12 The Taxi in the Rain

The Taxi in the Rain

           By Hannah Jemming

Rain falls on the sidewalk as if in hours. The tiny droplets of water creep upon the dirty gray concrete and shatter into millions of pieces. They shatter along with the voices of loud conversation and footsteps as people walk the pavements of New York City. Hillary’s shoes were covered in a liquid as thin as water but discolored like mud. Her eyes darted back and forth from reality, she ignored the blurred conversations spinning around from each side as she raced across to the lamppost on the other side of this war of cars on the streets. Voices merged into endless whispers and noises as tears welled in her eyes, she needed to escape this town, this life. Who would’ve known one simple conversation, one short year, could turn life into a wave of endless grief and distress? Hillary waved her hand in the moist air in order to flag down the yellow taxi cab trailing the streets, as the cool presence of the rain made contact with her skin. What am I doing? she screamed through the inner walls of her mind. Why am I doing this, am I the one supposed to give in?

Time slowed to a crawl before the cab pulled up before her feet, as she tapped her toes on the cement impatiently. Hillary yanked the door open and tugged it closed before she was even in the back seat.

“JFK, please.” Her voice was a dull, demanding whimper. The taxi driver glanced at her through the rearview mirror, accepting her request with a nod.

“Good choice, ma’am,” he replied with a cheerful Southern accent, “So what brings you to leave the big city, if you don’t mind me askin’.”

“I do mind.” She snapped back, keeping her head turned to the outside world draped over a layer of damp glass. The driver’s gaze dropped down to the steering wheel, his thick brown mustache forming a slight frown. They drove in a sharp silence until Hillary cleared her throat abruptly.

“Sorry,” she softly whispered, “I’ve just had a rough day.” She seemed almost ashamed of such a minor moment of silence, something the taxi driver was all too familiar with.

The frame of his mustache formed a bright smile, “That’s mighty fine, my dear,” he replied genuinely, “Believe me, you do not want to see me on my crabby days. I’m a bull and the world is my red flag.” Hillary gave a slight chuckle from his response, tilting her head back to feel cold leather against her neck. “The name’s Bill by the way.” The taxi driver added.

Hillary lifted her eyes to meet him in the mirror, “Hillary,” she replied, “And I’m actually headed to California, or maybe Arizona. I’m not sure.”

Bill’s eyes widened, “Hm, well if you ask me California seems more lively than Arizona.

Don’t get me wrong they got them rocks and all, but I don’t really care for it.”

Hillary shook her head slightly, staring down at the wrinkles within the sleeve of her shirt that matched the ones around her eyes.

Her voice dropped, “Yeah, but, my son’s out in Arizona, he’s getting married this weekend.”

Bill’s eyebrows raised, and he nodded his head slowly. “Oh, well that makes more sense now. Let me guess, did you forget the rings in California?” Bill smiled, expecting even a slight chuckle. But Hillary only gave a shy smile.

“No, I,” she sighed before continuing, “Look, I don’t want to bother you more than I already have.”

Bill held up his hand, as if to take a vow. “Don’t worry, ma’am, it’s mighty fine. Believe me this is the longest conversation I’ve had in years.” Hillary chuckled at his unusual and giddy

vocabulary. He reminded her of the friendly neighbors she knew long ago, always waving whenever she and her son would pass by. Back in a better time.

“Well,” she started, “I live in California, and my son has been going to Arizona State for the past four years.”

“Hm, college kids,” Bill stated with disapprovement, “I remember when I sent my little one off. Let me guess, trouble?”

“No, nothing like that,” she admitted, “He met this girl, long story short they want to get married. But her family lives over in London.”

Bill’s small sigh fogged the windshield ahead, as his eyes dropped back down to the dashboard. “I see,” he simply answered. Bill already knew. He knew what Hillary was about to say, and everything she felt. But he didn’t know exactly what to say, if there was anything to say at all.

“We haven’t talked in a year. Ever since he told me, I…” The words disintegrated into the air. For so long there was no one to tell, no one to talk to. But now Hillary felt everything ready to burst, a wave meant to drown her. “I mean, going to Arizona was bad enough,” she cried, “But going to another country? I just…when does it end? When will it be enough?”

