The Taxi Driver

Anna MacDonald

People do not consider him much. And if they do then they do not consider him anything important at all. They do not know how bloated with secrets he is. The black cab his own confessional, with not even God listening in.

 

His favourite was the parrot man. He was a hundred and four and owned eleven parrots. A tall, majestic green one, a King. A squeaky dusky grey one. A white and yellow one that spoke.

After the parrot man had gone – off to visit his great, great granddaughter – the taxi driver gathered up the rainbow assortment of feathers left behind and spread them across the dashboard.

 

There was a rich woman. Slicked back grey hair, a botox smooth face. Pearls, furs, a couple of small yapping dogs. Blood dripped from the barrel of her gun. The taxi driver said nothing but he was not afraid.

The women, though, she was very afraid. Frightened of the silence and of what she'd done. She confessed everything.

Some oily words slipped out fast – that she hadn't meant it, she was sorry, she hadn't meant it, she didn't plan it. Some words were sticky in her mouth. Her son. She'd shot her son.

The taxi driver didn't tell a soul. He bought a knitted blanket, blue and red tartan, to cover the blood stain.

 

Eventually it came time for him to retire. He was sixty-seven, arthritis beginning to work its aching way into his bones. Each evening, after work, he'd sit for hours in his bath, scalding hot water soothing swollen, red joints in knees and knuckles.

His final customer was a young woman, her blue eyes were puffed up and she stared straight ahead, hardly blinking. The face of someone who is barely keeping it together. She had a dog, a golden retriever with grey dusted through his warm, honey fur.

He lay on the floor of the taxi, head rested on the woman's feet, glossy black eyes staring up at her. The dog's breath rattled and rasped in his throat, nose dull and dark. She stroked his head and murmured to him reassuringly. 

"I'm taking him to be put down." Her voice shook.

The taxi driver glanced in his rear view mirror. "I'm very sorry to hear that. Sometimes it's the kindest thing to do, though."

"I love him so much." She pressed the heel of her hand into her eyes. "And he trusts me completely. I'm his whole world. I feel like… I feel like I'm murdering him."

"Is there any chance he'll get better?"

"Yeah… maybe. God, I don't know. The vet said there's a one in ten chance of him getting well again but there's a ten in ten chance of him suffering and suffering lots, regardless. Which is more selfish – to keep him or to let him go? I just know I'm going to miss him, so, so much."

"I think sometimes, if you really love someone, then you have to let them go. I know it's not really a good comparison but this is the last day of my job. I've done it since I was twenty. I love this job more than anything, it's my whole world and I don't know what I'll do without it."

The woman nodded understandingly, a comfortable silence stretching between them, only interrupted by the dog's struggling breath. Soon they arrived at the vet's and the woman requested that the taxi driver wait for her outside.

"What are you going to do?", the taxi driver asked.

"The right thing."

The woman and the dog walked into the vet's and half an hour later the woman left, holding only the dog's red leash. The taxi driver dropped her off at her home, refusing to take any money. And then he drove his taxi to his home for the very last time.

{ Anna MacDonald } Bio

Anna lives in Edinburgh with two cats and 200 books. She loves to write stories with interesting flawed characters and ranges across history, fantasy and contemporary fiction. She is educated at home which leaves lots of time for reading, writing and travelling.