Taxi, Madam.

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
A change is better than a rest.

Submitted: February 07, 2016

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Submitted: February 07, 2016

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TAXI, MADAM

“Good morning, Henry, please sit down,” Mr Reeves said to his head of the retail section of his business. Henry wasn’t at all surprised at the invitation to see his boss first thing in the morning, as he had been observing all the comings and goings in the department for the last few months. Quite a lot of men who had given so much of their lives to the menswear company that was owned by the Reeves family, had been given their cards, never to darken the building ever again. Some of them had received a decent remuneration, but others who were newer, hadn’t got much out of their stay at the old company. Henry sat, and did his best not to betray any misgivings he might have had at being called into the main office.

 

Reeves was talking, and Henry was paying no attention whatsoever. He continued sitting there as still as he could without blinking an eyelid.

“The thing is, Henry, the company is going into liquidation at the end of the month, and we’ll be selling off everything we can, and then last of all, the building. The local council wants it to form part of a renovation programme. They say they hope it can be converted into ultra-modern flats for singles or couples. So, with such a glamorous vision given to us, and a more than generous offer, the family has decided to sell out and leave. It’s about time isn’t it?” Reeves stared at the silent man sitting opposite him, and didn’t have the slightest clue what could be going on in Henry’s mind. But nothing very profound was going on in Henry’s mind. He had been suspecting something of the kind for quite a while, and now it had actually happened. What a relief! He didn’t have to wonder any more. Henry was waiting to find out what his sacking would cost the company. 

Reeves began speaking again. “As you’ve been here for so many years, it’s been decided to give you more than the other ex-employees. You will receive for every month you’ve worked at Reeves, an extra one hundred pounds, as a bonus for all the years you’ve worked here. We hope it will give you a little nest-egg for your early retirement.”

Henry stood up, and said, “Thank you, and goodbye. I don’t see any reason for me to stay on here any longer. When will the building be taken over by the council?”

“As soon as it’s empty. This is our last week, and then we’ll be free to live the rest of our lives out, instead of having to come here in all weathers, just to keep our father happy. But now he’s dead and buried, we saw no reason to keep the company going. I suppose you’re in a hurry to get home, aren’t you?”

 

Henry walked out of the Reeves menswear building for the last time, feeling a bit miffed about the easy sacking. He wasn’t surprised. So many of his acquaintances had been handed their cards with a golden handshake, with no warning, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. That was life for many middle-aged people who had to make way for the young, but in the case of the Reeves company, it was to further feather the nests of the Reeves family.

 

‘The Golden Feathers’ public house was Henry’s watering-hole after work every Friday. He enjoyed the atmosphere with all the men who used it as a second home, moaning and groaning about their work conditions. Henry sat down at the corner table he usually occupied, and the waiter took his order for a large Scotch and a packet of crisps. Henry held onto the large glass, and let the golden liquid slide down his throat, till he felt it hit his stomach. Henry wasn’t interested in the Reeves, but he had been loyal, and had never stolen from them - not a pen nor a pencil. Well, now it was all over, he was another statistic in the list of the unemployed.

“Hi, Henry. I thought you only came here on Fridays after work. How’s it going then?” the voice belonged to Ginger, a pub-mate, who was always in a good mood and was never short of money.

Henry told him about his getting the sack, and how the building was going to be turned into expensive flats for the rich and flash. Ginger listened and then, when he had heard enough, he said, “Why don’t you get a taxi? You’ll be all right, and if you do work for a company, it’s not too bad. They aren’t hanging over you all the time, and you can work mornings or nights, it’s your choice.”

Henry thought about Ginger’s words for a while, and then said, “I’d better be getting home.”

“What for? Your wife ran off some time ago now, so what’s so important back at your place?”

Henry refused to be drawn into a silly argument, and limited himself to say, “Bye, Ginger. See you around.”

