The school bell rings. Out of habit I glance up at the wall clock. 2:15 on the dot.
It’s the first day that I don’t have to leave fifteen minutes early to catch the city bus back to our apartment; Dad finally bought a new car.
As I load my backpack full of homework stuff, I spot the icky boys huddled by the iron-latticed windows. They point and snicker. Such dumb asses.
The bullies call out in my direction, “Hey Jenny, looks like your Dad drives a taxi now!”
I hesitate, “No he doesn’t.” Why does your face have to glow bright red every time?
“Well, it looks like him waiting outside for you in a yellow car with black checkers and a taxi sign.”
I lash back, “Shut up, you losers. You guys are so ugly, not even your own mothers would screw you.”
They look at me dumbfounded. Yes, Dad taught me to say that to jerks like you!
I race down two flights of stairs and make a beeline for my father. The checkers that run alongside the yellow exterior blur together as I approach. I barely lift my head to check for oncoming traffic as I run across the street. I hop in our new cab—backpack and all—in one swift motion.
I can tell Dad wants to sit there and talk for a minute. Let’s go for fuck sake! We’re literally Al Bundy in real life.
Dad’s still beaming, though. “Boy! Thank God for my nephew. My family never does me any favors, especially not my brother’s evil fucking kids. But I gotta say, it was good of my nephew to let me know his cab company was unloading their old taxis for $300 a piece.”
When we get home, Dad inspects the car to see if he can remove the taxi sign and the checkers, but he’s afraid of leaving a hole in the roof. And a new paint job is worth more than the car.
“Ahh, fuck it, Jenny. Eventually, Daddy will find a way to get the checks off and that sign down, but for now, it runs! And that’s all I care about.”
Eventually usually means never.
The following week, Dad starts hauling people around in the taxi. He never charges, though. More of his fake good Samaritan shit.
Typically, we take Tammy to work at Taco Bell and then back to her apartment at the end of her shift. Tammy’s not exactly blood-related. She’s my Father’s ex-wife’s brother’s daughter. But for her and everyone else in town, Dad still calls himself, uncle.
Pretty soon the freaks in my class aren’t the only ones noticing the cab.
Dad bursts into my room, “Jenny, the fucking owner of the cab company called and basically threatened me. He tried to accuse me of using this car as a taxi and competing with him. What an asshole! I told him to mind his own goddamn business and that I was only taking my niece to work every day. That cocksucker better not be following me. He messed with the wrong Greek, because I’m crazy.”
I don’t dare ask what he’s going to do, but I have a good idea.
The next time, Tammy rides in the back seat for her doctor’s appointment. Dad said, “She’s six months pregnant.”
How do these people come into our life? I wonder when Tammy will be out of the picture? Dad interrupts my boredom by swerving swiftly off the road.
He instructs us, “Now, I want both of you girls to stay in the car while I deal with this asshole.”
As he whips the door open and bolts out, I turn around to see what looks like a monster truck right behind us.
What the hell is going on? Oh wait…that must be the taxi guy! Shit.
Dad walks right up to the truck and starts yelling at the guy inside. I can’t hear the taxi guy’s retort, but it can’t be good as I spy Dad’s neck veins throbbing.
Without warning, Dad plows his right arm into the truck.
Like a bolt of lightening, I barely register the event.
As he starts back toward the car, I swivel around in my seat. Thank God Tammy is here. You know how it is being alone with him after he’s all riled up.
Dad re-enters with a charge, “That goddamn cock-sucking bastard! That’ll teach him for following me. I outta have his ass arrested for harassment!”
Tammy asks, “What happened Uncle Tommy? I hope I’m not causing you trouble.”
Thank God she asked him, because I don’t know what just went down back there. And I wouldn’t dare…
“Well, Tammy, your Uncle had to teach that—pardon my language—that fucking asshole that it’s against the law to follow people. He’s pissed off because I bought this old cab from his company, but I couldn’t find a way to get the sign off yet. If they wanted it off, they should have done it themselves. But it doesn’t matter because Uncle’s not afraid of anyone or anything. Bet the bastard never thought a little midget like me could pop him a good one.”
Oh Jesus. He actually punched the guy. I remind myself, No matter what, never challenge him. You will lose. But you already knew that.
After the confrontation, I wait for the police to arrest Dad, but they never come. The taxi guy disappears too.
He got away with it? I guess it’s not as bad as the time he threatened to drive his car through that restaurant’s window.
Adrenaline makes Dad anxious for the ponies. “Come one Jenny, I want to go bet the last exacta for Belmont, today.” When we arrive, all the OTB guys kid Dad, “Hey Tom, we heard you were gonna try out for the strong man contest!” What’s the strong man contest? Why does everyone keep asking him that and laughing?
The realization causes my face to burn again. Oh! Duh! They know he punched the guy out in broad daylight.
But Dad plays dumb. Does he know what they are talking about? Of course he does, you idiot. With his head held high, he places his favorite combination for the exacta, 4-3.
“Come on, Jenny. Let’s go home. Daddy can check the race later. I’m sick of these morons, already.”