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The Wall 


I was taking the corner at St. Paul and Main when I saw a couple, perhaps in their late twenties, standing on the sidewalk in front of the Vermont House. I slowed down and pointed through my window at them. The man made eye contact and gestured to himself, raising his eyebrows. I nodded my head "yes," with a slightly more emphatic point of my finger.

The man turned to his companion and said something. She nodded and the two of them walked out to my taxi and climbed into the back seat. "Thanks for stopping," the man said as they settled in. "But how the heck did you know we needed a ride? That was uncanny - we were just, like, standing there."

"I'm the psychic cabbie," I deadpanned as I pulled back into traffic.

The woman guffawed. "You're the what?"

"The psychic cabbie. I'm just fooling around. The thing is, I've been doing this for a thousand years, and I swear I can sense when someone needs a cab even before they do."

The two of them laughed and the man said, "All right, then I suppose you also know where to take us."

"Of course. You're going to the Woolen Mill," I stabbed in the dark.

"Not even close," the woman said, chuckling. "Are we going to your place, hon?"

"Yup," the man replied, "Bay Road in Shelburne will work."

"Well, that was my second choice," I said, turning south onto lower Church Street.

"Deb, have you thought about next weekend? My folks want to have dinner with us at Koto's. You know, that Japanese steak house."

Deb paused for longer than you would expect before answering what seemed like an innocuous question in the life of a young couple. "I don't know, Dave," she finally responded hesitantly. "Last time we ate out with them you were, like, totally weird."

"I was so not totally weird. We had a great time."

"You were so totally weird. Through the whole dinner, you were, like, looking in my general direction. You never once looked straight at me."

"Jeez, Deb, I'm telling you - I don't know what you're talking about."

Me, I'm minding my own business, trying to time the lights on Shelburne Road, a tricky endeavor without shredding the speed limit. But at this point I couldn't help but think, Bad move, Dave. Never, ever say, I don't know what you're talking about. First off, women hate that. And, more to the point, you're lying - you know exactly what she's talking about. Dr. Phil I'm not, but some things are patently self-evident.

"Plus," Deb continued, her voice no longer hesitant or sweet, "I was wearing a new dress that night, and new shoes, and I didn't hear a word from you."

"Are you kidding me? I loved that new dress. You looked beautiful, babe."

In the rearview mirror, I watched Deb turn and level a stare at her hapless paramour. "Is that right, Dave? What color was it?"

Dave didn't blink, for which I give him minor kudos. "It was, uh, red."

"That's great," Deb replied, turning away from him and facing forward. "Just about as swift as the cabbie guessing the Woolen Mill. The dress was blue, David - navy friggin' blue."

Wisely, Dave attempted no retort. Anything out of his mouth at this point would dig the hole deeper.

"And another thing," Deb kept at it, "your father was half in the bag by the end of that night, and you know how much I hate that."

"Oh, c'mon - he wasn't that bad."

"That's it, Dave. The wall's gone up. You're not even here anymore."

"Whoa," Dave said, entering into emergency-response mode. "The wall is not up, Deb. I mean it. I hear what you're saying. I really do."

The guy was now speaking quietly. To me, anyway, he sounded sincere, though I have been known to wildly misinterpret the emotional tenor of a room - or, in this case, the back seat of a cab.

"Well, I just don't know anymore, to tell you the truth," Deb said. "You have to let me into your life, Dave. That's the only way this thing is going to work."

The two of them sat quietly as we came upon Bay Road, and I took the right. The silence didn't feel like tension; rather, it seemed that things had been said that needed to be.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, Deb raised her arm and punched her boyfriend in his right thigh - not hard, but not exactly soft, either.

"Hey!" Dave yelped.

"Hey, yourself," Deb said. "So, what was up with Charlene tonight?"

"You're not kidding. She was all over Bob. Weren't they supposed to be broken up?"

"So, what time's the dinner at Koto?"

"I told my folks we'd meet them at the restaurant at 7."

"Well, bring on the friggin' flying steak," Deb said, "- you big dope."


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About The Author

Jernigan Pontiac

Jernigan Pontiac

Jernigan Pontiac is a Burlington cab driver whose biweekly "Hackie" column has been appearing in Seven Days since 2000. He has published two book-length collections, Hackie: Cab Driving and Life, and Hackie 2: Perfect Autumn.


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