(George F. Walker, one of Canada’s most prolific and popular playwrights, pens an elegy to his father in seven parts. Esoterica will syndicate one part each day leading up to Father’s Day. Read Part One, Two, Three, Four, Five and Six here.)
By George F. Walker,
My father had a question for me.
“Are you a doer or a dreamer. I’m worried you might just be a dreamer.”
“Even if I’m dreaming about what I might DO”
“Yeah. You’re good with words. But will that be enough?”
“Maybe you could write for a newspaper”
“Maybe. But for now I have to keep driving cab”
“The family court judge ordered me to basically double my support payments.”
“You think you can manage that?”
No fucking way. I tried doing a double shift last week. But I got so tired I started to hallucinate. Twice I pulled over because I thought a mailbox had hailed me. But what I said out loud was “l’ll try.”
“Good. Because that little girl is your responsibility”
“Do you? Because of all the things you might fail at in life, you don’t want to fail at that.”
“You still drinking?”
“What? No. And whatya mean still?
“Just a concern I’ve had”
“Based on what?”
“You kind of remind me of your grandfather.”
“No, the other one. Your mother’s papa.”
“And he was a drunk?”
“I’m not saying that.”
“So what are you saying then?”
“Doesn’t matter. But I’m definitely not saying THAT.”
Time to pick up the cab. So I hustled out of the house AND that conversation. I drove for Metro Cabs. Their cars were kind of shitty. And a lot of their drivers looked like me. Long hair. Beards. Hippy chic. It turned off some customers. But male tourists liked it. It was a short visit to the wild side, I guess. And some of them wanted to try what they were sure I was selling.
“Sorry. I don’t sell drugs.”
“Come on. You think I’m a narc?
“Not now I don’t.”
“I’m pretty sure narcs never use the word narc.”
Or they’d want a hooker. And after a while I got tired of saying I didn’t know any. I did but I wasn’t their agent. So, I’d just ask the gentleman for a twenty, give him a random room number and drop him off at the Westover Hotel on Dundas. Chances are that in that hotel there could have been just what he was looking for behind the door with that random number.
Driving a cab at night was a whole other deal than doing days. Too many drunks. But much less traffic. Too many tired women office workers who’d been “working late for their bosses.” Whatever that meant. They weren’t any trouble. They were just sad.
Trouble was this. Bikers who’d parked their Harleys for a carefree night on the town. This was before they’d adopted the long hair themselves and still favoured the Nazi look. So, my hair was an issue, and after making a bunch of dumb, and I thought threatening, comments about it, three of them wanted me to take them down to Cherry Beach where they’d left their Harleys.
I pulled over in front of a Harvey’s I think.
“Not gonna happen”
“I’m hungry. Get another cab”
“Come on, Lucy. We won’t hurt you. Promise”
Lucy was the name they’d given me during our much too long journey around the night life where they continuously stuck their drunken faces out the windows to howl at young women in miniskirts (the first generation) and laugh manically at their own nonsensical jokes.
“Sorry. Lucy is starving.”
And she ain’t going anywhere near that very dark secluded place they want her/him to take them so that they could maybe kill her/him. I went into the burger joint. It must have been Harvey’s. They stayed in the cab, fuming for five minutes until they got out, all gave me the finger and stumbled away. I ordered my usual. A cheeseburger and a milkshake. Then took the first natural unchoked breath I’d taken in over an hour.
Maybe I should go back to working days for a while.
Except this wackadoodle thing happened the first day I tried that.
I picked up an elderly woman (in her 80s for sure) from her apartment on Prince Arthur. She was using a cane, so I tried to help her to my cab by taking her arm. She yelled at me and said, “keep your hands off me, all right.” I said no problem and let her make her way to the cab on her own. Something which also annoyed her.
I was fortunate that day to be driving a relatively new and just washed car, or I’m sure I would have heard some cranky words about that. Anyway, she told me she wanted to go to North Toronto to inspect a property she owned which she had just put up for sale. I nodded and headed for Avenue Road. I proceeded north and at Davenport I crossed the intersection on an Amber light. At which point I received a very hard blow on my right shoulder from her cane. It made me shout in pain. But my passenger shushed me and sternly advised me to “never never never do that again while she was in my cab!!”
I told her I wouldn’t but also maybe she shouldn’t have hit me so hard because a cane isn’t meant to be a weapon and my shoulder was numb. Also, she could have broken my collar bone. And I wasn’t sure she hadn’t. To which she said this and only this: “Oh shut up!”
So, I drove her the rest of the way to her very big house in North Toronto. When we got there, a large expensive looking car was parked in front. And it was blocking her driveway. This truly infuriated her. She made some terrifying grunting noises, got out my cab, approached the large vehicle and began to smash its trunk with her cane. Her eyes were wild, and I think she was drooling. When she thought she’d sufficiently damaged the car she stopped and ordered me to hold her purse while she removed her lipstick. She then wrote on the trunk of the car very very slowly but fiercely “Never never never park here again.” She paid me exactly what she owed me for the ride, not a penny more. Then headed towards the front door, and all I could think of to say was “my shoulder still hurts.”
She muttered something which I convinced myself was “suck my dick” and let herself in.
I told my family that story a few weeks later. They all laughed. Except my mother who was biting her lip. Something she did when she was trying to stop herself from showing how angry she really was. But then she let the lip escape her teeth and she said fairly quietly:
A great silence fell upon the room.
Because my mother never never never swore. At least that’s what everyone thought. My father knew differently. He could still remember that night when she came to see him fight. He could still hear her yelling and cursing at the the other guy in the ring. The guy who’d turned my dad into a bloody mess. My father loved her because she was sweet and kind. But he also knew she could fight. They both could fight. They’d learned how very early in life.
George F. Walker is one of Canada’s most prolific and popular playwrights. Since beginning his theatre career in the early 1970s, Walker has written more than 30 plays and has created screenplays for several award-winning Canadian television series. Part Kafka, part Lewis Carroll, Walker’s distinctive, gritty, fast-paced tragicomedies illuminate and satirize the selfishness, greed, and aggression of contemporary urban culture.