I’m a Monkey
It was raining in San Francisco. It always rained when Joe was in this town at night. A cab pulled over and the door popped open conveniently. Joe got inside without thinking twice how lucky he was. The driver dropped the flag down and Joe’s eyes were drawn to the picture above the meter. The cabby had strawberry blonde hair and a goofy smile broadcasting a discolored front tooth.
“What’s your name, pal?” the driver asked with a knarled Boston accent?
“Joe. My name’s Joe,” he answered, surprised at the driver’s unusual friendliness.
“Betcha didn’t think you were going to get a ride in this, did you?” He kept his body turned toward Joe while pulling back into the traffic. He pronounced the word, you, as a minister would speak to a congregation. Joe had the opinion of Bostonians that they had an air of superiority, something to do with having a 0 zip code.
The rain fell in scary sheets across the metal of the cab. There was something magic about the way the yellow of the taxi shone brightly in the black stormy night. He always noticed this when he was in San Francisco on a rainy night and wondered if it happened in other cities. He made a mental note to check, but knew he never would.
“Where you headed?”
“Oh, the airport. But, first, I need to swing by my hotel. Can you wait?”
“No, problem. Which hotel are you staying at?”
“I’m at the Four Seasons.” He could tell the cabby was impressed. They were about the same age, but he could tell the cabby wasn’t used to staying in places like the Four Seasons.
“Your work put you up?”
“Oh, I love this song.” Pink Floyd came on the radio. That’s one thing you could always count on in San Francisco, hearing Pink Floyd wherever you went at least once an hour.
“Oooh, I need a dirty woman, oooh, I need a dirty girl.” The cabby didn’t have such a bad voice, but his fake English accent clashed with the Boston one like a tea party gone wrong. “I got me an old lady.” He smiled up at Joe in the rear view flashing his bad tooth. Joe figured his having a girlfriend was about as rare as staying in a hotel like the Four Seasons. Joe responded with a gentle smile.
“My old lady, boy, she’s a stone fox!” He looked back at Joe for acknowledgement. “But she’s mine. All mine.” He rubbed the seat next to him. “She belongs to me. We’re family. We’re not family like the boring kind that has a whole mess of screaming kids in a mini-van, no sir. I don’t want her messing up her body with all that.”
Joe looked at his watch. He was beginning to think he wasn’t so lucky to have landed this particular cab, but there wasn’t enough time to get another one and make it to the airport in the storm.
“You got an old lady?” The cabby leaned back abruptly and stared at Joe with his arm balanced over the seat. He was driving while looking straight at Joe.
“Yeah, I’m sort of seeing someone.”
“I’ll bet she’s hot. Guy like you’s probably got hot babes all over the place.’ He laughed a couple of times, that cabby kind of laugh that rang on without mirth. “You get a lot?”
“I said, you get a lot? You know, a lot a pussy?”
“Well, I wouldn’t exactly put it that way.”
“I bet a guy like you gets a ton a cooz. You probably don’t’ even have to go to the tit bars. You probably just score walking down the street. Before I got my old lady, I don’t mind saying I wasn’t getting it on a regular basis. The chicks just didn’t get it. My old lady takes good care a me, though. Shit, man, I get it four, five times a day. I’m a day sleeper. Yeah, she takes care of me in that department. Sometimes I have to swing by the apartment in the middle of my shift. Shit.”
Joe was fidgeting. He didn’t know her, but he was beginning to sympathize with the cabby’s old lady. He tried to change the subject. “What’s your name?”
“Mav. They call me Mav. Short for Maverick. That’s my nickname. My real name’s Richard, but everybody always calls me Mav. You can call me Mav.”
“Hi, Mav. Mind if I smoke?”
“Naw, not at all. Lotsa cabbies don’t allow it, but even though they got that stupid ordinance, I don’t give a shit. Fire up. Hey, you got a spare one? I’m trying to lay off, but this kind of weather makes me want a smoke.”
There was a capsule of silence as they pulled on the first drag of nicotine. Joe noticed Mav’s photograph staring back at him from above the meter. He was grinning proudly with an open toothed smile, his eyes black and shiny like the night outside. The cab smelled like old smoke and body sweat.
