Charon the ‘Taxi Driver’- Short Story


It was pitch black when the taxi arrived. All Adam could see were the car’s headlights coming as if it were the light at the end of a tunnel. Don’t go towards the light. He found himself giggling at what he just thought. The driver pulled up pretty slowly, Adam had to wait patiently before entering. For a moment he almost just opened the door while it was moving and jumped in. “Where to?” the driver interrogated Adam with his scruffy voice. “Home, 51st Park Street”, Adam whimpered back. The driver shifted his gear stick and began to pull away from the pavement. “Seatbelt” he spat out. Adam pulled it across his abdomen hastily, not wanting to upset the man any further if that were even possible.

A ‘Hi my name is…’ sticker was stuck to the glass separating Adam from the driver. Adam squinted trying to pronounce the unusual name scribbled across the fading sticker. He said it slowly “Charon”. “Ah, so I’m in the presence of a person that can read. Great”, Charon said. Adam could feel the friction and sarcasm in his voice. He thought it’d be best if he didn’t talk for the rest of the ride. Charon, on the other hand, had a phone call. Adam noticed the car smelt like death, and paired with the car’s blacked out windows that wouldn’t roll down, it made for an unpleasant ride. He could see Charon’s hooked nose from the ‘comfort’ of his seat. Charon’s face was hidden underneath his dirty white beard and his eyes bore age and wisdom, complimented by the crows’ feet sitting on the edge of his eye. Other wrinkles on his forehead determined that he was probably far older than the retirement age.

By now the taxi’s tires screeching was almost in tune with Charon’s roaring. “Haides! Haides! I do my job and you do yours. We work together ok. That’s the deal. I always stick to my part of the deal which is the driving so you stick to your end too…No, no, if they don’t pay it’s not my fault. I can’t still drop them if they fail to pay…Well I’m sorry you’re getting blame from the people at the top but it’s not my fault…Send someone else to do it! I’m done, I gotta go, I’m with someone now.” Adam was patting down his pockets to ensure he had his money before Charon could even end the call. Haides was an odd name too, Adam thought. Ancient names really…Who was Haides again?

Adam’s thoughts were cut off there before he could remember anything. “What were you doing before I picked you up?” There was steel in his voice. “I…um…I was at a friend’s house…I think…” Charon burst into fits of laughter while the car still continued to swerve around. “Can’t remember huh? Fair enough, most people can’t remember”. Most people can’t remem-

I picked you up on your own. Have you always been alone Mr…” Charon waited for a reply.

No Mr, just Adam…Well I guess I kind of was. I did grow up an only child. I was alone but not lonely.”

Ok Just Adam, so there’s a difference then? Between being alone and being lonely huh?”

Kind of-“

Kind of? It’s either yes or no Mr Adam” Charon bickered.

Yes there is a difference. A small one, I guess. I had to learn to be on my own and be comfortable in my own presence. After all, it’s me that I’d be spending most of my time with. I never understood people who constantly wanted to be surrounded by others.”

Ah so you’re quite the introvert huh? Not a fan of the people pleaser either hmm?”

No, no, not really an introvert. I just liked my own space…I guess that does make me an introvert. I don’t think extroverts are people pleasers either. I don’t know. I never really watched people like that. I just focused on myself and working on myself.”

Some would say that’s selfish.”

Some wouldn’t understand what life’s all about.”

Ah so you’ve cracked the code have you? Answered the age old question? Why oh why did you not become a mighty leader?”

How do you know I’m not?”

There was a moments silence before Charon spoke again. “Satisfied with your life then are you?”

Are satisfaction and contentment the same?”

A philosopher’s question requiring a philosopher’s answer and clearly I am not a philosopher Mr Adam so spare me the questions and answer it yourself.”

Just when I thought he was warming up to me. “I think I’ve done alright. Nothing that particularly stands out. If anything it was-“

Straight to the point please”

Well that was blunt. “Let’s just say, if my life flashed before my eyes there wouldn’t be much to see.”

Charon was hollering with laughter this time. “Is that what you think happens before you die?”

I don’t really know but I guess it’d still be nice to see it all one last time before you go for good.”

Gone for good eh? I take it you’re not a firm believer of the afterlife.”

Not a firm believer in religion at all.” Adam corrected him.

Charon was shaking his head by now. “Well that doesn’t come under my job description but good luck with all that. You’ll find out soon enough.”

None of this is part of your job description. I shouldn’t have even said anything…Wait, what? I’ll find out soon-

We’re here and you better damn well have money.” Charon said harshly.

Adam tried to look out the window but couldn’t see anything out of the tinted windows. To add to his misery it was foggy out. He figured he must be home. He paid in full and jumped out the car. Where am I? Is this what he meant by soon enough? Charon rushed off into the distance.

***

It was late evening when Joe was trying to find a taxi in the town centre. He was kept waiting patiently- taxi’s were hard to find at this time, especially with everyone trying to get in one. A couple of drinks later he saw an all black taxi approaching him in a strange manner. Joe observed as the taxi avoided customer after customer only to slow down right in front of him. “Hey man, I really appreciate it.”