 

The house was just as Henry had left it that morning, when everything had seemed so boring and monotonous. Henry walked over to the aquarium and stared down at its watery depths. He sprinkled some fish food on the surface, and went upstairs, where he had a shower, and put on his pyjamas, dressing gown, and slippers, and went down to the kitchen. While he was waiting for his dinner to cook, Henry turned on the television. When everything had been cooked and eaten, he sat down on the sofa holding a glass of beer in one hand, and stared at the news, but not absorbing what was on the screen. During the adverts, he switched the volume down, and heard Ginger’s words ringing in his ears.

 

Monday brought with it several new things into Henry’s life. He needed to investigate what he would need. It seems that Henry was rushing into things, and hadn’t thought them through properly. In fact, he had thought about changing his job for a very long time. Now he was alone and had no responsibility for anyone other than himself, not even a pet, he felt he could do whatever he liked. He spent the next few days looking into the most important things a taxi driver would need. To begin with he had a clean licence, and he kept his car clean as a whistle. He knew the town quite well, but probably not well enough to go rushing about looking for streets he had never heard of.

 

Bit by bit, and with Ginger’s help, Henry got it all together. Twelve weeks after getting the sack, Henry had passed his theory test, and the taxi driver practical test of the street map. He had also asked for a taxi operating licensing, as he had the feeling he’d like to work independently, after giving his heart and soul to Reeves the best part of his adult life.

 

Ginger was more than happy for his friend, and they went to an exclusive club where all the social climbers wanted to be seen. Ginger was given all sorts of gifts by grateful clients, who saw in him an extension to their families, or their psychologists.

 

Henry was eager to get into the swing of his new life, so he went in his taxi. Neither Henry nor Ginger, were put off by the sight of the luxurious cars in the car park. They were both suitably dressed, and happily entered the large house that was lit up by more lights than anyone would wish to count.

“This is a bit of a pick-up joint for the rich and idle. Come on, let’s get a drink, but I’ll stick with water if you don’t mind. I’ve only just got my licence,” Henry said to Ginger, who was busy eyeing up some of he women present.

Henry sat staring into his glass of water, and trying to imagine his life before he’d got the sack.

“I saw you arrive in a taxi, is it yours?” a female voice asked him.

Henry turned his head and saw a very nice looking woman of around forty, with her light red hair pinned up in a knot. He liked what he saw and said, “Yes, the taxi is mine, but I’m warning you, I’ve only just got all my papers done. Would you like a lift somewhere?”

“Yes, I would. I’m trying to avoid my husband, because he drinks, gets very loud, and his driving becomes very erratic.”

Henry put his half-drunk glass of water on the bar counter, and said to the glamorous lady, “My name’s Henry, and here’s my card if you need me again. I give it to you now in case I forget later.”

The woman took the card, and said, “My name’s Christine.”

 

After excusing himself to Ginger, they walked out to where his taxi was waiting. The rain was lighter, but still falling. Henry helped her into his taxi, and asked her for her address. Christine sat on the back seat and closed her eyes. Henry kept his concentration on his driving, and it was a very comfortable atmosphere inside the taxi.

 

After forty minutes, the taxi stopped outside a set of wrought iron gates. Christine pressed a remote control that she had taken from her bag, and the gates opened.

 

Henry guided his taxi up to the front door, where he helped Christine out of the vehicle. She gave Henry a handsome tip, opened the door and went inside, and the door closed. Henry turned the taxi round, and drove back towards the iron gates.

 

He passed through them, and was once again on the road back home. When he got to the main road, he saw a beautiful shiny, black, car passing from one side of the road to the other. He rang the police, and without giving his name, drove on. Henry heard the sound of police sirens in the distance. He smiled to himself. He wasn’t going to let some idiot who had drunk too much, try to ruin his new job after having tried so hard for it.

 The police managed to get out of the drunken driver, where he lived, and his wife’s name. The following day Henry read about them in the morning newspaper.

