Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living. Now I steal cadavers for a European distributor. When I arrived at 2:30 a.m., the building was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window. Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, then drive away.

But, I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation and income. Unless a situation smelled of danger or elderberries, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself.

So I walked to the door and knocked. "Just a minute", answered a frail, elderly voice with a thick, goulash accent. I could hear something being dragged across the floor, something experience told me was a cadaver, male, around 200 pounds.

After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80's stood before me. She was wearing a black rubber thong and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie.

By her side was a small nylon suitcase and behind her a large duffle bag, trailing blood. The apartment looked as if there had been a great struggle and sensing this old woman's great sense of power I decided not to run. All the furniture was covered with blood. There were urinals on the walls and meat hooks hanging from the ceiling. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with severed heads.

"Would you carry my bag and ex husband out to the car?" she said. I took the suitcase and duffle bag to the cab, then returned to assist the woman.

She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. Her grip was like steel. She kept thanking me for my kindness and winking lecherously at me.

"It's nothing", I told her. "I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated. My criminally insane mother."

"Oh, you're such a good boy", she said and grabbed my ass.

When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, then asked, "Could you drive through downtown?"

"It's not the shortest way," I answered quickly, eager to be rid of her.

"Oh, I don't mind," she said. "I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a institution".

I looked in the rearview mirror. Her eyes were glistening, as were her knives.

"I don't have any family left," she continued. "The doctor says I should stop offing them. And turn off that meter unless you want to be next, flunkie!"

I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. "What route would you like me to take?" I asked.

The next two hours was a hellish drive through the city.

She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator and she threw out a body part from her husband. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds and she pitched out a hand. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl and was where she made her first kill. She tossed out a leg.

Sometimes she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing but rummaging through her duffle bag, eventually throwing some glistening organ out onto the sidewalk.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, "I'm tired. Let's go now."

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small

convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico.

Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.

I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door, with the now empty but moist duffle bag beside it. The woman had already been wrestled to the ground by the orderlies and bound in a straightjacket.

"You owe me... I didn't take you too," she glared.

I could say nothing.

"Your mother is a hamster. Plant one on me, big boy." she answered.

Almost without thinking, under her control and against my will, I bent and gave her a long, deep soul kiss. She held onto me tightly, sucking out my life essence.

"You gave an old woman a little moment of joy," she said. "Thank you."

She squeezed my package, then was carried into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove to the carwash to try and remove the blood that had soaked into the fabric. It eventually cost me thousands to replace the seats and fumigate the cab. To this very day, I cannot speak.

Then I died.

Copyright 2004 - The Daily Journal -