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The Fare

by Roger Crique (Age: 60)
copyright 06-12-2005

Age Rating: 13 +

It was a hot, humid and noisy Friday evening in the city. The interstate was backed-up for miles. John Though was sitting right in the middle of it and was not too happy about it. There was tension in John's face, as he noticed how the temperature gage slowly rose above the forbidden red mark. The sea of red in front of him did not seem to move at all, although traffic was moving, ever so slowly.
John started his day in the wee hours of the morning. It had not been a productive day. John’s taxi was falling apart and he desperately needed to make extra money to repair his taxi. Passengers would extend their hand, a clear sign that they needed his services, but as soon as they realized the condition of his taxi, they would wave him off. This was frustrating for John, let alone insulting. John was deep in debt. He owed six months of rent and was about to be evicted from his apartment.
His landlord was finalizing the eviction papers and would have him out by the end of the week. John was having a hard time dealing with his father's abandonment. John's father, Michael Though, had abandoned him when he was just five years old. Now, at the age of twenty eight, John was having a hard time coping with it. To top it all, John’s mother, Dorian Though, had been stricken with cervical cancer and had recently passed away. She was the cornerstone in John’s life.
When John walked into his apartment and did not see his mother sitting in her rocking chair, arms outstretch and with a smile that resembled the sun, he felt a numbness in his heart that was unparalleled to anything he had experienced before. At times he would go up to the roof of his apartment building and would walk up to the ledge. He would look down and wondered if he ever had the guts to do it; six stories down, he wouldn’t feel a thing.
“Damn it!” John shouted, “There goes that needle again. I can’t believe this! Don’t overheat, not now, please…. I can’t afford another tow!” The temperature gage kept rising, ever so slowly, as if to make John suffer with every degree. John started sweating, partly due to the humidity and mostly because he new that he was about to blow his call. He had given his local dispatch ten minutes to reach his fare. Now he was running late.
He was stuck in this hellish nightmare called Friday night traffic. If he was late for his fare, a hefty fine was going to be levied against him by the taxi company.
John took his foot off the gas and allowed the car to coast. This would certainly help cool the engine a bit. He also released the hood lever, and popped the hood open. This would allow more air into the engine compartment. To his consternation, he noticed that steam was whistling Dixie out the hood, a clear sign that the engine was well on its way to the boiling point. John prepared to pull over into the emergency lane, but traffic suddenly started to clear up. John seized the opportunity and stepped on the gas. He headed for the nearest exit.
John looked at his wrist watch and noticed that he had only a few minutes to make his call. He took a peek at the control panel and noticed that the temperature gage had almost reached its normal position. John thought for a moment and wondered what had caused such a heavy delay. Incredibly, traffic had all but cleared. His thoughts were interrupted by the crackling of his two-way radio.
“Dispatch to 159!”
“159 go!”
“How long for Evergreen Street?”
“One minute. I’m almost there.” The dispatcher paused for a moment.
“You know I’m gonna have to fine you, right?”
“What? Are you serious? I said I’ll be there in a minute!”
“John, you were supposed to be there a half an hour ago!”
“Dispatch, I'm having a hell of a day and I am definitely not in the mood for games!”
“John, the only reason you are still picking up this fare is because she asked for you personally! Otherwise, I would have sent another driver to pick her up a half an hour ago!” John didn’t respond. He checked the time and stepped on the gas.
“159 to dispatch.”
“Go, 159.”
“What time do you have?”
After a short pause, dispatched responded.
“Eight thirty!” John checked his wrist watch again. It read 7:58 P.M.
“What the hell is going on here?” John murmured. He brought his watch to his ear and tapped it a few times. It was still clicking. He wondered who this passenger was that had asked for him personally. All his friends had his cell phone number! But he hadn't received a phone call all day. He found that strange. This had turned out to be a very strange day. John made a right turn onto Bradley Plaza, and then he swung a left on End Road. In a few seconds, he was in front of 26 Evergreen Street.
A tall, slender woman made her way to his taxi. She was wearing a beautiful black dress that hugged her body. She also wore a scarf, wrapped around her head which partially covered her face. Her legs, sensual and toned, swayed through the hot summer air, as she approached the awaiting taxi. In her left hand, she carried a white envelope. She reached for the rear door handle and opened the passenger door, disappearing into the taxi with one gentle motion. John did not turn around to see who she was. He tried to get a good look at her through the rear view mirror, but it was getting dark and it was difficult for John to make out who she was. He wanted to turn around, but an unexplained fear had taken over him. “Good evening, John,” the woman said nonchalantly.
