I received the message around 6:30 pm. Dispatch wanted me to make a pickup in a town so remote it may as well have been on Venus. I remembered the area as being hilly with treacherous bends in the roads. That’s not what scared me, though. It was the two inches of snow that had already fallen on the ground that had my knits in a knot.
I wasn’t new to the taxi driving business, but I was also certain it was a fare I should seriously consider. Dispatch told me I had no choice. The woman I was supposed to pick up, Sherry Hennessy, needed to get to Bridgeback by 7:30 or risk violating her probation. It seemed that Sherry, caught one too many times intoxicated behind the wheel of her Subaru, had her license revoked. When she was caught again, without her license, she was offered two choices – go to jail or attend the county’s outpatient alcohol program, or Bridgeback.
“Okay,” I told dispatch. “I’ll go, but youse guys owe me one.” Sometimes I threw in a little mafia dialect for humor, not that anyone ever laughed.
As I drove down Rte. 32, the snow really started to pile up. By the time I appeared at the edge of Sherry’s town, there must’ve been four or five inches already. I thought about going back, but since I only had about two more miles to go, I decided to press on.
Making a left unto Cumberland High Road, my car spun out of control. Because the steep uphill road was protected by wooden posts nearly four feet high, I momentarily relaxed thinking I was safe. I saw my car sliding towards the edge, but I figured the cylindrical posts would stop its momentum. Unfortunately, the very section I slid through had no posts. I watched in horror as my car flew off the road and down the steep embankment.
As the car fell, it became lodged between two trees, a thick one behind the left headlight, and a sapling behind the right headlight. Both trees, it seemed, were also pressed against the front doors. I closed my eyes thinking this couldn’t be happening. Opening them, I realized I was actually dangling off a cliff with my red and white cab caught between two trees.
I picked up my microphone, called the dispatcher, and explained what happened. She laughed and told me to stop playing around and to hurry up and get the fare because it was getting late. Since I couldn’t convince the dispatcher of my misfortune, I hung up.
Seconds later, a man came up to the rear of the car.
“Are you hurt?” he asked me.
“No,” I told him. “I’m fine. I just need to get out of here.”
The man reached for the right rear door.
“No!” I screamed. “I’m caught between two trees but the sapling looks like it might break.”
“So what are you going to do?” he asked.
“I’ll just try to climb out,” I said.
I turned the car off and, looking at both front doors, it was clear I couldn’t get out that way. Carefully, I climbed over to the back seat, opened the right rear door, and slid out. I was half expecting to see the car suddenly take off down the hill and burst into a fiery crash as they often did in the movies, but that didn’t happen.
After my heart rate settled down, I used my cell phone to call dispatch. When I told them I now needed a tow truck they finally believed I did fall off a cliff. Minutes later, I watched as a local tow truck pulled the taxi up and back onto the road. It was now sporting two dents in the front, courtesy of the trees.
I got into the car and started it. It blazed on as if nothing happened. As it was already 7:30, I called dispatch again and told them that there was just no way I could pick up Sherry because my car had no traction and the roads were just too slippery. She laughed and told me Bridgeback was cancelled anyway and Sherry had been notified.
I gritted my teeth and hung up. All this adventure for nothing? Navigating steep impassable roads and drifts of blinding snow for a fare that nearly killed me?
As I drove back to the city, I thought about the trip. I remembered the people who reached out a hand to me, complete strangers, willing to risk their limb for mine. I appreciated the fact that, yes, there are still people who bent backwards to help an outsider without asking for anything in return. That knowledge became precious to me, and it was my fare for the night.
Robin Ray is an author/musician from Seattle, WA. He has written numerous screenplays, novellas, shorty stories and fairy tales. His work has appeared in magazines such as Red Fez, Darkest Before the Dawn, Powder Burn Flash and Enchanted Conversation.