not twice.”
I drove around the block. The policeman was calling in from a police box on a lamppost. Seeing the cab, he dropped the receiver and blew his whistle at me. I stopped. He started over to us.
“Roll up your window,” the man said.
I rolled it up. “What do I tell him when he gets here?”
“Cover your mouth when you talk to me now and don't turn around.”
I put my hand over my mouth and said without turning around “Well, what do I?”
“Tell him you drove through the lights and didn't stop when he told you to because you wanted to help him lose some fat by his chasing after you.”
I shook my head.
“Say what I said.”
The policeman rapped my window with his stick. “Roll it down.”
“Three inches,” the man said.
I rolled it down three inches.
“Anything wrong in there?” the policeman asked the man.
“Nothing, thank you.”
“Now let's hear you start explaining this,” the policeman said to me.
“I'm very sorry, officer.”
“What about what you ordered me to say about him?” the man said.
“What he order you?” the policeman said.
“I think he should be the one to say it.”
“That I only passed you because I wanted you to run a ways after me so you could lose a little weight.”