Funeral: A New York Cab Driver's Tale
Steven Edward Duescher
was approaching three AM on a sweltering mid July Saturday night
in the late Eighties. For some reason I'd caved in and chivalrously
taken some cheap-perfumed party floozie to Queens: now, assuredly
a fleeced fool, I was heading back to Manhattan with an empty
cab. I figured I'd lost at least twenty dollars on the deal; if
I'd remained in Manhattan I would be busy picking up fares, getting
paid more appropriately for my labors; plus I wouldn't be in these
dismal outer bourough neighborhoods, navigating streets lined
with generic row-houses: how rapidly depression would always grip
me in such places! Was it the dirty rust-tinged light, utter absence
of pedestrians, or oppressive silence that always flung me into
feelings of gloom and foreboding? -- as if, by the very act of
being in such places, I was immediately vulnerable, targeted for
an unpleasant experience?
was still deep in Queens but at least had made my way to the main
artery, Queens Boulevard: now I had a straight shot to the 59th
Street Bridge and Manhattan beyond. Because Queens Boulevard is
a two way street the lights all turn green at once, unlike with
a one-way avenue where the lights are stacked: I was gunning the
engine during each interval of green lights as if pursued by furies,
reducing the distance between myself and Manhattan by about twenty
blocks each time. I was so preoccupied with getting out of Queens
as quickly as possible that I nearly missed a fare: it wasn't
until I was almost abreast him that I saw a grinning man enthusiastically
flailing his arm, hit the brakes, and came to a squealing halt
a few yards past him. "Yeah!" I heard him shout as I
caught an emphatic fist pump from the corner of my eye. He ran
to the door, yanked it open, happily said "Don't worry! I'm
goin' where you're goin'! The City, baby! 84th and West End!"
and flopped on the back seat. He had a slept in his clothes look:
his hair was a ruffled mess; his suit was wrinkled and splashed
with some liquid; his yellow and black tie -- hardly a match for
the blue pinstripes of his suit -- was loose at the neck and appeared
to have been chewed by some sort of animal.
and West End?" I asked. It wasn't that I hadn't heard him.
It was that ruffled looking Saturday night individuals often haven't
the slightest idea where they're going. It's not uncommon for
them to spout some address and then, once I deposit them there,
decide that's not where they wanted to be, even going so far as
to blame me for hearing them incorrectly; and the last thing I
want is to be babysitting some frustrated drunk for a second longer
than I have to. Because that's what it comes down to: it's a situation
where a "customer" wishes to be coddled and humored
and indulged for as long as possible -- for as long as the situation
can be milked. Some people, especially those a trifle the worse
for wear on a Friday or Saturday night, think of cab drivers as
their personal chauffeurs and confidants and lackeys and buddies
and psychoanalysists and nurses, simply because they're paying
a measly fare. In the blink of an eye a complete stranger can
be clinging to me like I'm his last friend on earth; and sometimes
it really brims over, one clinging pest after another seeking
to wring the lifeblood out of me.
84th and West End!" he answered cheerfully, before lapsing
into an abrupt silence -- the transition from speech to quiet far
from smooth, typical of a drug or alcohol influenced individual.
I said to myself, "another Saturday night castaway! He'll
probably start complaining about the shortcomings or outrageous
expectations or unjustified griping of his wife or girfriend or
boss and expect me to take his side! I'll have to trot out the
sympathy and commiseration, and pretend to give a shit!"
Yes, the space within a car is very intimate and nuances are easily
picked up on: what the nuances were telling me was that I'd better
get this individual to 84th and West End lickety split and keep
my mouth shut, lest he use me as his confessor and expect a lot
of heartfelt absolution. As another driver once said: "Fares
think the cab is a toilet where they can get rid of all their
or three minutes of blessed quiet ensued, during which I was still
closing the gap between myself and the entrance to the 59th Street
Bridge. Then he suddenly blurted, "Look! I've got a bunch
of money!" I glanced in the rear view and saw him holding
up a roll of bills with a look of childlike wonder and glee. "I
can pay!" he continued, chuckling. The overall jitteriness
of his manner -- the pointless dartings of his eyes and exaggerated
gesticulations of his hands -- indicated he'd taken some variety
I can pay!" he repeated "You needn't worry! I've been
having lot's of fun! Lucille called me earlier and said to come
out here to Queens and lick pussy! 'Yes Ma'am! I'm your pussy
licker!' I told her; and I grabbed this money -- see it? (He waved
it rather frenetically, by way of reminder.) -- and came right
away!" And then another abrupt lapse into silence, as he
sits staring at me with wide eyes.
you had a good time tonight?" I ask. I admit it: I'd become
curious to hear his tale.
yeah! You'd better believe I've had a good time!" he answers
in an erratic half-shout. "One of my old flames -- well, not
an old flame -- a younger than old flame -- a thirty-eight year
old flame, to be exact! Lucille! She calls up and wants me to
do her pussy proud with my tongue and, hey, I'm not going to say
no! The second she opens her door, I'm waving this tie in her
face (he grabs his black and yellow tie, flaps it about), saying
to her: 'I'm your yellow jacket, Honey! I'm your bumblebee! Bzzzz!
