Fiction: I, Mad Dog
By Kirk Alex
(excerpted from: Blood, Sweat & Chump Change — L.A. Taxi Tales & Vignettes)
The Beverly Center in West Hollywood. Hard Rock Café side. I step out of my cab, walk up to the driver of the cab in front of me. Am curious why he is reluctant to pull up to the red curbing in front of the ice cream parlor (just past the entrance to the underground parking).
“That’s a $280 fine,” says he.
I nod. I should have been aware of this, but wasn’t. I don’t normally work this stand.
“In that case, we best stay put right here.”
We’re parked in front of the billiard hall. Even though the curb here is red as well and parking illegal, the fine at $50 is considerably less. Trouble is we need a place to sit long enough for space to become available on the (legal) taxi stand up ahead by the escalator; until then, if we intend to snag a trip and make a living we have no choice but to stay put and risk taking the fifty. I’m standing outside his cab and we’re chewing the fat, as they say. The driver, possibly a recent immigrant from Eastern Europe, appears to be a nice enough sort; the taxi is kicking his ass, too, and he is just as weary about it all as I am. There is rent/phone/gas bill/light bill/groceries, etc.; the futility of it.
We’re talking, my back to the street, when I hear the muffled thud. It feels like an open-handed pat against my back by a limp/wet hand. Strangely moist and sticky. I turn, see no one standing there in back of me other than a battered old junker of a tan van rolling past going east. My eyes dart to my feet, the pavement I’m standing on. Don’t know why. What am I looking for? I’m not at all sure. And then it dawns on me quickly enough upon seeing bits and pieces of eggshell and traces of egg yolk. I’d just been spattered between the shoulder blades with a raw egg. Eyes back on the van loaded with punks. I can hear them jeering/whooping it up/gesticulating wildly. Something goes off in me: the straw that broke this cabbie’s psyche; the final indignity. I’d endured enough shit in my time for fifty mother-fucking miserable lives, lived through so much—only to be pelted with raw eggs by degenerate assholes like this.
I jump in my cab and tear off after them.
We streak past La Cienega. I catch up with the van a half mile later. I pull up alongside the freaky driver, a Manson look-alike: he’s got the long, dark, stringy Rasputin hair.
“Hey, you!” I yell out to the driver. “One of your punk buddies threw an egg at me!”
“Pull over, asshole!”
“Fuck you!” he yells back, and accelerates. A black punk shouts something vulgar at me through the closed side window and flips me off. Just then the van cuts an immediate right and speeds off down a side street to shake me. Only I refuse to be ditched this easily. I cut a car off in that same lane, ignoring car horns and near-misses and go after them.
The van comes to a screeching halt halfway down the block. I slam on my brakes in plenty of time; a distance of forty-five feet between us. Out of the corner of my left eye I glimpse a young couple on the sidewalk shudder and turn their heads, expressing an admixture of fear and dismay at the mayhem before them. I think I hear the clean-cut guy with the woman utter something feebly at me like: “Take it easy. . . .”
None of it means anything. Take it easy? I was taking it easy. I am presently past taking it easy. My objective is directly in front of me: the garbage can of a van and the crud in it. I am focused to the point flames should be darting from my eyes, focused to the point that my skull is in pain.
The van’s side door flies open. Another long-haired/olive-complexioned punk (the Night Stalker’s twin) in a soiled undershirt leaps out of this side door and pivots in my direction. He’s standing there/taunting me/gesturing with his arms. He’s saying things that I can’t quite make out but understand all too well. He wants me to come at him, he’s ready for me.
I’m in a rage, my blood boiling. I’d been minding my own business, trying to make a buck in this shit-hole of a city, and the turds make it impossible. I shift into park, jump out of my cab and rush to my trunk in back, reach inside for the tire iron. I run toward the long-haired punk with the tire iron clearly in my fist, ready to do battle.
I am fuming, red-faced and raging.
“WANNA FUCK WITH ME, ASSHOLE?! HERE I AM! COME GET ME! COME ON, COCKSUCKER!”
They could have been armed and shooting bullets and it would not have mattered to me. I am beyond the point of rational thought. I don’t care about my safety. I care about nothing at this moment: stressed-out, overworked, half-crazy, not giving a shit about anything.
There have been too many years spent/being around these LA maggots, too many years of it. I want their blood, I want to smash every one of those windows on the van; I want to crush their goddamn bones.
The crowbar I am holding tightly in my fist causes the slug to do a double-take and yell frantically to the driver of the van: “HE’S GOT A TIRE IRON! TIRE IRON! LET’S GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE!”
“Remirez” hurls himself back in with his cronies, and they are speeding off down the block. I jump in my cab and chase after them for another mile or so, down narrow back alleys and side streets, burning rubber and leaning on my horn. Cars are either swerving out of the way or stomping their brake pedals, preempting various types of collisions.
Makes no difference. I don’t care. It’s like Bullitt. I am pissed beyond words. I want them. I need to tear them apart. What right did these lowlife, subhuman types have to harass people in this fashion? What right? I’d been playing by the rules (never mind that it felt like slow death), struggling to eke out a living, and this is what happens.
LA is a cesspool, needless to say, and I have been saying it for years. A sewer. There it is.
I lose the van somehow. Can’t accept it. Frustrated is how I feel, in near agony. They got away with it, ruined my day and got away with it. My brain is aching, my body is trembling with the anger of the whole nasty business of it.
There is nothing left to do but head to the nearest gas station and wash the egg out of the white shirt before it hardens and possibly stains my backrest and creates a foul odor inside my cab. I do that all right, but cannot shake the shitty/rotten/lousy mood I remain in the rest of the afternoon and into early evening, at which time I decide to call it quits and drive home.
Welcome to LA. City of Lost Assholes. On the one hand you had the overfed Hollywood-type nouveau riche yuppies in their BMWs and Sport Utility Vehicles and Mercedes Benzes, and then you had the other side of the spectrum: moronic/non-monied twisted trash in their filthy junkers.
Yes, I know. No one has to remind me: the punks would have ended up on gurneys, and I would have ended up doing some serious time. All I can say is the gods were looking out, as they must have so often in the past. Again, I’d been minding my own business; the punks didn’t know me, nor I them. Some might say I have a short fuse. So be it. I may display a “short fuse” when fucked with in this manner. I treat people with courtesy, don’t look for trouble. Some might be quick to label that “sissy behavior.” Go figure. And when you do show that you have balls, that you are not a punk/sissy, but in fact a man—in the truest sense of the word—well, then they are just as eager to pin the hothead/prone-to-violence label on you. GO FIGURE.
I don’t understand it/never will. That’s life in this rat race city. What a way to live. For years I have wanted to move to a place where human beings behave like human beings, and not like a pack of demented mongrels.
No, the obvious has not escaped me: a quarter century of dealing with Tinseltown’s mad dogs has quite possibly turned me into one.