I can hear the frogs in the alleys screaming about the rusty spoons they have to use to prep their H. Not real frogs, obviously, but that’s what they sound like to me. I rolled my taxi slowly around Detroit, waiting for a customer to hail me down. Last month, Mayor Snyder declared bankruptcy over the whole city. Did you know a city could declare bankruptcy? I didn’t either.
My name is Chris.
I’ve been a taxi driver here in Detroit for as long as I can remember. Or at least since I could reach the pedals.
I’ve enjoyed the life. Since the city’s decline, the skyscrapers have hollowed out and gone dark. It’s like living in a big forest where all the trees are dead. People always ask me why I’ve never left Detroit and gone somewhere safer, but the truth is, it gives me a rush. Way more than those frogs get by scooping needles out of dumpsters behind the Little Caesar’s.
I turned onto Mckinley Street and patted under the passenger seat one more time to make sure Mary was still there. That’s my nickname for my buck knife. She’s twelve inches of hardened steel with a leather wrapped handle. A customer gave her to me.
Well, he didn’t really give her to me. He sort of left her in my car.
It’s funny, every time I get into my car, Mary yells “I call shotgun!” and I say, “No, you stupid girl. You’re a knife!” Well, I think it’s funny. Mary used to laugh at it but doesn’t anymore.
I see a guy walking out from the Marathon Gas station. He waves so I pull over.
“Alright girl,” I muttered to Mary, “you just stay quiet down there.”
The back door opened and the man got in — I’d guess he was in his mid-twenties but looked much older because of this neighborhood — and then he just sat there.
“Well…?” I asked.
He looked up from the belly of his hoodie. “Oh, my bad,” he mumbled. “Renaissance.”
I flicked off the cab light and started the meter. I slowed away from the curb and headed downtown.
“Yo, can you drive faster?” the passenger shouted from the back seat, more animated than before. “Jesus, gotta get somewhere.”
I pressed into the gas a little more, but evidently not enough to satisfy the kid. A handful of minutes later, he leaned forward once again so his mouth was inches from my ear.
“Ey. Let’s go.” He then jiggled something in his hand. I saw in the rearview mirror that he was pulling the handle of a glock out of his sweatshirt pocket, rattling it against some coins.
I pressed a little harder into the pedal and he leaned back. “Why you out here ackin’ like you a banger, child?” I asked him, casting a glance into the rearview again. He said nothing. “If you knew what was good for you, you’d throw that piece of trash into the river and start living right.”
He brooded for a while before saying, “Mannn, shut up!” He clicked his tongue and then, “I don’t let no one talk to me that way. I should ventilate you righ’now for that.”
I smiled and almost said something to Mary but reminded myself we had a guest.
He was still agitated, clicked his tongue again and shook his head while he looked out the window. Suddenly I didn’t like his attitude anymore. I pulled over right in front of Slows and he began looking around.
“This ain’t the Renaissance.”
“Get out,” I warned him. “I don’t like your attitude.”
“Whaa? B, you making a mistake,” he said as he yanked his gun out of his pocket and thrust the tip into my temple. Without thinking, I grabbed Mary’s leather handle and drove her through his hand until I felt the tip hit the metal of the gun. I dodged my head forward just in case he twitched and squeezed the trigger, but he didn’t.
He just screamed profanities and dropped the gun, staring at his hand as it began to bleed.
“Yo, what kind of old lady are you??” he shrieked while squeezing at his hand to try and stop the bleeding.
“Now,” I said, “Please get out of my cab before you bleed all over it.”
With his other hand, he scrambled to retrieve his gun from the floor, and we just can’t have that, can we Mary? He had left his back exposed so we took advantage. Mary dove in headfirst.
Minutes later, I had dragged him into the alley next to Slows and started the cab again. “Well now, Mary, we have a new friend left by another customer!” I looked at the glock and said, “My name is Christine and…what shall we name you?”