Morning breaks bright, mild, and brilliant across Las Vegas. Through hustle, Lewy turned what could’ve been a nothing night into a worthwhile one. An Italian couple he drove out into the city’s farther eastern precincts certainly boosted his bottom line. Unaware he understood their baroque conversation, that Lewy also found them entertaining further improved his mood.
Lewy’s just climbed back into his taxi after stretching. Coupled with a series of isometrics that gets blood pumping and clears his mind. Unlike too many other drivers he remains somewhat fit and retains a good deal of flexibility. Image and presentation are vital components to his job.
It’s a basic human response: looks matter. First impressions bear outsized weight.
Sloppy appearances detract. More than a few passengers ask whether he ever played football. He did. Three seasons. Thirty-something years ago the professional sports grinder used him up, exhausted him then drafted fresh meat for weekly mauling. Nonetheless he likes the ego stroke. Indeed, after all the time that’s passed who wouldn’t appreciate any slight adulation received?
Thankfully he’d earned a degree which enabled entering a sustaining profession once the cheers died and stadium lights started shining on others. Lewy was prepared for real life.
Driving a cab keeps the 56-year-old retiree active. He sees himself as one of the last fortunate worker bees of post-industrial America. Although made redundant by board and shareholder greed, he was healthy and able to draw pension benefits former management hadn’t ransacked or new management felt no obligation towards funding, Lewy’s “retiree” title is an ill fit. Idleness made him restless.
Despite having much to offer still, his age simply dissuaded too many human resources recruiters. Lewy never recalled such short-sightedness when he occupied their ages. Of course then age was respected because it conferred experience and knowledge.
Not today. Newbies entering the new labor force know everything right from the jump. None of them expects starting at the bottom but demands being made chief on Day One. Lewy feels lucky he is one of the rats who left the race when he did.
Driving a taxi gets him out of his condo. Meeting new people keeps him alive and sharp.
Clean casual attire augments his wide shoulders and unbowed posture. While he has a belly, it’s not a gut. Lewy’s well-groomed and freshly-shaven. He’s staged at an off-Strip property in hopes of picking up a local.
This hour of day there are usually just two kinds of fares: nightcrawling over-entitled, over-served merrymakers and locals who’ve gambled with lousy results. Of potential passengers, Lewy prefers jerks who’ve enriched the casinos to rude, loud drunks whose evenings have crapped out inside hotels’ overpriced clubs.
All factors considered the losers are in a better mood. What the hell – generally they’re better people. Besides, they’re less likely to vomit or conduct themselves belligerently. Nothing like drinking more than one’s fill then purposely forgetting how to behave in order to engender honest loathing.
The bright boy who invented the “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas!” slogan ought have driven a taxi first. Yet better, a limousine. Bad as hacks have it, limo drivers suffer more. At least as a cabdriver Lewy can tell passengers who’ve completely aggravated him to “get the fuck out!” The black suits must contend with beyond more than their most unfair share amount of shit.
Lewy does not envy or empathize with limo drivers. They’ve chosen a more lucrative branch; one demanding frequent degradation. That and they do their damnedest to slice into other livery drivers’ earnings by greasing doormen who steer fares intending to visit strip clubs or massage parlors away from cabs. Seeking fuller busier establishments, both venues offer drivers fees for bringing trade by. Not that Lewy craved the extra cash – not that he would refuse it either – but those sums absolutely sweetened pots.
And since plenty of his fellow cab drivers are degenerate gamblers, the casinos would love the extra money. That makes him shake his head. Forget about living paycheck to paycheck. How many hacks, how many people employed in Vegas for that matter, routinely blow their checks at the tables or machines?
Gambling never lured Lewy. Its attraction evades him. The rational man asks, wouldn’t bills and debts throttle at least some of this mindless squander? Surely all these people can’t believe the next pull, the next roll, the next hand will shower a huge jackpot upon them.
Lewy hears the couple before seeing them. Which is odd because the woman wears a bright red pinafore.
Long-legged as she is, the dress’ short hem further exaggerates both stems.
They weave towards the hotel. No, they stagger towards his taxi. A tall skinny blonde and a man with enough white hair to be her grandfather, much less father, approach. She grasps what’s probably a prestige label shoulder bag against her chest. The man drapes on her back. It nearly seems she drags him behind. Instead, he’s feebly trying to hinder her.
Drawing closer, Lewy clearly hears the man beseeching the woman. She does her utmost to mollify him. By her yearning stare she regards Lewy’s cab as a lifesaver. If it weren’t for her clunky cork-soled shoes maybe she’d have already shrugged off the clinging deadweight and have sprinted to the taxi.
