‘Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.’Jarek locked the doors, engaged first gear and nudged the nose of his black cab into the stream of traffic. His passenger didn’t acknowledge the stab at conversation. A pick-up on Regents Street at 6pm, the week before Christmas, it was going to be one long crawl, a back-double, then baby steps over the bridge to Waterloo. He sneaked a look at the passenger. A man. Dark business suit, smiling to himself, teeth as white as his shirt. Jarek studied him; no not a smile, more of a grimace.
He tried his usual banter. Football. Stock market. State of the roads. Cyclists. Skyscrapers ruining London’s skyline. Whether Boris should be PM. No answer from the back seat.
‘What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate,’ Jarek muttered to himself. He didn’t like driving in silence. He paused, then waved at the silver and gold flashing lights, the red and gold streamers, people carrying bursting carrier bags.
‘If you build it he will come.’
No answer. Was he asleep?
‘I mean the shops.’ He hated that his voice sounded apologetic, hated the need to explain himself. ‘You build the shop, and the people will buy stuff.’ He shrugged. ‘Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.’
The dancing lights and the smiles of the children’s faces combined to make him miss home, his wife, his daughters.
‘It was beauty killed the beast, they’ll all be overdrawn in January.’ He wanted to be with Josefa in Poland but could make more money here, pay for Agata and Marjanna’s education, give them things he had never had. He shrugged again, not as an adjunct to his previous statement but because it helped ease the ache in his right shoulder.
Waiting at a light, he stared in the rear view mirror until White Teeth’s eyes met his.
‘I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody. But I drive a cab.’
‘You talking’ to me?’ White Teeth’s voice was that of a cabbie or a brickie, not a banker, not a director.
‘You had me at hello.’
Jake grinned, wanting an explanation or apology for the silence. Instead he said, ‘I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.’
White Teeth grimaced and turned to look out of the window again. ‘Nobody…’ he spoke through thin tight lips, ‘…nobody’s perfect.’ His hand twisted the gold band on the third finger of his left hand.
‘Hey,’ Jake smiled. His teeth were white too. He was proud of his smile. ‘I thought you wanted to be alone?’
White Teeth nodded at the road in front. The lights were green, the road clear. ‘Take me to infinity… and beyond.’
© Sandra Danby
[this story was first published at Ether Books as part of the ‘Flash Fortnight Challenge 2014]
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MOVIES: a #shortstory How two men at first fail to connect via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2vu