“Oh, God, listen.” Mav turned up the radio again. Zeppelin was playing. Another band you were sure to get your fill of while visiting San Francisco. “My old lady digs them like crazy. She always has me give it to her while “Houses of the Holy” is on. When you hear that playing outside, buddy, you better not even knock.” He laughed his cabby laugh again, hollow, at his own private joke.
Joe was grateful that he would probably never need to encounter that experience. He also knew that from this day on, whenever he heard “Houses of the Holy” mentioned, he would remember Mav and this night. They passed by a bus stop full of people crowding under the kiosk with their umbrellas crowding for space.
“You wanted me to wait?” Smiling Mav turned around to face Joe in the backseat. They were parked in the valet section in front of the Four Seasons.
Joe quickly stubbed out his cigarette. “I’ll only be a minute.” He pulled his trenchcoat up over his head in an attempt to protect himself from the storm and ran inside. The lobby was calmly quiet with only one attendant minding the desk. He ran to the elevator and shook the rain off his coat. He took no notice of the drops that covered the marble floors.
His room was as neat and pristine as when he’d checked in. His two bags were stacked on the luggage rack. After a quick glance around, he grabbed a comp Scotch poured it into a glass. He waited a second and poured a second bottle into the glass and downed it all.
There was a small washed out stain on the bed cover. It was one of those things that stuck with Joe. You stayed at a place like the Four Seasons so you wouldn’t have to be reminded of a past experience. It was sort of corporate Zen. He grabbed another bottle from the honor bar and headed downstairs to check out.
“Did you enjoy your stay with us, Mr. Wright?” The desk clerk was bland, but friendly, the perfect description of the job.
“I had a great trip, this time. Nice visit.” Joe scribbled his name on the receipt and headed for the front door. He had just enough time to make it to the airport and check in without any interruptions.
Mav had opened the door for Joe. He jumped out the cab and put Joe’s luggage inside the trunk., then closed Joe’s door on the way back to the front seat. He began to pull out onto the street and retrieved his sack lunch on the seat beside him. He took a big bite out of the hoagie in the bag leaving a trace of mayo on his chin.
“I heard this good program on the radio about intimacy. Chicks really like that stuff, you know?” There was something about this topic that was more private and intrusive than Mav talking about straight up sex. Joe felt himself not wanting to head there. “Yeah, they say to look into their eyes and rub their shoulders and stuff and it gets your lady really turned on and stuff. I’m trying that with my old lady tonight. Maybe I’ll stop by the house after I drop you at the airport. Heh heh heh.”
“Tonight’s certainly the night for it,” Joe said before he could stop himself.
“You got that right, buddy. Every night’s our night. You got that right. I give it to her every night, rain or shine, boy. I don’t even care if she’s got her period, no sir, don’t make any difference which way to me. Used to, but not anymore. Tell you the truth, I kind of even like it that way. Boy, howdy.” The word sounded funny coated with a Boston accent. “Hey, that’s our song!” He reached over and turned up the Stones, loud.
“I'm a monkey. I'm a monkey. I'm a monkey." Mav sang along as if he were at a football game, cheering. “My old lady knows what I need, all right. She’s all mine. She’s my family. I prayed to my God and he gave her to me. She’s my answer to my prayers.” He crossed himself and then kissed his thumb.
They drove onto the freeway toward the airport. Joe noticed a funny billboard drawn like a diamond solitaire engagement ring. There was an SUV placed where the diamond was supposed to go and SUV’s imbedded in the gold of the ring completely around like a perverted wagon train. It seemed like there were a good deal more billboards in San Francisco than there used to be.
“Man, there’s nothing like putting in a hard night and then screwing your old lady, man.”
“Here we go again,” Joe thought. He kept quiet, not wanted to inspire the guy.
“And rainy weather really gets me going, you know what I’m saying?” Mav turned to look back at Joe. “Living here comes in handy if you know what I mean, pal.” He laughed hard. Joe laughed a little, too, feeling somewhat nervous.