 

The best part of Henry’s days, was spent in driving around trying to pick up a fare here or there. What Henry didn’t know, was that many of his fares that asked him to call for them at their homes, had come from Christine. She was grateful for the way he had treated her on the night they had met, and guessed he had been the one to call the police, when he had seen her husband, Randy, driving dangerously on his way home. As a way of saying thank you, she had given his telephone number to her girl-friends, when they needed a taxi.

 

One of his favourite places for parking and getting fares, was outside a hospital. There were a lot of people who had no problem in paying for a taxi after receiving treatment for a couple of hours. The taxi was like an addition to the visit to the hospital. One of his favourite clients was an elderly lady called Lara. She had called for Henry one day, when she didn’t feel up to going to the launderette with her washing and dry cleaning. Lara was very funny, and hated having to switch on a washing machine, so Henry was employed to take her dirty things to be cleaned, and bring them back when cleaned and ironed. Lara was so pleased with Henry’s attitude and professionalism, she recommended him to her friends. Lara had been told about Henry and how good he was, by Christine, so eventually there was a chain of women using Henry to fetch and carry for them, or take their dogs for walks, or help clean out aquariums. Lara also used Henry to take her to the senior citizens disco on Thursday afternoons. For that, and all the other daily duties he carried out for those ladies, he was handsomely paid.

The hospital job gave him the opportunity to meet all kinds of people, and not all of them were women. A lady with a broken arm picked him up outside the hospital. She had a terrible time getting into and out of the taxi. When they arrived at her house, she said, “Thank you very much, but I’d like to do you a favour. Would you like a cup of tea?”

“Yes, thank you.”

Henry followed her into the house, which was grandiose from anyone’s point of view. They went into the kitchen, where he saw a young woman in uniform preparing food and drink. “This is Gwyneth, she’s here for a while till my arm’s better, but I don’t want her to leave. We’re all under her spell, she’s a good cook and looks after the clothes. Let’s go into the sitting-room, the view of the garden is excellent at this time of the year.”

The tea was over, Henry was asked to pick her up at the house for the next treatment. He wrote down the time and address, and left.

 

A year later, after becoming a serious taxi driver, Henry found some lottery tickets tucked in the back seat. He checked out the name of the owner, and they turned out to be that week’s winning ticket. The owner in question, was a woman who was divorced and without a partner. She offered Henry some of the money and a fancy dinner in a good restaurant. Henry gladly accepted.

They began dating regularly, but in spite of having a good time with his new friend, Henry had decided to go it alone once more in his life. There had been a large hoarding up outside the old Reeves building for a few months, and one day he met up with Christine, who had been keeping an eye on his activities since her husband had been arrested, and she had subsequently divorced him. Henry saw the advert in the local newspaper for a luxury flat in the rehabilitated building, and threw it into a bin.

 “What’s wrong with the paper? Don’t you like the news?”

Henry turned round, and saw Christine, who invited him to a drink.

“Are you here by chance or by choice?” Henry asked her.

“By choice. I’m grateful to you for getting my husband into prison. He was a dreadful drunk, and a worse driver. What’s the matter with you? Why did you throw the paper away?”

“I spent the best years of my life in that building, that is now being sold to make the family that own it, even more money, and here I am - a taxi driver.” Henry’s feeling sorry for himself, didn’t go unnoticed by Christine.

“Come on, now, forget about it. I’m going to Australia in a couple of months. I fancy having a new life in a place unknown to me. I might even meet a new man, although that’s not my main reason for going. My divorce settlement was more than generous, so I’ve got no money worries. Henry, all you have to do is - take a jump into the unknown, and see what’s there when you surface.”

“Yes, I know you’re right. I only have to give it more serious thought.”

 

Henry went to live in Panama, and met many interesting people, and even Lara the laundry lady moved out there, so as not to lose him.

 

The two of them eventually had a very flourishing laundry and dry cleaning business.


© Copyright 2020 Georgina V Solly. All rights reserved.

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