Hillary’s eyelids dropped, leaving a trail of tears dripping down into the collar of her jacket. It was as if the rain had found a new home beneath her eyes.

“I know.” Bill’s voice ringed, a now deep echo. “I understand. My son and I actually got into a pretty big quarrel a while ago. We’re both so stubborn, I didn’t speak to him for years.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Hillary replied as her voice cracked. “What did you do?”

Bill shrugged, “Nothin’ I could do. Time did the work actually. Both of our lives changed for the worst, and one day we decided to just bury the hatchet and forget about it.”

“And that was it?” “That was it.”

Hillary sniffled and took a deep breath. This wasn’t easy, but maybe it would be better to let him go. She loved her son more than anything, and only wanted a good life for him. And she knew his fiance would give him one.

“But, can I give you some advice?” Bill asked softly, while Hillary nodded in response. “If I were you, I’d go to him. It’s hard to let them go, believe me. But you’re the only one who can choose to be in their life. If I would’ve known how much time I lost with my son…I don’t wish that on anyone.” In the mirror, Hillary could see a watery glaze over Bill’s eyes, reflecting off of the city around him. She wiped her own tears using the rough texture of her jacket, and smiled thinking about Bill’s words. No matter what happened, she still loved her son. And she wanted to be in his life even if he was worlds away.

The rain had disappeared and the clouds parted to make way for the sun as Bill pulled over to the entrance of the JFK International Airport. Hillary reached down in her purse for her wallet, until she noticed Bill holding up his palm towards the windshield,

“You know what, it’s on me today.” Giving her a reassuring smile, as she shrugged and put a hand on the chrome door handle.

“Thank you. You really helped me. Guess Arizona it is.” She mustered all the strength she could into those words, knowing for the first time in a while it was the truth.

“Anytime, and I’m glad to hear that. Next time you stop by in the Big Apple maybe you could bring me a slice of that wedding cake.” Bill tapped on his stomach as his mustache curled into a bright smile.

Hillary rolled her eyes in amusement, “Yeah, I’ll do that. And by the way, I hope everything works out with your son.”

“I appreciate that ma’am. And actually, it’s his birthday in a few weeks, so maybe I’ll get that cake afterall. It was nice meeting you.” He held out his hand, and she happily obliged to shake his in response.

“The same goes here.” She gave his hand a gentle squeeze before pushing the door open with her shoulder. The cool breeze washed over and awakened her from the trance cast by the year. Her boots splashed in the puddles shadowing the sidewalk, but Hillary never once noticed. She was ready to make things right, to cross over to the other side of the war she created. To not only surrender but offer peace. As she stepped into the enormous airport, Bill beamed. He was relieved he could help someone before it was too late, before she repeated his mistakes.

She wouldn’t lose her home this time…

…The iron bars of the gates creaked with a squeal as Bill entered the only place he dreaded visiting. He didn’t dread it because of what was there, but because of why he was there. Bill walked the same path, a two minute walk straight, then a seven minute walk left, and another three minute walk left again. He stopped, and there it was. There was his home. There was the place that had been his home ever since he accepted reality. Each step weighed him down as he made a slow travel up a hill and across the lawn. Trees grew and slanted all around in groups, yet none of them contained any birds. There were no birds singing here, only the faint mumble of the wind. Plots and plots of cement filled the ground, some cleaner with flowers spread all around and others with nothing but dirt and moss covering up the engravings. Bill stopped once he reached the end of his short twelve minute journey, his feet resting near a clean cement block framed by a single rose. He knelt into the damp soil, feeling its presence in the knee of his navy jeans.

He closed his eyes and spoke in a hushed whisper, “Happy birthday, son,” Bill let a tear roll down his face to join the rain in the ground, “If only I could’ve helped you”…


Anoka County Library Write On! 2023 Short Story Contest Winners Copyright © 2023 by Avrie Siedschlag; Ella Howard; Greta Graham; Renad Taher; Rachel Mueller; Daniel Gbati; Julia McBride; Audrey High; Lucia Floan; Rhett LeBeau; Anna Moline; Hannah Jemming; Valomi Lewis; Fen Hendren; Kathryn Downs; Megan Nguyen; Lizzie Elsenpeter; Sophia Accord; and Sophia Acord. All Rights Reserved.

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