The old man croaks a short stream of endearments. His sweetie loses patience. She drops whatever pretense she holds and yanks open the right rear door. After rolling her eyes and eying her insistent pest with palpable displeasure, she shrugs and loosens his grip enough to escape onto the car’s rear couch. She slams the door with concussive force. Her bag slides across the rear bench as she lands heavily in the seat.
A clicking lock signals safety. Hers.
The raised rear window a grateful barrier, his desire beyond his clutches, the old man is crestfallen. He verges on bawling. Rather, he clambers to the passenger side window that Lewy had left open for cross-ventilation.
Were it possible, were he capable, the duffer might’ve tried climbing through it into the car. He makes do with stuffing his upper torso inside the frame.
Anxiety yields to frenzy. His eyes bulge, face reddens, and veins bulge and throb. He is the picture of crazed. A reedy high-pitched voice begs Lewy.
“You take care of this little girl! You drive safely!”
Glimpsed in the rearview mirror the petitioner’s object of obsession rolls her eyes. Lewy musters as much sincerity as possible, hoping his voice conveys absolute reassurance. He even tosses a little head jog at the end.
“Don’t worry! I intend to!”
The passenger hears his hollow reply’s earnestness. She snickers into a grin. Lewy shifts the taxi into gear. Hotel and the besotted tormenter both recede.
Her menace finally fading, Lewy’s fare relaxes. Her shoulders sink and her demeanor eases. Nonetheless a certain measure of wariness remains. It reflects upon Lewy in the rearview mirror.
He guesses she’s between her latest teens and earliest 20s. Probably from Utah or Idaho.
In dim lighting under the influence Lewy sees how she could be considered “fresh faced.” Hair chopped into a pixie’s yellow bowl ably feeds this illusion. Maybe those same conditions sparked her eyes from blue into cobalt. Daylight, though, daylight reveals night’s deception. Studying her now beneath the sun she’s starting to take on the very first phases of careworn. Nonetheless it’s easy imagining hers a pert and precocious nighttime presence.
Forsaking a precise address, she gives him vague directions. These lead into a newly erected, newest money section of Las Vegas. The ride lessens her diligence. Leggy as she is, cumbersome as her shoes are, squeezed as the back is, she somehow manages to smoothly cross one long stalk over another at the knee. Her hemline rises perilously high. If she notices she is uncaring.
Or perhaps she does notice and hopes to tease the driver. Lewy sees plenty of candy during his rounds. Though often presented it’s never offered. One must ask first and enjoying requires negotiation and payment. He’s always skips any bargaining, preferring simply to drink in the views. Like at this moment. For his viewing pleasure her firm, bare thighs.
“A tad insistent, wasn’t he?” Lewy asks.
As if she’s been eagerly awaiting his cue, tart words sliding along an insinuating trail drop from her narrow, plumped, red lips.
“Oh, they’re all like that. Though that one was little more revved up than usual today. He must’ve felt it more. Shit, the way he gave it I sure did. His daughter is visiting him sometime this week. She’s bringing her girls, too.”
Hint as she had, Lewy felt free to probe whether she resembled the daughter of the cracked case they left behind. She smiled in a manner whose mischievousness could’ve easily become malicious.
“Those types,” she says, “I always remind them of their little girls. No matter whether she’s a brunette or red head, fat, short. They make me fit the picture.”
Adding unnecessary lasciviousness she licked her lips for fulsome effect.
Pretty in a simple way there was no arguing her basic appeal. No, Lewy troubled himself far more about the sort of men who sought working girls who’d substitute sexually for their daughters. He can almost understand finding surrogates who’d suffice role-playing adolescent or teen girls. However, those would be women portraying strangers, not versions of flesh begat by the fetishists.
Lewy wondered if the nakedness of this pursuit unique to Las Vegas because the city marketed itself as facilitator of the unbridled-tawdry spectrum, a k a “anything goes here!” Surely the same tendencies must exist in more button-downed environments though submerged in the down-low’s deepest depths.
He also wonders whether she’s become cagey enough to augment the fantasy sessions by wearing plain white cotton panties in lieu of more sultry dessous. After all, wouldn’t thigh-high or sheer garments spoil the illusion?
“That’s some niche you’ve developed,” Lewy says.
The word confuses her. “Huh? ‘Neesh’?”
Lewy explains. “It’s what you specialize in. Your gimmick.”