Bzzzz!' And Lucille liked that a lot! One for the drama and games,
Lucille is! An actress once -- well, waitress now at a Greek place -- still sexy -- still hot! Lucille knows how to writhe and rut
like a cat in heat! She isn't shy! She's there in a pink nightie,
giggling! -- takes me by the hand and turns around to lead me to
a chair -- a big wide easy chair for an easy woman to sit in and
pauses again -- not for long. "Do you like ass?" he asks,
poking his head halfway through the divider, regarding me with
a dazed grin.
love ass!" I answer. "It's what makes all this driving
fucking right!" he yells, rubbing his hands together with
delight. "And Lucille's got the very best ass a woman could
possibly have! Perfect for shape, no sagging, and smooth to the
touch! And she was walking in front of me in an almost transparent
pink negligee, and that ass of her's was talking to me -- laughing
to me! Ha, ol' faithful was upstanding right off, ready to keep
the faith and fountain faithfully; although that isn't what she
he trailed off and gazed absently for a few moments, as if sobered
by a recollection that wasn't entirely pleasant; before I could
say to myself "Oh, shit! Here the wailing begins!,"
however, he regathered his good cheer and laughed, saying: "And
then Lucille sits in that chair, slings her legs over its arms,
and shows me the goods! Ha, she was plenty heated, Lucille was!
Her pussy lips were wet and warm, and swollen! Her tunnel was
an open mouth gasping for air, so that I could see down inside!
'Lap it up, Baby!' she says, already breathing deep and looking
to be halfway there. What the hell had she been doing to get herself
like that without me around?"
an uncomfortable pause, as if he's considering the possibility
he had a predecessor. He bangs the ceiling of the cab with enough
force to make me jump in my seat. "Ha ha, here it comes,"
I say to myself. "Some sort of tirade!"
no: he's banged the ceiling in joy, not rage. "I'm telling
you there's nothing like the sweet taste of pussy! I love seeing
the pink in a thick dark bush like Lucille has, and diving deep!
Ha! Ha! Ha! I can't get enough of smearing my face with the warm
wetness, making my lips and chin gooey! Yup, there's a reason
why Lucille called me up to come out and service her! I'll service
a horny whore anytime, anywhere! And Lucille made plenty of noise
when she came, yes she did! Whinnied like a horse and purred like
moment of silence; then he says: "Bitch! She didn't want
to be touched after she came! She pushed me away, crossed her
legs, and didn't want to mess around anymore! I had my pants off
and she wanted nothing to do with it! And when I sort of insist
she shouts 'Get out!,' just like that! Do you believe it? I service
her like she wants and then she won't let me stick my end in!
I got the toss with a roaring hard on!"
smile threatens to creep onto my face, but I stifle it -- shove
it down hard inside myself with a biting of lips: I don't wish
to provoke him with a display of amusement. Again, I'm expecting
some rage and complaining; instead, he starts laughing. "Ah,
Lucille -- Lucille! She calls me over to be licked, and then kicks
me out unsated! Whimsical Lucille! But I got some payback, yes
I did! I snatched her panties on my way out! And she was screaming
some shit about them being fifty dollar silk panties -- ha ha!
It made me appreciate them all the more! She doesn't want my dick?
Well, then I'll take her precious pink panties! She got a last
lick in, though: doused me with a glass of wine when I was at
the door -- I raced down the hall laughing! I'm outside, aroused
all to hell, and have to jerk off in a doorway! I shoot my wad
into that fifty dollar hanky and then toss it on her doorstep!