“Good evening," answered a perplexed john. “How do you know my name?”
“One of your previous passengers gave me your name.” said the tall, slender woman, adjusting her dark shades.
"Who gave you my name?"
"Oh, I can't tell you that!" The woman smirked defiantly.
“OK, where can I take you, lady?”
“That’s a very good question!” replied the woman. John turned to face her.
“Who are you?” John asked, trying to make out her.
“It doesn't matter who I am, John! I am here and that's what matters."
“Listen, lady, I don’t have time to…”
“John, just drive, OK?”
“Where to?”
“I don’t care, just drive! Drive to the end of the world if you must, but just drive. I need to breathe some fresh air. I feel like I'm choking. Take the interstate and head North. I’ll tell you when to stop.”
“OK, lady, you’re paying!” The woman smiled. John took the interstate and headed North. The woman rolled her window down.
“Are you hot? The air conditioner is on!” asked John.
“I need air!. I need to breathe some fresh air. Do you mind if I open this window?”
John shrugged his shoulders.
“Are you going to answer my question, lady, who are you?”
"I am a messenger and I’m delivering a message."
"Really, who sent you?"
"Someone that loves you and wants the best for you."
"And who might this be? Not too many people give a crap about me!"
"Well, someone does! This is the reason I'm here!" The woman smiled. She took the white envelope and handed it him.
“ Here, take this,” said the woman.
“What’s that?” John asked.
“It’s your fare,” the woman replied.
“But we're not there yet,” John said, momentarily taking his eyes off the road.
“Indeed, we are!” replied the woman. In a matter of seconds, John lost control of the vehicle. There was a tremendous noise, rubber tires screeching along the highway; metal against metal, chassis twisting in slow motion, debris falling across the highway. The impact caused an explosion that spewed glass shards, aluminum, rubber and plastic. When the dust settled, black tire marks were painted across a small section of the interstate. Time seemed to have stopped momentarily. It was all over in an instant. There was no more chaos. The tractor trailer had jackknifed. John’s car was a wreck. It had wedged itself under the undercarriage of the trailer. People ran from all directions to assist the injured. News helicopters soon arrived at the scene and hovered high above the sky, vying for the best positions. Ambulances raced to the scene. Bewildered motorist did not know what had happened. Local police secured the scene. Rescuers frantically tried to extricate the driver from the mangled heap that was once John’s taxi. A firefighter reached into the cab of the fire truck and pulled out the Jaws of Life and headed to the mangled taxi, but it was to no avail.
The driver of the tractor trailer was shaking like a leaf. One of the paramedics wrapped a blanket around his shoulders and then checked him for injuries. “I swear to you, sir, it was not my fault! I was in my lane, when suddenly; I saw this car coming toward me! I didn’t have time to react! I…”
“Relax, sir, everything is going to be alright,” said the paramedic, as he bandaged the drivers head.
Meanwhile, detectives combed the area for any clues of what had led to the accident. “What do you think, Mike?” asked one of the investigating detectives to his partner.
“Everything seems to match what the truck driver said. This poor soul never had a chance," mumbled the detective, shaking his head. "Take a look at this!" said the other detective, pulling the sheet of the diseased. “The cab driver was clutching a white envelope in his right hand. Inside the envelope was a photograph of a child, being held by his mother." “Let me see!"
“Here, take a look! This is pretty weird!” The detective looked at the picture, then, he flipped it to the other side and read the dedication. “Dear, Michael, this is your son, John. I’m sorry that you’re not a part of his life, but I will, even if I die. I will always look after him. I will not abandon him like you did! The detective cleared his throat, pushing back a few tears. The detective promised to himself that he would go to the young man's funeral and place the photograph inside his casket. In a few hours, the highway was reopened. Traffic resumed. Frustrated drivers were once again pounding on their steering wheels! Traffic had come to a crawl once again! A sea of red lights was visible for miles!

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        11-30-2005     Deborah Thomas        

Excellent job! Very dramatic. What a story... I love paranormal.. I truly believe some souls have unfinished business.. a job left to do, a child left behind, or just taken so quickly they don't realize they're gone.
But on a more serious note, it is so sad that John could not make peace with his life on Earth. Find contentment somehow. Like my pastor says, 'bloom where you're planted'.

        10-04-2005     Regina Pate        

oh wow, who knew, I would have never guessed, I have to go sorry, will comment more later but you have a typo in there dear. Good job. Thank you


        09-01-2005     Nancy Pawley        

We never know what fate will bring, but I've always believed that God is looking out for us in every circumstance. I really enjoyed this write, Roger.

        07-18-2005     Sam Hackel-Butt        

There will always be someone looking out for us wether alive, or passed on. Great write, had me glued to the screen!

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