“We’re going down to my buddy’s house tomorrow. He lives down in Daly City. You ever been to Daly City?” Joe doesn’t answer. “It’s great down there for a family. I’m thinking about giving my old lady a baby. She used to have this dog, but it died. I don’t know if I want her messing up her figure, but I want her to have my kid.” He ate two more big bites of his sandwich and Joe tried to figure out what kind of meat was inside to pass the time.
“You got to try family life, pal. I never figured myself for a family guy, but Donna is my family. God gave her to me.” He looked directly at Joe in the rearview mirror and for a minute, time stopped. Joe couldn’t hear the rain or the radio and something caught in his spine like a warning.
Mav sang along with enthusiasm while he finished his lunch. Joe couldn’t help but think how lucky Mav was in a way. His needs were certainly met. He had his good lunch and seemed more than satisfied with his old lady, but good lord, did anyone do it that much? Even on your honeymoon, they had activities like parasailing and hula lessons to break the monotony of endless lovemaking.
“My buddy says he can get me a good deal on my own home down in Daly City. I’m ready to put down $3,000 or whatever it takes. I’ve got money, no worry about that. I came into a settlement before I came out here, so I can set us up flush. My old lady needs to be in her own home.”
That’s great. Good for you, Mav.”
“Yeah, she needs her own home, my woman. I take care of my woman all right.”
“I hear you,” Joe said.
“You like to eat pussy?” Mav looks at Joe in the rearview mirror.
“You know, go down on ‘em. Do you go down on your old lady?”
“I don’t know. Yeah, I guess so.”
“You can’t say you have a relationship if you don’t eat pussy. You just got to eat that beaver to hang on to your woman. Believe me you, pal, they won’t stay with you without it. You better do it whether you like it or not and if you don’t like it, you sure better act like you do, if you know what I mean. You know what I’m saying?”
Joe nods without answering. Mav says, “Yeah, you know what I’m talking about, don’t you, buddy? You know what old Mav is talking about, don’t you? We had some rough spots when I first met my old lady, but we’re working it out. She tried to get away a few times, but I brought her back. Now she’s glad. She used to cry a lot right after I had to kill her dog, but she’s better now.” He turned around and grinned at Joe, his crooked tooth yellow and discolored in the moonlight.
For no reason, Joe suddenly remembered a guy that he’d seen in Dallas. The man was standing on a corner beside him and wore a green denim man’s pantsuit with short sleeves. He was Hispanic and looked like he’d seen the inside of a penitentiary. Down his arm in homemade ink had been the words, “Diamond girl you sure do shine”. The guy had looked at Joe before crossing the street.
“Yeah, I don’t think I’ll give her a kid. I think it’ll be just her and me. That’s it, that’s better for us. We’ll just be our own family, right?”
“Right, Mav.” Joe was uncomfortable and wanted the ride to end. He could see the Delta terminal coming up on his left. Mav slowed over to the right to exit.
“No. No kids for us. I’m glad I finally made up my mind on that one. Been eating me alive. We’ll just get ourselves a place and set up housekeeping down south here. Thanks, pal.”
“Sure, Mav.” Joe started getting ready to make his exit.
“They sure got a line at the terminal. Watch this.” Mav pulled across two lanes and In between two shuttle buses. In no time, he had Joe at the entrance to the terminal. Joe gave him 2 twenties for a tip as the baggage loaded his baggage on a cart. “Thanks, pal. Whoa! That’s really generous of you.”
“No, problem. Buy something nice for your old lady.”
Mav was already getting back into the cab. “I already know what I’m getting her, some mail order lingerie. Only, she won’t get a chance to wear it very long, you know?” His weird laugh rang out in the rain long after the cab pulled away.
The plane pulled off the runway and into the black dark night as Joe waited to make his drink order. He was sitting next to a young woman reading a magazine. There was a lingerie ad on the page. He looked at the woman’s face, white with a few light freckles. She had no make-up on except for some lip gloss and a little mascara. That was fine. He didn’t like women to wear make-up. It was easy to see her dressed in the lingerie in the photograph. He wondered what she looked like tied up. He wondered if she had a dog.