Ha! Ha! Ha! I hope she slips and falls on her fifty dollars in
the morning! Hope she does the banana peel thing and ends up on
ended by laughing for a good half minute, obviously revelling
in the absurdity of his night. By way of further celebration,
he brought out some cocaine and started snorting rather forcefully,
line after line. This went on until he was seized by a violent
fit of sneezing; then he was silent, not even bestiring himself:
I figured he'd passed out. So it goes: a few minutes of entertainment,
and now I was stuck with a drug befuddled slob. We'd entered Manhattan
a few minutes ago and were about to enter Central Park at 79th
Street: I drifted into Rachmaninov playing on WQXR...
we reached his corner, he made no movement to indicate he was
aware of the fact: still passed out, no doubt. I called to him
several times, louder in each instance, but he didn't stir. I
hate having to awaken drugged or drunken buffoons, remind them
of where they are, hassle with getting paid, and then guide them
to their doors, like some kind of social worker. I got out of
the cab, opened the back door and shook him -- at first gently,
then quite emphatically, saying: "Hey! Wake up! You're in
a cab and you're home now!" But he still wouldn't budge.
dragged fares off the back seat before and slapped their cheeks
until they regained consciousness; I've also taken a couple to
the nearest hospital to turn them over to professionals and their
smelling salts; but this was something different. His color was
bad, his expression worse -- he reminded me of a gaping, washed
up fish. A feeling of bafflement and fear descended upon me; suddenly,
I almost knew that the worst-case scenario was true. I found myself
checking his wrist for a pulse, even though I'd never done it
in my life and didn't really know what to look for. I felt nothing,
but wasn't sure I was doing it correctly. I then placed a hand
in front of his mouth and nose and examined his chest for signs
of breathing -- the truth soon became impossible to dispute: he
dreaded the prospect of spending the remainder of the night in
a police station, filling out reports and answering endless questions:
my mind teemed with thoughts of illegal drug use in my cab, the
possibility of being inplicated in the death. I'd felt lucky to
find a fare returning to Manhattan from Queens, but the joke was
on me: now I was stuck with a corpse and all the wretched responsibility
that goes with it.
stepped away from the dead man and was about to shut the door
again, intending to go to the nearest precinct. It was then that
I noticed two cops strolling up the opposite side of the avenue,
chatting animatedly. "Officers! Officers!" I heard myself
shouting, "There's a dead man in my cab!"
officers didn't seem overly thrilled to be interrupted in their
conversation; giving me "This had better be real!" looks
of annoyance, they rather reluctantly crossed to my side of the
is it you want?" one of them asked.
a man just died in my cab." I said.
they approached the cab and peered in.
has a lot of money on him," I said, without really knowing
why. Perhaps it was an effort to apprise them of the fact that
I was a law-abiding citizen who'd prefer to report the amount
of money in the pockets of a corpse than steal it: an elimination
of motive sort of impulse, so they'd be less likely to suspect
wasn't prepared for their response: their faces immediately lit
up; suddenly they became very enthusiastic about policing.
you touch the money?" one of them asked.
officer, I didn't touch the money," I replied, enunciating
officers turned away from me and whispered together for a few
moments; then they each went to opposite sides of the cab, leaned
in, and began frisking the body -- tugging and shifting it around,
checking each coat and pants pocket, until they located the cash.
No sooner had they found it, than one of them crossed around to
join the other: together, they pulled the body from the back of
my cab and pitched it onto the sidewalk. One of them, not bothering
to hide his glee over their windfall, advanced towards me with
the roll of bills: he removed a fifty from the top, and handed
it to me.
at me meaningfully, he asked: "Is everything alright cabby?"
fine, officer," I replied without hesitation.
never cease to marvel at the contrast between one fare and another,
the shifts and swings of fate's pendulum. One never knows what
to expect next; one simply surrenders to the flow, hoping that
one's professional detachment will allow one to deal with whatever
the city-currents wash into the back of one's cab.
returned to my cab, made a right at the corner, and picked up
a young girl at the end of the block on Broadway. "It's partytime!"
she said happily, giving a downtown address. She was giggly and
bouncy with life, full of spunk. So, as soon as the lights turned
green, off we drove on our merry way, racing towards club land
and a world of new possibilities, leaving behind the corpse that
had just purchased a sidewalk funeral.
Edward Duescher worked as a New
York cab driver at the Midland garage
(now Midtown Operating Co.) from 1986-1991, and says the experience
reminded him of "All the vandalism I did in junior high:
a total free-for-all, with no rules." He once used his cab
to push an "enemy's" parked car into the intersection
of 1st Avenue and 7th Street and leave it there. He also enjoyed
pretending to be a lunatic by loudly gibbering nonsense in a shrill
voice: "Nothing beats it for freaking out the tourists."
He resides in Brooklyn.
Funeral: A New York Cab Driver's Tale
© 2003 Sliptongue, Inc.