Not a problem”, Charon replied.

The funky smell of the car instantly crammed into Joe’s nose. The tinted windows didn’t help either, trapping the heat inside the car. He looked up to see if the driver could smell the same thing he smelt only to see that the driver’s face was unfazed. He couldn’t help but notice the driver’s face almost matched the stench in terms of how appalling they both were. Joe kept his mouth shut.

My dear friend, where will I be taking you on this fine evening?”

The other side of town, the Chinese shop by the bridge please.”

Not an issue.”

Joe was almost hurled across to the other side of the taxi while the cars’ tires shrieked as if they were in pain. I guess he’s in a rush. Can’t blame him, probably got a lot of people to pick up tonight.

Quite the distance we have to cover. What’s taking you so far away from your side of town?”

Yea I’m not too comfortable with it either ha-ha. I’ve got a favour to do for a friend of mine sir.”

No need for sir. Just Charon…Must be quite a friend then huh?”

Oh Charon, nice name. Um, no not really…I mean we are friends just not that close.”

I didn’t catch your name, sorry. So if you’re not that close then why go through the all this trouble?”

Oh I’m Joe. Well doesn’t mean because we’re not close that I can’t do him a favour. You give and you get you know?”

You give and you get huh…do you ever ‘get’ Joe?”

Yea, in one way or the other…definitely yea.”

One way or the other…that doesn’t necessarily mean you receive things in return that are as good as you give them out though right?”

Um, I don’t think you can really put a number on them but I think they’re just about as valuable as each other. Either way, I’m not doing it for them.”

Then who are you doing it for Joe?”

For myself.”

Doesn’t that make your intentions questionable? Aren’t you supposed to do nice things simply because they are nice regardless of whether you get something in return or not?”

No it’s not like that. I do it because when I do good things, I feel good and when I do bad things, I feel bad. It’s as simple as that.”

But there’s still that element of reward isn’t there? That you expect something in return, whether it is materialistic or just a feeling. Doesn’t that ruin the reason you do something?”

Does the reason even matter? So long as you do something good do you have to question a person’s intentions?”

Fair enough, Joe. Expectations can ruin you though so you should be careful.”

A duration of silence followed. Neither Charon nor Joe said anything. Joe felt a need to express himself better and that his point didn’t come across well enough despite Charon agreeing with him. He always felt he wasn’t understood properly in his life. Who on Earth is this taxi driver anyways? Joe immediately felt bad for thinking that. He actually quite enjoyed the ride so far, he enjoyed intellectually stimulating conversations with anyone really, didn’t matter who he was talking to or about what. Joe noticed the car wasn’t driving on a road he was familiar with anymore. It looked like they were in the middle of nowhere, speeding past everything with ease.

Are we lost?”

No don’t worry; we’re going to the right place. I’ve been down here several times before, every day really. Have you got enough money for the ride?”

That’s odd. This road doesn’t look like it’s used quite often. I’ve never been down here myself let alone driving through here every day-

Joe, the money?”

Oh, sorry.” Joe pulled out his wallet and examined it thoroughly, unable to find cash. “Yea I’ve got money, just not cash.” As the car halted, Joe hit his head on the window separating the driver from himself. “Ouch, what’s wrong? I can still pay you when I get there; I just need a cash machine.”

If you don’t have money when you got in then I can’t give you a ride. Get out.” Charon said gravely.

But we’re in the middle of nowhere!”

I said get out!”

Joe hesitated but Charon was already outside his door pulling him out.

Wait, wait. I’ll pay you double; just don’t leave me in the middle of nowhere.”

This is exactly where you’re supposed to be. Go and wander around.”

Exactly where I’m supposed to be? I’m supposed to be on the other side of town.

Joe could hear Charon muttering to himself while walking back to the driver’s side of the car. “You had so much potential, so damn much potential” he said, shaking his head as if he were more disappointed in Joe than Joe was. Charon jumped into his car and slammed the door shut.

***

Soon as Samantha shuffled out of the restaurant she found a taxi. It was parked right out front and looked like it had been there for hours, as if it were waiting for her specifically. She opened the door and hopped in regardless. If it were here for anyone else he’d kick me out anyways. “Down to the town lake please.” The driver nodded and his foot nodded with him. Samantha had to hold onto her seat for fear of her life. “I’m not in a rush so it’s fine to take your time.”

Sorry ma’am but I’M in a rush. Still plenty of time left in the day and plenty of bodies still need to be moved so excuse me if I’m rude but just put on your seatbelt and you’ll be fine.”

Plenty of bodies to be moved? What a weird way of saying he’s got a lot of customers to drop off to at different places. Besides, it looked like he was outside for a good couple of hours before picking me up so he can’t be THAT busy. Samantha put on her seatbelt anyways before settling herself and her heart down. She checked her purse for cash and found just enough for the ride. She tried to stay quiet and watch the world pass by her but the incredible pace at which it was passing, as well as the tinted windows, did nothing to help her cause. She decided maybe she should try to lighten up the mood, after all, the driver did seem like he was upset at her for some reason. He’s got bodies to move, she snickered.