She nods, finds favor in and repeats what he’s attributed her. “Mmmmm, yeah, ‘specialize.’”
He thinks it’s time somebody invest in one of those new word a day calendars. The cab driver keeps his opinion quiet.
Stunted intellectual curiosity sated, she reaches into her shoulder bag and rummages. After a moment she withdraws a portable media player. One without ear buds. Bony fingers tap the touchscreen. She reclines further into the seat cushion. A program blares from her handheld.
Unsurprisingly what fills the car’s cabin isn’t opera from the Met. Instead, it’s some chapter from a ‘How-To Improve Your Sex’ series.
On one hand, he’s amused. That a working girl needs such remedial material is funny. Really, shouldn’t she be contributing, not consuming?
On the other hand, at the volume she plays and having shown no inclination towards deafness, the program seems one of those childish instances of trying to shock or embarrass an adult. She probably perceives Lewy as unhip because of the gray combed through his hair.
If someone enters the Las Vegas livery driving profession innocent and unknowing, several weeks behind any of those steering wheels will disabuse them of such ignorance. What hasn’t Lewy seen or heard in his time as a hack? He’d love informing that her attempt to discomfort him is futile yet why give even the least satisfaction he notices this material?
When the mechanics of refining sexual conduct fails to get a rise from him she shuts off her device. Is it annoyance he spots in the rearview? Somehow Lewy doesn’t tell her she needed saving that gag for an immigrant or veteran driver. The former would’ve been aghast or disgusted (maybe aghast and disgusted) by her breach.
Most of them arrive from cultures dedicated to subjugating women. So a woman watching and listening a program extolling sexual enhancement and advocating greater sexual delights ought’ve fully offended them properly.
Any older driver – especially an ancient one – just may’ve tried lumping her story about the ride when some actress unknown to this young woman, say, Jayne Mansfield, showed him her tits.
Lewy reaches his passenger’s destination. At least the outermost ring of it. The perimeter is gate-guarded. Lewy lowers both driver’s side windows.
A baby face manning the security shack wears a cannon holstered on his waist. Intending to come across as Mister Badass, the young man instead inspires Lewy’s mirth. The cab driver jerks his thumb at the backseat.
The guard angles his sight towards the rear. His demeanor quickly reverts into an age-appropriate manner. He smiles without restraint at the resident Lewy has ferried.
In the rearview, Lewy sees an attitude entirely different than what began the trip. Cloying now rather than edgy. Even her voice resounds with genuine promise.
The two young people banter. ID has been forgotten. Hers. She gets ahead of the guard’s unlikely admonishment by acknowledging her error; that without it she knows he really shouldn’t allow her entry.
Her voice teases both men. “But you know me.”
Gunsmoke knows her, all right. He knows what he’d enjoy doing to and with her. Lewy ponders if there’s a number one may assign to the instances this domestic centurion has envisioned his hand, his lips, gliding up her legs and between her smooth, creamy thighs. Best thing is being in on the joke. His object of fantasy is more aware of his desires than he. As is Lewy.
Presented the opportunity to play Galahad, and, better, deluding himself he’s the decision’s genesis, her rod-brandishing toy graciously waives the rules, then waves them through an opening gate. Lewy doesn’t bother peeking to see whether the hero’s gaze follows the taxi.
He’s glad his passenger is either too preoccupied or not yet thoroughly jaded sufficiently to belittle her admirer. Maybe she’d start once she intimately comprehended her power over men. First as experiments, then as demonstrations, and finally casually, unconsciously, and routinely.
A pattern of twists and turns through manicured greensward otherwise alien to the Mojave Desert delivers the pair before her domicile. A small two-story beige house squeezed onto a narrow plot. Others from the same architectural cookie-cutter march up and down both sides of the street. What set her pile apart are the two luxury vehicles crowding this driveway. One black, the other white.
Not so much impressed with these opulent symbols as the hustle required to acquire them at such a tender age, Lewy turns to collect his fare. Satisfaction warms her face. He gathers she saw his favorable appraisal of her material life thus far. It must’ve raised and buffed her self-esteem.
Lewy asks her name.
“Anastasia,” she replies. A “professional working girl” name, not her real one. It’s too much for Lewy to hope that she’d assumed her alias after the last czar’s intrigue-conjuring daughter. More than likely the same-named character from that late 1990s full-length cartoon movie prompted this self-bestowal.
Lewy asked Anastasia if she often took taxis. Indeed she did.
Not one to pass a moneymaking possibility, Lewy palms her his business card. Anastasia seems the kind of girl who’d keep him moving and happy.