It was 1987 and I was flying high. January first I went to a potluck and a dude there offered me a gig for fifty gees. His name was Tumbleweed, and I didn’t ask why. Over a plateful of macaroni salad and Swedish meatballs, he said he needed a driver for a couple months, and I told him I was free. Jimmy Bluenose whispered a word in his ear, and that was that. No, I didn’t have a résumé with me. As if.
Tumbleweed went out of the country for a week (I did not ask where) and gave me a jingle on the tenth.
“Be at Magnolia and PCH five ayem.”
OK, the dude wasn’t much for small talk, but I wasn’t about to complain when he was paying me fifty big ones just to drive people around. I put on my monkey suit, slicked my hair into a neat ponytail, and off I went.
I picked up a man with two blonde girls and drove them to LAX. They were silent the entire drive, so I played an ABBA tape. If they wanted something other than “Dancing Queen,” they only had to speak up, but the trio stared straight ahead.
We made LAX in good time. Finally, the last blonde out of the car said, “I liked that ‘Waterloo’ song.”
“I’m glad,” I said. “Have a nice trip.”
She just rolled her eyes like I was an idiot.
The second she shut the door, Tumbleweed buzzed me. “Wait there. Black guy in a green suit needs a ride at noon.”
Noon? I had almost six hours to kill. I went to a coffee shop nearby and sat next to a redhead in black spandex. She was eating French toast with bacon.
“That looks good,” I said, motioning for the waitress to fill ‘er up.
“Fifty bucks,” the redhead replied.
I glanced at her plate again. “For French toast?”
“Yeah,” she smirked. “For French toast.”
Oh. I guess I’m a little slow. I had scrambled eggs and coffee, and then “French toast” in my car.
“Look,” the redhead said. “I like you and all. But next time, please… no ‘Mamma Mia.’”
“Gotcha,” I said, ejecting Abba and slipping in Bruce Springsteen.
“Much better,” she said. “But I have to get going.”
I still had some time, so I went to a bookstore and picked up a couple Mickey’s I hadn’t yet read. Sat on a sofa there and read half of one before it was time to get the black guy in the green suit.
He opened my door at one minute after twelve. I was already loving this gig and the prompt, considerate customers. Or whatever they were.
In the back, Green Suit opened a briefcase and began rummaging through it. I couldn’t see what he was doing because the lid obscured my view.
Finally after ten minutes I asked, “What’s our destination?”
He peered over the lid, looking irritated. “Las Vegas. The Flamingo. And we need to get there by four sharp, so I suggest you move along.”
Jesus! I floored it to Vegas, praying I wouldn’t get stopped for a ticket since there was still that little matter of my probation, and the road gods listened because we made it there at four twenty-five.
Green Suit exited my car without a word. Immediately my phone buzzed. “Pick up the brunette in the yellow dress outside the Embassy Suites and take her to Newark.”
“Newark… New Jersey?”
I guess he meant New Jersey, since I didn’t know of any other Newarks. I drove over to the Embassy Suites and sure enough Yellow Dress stood under the canopy.
“You’re late,” she announced, showing a lot of leg as she slid into the front seat next to me.
“Sorry honey.” I grinned at her. “I had to pick up milk for the kids.”
She lit a cigarette. “You’re hilarious.”
“Thank you, my dear.” I pulled onto the main drag.
“My pimp’s after me,” she replied. “He’s armed and dangerous.”
It was 1987. I was on cruise control and headed for a wall. Should have gotten out while I was young.
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