A moment ago you were afraid and now you’re laughing?”

Uh…Just something I was thinking about.”

Clearly, otherwise I’d be laughing to ms…”

Mrs…Samantha. I know your job’s tough and the customer’s even worse but I’d appreciate it if you would so kindly drop the attitude please.”

My job’s tough? Nowhere near as tough of a job as the one you’ve got Mrs Samantha.”

Being an accountant isn’t that hard- “She flattened the sticker out and read aloud- “Charon.”

HA. Got myself a joker here. I was assuming, and I’m pretty sure you’re already aware, that you were a mother.”

Were? “ARE Charon…Yes you guessed right, I am a mother. Time and Mother Nature have both left its mark on me so it appears.”

I’m sure there are others who would trade to be in your place in a heartbeat.”

Samantha made sure Charon could hear her as she sniffed the taxi. She pulled out her perfume and sprayed till her finger became sore. She could see irritation written boldly within his eyes. “It’s not that bad.” She held the bottle up so he could see it in his rear view mirror. “Strawberry, see?”

Is your husband used to you doing things without his permission?”

So you HAVE got a joke or two in you after all huh? My husband knows better than to argue with me because as you know, mothers know best.”

I don’t have a mother.”

The taxi grew quiet and still, contradicting the noise and momentum that was going on outside of it. Maybe I should learn to keep my mouth shut next time. Despite my intention, I always happen to make things worse. Samantha tried to roll down her window to let the perfume out but the window was hard-headed in its appeal to stay shut. The reason Samantha wanted the window down soon changed as the smell of death returned again. She took out her bottle again but this time only to look at it as she tried to make out how much she used. It should’ve lasted for a couple of hours at least, this doesn’t make sense. How-

The windows don’t work.”

Huh?…Oh it’s ok. I was just trying to-“

It’s fine…The husband babysitting then?”

No, we got a babysitter.”

So then where is he?”

He’s out with his friends and I went out with mine.”

So most married couples complain of not spending enough time with each other but instead here you two are going out by yourselves and there’s not even a hint of disappointment in your voice.”

Well it’d be nice if we did but it’s no big deal I guess. “Yes we both need our own space. It doesn’t mean we don’t love each other just as much.”

Sounds like something he’s told you.”

Well yes, he suggested it but I agreed. Love isn’t about possession, it’s about appreciation.”

And do you appreciate him not wanting to spend time with you?”

No it’s not a matter of him not wanting to. Don’t put words in my mouth Charon. I appreciate him talking to me about it first rather than running off. We’ve been together for twenty five years and do you know how?…Communication.”

Communication?”

Yes. Communication. Whenever I felt some way about anything or he felt some way about anything then we would simply talk about it. We refused to be caught up in misunderstandings and being unable to convey how we felt about things. We talked without fear of judgement from each other and that’s been the key to our relationship. No matter how silly something was, I felt comfortable in being able to tell him what was on my mind.”

Must have been quite a lot of communication hmm?”

Who are you to say anything about us…? Judgmental prick. I’ve been trying to cheer him up all day and instead he feels the need to criticise my life and loved ones…We’re still deep in love as if it were our wedding day every day. “We hardly have any fights because of it so it’s a small sacrifice.”

I’ll be sure to spread the advice Mrs Samantha. We’re here.”

Samantha’s anger multiplied and she paid without tipping, even slamming the door shut after her, walking off into the foggy distance and failing to realise she wasn’t where she was supposed to go.

Charon rolled down his window and searched the compartments for his packet of cigarettes. He found it hidden in the back and pulled out his last cigarette, placing it ever so cautiously in between his cracked lips. He lit it using his matches and waited for the next customer. The fog’s always a welcome site to see. Home. Charon’s cigarette fell out of his lips still lit as he noticed his ensuing customer casually stroll on the other side of the street. He stomped his feet to quell the fire that was beginning to develop underneath him from his cigarette. Great. That was my last one. What on earth is he doing just casually walking towards me when he’s not ready yet? This isn’t my job, why am I always picking up after others?

The customer was now standing directly across the taxi, calling for it as if he had been waiting for a taxi all day. The guy’s practically doing the jumping jacks out there what’s wrong with him? I can’t take him right now anyways. Charon noticed the fog getting heavier and his customer harder to see. Charon rolled down the passenger window. “Wait for it…” The man was now waving directly at Charon now.

Are you free?”

Wait for it…” Charon whispered.

Hello?! Are you free? Can I come?”

Wait for it…” Charon whispered.

I’m coming over ok?”

No sooner did the man put foot ahead of foot that his legs were high in the air. Charon could hear his customer’s body thump. He leaned over and saw the body sprawled across the floor and its limbs in unnatural positions. Remarkably the cap was still intact, bound to the man’s head as if it were as loyal as a dog.

Moments later a man opened the taxi door and jumped in. He took of his cap and said “22 Brick Road, please. Thanks for waiting by the way.”

Not an issue.” Charon smiled.

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